Suddenly Solo? Trust Your Instincts

The current legal economy has led a fair number of recent graduates to go solo as an option of last resort. At the same time, firms looking to downsize and other factors have also led to experienced attorneys hanging their own shingle.

If you find yourself moving from a firm environment to a one-room office, remember to trust your instincts and ask for help when you need it.

Your instincts have been honed by experience

I recently transitioned into my running my own firm and spent the first couple of days over-analyzing even the smallest of decisions. Notably, I was handling the exact same types of cases I handled for my former employer. The only thing that had changed was that I was covered by own malpractice insurance, not somebody else’s.

My brain seemed to be ignoring the fact that I handled a full caseload at my old job and I was generally responsible for running my cases from beginning to end. If a better preparatory experience exists, I’m not sure what it is.

Thankfully, after a day or two of running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, I took a deep breath and plowed ahead. I didn’t move ahead haphazardly, I just relied on my experience and proceeded the same way I was trained.

Never hesitate to ask for advice in unknown situations

This is not contradictory to trusting your gut, it’s complimentary. If you were successful in your previous work, you have a good knowledge base for handling similar cases. If, however, you find yourself in uncharted territory, there is nothing wrong with asking for advice. If your gut has no opinion, or you feel you are in over your head—it’s time to reach out for some assistance.

Running your own firm and making decisions is empowering and builds confidence. It can also lead to a false sense of security and overconfidence–which can lead to disaster.

The most successful solo attorneys I know do not live in isolation, they share offices with other highly competent solos and constantly bounce ideas off each other. Trust your gut, but never be afraid to reach out for advice when necessary.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loungerie/1524745711/)

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    If someone is starting a solo practice only because he or she can’t find another job, I would question that person’s instincts in the first place.

    Solo practice should only be a long-term professional decision, not the placeholder when you can’t think what else to do.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/randallryder/ Randall Ryder

      I wouldn’t question their instincts at all. Legal jobs aren’t falling off trees and some people would rather try and make it as a solo instead of flipping burgers.

      I didn’t choose to go solo, I’m just trying to make the best of it. I think it’s important to offer support to other solo attorneys in this economy, rather than criticize them for making the best of a bad situation.

  • http://smartbusinessrevolution.com/ John Corcoran

    Randall: congrats on your new firm. If the only change from your previous gig was you are now paying your own malpractice insurance, then you must have a pretty forgiving landlord.

  • Steve

    Off-topic, but I have a request. The most important topic and limiting reagent IMO for going solo without experience is: actually learning how to practice in your area! As in, if I want to do business formations, where do I go to learn everything about it?

    Please, please, do a post on this, it’s the most important matter.

  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    Thanks for the reminder Randall and congrats on the new firm. As one who went solo after 13 years of practice, I can say it was a great decision and will be a long term deal.

  • http://stephaniecoradin.com Stephanie

    Congrats Randall on your new firm – seeking help when you need it is great advice, just because a person is running his own show that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t surround his self with a team of professionals to support him while he concentrates on his clients.

  • http://www.aprileking.com April King

    Hear, hear to Steve’s comment. Steve, I recommend doing one-on-one meetings with practitioners in your chosen area. I have found practitioners in my area to be surprisingly generous, even though I’m essentially asking competitors for help. You can have a conversation with them about all things practice-management, and include your burning question, “What are the top resources for learning everything I need to know about this field?”