While some of us here at Lawerist have been drawn into the “what tech stuff do you need vs. what tech stuff do you merely desire” debate, the biggest question for a new solo is more basic: do you need a “real” (brick-and-mortar with your name on the door) office? This is one of the many instances where Seinfeld is your best life coach and lawyer coach. I’m not kidding.
Conventional Wisdom Is Not Your Friend
You may recall that great Seinfeld episode where George realizes that the best thing he can do is to always do the polar opposite of what his instincts are telling him, since following his instincts has led to nothing but one disaster after another.
The office/no office question is a perfect example of how you should follow George’s example, except instead of ignoring your instincts, you should ignore conventional wisdom. It would tell you that if you are starting your solo practice from zero (no clients), you should not get an office yet, since you have no income. But if you have clients (not that you would ever poach them from your current job, of course), you should certainly get an office, so your current and future clients know how serious and already-successful you are in this solo venture.
If you are starting from zero, the biggest obstacle you need to overcome is not your lack of clients. It’s the difficulty you will have with yourself chasing down clients. If your home is your office, and you have no clients, you’re not really a lawyer, because a lawyer without clients and a home office is merely a person with a law license and no work. A solo with a real office and no clients is a lawyer who is hustling hard to get clients because that lawyer has rent to cover.
99% of the game is half mental
Yogi Berra, font of baseball wisdom, provided us with that line, as well as, “you can’t think and hit at the same time.” He knew that he had to feel the pressure to succeed but also figure out how to overcome that fear of failure through repetition that would remove his brain from the equation.
If you have a real office, you’ll go there, every day, and then you’ll go interact with people until you either build your business to a sustainable level, or until you fail. If you have a home office, you’re much more likely to get trapped in that nether region between the two—one you can inhabit a long time if you don’t have to pay the rent. Trust me. I spent a year in the nether region. It sucks.
On the other hand, if you have a substantial “book of business” (I’ve always wondered if such books are fiction or non-fiction) you can probably just work at home, because your clients already know who you are. They’ll track you down.
Stay out of the netherworld. Get a real office of some sort, and
you’ll either succeed or fail. But either way, you’ll at least really try.