Lawyers who cannot not find the courage to leave a law firm for solo practice usually have one fear that stops them dead in their tracks. They know the consequences of going solo, and they know in their heads and hearts that they should leave, but they can’t quite do it.
Most of those fears are well-founded, though, and none of the lawyers I have helped confront their fears have decided to stay at their firms. All of them left, and are happy they did.
In no particular order, here are the fears they overcame.
1. There Is More Job Security at My Firm
Have you read the newspapers recently? There is no such thing as job security in law. The lawyers who have the most job security are those with the most clients, because they can go anywhere and prosper.
The size of a firm or its revenues does not provide any job security. In fact, sometimes the larger firms provide less security because high overhead costs have weighed them down.
2. My Clients Will Not Follow Me
Don’t be so pessimistic. Clients (individuals as well as businesses) hire lawyers, not law firms. If your client relationships are strong, they will follow you when you go solo.
Probably not all of them, but most will — and if most will, why stay?
3. I cannot Afford the Start-Up Costs of Going Solo
Yes you can. You should consider yourself lucky that you are in a profession where the start up costs are relatively low.
Spend a little more to get help from consultants if you think you need to. Even so, starting a law firm is a relatively inexpensive venture.
4. My Former Partners Will Hate Me
So what. Every time I heard this excuse, the next words out of their mouths were that they wanted to leave in order to get away from these same people. You have always thought they were jerks; why should you care how they feel towards you in the future?
5. Prospective Clients Want to Know There Is a Firm Behind Me
See number 2, above.
Law firms do not develop relationships; lawyers do. Continue to develop strong relationships and convince prospects that you are capable to do the work. Few, if any, will care that you are no longer part of a firm with lawyers doing lots of other things that the client could care less about.
6. I Will Miss Bouncing Ideas Off My Colleagues
You still know plenty of lawyers at other firms who will be more than happy to talk to you on the phone or respond to an email. Join a listserv. Do some conventional and social networking.
Most lawyers — especially other solos — are happy to let you use them as a sounding board, as long as you are willing to return the favor.
7. I Do Not Have the Business Know-How to Run My Own Firm
You probably don’t. It is a skill set few lawyers possess. That is the bad news. The good news is that your competitors are just as clueless about managing their practices as you may be. They all somehow seem to make a nice living. You will, too, if you work at this.
8. I Will Miss the Prestige
Yes, there is a certain cachet to be able to tell others you work at Big Law Firm, P.A. But you just told me all of the reasons why you hate going to work there. Is the prestige really that important to you?
9. If a Big Case Walks in the Door, I May Not Be Able to handle it
You probably will, actually. Have you ever heard of co-counseling matters and referral fee arrangements? If you are lucky enough to have that big case walk in the door, there are plenty of lawyers who will be more than happy to help you. Ditto for expertise.
10. I Hate Change and Fear the Unknown
Join the club. But wouldn’t it be nice to proactively create a change in your career that you control? You cannot stop change. Sooner rather than later, there will be changes at your law firm creating many unknowns that you will have to react to with your partners. Wouldn’t you rather deal with change when you are in the driver’s seat?
Go for it and don’t look back. Life is too short. Although there are no guarantees, the chances are very good you will not regret it.
This was originally published on June 23, 2010. It was revised and republished on July 8, 2014.
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