One of the toughest parts of running a solo practice is that you are own worst critic.
Chances are, you are your only critic. Living in that bubble can de difficult and downright deceptive when analyzing the financial success of your solo practice.
When you find yourself wondering if your solo practice is successful, here are three things to remember.
Look for emerging trends, don’t fixate on one bad apple
Everyone has a ruling that goes the wrong way, or a client that turns into a unmanageable mess. If your practice has been around for more than six months, those are likely isolated incidents. There are many factors that are outside of attorney’s control that can affect the outcome of a case. You can learn from cases that go the wrong way, but you cannot and should not close your doors because of one bad case. Especially when on the whole, things are moving in the right direction.
If you handle Plaintiff’s cases and are steadily getting better results for your clients, that absolutely outweighs the one case that went to hell. If you had two really awful months, nine “normal” months, and one awesome month, that’s still moving in the right direction. Not only do attorneys have finite control over cases, they have finite control over potential clients and cases. No matter how successful your marketing is, every business is subject to a bad month or two.
Nobody gets rich their first year
Yeah, yeah, I’m sure somebody did. Maybe you even know somebody that did, but most people don’t. Starting a law firm and running a business is unlike anything you have ever done before. The combination of all the new responsibilities and stressors rarely leads to instant success.
I’m on the verge of year 3 of running my own firm. The goal during year one was simple: keep the lights on and stay in business. Sounds easy right? It can be tougher than you think, especially that first year. I know a handful of solo attorneys that are successful and I have a long list of solo attorneys that have been . . . less successful. That means they are currently working for someone else or not working at all.
Think of the first year as a building block for future success. In year two, you will spend much less time (hopefully) on all those business things that were so hard the first year. That means you will more time to spend on other tasks, which should lead to more success in year two.
Don’t believe the hype
I spent the first year or so thinking that every other solo attorney was making it rich and I had no clue what I was doing. Then I realized that people who blab on and on about how well they are doing were . . . well . . . not doing that well. They seemed to be the ones who were constantly avoiding buying new technology, always being “considered” (in other words—interviewing on their own initiative) for another job, and inviting me to lunch only to make me pay (or go dutch).
On the flip side, the people who never mentioned how good or bad things were going seemed to be buying new office furniture, taking nice vacations, and buying me nice lunches.
Sure, some people who talk the talk can actually walk the walk. But in my experience, the less a solo talks about how they are doing, the better they are actually doing. And when you think of it that way, you are probably doing much better than you realize.
Seriously, give yourself some credit. You deserve it.