Running your own solo practice is a challenging endeavor, filled with nearly unlimited potential for success or failure.

As you reflect on this past year for your firm, focus on the positive as you head into 2012.

You kept the lights on, right?

Lots of small businesses (including law firms) close up shop before anybody even knows that they are open. Undoubtedly, your long-term business models sets higher expectations than “pay rent and break even.” That said, starting a business and keeping the lights on is no small accomplishment. Learning to handle all the additional responsibilities of running a business is tough and it is less time spent doing law-talking stuff.

If you have managed to open a practice and keep things running, that is something to be proud of. Most solo attorneys (including myself) think that the first six months are the hardest. If you have made it past six months, paying your rent, and business keeps coming in, that is a step in the right direction, and a reason to stay optimistic moving forward.

You are learning from your experiences

This is also known as learning from your mistakes. When you run your own practice, you make the decisions, take the leaps of faith, and deal with the consequences. Chances are, you are doing the right thing 99% of the time. It’s easy to focus on that 1% when you didn’t use the right format for a pleading, turned away a great case by accident, or made a strategic error that seemed like the end of the world, but really wasn’t a big deal.

The great thing about the 1% is that you will never make those mistakes again. If you keep making the same mistakes, then maybe it is time to turn off the lights and in a more collaborative environment. More likely, however, is that you have now adapted your practice to avoid those mistakes. Frankly, I bet you can think of a situation where you avoided the mistake after making it once. That is definitely a good thing.

Focus on the positives

When you are looking back at this past year, focus on the things you did right. You can probably think of at least ten things you did that you never thought were possible. For example: won a motion you thought you would lose, settled a case for more than you anticipated, or maybe you presented your first CLE.

Each one of those is cause for a minor celebration. Taken together, they are signs that things are headed in the right direction and indications of long-term success.

Running a solo practice is not easy. As you reflect on the past year, be sure to take some time to pat yourself on the back for everything that went right.


Randall Ryder
Randall sues debt collectors that harass consumers, assists consumers with student loan issues, and defends consumers in debt collection lawsuits. He is also an attorney instructor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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