April 2013 Bar Bulletin
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April 2013 Bar Bulletin

The NEW Elements of Solo Practice

By Karin Quirk


Do you dream of having your own law practice? No boss, no senior partners to please, you decide what cases to take and how much to bill? Are you worried that you just don't have enough backing, don't know where to start? Like every lawyer starting a new venture, you did your research and reviewed the books on starting your own practice.

If you read most of these books, you probably would never get the courage to fly solo. They give you in-depth information regarding equipment leasing, human resources and payroll, negotiating a lease and securing bank financing. Do you really need all this? Thousands of successful solos can tell you that the needed elements have changed.

Sixteen years ago I lived in a beach house and had a fax machine, a phone and a portable computer. While over the years, I have expanded, contracted, moved and tried different configurations, today those are still the basic elements. The fax machine has been replaced by a small desktop scanner and the phone is a smartphone with more applications and power than that original laptop, but the elements are still pretty much the same.

What are the elements you need today to start your own practice?

A Product

This seems rather obvious. Your product is legal services. Right? But what services? Who is your customer? Where does he/she live and work?

As a solo you must have your niche. You cannot, in today's market, be a generalist. The narrower your scope, the easier it will be to bring your message to the market. I know solos who specialize in (correction, FOCUS on as we don't "specialize") equine law or H-1 immigration. Another focuses on education law for parents of special needs children.

My niche is divorce for those who want an amicable resolution. I call it Divorce for Grownups. Ideally you have a 10-second "elevator speech" to explain your product. Think about what areas of practice are appropriate for a solo. Some areas such as medical malpractice or class-action lawsuits probably require more resources than you currently have. (With apologies to John Grisham whose attorney-protagonists always find a way.)

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