Your success as a sole practitioner attorney will depend on your ability to effectively acquire new clients, develop existing business relationships, advertise your services, properly manage your time and effectively manage any necessary staff. There is no perfect formula for running a solo practice, but the best way to start is to develop a strong business plan and begin meeting with other sole practitioner attorneys.
Because you will be on your own as a sole practitioner attorney, you should try to find a mentor who can guide you through the process. The best candidates include more experienced sole practitioner attorneys, but seasoned attorneys operating in smaller law firms may be just as qualified. Interacting with other attorneys is also extremely valuable, as you should strive to build your referral network.
Join your state and local bar associations. Bar associations provide a support network for sole practitioner attorneys by providing them with legal resources that may only be available to individuals in large law firms. Check to see if your bar association offers discounts on malpractice insurance and legal research services, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. These services can be very expensive, and any discount will be of great assistance.
Develop a Business Plan
You should develop a business plan specific to your law practice. This plan should include the types of legal matters you will handle, how you will obtain business in those practice areas, your startup costs and ongoing costs, how much money you will need to make in order to maintain operations and necessary contingency plans in case you fail to meet monthly projections. You should also determine if you will be able to acquire staff, such as paralegals, secretaries and legal interns. If you are going to open your practice with support staff, try to keep your staff small at first so you can determine how much time you will need to spend managing their time. You may also wish to initially operate out of a home office until you can afford a separate office space.
Sole practitioners must effectively advertise their services in order to attract clients. You should start by creating a professional website and then consider additional advertising in other forms of media. Depending on your area of practice, you will want to specifically tailor your advertising plan. For example, although a criminal attorney might wish to advertise in a phone book, an admiralty attorney will want to advertise in very specific publications in order to attract appropriate clients.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images