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As a solo practitioner, there is a wide array of issues that you must grapple with, such as the practice of law, developing new law practice management skills, building up your business, and ethics. Bar associations of all types, whether they are state associations, national associations such as the American Bar Association, or topical associations, such as the American Intellectual Property Law Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association , or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys are invaluable tools that can be used to get you up to speed on the hot topics in your area of practice. This checklist is designed to give a short overview of how bar associations can provide invaluable assistance in setting up your practice, so that you are successful from the minute that you open your doors. As there are a myriad of resources available, I have provided a small sampling of bar association sites that offer a particular service on their web page.
The First Step: Getting Hooked Up to Solosez
Regardless of your area of practice, as a solo practitioner, it is essential to get on the American Bar Association Solosez chat group. Your ABA dues more than pay for itself by joining this chat room. The Solosez group is a good starting point when determining what resources you need to invest your time and money in when while developing your practice. Some of the topics meander away from the practice of law, and can take a turn to the whimsical, (and the sheer volume of daily emails can be intimidating) but overall the chat room is a treasure trove of advice that is invaluable to a solo practitioner. The archives are accessible to research issues that may have been addressed earlier in the evolution of the group, and Solosez also provides an online forms database. There is something infinitely comforting about knowing that 2700 other attorneys are out there, and are willing to help you if requested.
Available Legal Research Tools
When you are first starting out with a new practice, you may be inclined to take on all kinds of work, some of which is invariably outside of your earlier realms of practice. For example, clients may come in your door wanting name changes, wills, and real estate assistance, and your background might be strictly in commercial law. Or, a friend of a friend wants you to help them with their wife's immigration problem. Your nephew may call you at 3 am with a driving while intoxicated charge and is frantic. The point is that no one can know every thing about every topic. Bar associations can provide
Developing Law Practice Management Skills
These kinds of references are important, as you must put careful thought into how you want to design your practice. It is important to be proactive in designing your practice to suit the client's needs, as well as your personal style. A reactive practice (i.e. a law office that is designed to respond to the crisis of the hour) can work at times, but there are long term benefits for taking the time to establish how you wish to manage your office internally. Bar associations, and their affiliated chat groups can provide guidance on things like
The Day to Day Business Survival Skills
There's also the practical end of establishing a successful solo practice. Bar associations can assist you on
A serious issue that comes up routinely is ethics. As a solo practitioner, there isn't always the opportunity to have an ethics attorney in your areas of practice, much less your office. I guarantee you will be faced with ethical issues that you never expected that may affect your bar license. Bar association ethics attorneys and ethics committees are an invaluable resource to help solo practitioners navigate through all of the ethical challenges that you will face. Depending on your state, they can respond by email, phone or fax, and provide essential information that can assist you in your practice. Use your state bar association to avoid mistakes, rather then have to face your bar association later on for disciplinary action.
About the Authors
Alicia Porter is the sole proprietor of the Law Offices of Alicia Porter, based in Fairbanks Alaska. Her practice is focused on intellectual property law, estate planning, family law, and criminal work. She passed the USPTO bar, and is a member of both the Alaska state bar and the Washington state bar. Prior to opening her solo practice, she worked as an attorney for the State of Alaska on child protection, adult protection, and juvenile delinquency issues.Learn More Order Today