Volume 19, Number 7
GPSolo is proud to welcome you to the first edition of our new column, Being Solo, a primer for practitioners who choose to go it alone. Whether you are a young lawyer setting up your first practice, a lawyer with years of group experience who wants to transition to a solo practice, or a seasoned solo pioneer, you will find information about Being Solo that will help both you and your practice thrive in the solo setting.
In the Beginning . . .
By David Leffler
Welcome, reader, to a new column on how to start and survive in a solo law practice. By way of introduction, I have been a lawyer for more than 20 years in New York City. In 1990 I was a partner in a Manhattan law firm that dissolved, and I took the bold step of setting up my own practice.
Bold indeed. We were in the middle of an economic recession, and I had a wife and a one-year-old daughter, so it was sink or swim time for me. I'm still swimming.
This first column will cover some basics. The first big question in starting a law practice will almost always be "How do I develop business?" If you can truly grasp and use one extraordinarily important concept, I can almost guarantee that you will be successful in developing business: Developing business is sales, and sales is a numbers game.
What do I mean by this? First, you have to be a salesperson and go out there and sell. If you are shy, you will just have to get over it. Prepare a 30-second pitch about your law practice and rehearse it in front of some trusted friends for feedback. Second, the crucial part to sales is that it is a numbers game; if you speak to 100 new people, you are ten times more likely to develop new business than if you speak to only ten people. Believe me, the business is out there-as incredible as it may sound, there are people out there right now who need a lawyer but don't know how to find one.
Once you grasp that there are always people looking for a lawyer, and the more people you talk to, the more likely it is that you will find them, your whole marketing approach will come into focus. So long as you put in the time and energy, you will find enough clients to run your law practice successfully. I know, because that is how I built my law practice. When I was thrown out into the cold cruel world during a major economic recession, I had no special connections to feed me business and had to go out and develop it on my own. This meant meeting a lot of people, most of whom were not able to give me any business. But enough came through to get me started.
Where do you find all of these people that will become your clients? Everywhere: on the commuter train, where you get your lunch, your father's friend Tom, your accountant (or any other accountant for that matter), at a party, a chance encounter while walking your dog, an old high school friend, your spouse's old high school friend, while on vacation, and anywhere else that you happen to be taking up space at the moment. Also, don't forget the obvious-networking events and conferences attended by decision makers from your target market.
I once developed a client relationship from a brief conversation that I had with someone I met on a cross-town bus. I remembered to give that person my business card, and a year or more later, he called me with an excellent client introduction. Don't be shy about giving your business card to people so long as the circumstances are not inappropriate.
You never really know what kind of impression you make on a person. And it is a waste of time trying to guess whether the person you just met liked you or not. The person I met on the bus might just as easily have thrown out my card after getting off the bus. You have to be brave enough to take that risk of rejection. Just be sure to be pleasant and professional.
Good luck, and send me an e-mail with your experiences and/or suggestions for future columns.
David Leffler maintains a solo law practice in New York City, where he assists clients in the formation, growth, and sale of their businesses. He can be reached at email@example.com.