Some of us have fled “Big Law.” Others went through law school knowing they would return to their home towns and try to live out their dreams as the newest Atticus Finch on the block. Still others have found themselves victims of the recession, either feeling tossed aside by their law firms or never having had a chance to get that peachy job in the AmLaw 200.
For whatever reason, thousands of lawyers every year decide to go it alone, or embark with a few trusted partners in a small law firm. But—at least where I earned my parchment—there were no classes offered on “How to Hang Your Shingle and Make a Living.”
We have tried to collect in one place a useful “toolkit” for those of you considering entering into a new solo or small firm. On these pages, we hope you will find answers to (or at least new ways of thinking about) some of the questions you are bound to face as you consider the steps that will lead you to your own front door.
Our purpose is to share with you some of our experience and some resources that (should or will) help you become prepared for what is likely to be one of the most important steps you will ever take.
Why Being Prepared Is Important:
There is one place in which you don’t want to find yourself—having your Grand Opening date arrive but you have nothing to open. Every step of opening a law practice requires a lot of careful thought and planning beforehand. It may well take between six months and a year to conduct your “Can I Do It?” self-analysis and (more importantly) your (Do I Want to Do It?) examination of conscience. Then, getting through the ins and outs and small details of getting yourself and your firm ready to go means that, when you do, you can immediately begin practicing law and have the details of starting your firm all behind you.
Why Researching Each Topic Is Important:
Every single decision you make in preparing to go solo/small firm will have an impact on how you spend your time in the long run. Every decision will ultimately impact your bottom line. Making the right decisions in advance means a smoother transition and a faster “on-ramp” to collecting your first fees and the satisfaction of knowing you can do it.
How To Use Topics and Links:
We’ve listed our choices of the “top 12 of 25” decisions you’ll have to make before going solo or small firm. Simply click on the topic in the list below for a short discussion of its relevance, how you might consider going about making your decision, and a list of resources that might assist in guiding you through parts of the process. Remember also, you do not have to go it alone. The ABA, particularly the GP, Solo and Small Division, the Law Practice Management Section, other Sections, Divisions, and Forums offer you additional resources and peers that are easily accessible.
12 of the Top 25 (each topic will be a link to a page that follows the topic page template):
- Business registration/form of entity
- Telephone/Smart Phone
- Office Supplies/Business Cards
- Computer advice/assistance
- Transfer of retirement funds
- Notices of change of affiliation
- Malpractice coverage
- Health insurance coverage
- Life insurance
- Disability coverage
- Commercial general liability coverage
- Workers’ compensation