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What to Do When You Are Changing from a Solo Practice to a Large Law Firm

Monica H Logan


  • Set yourself up for a successful transition from practicing as a solo to joining a large firm by creating a list of action items on an attainable timeline and adopting the right mindset before joining your new colleagues.
  • When thinking about your transition, it’s helpful to divide the process into two phases: (1) closing your practice and (2) joining your new firm.
  • These steps are initial considerations and not exhaustive, so create your action list based on your situation and timeline and ensure you are meeting your ethical obligations.
What to Do When You Are Changing from a Solo Practice to a Large Law Firm
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Being a solo practitioner is nothing short of juggling five full-time jobs: You are a lawyer, the head of HR, an accountant, an IT wizard, and a marketing executive all rolled into one. Your firm’s success or failure rests on your shoulders—an exciting possibility wrapped in a big responsibility. Handling the uncertainties that come with a solo practice can be challenging. Maybe it isn’t as profitable as you anticipated or takes up more of your time than desired. Whatever your motivation, you considered your options, weighed the alternatives, and decided to join a large firm.

Set yourself up for a successful transition by creating a list of action items to complete on an attainable timeline and adopting the right mindset before joining your new colleagues. When thinking about your transition, it’s helpful to divide the process into two phases: (1) closing your practice and (2) joining your new firm. Remember that these steps and the suggestions below are initial considerations and not exhaustive. Your list will vary depending on your situation and timeline.

Closing Your Practice: Fulfilling Your Obligations and Tying Up Loose Ends

Before you plan your next steps, review the status of your operations. Be aware of the status and number of your active files. Remind yourself of any lingering trust accounting issues (e.g., unsent invoices or uncashed refunds). From this analysis, you can start your to-do list.

Consider these four priorities when closing your practice.

  1. Maintain your duty to current clients. In reviewing your caseload, determine whether each case can close before your transition. Send a formal written notice to all active clients, stating when your firm will be closing and explaining their options and next steps (whether they need a new attorney, can take their file, or can come with you). Inform them of any time limitations or deadlines approaching. Have them confirm their choice in writing or by signature. If clients are coming with you, clarify that they will need to sign a fee agreement with the new firm. If the client is not following you, prepare a copy of the file to send to the client or the client’s new attorney. Check active cases on the docket and file any necessary withdrawals.
  2. Close your trust account. Prepare to close your account by completing a three-way reconciliation. You may need to send refunds or transfer a retainer to a new attorney. Check with your jurisdiction to see how long to keep your trust account records. Contact your bank to see if there are any charges or forms required to close the account.
  3. Prepare business status change. Are you required to file a form with the secretary of state? Are you a registered agent for another business? Cancel your office-related rentals, leases, or other contracts at the appropriate time to avoid an interruption in service.
  4. Update contact information. Change your voice mail, website, and email to state that the firm is closing/closed and who to contact about their case. Some state bars offer an attorney referral service where you can direct clients to seek other counsel. Any publicized state or local bar membership information will also need updating.

Joining Your New Firm: Preparing for the Adjustment and Establishing Clear Communications

Starting any new job requires you to adapt to new ways of doing things—particularly when joining a large firm with long-established processes and protocols, both formal and informal. Although it may feel foreign, you should grasp the firm’s culture by meeting with others and understanding what people do to connect and build the atmosphere of the firm. Also, thinking about your starting status will help you adopt the proper mindset.

  • If you are joining a firm in your current practice area, you will need to learn how they perform standard tasks such as service, delegation, and logging in for remote work.
  • If you are joining a firm in a new practice area, think of yourself as a new associate coming to a firm for the first time. Approaching the situation with a growth mindset will help you start off on the right foot.
  • If joining as an associate or staff attorney, higher-level firm decisions are no longer your responsibility. It will take time before you may be in a position of authority, so remember why you chose to transition out of solo practice.
  • If you are joining as a partner, know what, if any, managerial tasks are expected of you beyond what is listed in the partnership agreement. You may want to assist, but realize that it will still take time to become accustomed to the new firm’s procedures and management structure.

Finally, establish clear communication. Have explicit conversations about key employment issues before you start. Do a conflicts check so you can be screened from any cases and clients you have a conflict with and avoid imputing that conflict to the firm. Review the procedures for remote/in-person work and what technology they provide. Discuss your timeline and expectations with the managing partner. Be aware of whether you will need to overlap the closing of your firm with your starting date and how to balance the two. Keeping your new firm in the loop will help everyone feel on the same page.


Ultimately, this move can benefit you personally and professionally, so reach out to others who have made this same transition for resources and support. Being part of a larger team is an exciting chapter in your career, but don’t forget to close the previous one before turning the page.