May 25, 2011 Practice Points

Ask and Answer: Issues to Consider When Starting a Solo Practice

By Cameron LaDuke

In the midst of troubling economic times and big-firm layoffs, more and more attorneys are considering a startup of their own practice. Running a successful solo practice requires at least a modicum of business and inter-personal skills in addition to legal education and experience. Alla Roytberg offers tips for attorneys considering the jump into the turbulent and uncertain world of solo practitioners.

Prospective solo practitioners should examine whether they actually enjoy practicing law. You are more likely to endure the tribulations associated with running a small business if your practice is focused on an area and/or an aspect of the law that you are passionate about. On the practical side, prospective solo practitioners should consider where they will find their clients, the types of legal needs those clients would have, and whether the attorney has the skills or experience to meet those needs.

Beyond providing legal services, solo practitioners are also small business owners. Accordingly, prospective solo practitioners must determine the characteristics of their offices and the qualities and number of their personnel. As the number of solo practitioners increase, more small-firm support businesses have come into existence, offering services such as virtual offices, secretaries, and tech support, all of which help ease the expense and burden of operating a small business. However, despite the cost-savings involved, solo practitioners should appraise the impact of virtual services upon their clientele who might be uncomfortable with or turned-off by the less than personal services of a virtual office. Even if you choose a virtual office, you should establish a strong working-relationship with your accountant and technology support contact. Accountants can assist you in determining how to legally organize your business (e.g., as a sole proprietorship, LLC, professional corporation, etc.), and they are essential for handling taxes, payroll, worker compensation, and insurance issues. Further, quality tech support is vital to a solo practitioner who needs to work as efficiently as possible to keep expenses down.

The myriad of issues confronting a solo practitioner should not be addressed only once. Prospective solo practitioners should reassess the direction of their practice every three months during the first year. With some passion, a lot of hard work, and the right answers to the right questions, you can successfully establish a solo practice.   

Cameron LaDuke is with Cohen Kennedy Dowd & Quigley, PC in Phoenix, Arizona.


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