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December 31, 2018 Practice Points

What You Really Need to Know When You're Going Small

A recent committee Roundtable explored several issues to consider when moving to a small law practice.

By Demetrius Pyburn

On December 12, 2018, the Young Advocates Committee, along with the Solo & Small Firm Committee put on a thoughtful Roundtable for law students and practitioners that are currently or looking to go to small firms or hang their own shingle. To peel the curtain back to show what small law really looks like, Jeremy Summerlin of Horton Law Firm, Lauren Cichowski of 3BL Law, Alex Kinlaw of Kinlaw & Cunningham, P.A., Joseph Indusi of the Law Office of Joseph Indusi, PLLC, and Demetrius Pyburn of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., as the moderator, explored the topics of the first few years of small law practice, business development, and things to consider when hanging a shingle. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

  1. Finding a mentor is essential. The panelists agreed that it is necessary to seek out a mentor when starting your practice, regardless if you are going to a small firm or starting your own practice. They shared stories about seeking out experienced practitioners to assist them with filing forms and learning the legal practice, and about the eagerness and willingness of practitioners to help new attorneys be successful.
  2. Understanding the distinction between the practice and the business of law. The panelists discussed some of the worst parts of going small, including the fact that law school does not prepare new lawyers to be business owners. Understanding basic accounting, business management, and budgeting are just a few of the skills necessary for running your own practice. Additionally, finding gadgets and apps to make your law practice easier is essential for effectively running a firm without the feeling of doing everything but practicing law.
  3. There is a way to have work-life balance. The panelists noted that one of the best things about being in small law or owning your own firm is the flexibility in hours. Not having concerns with making billable hours is a relief all panelists expressed. The ability to structure your practice and your hours based on family needs was among the best parts of being in small law, as described by the panel.
  4. All roads lead to business development. Regardless of whether the topic of discussion was the hard lessons learned, work-life balance, or the business of law, the panelists always found a way back to the discussion of business development. It is the key to thriving as a small law-firm practitioner or owner. The panelists identified networking techniques and discussed social media activities, and how each of the panelists structures their business-development processes.

Listen to this one-hour program and learn about these and other pertinent issues, on the Young Advocates’ webpage. The recording of the Roundtable will be made available soon.

Demetrius Pyburn is an associate with Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. in Greenville, South Carolina.

Copyright © 2018, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).