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After the Bar

Practice Areas & Settings

Building and Sustaining a Successful Solo Practice

Eric Bluestein

Building and Sustaining a Successful Solo Practice
miodrag ignjatovic via GettyImages

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Business generation is the life-blood of being a solo practitioner. To survive you must appeal directly to potential clients or secure relationships that make other people want to send you work. The truth of the matter is: even a brilliant lawyer will starve without clients. Therefore, it is important to obtain a balance between the practice of law and the creation of business. How is this accomplished?

Get Out of Your Office and Regularly Attend Events

Although some events are hosted by the legal community, do not lose sight of events hosted by local charities, schools, stores or restaurants. Non-legal events can be the best place to generate business because you may be the only lawyer in your particular specialty in attendance.

Join Other Attorneys for Lunch Regularly

We all need to eat. Do not get so engrossed in your work that you always eat at your desk. If your practice is focused on criminal defense, grab lunch with personal injury lawyers, commercial litigators, medical malpractice attorneys, and family law practitioners weekly. Moreover, if you are a criminal defense lawyer with a focus on misdemeanors and traffic tickets, eat with criminal defense lawyers who focus on felonies and capital crimes. Stay in touch with these people and have repeat lunches. If you are truly too busy during the day for lunch, get coffee. If you cannot get away for coffee, grab a drink after work.

Stay in Touch with Former Clients

They are another great source of business. Make note of their birthdays and send them birthday cards. Send them holiday cards. During your course of representation and afterward, express care for their well-being and reinforce that they are more than just clients. For example, if you represented a parent of a severely injured child in a personal injury matter, continue to call periodically to ask how the child is progressing with treatment even after the case concludes. Depending on your practice area, some former clients, unfortunately, may be repeat customers. Some people are unlucky and are involved in multiple car accidents. If you treated those people well before, they will call you again. In the same vein, some individuals are repeat criminal offenders. Again, if you treated them fairly and with concern the first time, they will be more likely to return to you for help. If your current and former clients trust you, they will refer their friends and family members to you.

Use Other Small-Firm Lawyers as a Source of Business

These are often established lawyers who are wonderful at generating business. However, some of them are tired of discovery disputes. Others are tired of traveling to and from the courthouse every week. Candidly, several are simply tired of constantly fighting with opposing counsel. Lawyers at established small firms tend to want to keep their firms small, often to keep overhead low, which means they have no intention of hiring associates. If you can forge relationships with these attorneys and are willing to do the heavy lifting, then you may have a constant stream of business from one, or several, established lawyers, in addition to your other sources of business. These relationships may turn into co-counsel arrangements as opposed to referral sources. Nevertheless, you may gain mentors in addition to potential income.

Do Not Lose Sight of Lawyers Who Advertise

Not all attorneys who advertise litigate. Some refer out cases that do not resolve pre-suit. Learn who these firms or lawyers are and let them know you are willing to litigate their cases. Even if these firms do litigate, they may receive inquiries relating to areas of law they do not practice. If you specialize in one of those areas, let the advertising firms know. They may start referring those matters to you.

These are a few of the many ways you can thrive as a solo practitioner. If you get out in your community, form positive relationships with other lawyers and firms, and truly care about your clients, your practice will flourish.