May/June 2002

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Consider the Alternatives

Paul G. Ulrich

Before deciding to start your own firm, consider other possible alternatives.

  • Becoming a "lateral" shareholder, partner, associate or of counsel at a larger firm that needs your experience. Alternatively, you may require such a firm to provide necessary specialized staff assistance and support services for your practice.
  • Becoming employed in the public sector as a judge, staff lawyer, government attorney, state or public defender; working with community legal services; or serving as a political officeholder or administrator.
  • Joining a corporate law department, perhaps for a corporation your present firm now represents as outside counsel.
  • Joining or associating with a smaller, established firm whose practice areas, clients and organizational style might better fit your experience and interests. Don’t be hesitant to make inquiries at such firms even if they are not currently advertising open positions. Small firms often have short planning horizons, greater willingness to hire experienced lawyers (particularly if they bring some clients and potential business development with them) and informal hiring procedures. It is also far easier for you to find such firms than for them to find you. For example, our firm seems to have pursued a "karmic hiring" policy, as the "right" people have appeared on the horizon when we needed to expand.
  • Forming or joining a new firm with several other lawyers, either from your present firm or otherwise. However, before committing to do so, be satisfied through your preliminary planning and budgeting processes that the new firm is likely to succeed—and that you are personally and professionally compatible with its other members.
  • Becoming a law professor, teaching law-related courses or joining a legal publisher’s editorial staff.
  • Pursuing a nonlegal business or other career based on your personal interests and skills, and practicing law part-time. You might even decide not to have a traditional "career" at all.

Paul G. Ulrich is President and a shareholder of the Phoenix law firm Ulrich & Anger, PC.

Excerpted from "Leaving Your Present Practice to Start, Develop and Grow Your Own Firm," in Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for the Solo Lawyer, 3rd edition, edited by Jeffrey R. Simmons.