Lawyers who cannot not find the courage to leave a law firm for solo practice usually have one fear that stops them dead in their tracks. They know the consequences of going solo, and they know in their heads and hearts that they should leave, but they can’t quite do it.
Most of those fears are well-founded, though, and none of the lawyers I have helped confront their fears have decided to stay at their firms. All of them left, and are happy they did.
In no particular order, here are the fears they overcame.
Have you read the newspapers recently? There is no such thing as job security in law. The lawyers who have the most job security are those with the most clients, because they can go anywhere and prosper.
The size of a firm or its revenues does not provide any job security. In fact, sometimes the larger firms provide less security because high overhead costs have weighed them down.
Don’t be so pessimistic. Clients (individuals as well as businesses) hire lawyers, not law firms. If your client relationships are strong, they will follow you when you go solo.
Probably not all of them, but most will — and if most will, why stay?
Yes you can. You should consider yourself lucky that you are in a profession where the start up costs are relatively low.
Numerous articles on Lawyerist alone should be enough to convince you that you can be up and running by spending only a few thousand dollars (even if you probably need to spend a bit more).
Spend a little more to get help from consultants if you think you need to. Even so, starting a law firm is a relatively inexpensive venture.
So what. Every time I heard this excuse, the next words out of their mouths were that they wanted to leave in order to get away from these same people. You have always thought they were jerks; why should you care how they feel towards you in the future?
See number 2, above.
Law firms do not develop relationships; lawyers do. Continue to develop strong relationships and convince prospects that you are capable to do the work. Few, if any, will care that you are no longer part of a firm with lawyers doing lots of other things that the client could care less about.
You still know plenty of lawyers at other firms who will be more than happy to talk to you on the phone or respond to an email. Join a listserv. Do some conventional and social networking.
Most lawyers — especially other solos — are happy to let you use them as a sounding board, as long as you are willing to return the favor.
You probably don’t. It is a skill set few lawyers possess. That is the bad news. The good news is that your competitors are just as clueless about managing their practices as you may be. They all somehow seem to make a nice living. You will, too, if you work at this.
Yes, there is a certain cachet to be able to tell others you work at Big Law Firm, P.A. But you just told me all of the reasons why you hate going to work there. Is the prestige really that important to you?
You probably will, actually. Have you ever heard of co-counseling matters and referral fee arrangements? If you are lucky enough to have that big case walk in the door, there are plenty of lawyers who will be more than happy to help you. Ditto for expertise.
Join the club. But wouldn’t it be nice to proactively create a change in your career that you control? You cannot stop change. Sooner rather than later, there will be changes at your law firm creating many unknowns that you will have to react to with your partners. Wouldn’t you rather deal with change when you are in the driver’s seat?
Go for it and don’t look back. Life is too short. Although there are no guarantees, the chances are very good you will not regret it.
Originally published on Lawyerist.com