LEGAL CAREER CHOICES:
SELF-EMPLOYMENT IN A SOLO PRACTICE.
By Richard K. Teitell, Esq., Richard K. Teitell Law Offices
After graduating from law school in 1977, I worked in several small law firms with as many as 10 attorneys until 1988 when I opened my own office. For the past 25 years, I have been on my own as a trial attorney handling various types of civil litigation. Like many solos, I share space with other attorneys. We do not share profits but join together paying the overhead expenses of an office. The attorneys in my suite handle other types of legal matters, resulting in cross referrals of clients to our mutual benefit.
KEEPING THE MONEY I EARN
A huge benefit of being a solo practitioner is that the money I earn in representing clients does not have to be shared with other attorneys. In a law partnership, fees are split and there is always a concern about whether all lawyers are carrying their weight. Also, like any other business, law firm income can be cyclical and there are certainly risks in being self-employed since there are no others bringing in fees when I have a down cycle. But the money I earn is money I can keep, and I can determine my own destiny. I like that.
HAVING INDEPENDENCE AND FLEXIBILITY
Being self-employed provides a wonderful degree of independence. I am able to decide which clients I want to represent and which cases I want to handle. I am able to take time off for family events, activities with my children or personal recreation.
MANAGING WITH SUPPORT
Being successful as a solo attorney requires support. I have been lucky to have an assistant who has been with me for over 20 years and I am not sure how I would manage without her. You cannot be in two places at once and whenever I am away from the office, I have to depend on my assistant to handle anything that comes in – whether it is a notice of a court event or a call from a potential new client that could generate a huge fee for the office.
LEARNING TO MARKET YOURSELF
The scary part of opening your own law office is wondering where your business will come from. If you went to high school or college in the area, you might have non-lawyer friends you can reach out to as potential clients, or as referral sources. Make sure you learn ways to get your name known to people who might help you generate business and when you finish a matter, take the time to encourage your client to refer new clients to you.
NETWORKING AND RELYING ON OTHERS
One of the drawbacks that I regretted early in my practice was the inability to be able to walk down the hall and talk about an issue with another attorney who might have useful ideas to help on a case I was handling. But now, through my membership in various trial lawyer organizations, I am an active participant in “listserves” that give me the ability to get advice and assistance on a myriad of legal issues.
The good thing about being a solo practitioner is that I am by myself. The bad thing about being a solo practitioner is that I am by myself. You will have to work out your support system. Make sure that you join professional associations and networking groups. The more attorneys you know the more help you will be able to receive. Get involved in your community and spend time investing in your future business.