Becoming a Solo Attorney aka Becoming a Business Owner

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: December 4, 2015

Becoming a Solo Attorney aka Becoming a Business Owner

Maybe you’re a new attorney fresh out of law school…

Maybe you’ve been working for a firm for a it and you think you’ve got a shot….

Or maybe it’s finally that time to step out on your own and make a name for yourself…

Everyday someone asks themselves these questions but thanks to Cassie Baudean, a Virginia lawyer, she very simply breaks down the process of “going solo” by instructing present lawyers to ask themselves three vital questions…

Take a look:

  1. Am I financially stable?

“Going solo takes a lot of time and hard work. Along with that hard work, it takes some perseverance; clients don’t just walk in the door as soon as you open your firm. Plan to have reserve funds for about 6-9 months of no income before you open your own firm. First of all, you don’t want to be in the middle of following your dream and have to quit because of funds or get discouraged during the first few months. Second, you, as an attorney, are entrusted with client’s funds and must remember that your clients’ money is off limits until you’ve earned those funds.”

  1. Am I humble enough? (We LOVED this one)

“Most of us lawyers are prideful. When you open your own firm, you need to put that pride aside and humble yourself. You are going to have to be willing to ask for help during this process. Prepare yourself to seek help from family, friends, colleagues, other attorneys, mentors, teachers, and the list goes on. When you don’t know something, ask someone who does. You will get yourself into trouble quickly if you aren’t able to admit when you are unsure of something and find out the right answer.”

  1. Do I understand business?

“We went to school to study the law and be lawyers. And many of you out there are fantastic at what you do! But did you go to business school? Do you understand the business lingo and how to make sound business decisions? Sometimes this involves declining to represent a client, sometimes this involves how to set up your business. Make sure you at least understand the basics of running a business. If you don’t understand the basics, considering hiring someone, maybe just part-time, to help run the business side of things. This will free you up to do exactly what you love: practice law.”

We completely agree with Cassie and in fact, we believe opening up your own law firm is a business through and through…

After a little more digging, provided us with a few more vital questions that any potential entrepreneuer (and attorney) should be asking:

  1. Are you able to let other people down?

A founder may set out in a rowboat, but pretty soon, he is piloting a cabin cruiser with investors and employees on board and their families huddled below decks. Risking your own fortunes is easy compared with risking the fortunes of those who believe in you.

  1. How do you handle setbacks?

When you are smiling, the whole company smiles with you. In their book Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting With Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee explain that emotions are contagious: Morale rises and falls with the mood of the leader. Consequently, people who succumb to black moods or depression can fatally infect their own companies. Because some people have an inflated idea of their resilience, Mayer suggests performing a kind of reference check on yourself — ask people who know you well how you handle adversity

  1. Are you really an inventor, rather than an entrepreneur?

Raising a child is generally more challenging than creating a child, and the same is true of new products. Some people mistake the act of invention for the tough part. “Too many times, these inventor types spend an inordinate amount of time on the patent and making the prototype just so,” says Mike Drummond, editor in chief and co-owner of Inventors Digest. “They think once they’ve done that, the world will beat a path to their doorstep. My take is that product development is a team sport. Inventors don’t get that. Entrepreneurs do.

  1. Can you accept that your company may outgrow you?

Some entrepreneurs love to brag that they don’t need an exit strategy, because they are not going anywhere. But at some point, your business may need you less than you need it. That’s particularly true at fast-growth companies, at which entrepreneurs may not have enough time to develop the necessary leadership and business skills. Mayer has seen founders bring in presidents or senior executives from the outside, only to sabotage them.

  1. When you look in the mirror, does an entrepreneur look back?

If so, and if that’s the reason you are starting a company, beware. Many traits — persistence, creativity, and risk tolerance among them — are commonly ascribed to entrepreneurs. But having those traits doesn’t much improve the odds that you will succeed.

Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, Attorneys and Leaders alike – what were some of the most important questions that you asked yourself before you started off on your own?



Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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