July is a celebration of independence – and no lawyers personify that spirit more than sole practitioners.
Think of them as solopreneurs.
They think outside the box. They are pioneers. They march to the beat of their own drummers.
And their numbers are growing.
Already, around half of all licensed lawyers nationally are in solo practices. That percentage is expected to rise in coming years because of social media, technological mobility and virtual practice possibilities.
Not to mention the fact that the traditional law firm model has imploded.
But not everyone wants to – or is cut out for –flying solo.
Curiosity. A curious nature opens the door to new strategies and solutions. It tells clients you are interested in them. It helps you understand their needs and goals.
Resiliency. “Practicing law requires overcoming failure almost daily,” writes Bruce. “In our job, there are people out there who actually get paid to get in our way, to find our mistakes and to make us look bad. We never get everything we want in negotiation. In the courtroom we win some arguments and we lose some. Some of the clients we want to serve choose instead to hire the very people who so often try to thwart us. If we weren’t resilient, we couldn’t make it through the week!”
Agility. Solos must be flexible and nimble. They have to think on their feet. They have to be able to tweak their business plan when the economy takes a turn. They must be adept at switching mental gears – for example, when an important call comes in while you’re frantically finishing up a trial brief – without missing a beat.
Resourcefulness. Solos have to know how to do it all – from making coffee to balancing a budget.
Pattern recognition. “Most of us recognize patterns unconsciously,” Bruce writes. “It’s what helps us suddenly discern what the other side is trying to hide from us. It guides us in choosing the argument that is more likely to persuade a particular judge. When we engage in pattern recognition consciously, we can identify the pivot point of a recurring problem, such as why we keep coming to the end of the day without starting on the most important project we needed to work on.”
Tenacity. Solos need a double-shot of stick-to-itiveness to plow through – or go around – the problems, roadblocks, setbacks and sorrows that occur every day.
Good points, all. To this list I would add four more qualities. These might not be essential to practicing solo, but they sure come in handy:
Excellent foot speed. For rushing a document to the clerk’s office seconds before the courthouse door slams shut.
The ability to amuse yourself. When it comes to being alone, everyone is different. Even as an infant, for instance, my daughter Rachel would happily entertain herself for hours without a peep. My son Bo, on the other hand, would fall apart if left alone for 30 seconds. He still does.
You play well with others. At first glance this seems counterintuitive. Solos, after all, are lone wolves. Masters of their own sandbox. But in the immortal words of Eric Carmen, it’s no fun living All By Myself. It’s also impossible. We get by with help from receptionists, colleagues, judges, court clerks, paralegals, malpractice claims counsel, parking lot attendants and State Bar ethics advisors.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He admires anyone who dares to go solo. Contact email@example.com, phone 919-619-2441.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.