Tips From the Trenches: Reflections One Year After Going Solo

by Laura Liss

When I “went solo” last summer, straight out of law school, some of the immediate benefits included giving me an identity and a purpose. However, the hard work and the “what I wished I knew then” list has grown. I don’t regret my choice, and here are three of the kernels of truth from my experience I pass along every time when asked about what going solo entails.

1. Embrace that Going Solo Makes You are a Small-Business Owner.

Small business ownership means you do what you want, when you want, why you want. However, the less glamorous side of a solo practice is that you will likely do everything by yourself, unless you are independently wealthy enough to pay others do things for you.

As an example, I created my law firm website, business Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog. I have no background in programming or design and I do not claim it to be amazing – but it is functional. Doing the website myself with a template from Wix saved me a at least a thousand dollars, even if it likely took me over 50 hours. It also continually saves me from paying someone else whenever I want to change something on those sites because I know how to do it myself.

Doing it all yourself is the biggest part of going solo that no one tells you.

2. Learn About Bookkeeping and Accounting. Then Actually Do It.

While you may be familiar with keeping track of your time, you must also learn to keep track of your receipts, your accounts payable, your accounts receivable and above all else, your trust account bookkeeping if you receive trust payments from clients.

If you have never kept track of records like this, find a professional bookkeeper who will train you on how to do it, and who will come in once a month or quarter to check your work. This will cost you likely less than $100 per month but it will be well worth it. Eventually, when you are better at doing it yourself, you won’t have to pay for it at all.

Also plan to read about or hire a CPA who can teach you about business tax deduction basics if you did not study anything like that in undergrad or law school. For example, deducting for a copier versus copy paper versus the cost of taking a client to lunch all have different rules and you should be aware of them.

3.         Carry Malpractice Insurance.

You may be new to practicing law like I was. You will make mistakes and there will be things you never knew to consider. Do not let the $700 – $1400 per year average malpractice insurance price tag scare you off. It is cheap compared to a $100,000 or $500,000 judgment.

            That said, start applying early. My personal experience and what I have seen with friends was that it took several months to actually receive insurance. You can’t submit an application until you are licensed, but consider having the paperwork filled out and ready to submit on the swearing in ceremony day.

Laura Liss_photo Laura Liss represents franchisee, franchisor, and non-franchise business clients alike in business, franchise, and real estate transactions at her own firm, the Law Office of Laura Liss, P.C. (www.lauraliss.com). She also presents to industry groups across the metro area about building, protecting and growing companies through trademarking and franchising. When out of the office, she enjoys networking, Mexican food, and hiking in the foothills. She can be reached at laura@lauraliss.com, on Twitter @LauraLissLaw, or on Facebook at facebook.com/attorney-laura-liss. She is also always available to talk through questions about hanging your shingle.

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