A practical guide to starting a solo practice . . .
Compiled by: Peter Grayson, Sanborn & Grayson,
Attorneys at Law
number one problem with going solo from the start is that you have no
idea about the limits of your knowledge: neither what they are nor what
they should be (i.e., you don’t know what you don’t know,
and you don’t know what is or isn’t OK not to know.) You are
in a constant state of doubt and confusion. This is especially troubling
to you because it will be a new experience. You are probably not accustomed
to not knowing what you are doing.
number two problem is the failure to understand the difference between
the practice of law and the business of practicing law. A solo right out
of school must teach him/herself how to be a lawyer and how to run a business--simultaneously.
Each of these is difficult to learn. It will take you at least twice as
long to learn each as it would take you to learn either while under the
direct tutelage of someone who has a personal interest in teaching you.
I. Absolute Don’t Do’s
• contingency fees and other nightmarish war stories, unless you
know exactly what you are doing
• lack of preparation due to lack of client funds
Absolute Must Do’s
• retainer agreements and client information (what to expect) letters
• stuff you need to know: collection, evidence, jury instructions,
selecting a jury, general courtroom demeanor
• cost vs. location
• other services besides space
• inter alia, the benefits of an automatic feeder on your copying
• computer, phone, FAX, etc
• timeslips, word processing, bookkeeping, billing, internet, etc.
• how to get the most out of each
What books or references?
• legal research: books, CD Rom, on-line research
• practice guides
VII. The Practice of Law; “Lawyer 101”
• how to serve and file a summons and complaint
• basic laws and motion practice
• “I need you to get me an injunction,” and other “immediate”
• basic client filing systems
• focus your practice
The Business of Practicing Law
• getting clients, keeping clients, avoiding problem clients
• returning phone calls
• billing and collecting
• filing system for bills, advertising received (e.g., cell phone
deals, computer deals, MCLE, etc.)
• secretaries and other hiring/payroll issues
Creating a small firm or “association”
• inherent problems with all partnerships
• essential matters to consider
The Main Problems starting out
• not having money!
• taking the wrong cases
• inability to prepare the cases
• malpractice insurance