What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Practice

What I Wish I Knew When I Opened My Practice

Ever wish someone had told you this when you were starting out?  Speakers Lisa Clay and Patrick Walsh did a segment on this exact topic during our seminar last week in Chicago: Opening and Managing Your Practice: The Do’s, Don’ts and Everything In-Between.

As you know we occasionally post snippets from our seminar handout materials and wanted to share this today.

  • The importance of, and guidelines for, doing client intakes.
    • Just because a client wants me to represent them doesn’t mean I should.
    • What do I need to know in terms of their background?
    • Their history with other lawyers?
    • Are they frequent flyers/filers?
    • How are they going to pay me?
  • Conflicts Checks!
    • How do I do it?
    • What level of conflicts checks do I need conduct as a solo?
  • Overhead is EXPENSIVE!
    • Rent, insurance, lexis, phone Internet, etc.
    • It all adds up, and most of it can’t be passed on to a client
  • How important it would be to have other attorneys as back-up and resources for things like:
    • Covering me if I’m down and out
    • Subject matter consultations
    • Referrals on cases I don’t want
  • That I would have to be my own bill collector. I still suck at this.
  • About all the unpaid time I would lose being my own office, and dealing with computer issues, addressing phone problems, taking calls I don’t want, etc., etc., etc.
  • That I would have to fire clients (and they might have to fire me).
    • This requires that I have a good retainer, a standard disengagement letter and that I address liens.
  • How to keep track of expenses.
    • I use a credit card for everything I can, but I’m still terrible about making sure billable expenses get on bills, and that I don’t lose cabs, meals, etc.
  • I can’t take every case. Boundaries are so important for solos.
  • How much my opponents would try to use my status as a solo against me.
    • What it’s like to be threatened with “teams” of attorneys and be drowned in discovery by firms with 4 and 5 attorneys on a case
  • How important it is to cultivate relationships with other lawyers
  • That half of my job would be in the role of therapist/social worker… and that part of my job would be largely unpaid.

This seminar took place last Friday; however, you can still hear the full discussion on the audio version available here.

Joan Wood

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