While there are no hard and fast rules, Cartiga offers six signs that can indicate whether a lawyer is ready to start their own practice.
Many lawyers know that when they are ready, they want to open their own firm. While some find it appealing to be their own boss, others simply want to work in an environment that they have not been able to find in other firms and know they can create within their own practice.
So, the big questions are: How do you know when you are ready? When is the right time? While there is no single answer for determining when it is time to go into private practice, several signs can indicate one’s readiness.
Sign 1 – You are Prepared to be the One in Charge
Whether or not you enjoy taking on leadership roles, as long as you are prepared to step up and do what is necessary, you may be ready for your own practice. One sign of leadership readiness is when you find yourself noticing ways to improve procedures in your current law firm.
However, you must be prepared to avoid the pitfalls of leadership. As the boss, some business owners relish their perceived freedom a little too much. Yes, a business owner can set their own hours and operate with a certain degree of flexibility. Still, at the end of the day, they need to put in the time necessary to succeed, and they need to be available when the demands of the business dictate.
Leadership requires discipline, not only with time management but also task management. Those jobs no one feels like doing will now fall on you. It may be possible to assign the tasks to an employee or contractor, but only if it makes financial sense to do so.
The extra work required to take the lead can pay off in numerous ways. For instance, when you implement those improvements you thought of previously, the feeling of satisfaction in seeing the results can be immense and rewarding.
Sign 2 – You are Looking For a Challenge
It can be easy to fall into a dull routine at any job, especially in certain aspects of the legal profession. Some attorneys find comfort in predictability. Others feel like they are stagnant. If the thought of the day’s work ahead makes you sigh, that may be a sign that you are ready for a new challenge that your current situation cannot provide.
Forming your own law practice can offer just that challenge. If your tasks were fairly specialized before, that will quickly change when you become the one in charge of everything from marketing to software. In fact, the challenge could seem overwhelming at times. Rest assured, however, that resources are available to help, and when you settle in, you will be able to catch your breath and set your own pace going forward.
Sign 3 – You Would Like Your Work to Have Greater Meaning
Many people need legal services to handle a serious problem in their lives. Accordingly, many attorneys want to help; however, they feel like practicing in a traditional law firm environment does not allow them to provide services properly. When lawyers choose to open their own firms with the goal of making a difference in the world, that passion can provide the fuel for success.
Sign 4 – You Are Ready to Confront Money Issues
While it is noble to start your firm to serve the public, you will need to make some money in your business unless you have another income source. Most of us do not like to talk about money, and it can be uncomfortable to raise the subject of fees with a potential client. However, clients must fully understand your fee structure. Additionally, it is equally necessary to take steps to get clients to pay in a timely fashion.
Besides keeping on top of income, you will also need to budget for overhead costs in your practice, including technology, administrative assistance, marketing, and office space. Even if you do most of your work from a home office, you will still need a location to meet with clients, and it can be tremendously helpful to have a base near the courthouse where you do the most business.
Sign 5 – You Have a Plan to Obtain Clients
Another practical consideration for starting a law practice is whether you will have paying work. If you have loyal clients who will follow you to your new practice, that can be ideal. If you are setting up practice in a town where you would be the only attorney, you might find it easy to locate clients, depending on your practice areas. Alternatively, you might have a lot of contacts through networking. You do not necessarily need to have a list of clients in hand when you start on your firm, but you should have a plan to get those clients.
Sign 6 – You Are Ready for a Different Corporate Culture
One of the most common reasons lawyers want to start their practice is to escape the toxic office politics in their firms. If it seems that management doesn’t care or even encourages cutthroat competition, backstabbing, gossip, or other unhealthy practices, that may not leave you much hope for your future in that firm or even hope for the future of the firm itself.
Studies show that many working adults spend more time with co-workers than with anyone else in their lives, including family members. One way to improve the quality of life is to surround yourself with people you respect, and you have the power to do that when you set up your own firm.
It Is Your Decision to Make
Deciding whether you are ready to form your own law firm is the first of many decisions you will need to make and be prepared to live by. While you can consider others’ guidance, you must ultimately reach your own conclusion after weighing the factors most important to you.
When you decide to step out on your own, remember that there are resources available to help with all aspects of managing a law practice. Do your research, take advantage of services that make the most sense in your situation, and allow yourself to focus your energies on what you do best.
Cartiga can help you navigate your way to legal success! Visit us at Cartiga.com.