You may be able to go back to your previous firm after you go solo, but if I’m being honest, you likely won’t want to.
Once you make the jump to go solo, you may think that keeping the option of returning to your old firm is a good idea. You can slip right back into where you left. But is that what you really want? Didn’t you go solo in the first place to get away from where you are right now?
Even if you may be able to return to your old firm, I suggest that you focus on your current practice and what you want to do. Don’t use your old firm as a fallback plan. Telling yourself that “if this solo thing doesn’t pan out I can always go back”, is selling yourself short. And it’s likely holding you back.
If you want to see big gains in your solo practice, keep looking forward. There is a reason why one of the first things I do with my 1:1 clients who are going solo is map out their vision for what their practice will look like. Ask yourself, in 5 years who are the clients that you serve? What type of work do you do? What does the customer journey look like? What does your office look like? What type of team do you have? What does your day to day look like? How big is your team?
When you map out your vision, you know what the end goal looks like. From there you can plan the steps that it will take to get you there.
Granted, if you go solo and then decide that it isn’t for you, you can always try to get your old job back. Hopefully, you have kept your relationships at the firm warm by regularly engaging with them. That’s all part of relationship marketing, something that you should be doing anyway (and not just with your ex-colleagues, but with everyone in your social circle).
There is nothing wrong with going solo and deciding that it isn’t for you. But there are things that you can do before you make the leap to determine if you’re a fit for running your own practice in the first place:
1. Talk with other solos. If you aren’t already involved in the solo/small firm community, you may be pleasantly surprised. I have found the community to be helpful and welcoming. There are other lawyers who would be willing to speak with you and let you know what law firm life as a solo is really like. Or consider joining my free online community to see what others are saying and to join in the conversation.
2. Know the numbers. Create a budget for your solo venture. You don’t need to know all of the numbers precisely, but by making educated guesses, you will go in with your eyes wide open. Keep in mind though, that you don’t need to go broke to go solo.
3. Know your why. Why do you want to create a solo firm? What is the purpose behind it? Once you are comfortable with that, ask yourself whether a solo firm will truly help you to fulfil this purpose.
Perhaps you have always known that you would go solo. Or, perhaps you aren’t so sure but you want to dip your toes in the water. Regardless of where you are at, it’s helpful to take some time beforehand to know what you are jumping into.
To be honest, most solos I know never go back to their old job. They may occasionally think about the steady paycheque and in-office perks, but the freedom and autonomy that comes with being their old boss trumps every time.
I was trained on Bay Street and worked in Big Law for nearly a decade before going solo. I now help other solo/small firm lawyers launch and build their practices, through 1:1 consulting. I help lawyers implement a marketing strategy, hire help, overcome mindset blocks and build a profitable firm that suits their lifestyle. Interested in learning more? Check out my services page.