Are lawyers who go solo simply lawyers who couldn’t cut it in Big Law? Are they lawyers who couldn’t make partner? Or did they make partner, but not equity partner? Are they bad lawyers?
I’m going to get a little vulnerable here and admit that in law school I was washed up by the mentality of if you are not in Big Law then everything else plays second fiddle. It seemed like the ultimate goal of every law student was to get a job in Big Law. Eventually, I made my way to Big Law and that Big Law mentality stayed with me. As a result, when I worked on transactions with a lawyer on the other side who was a sole practitioner, I would automatically presume that the lawyer wasn’t a good lawyer because they weren’t a Big Law lawyer. (Terrible, I know). I would wonder why they chose to go out on their own. Could they not cut it in a law firm environment?
At the time, I didn’t know any solos. My social circle was made up of Big Law lawyers. So it wasn’t until I went solo that I realized how many brilliant, talented and hard-working lawyers go solo.
Lawyers go solo at different stages in their careers and for many different reasons. It could be because they want to take over the family law firm, they couldn’t get a job out of law school, they were fired from their job, they no longer want to work in Big Law or because they want more control over their career, calendar and life.
Let me tell you a few stories of lawyers who chose to go solo and have never looked back. These lawyers have excellent reputations, do challenging work and are at the top of their game.
- One lawyer was an equity partner in Big Law who decided that working insane hours was not what she wanted for her future. So she left. She now spends part of the year working remotely from her flat in Europe. And this was many years before the pandemic.
- One lawyer worked in-house for a large technology company. She dreamed of becoming a foster parent and renovating an old farmhouse but didn’t have the time to do this in her current role. So she went solo, automated her practice and lined up enough clients before she launched to equal her in-house salary. She moved across the country and is now in the process of becoming a foster parent in her renovated farmhouse.
- One lawyer wanted more time with her school-age daughter during the pandemic. So she went solo and scheduled her working hours so she could enjoy having lunch with her daughter each day.
Technology has allowed talented lawyers to say no to what no longer works for them and say yes to a practice that excites them. They look forward to Monday mornings. They love their clients and they love what they do.
As lawyers we are often in our heads wondering what others will think if we make a change. The same is true for lawyers considering going solo. “Will other lawyers think I’m a loser if I go solo”? The truth is, they might. But the reality is, going solo is about you. It’s your decision and it’s about what is right for you. Let them think what they want while you get to do work that you love, with clients you adore on a schedule that you choose.
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.