I “grew up” as a lawyer in Big Law. I articled and was hired back on Bay Street. I moved to a national firm that then became an international firm. These firms had big clients and big budgets. As a result, I was used to having everything I needed to practice law at my fingertips (or at least a quick request to my assistant away). I had access to the best software, every office supply you could possibly think of stored in a massive room just for office supplies (with dedicated staff to make sure everything was there) and cutting edge technology. I didn’t think twice about it because that was what I knew for my entire career.
So when I went solo, I figured I needed all the things for my own practice. After all, I wanted to look the part – a former Bay Street lawyer who was practicing law on her own terms.
It was a harsh reality check when I looked into the pricing for some of the things I thought were essential – practice management software, legal template databases, accounting software, fancy computer and printer. They simply were not in my start-up budget. Paying my law society fees and LawPro was enough to make my eyes bulge out. I had no idea the cost of these things because they were always provided for me. Looking back, many of the things that I thought were essential were not necessary when I opened my virtual doors.
For my practice, I needed 3 things to go solo:
1. A computer with a reliable internet connection (my old personal computer worked just fine)
3. Payment of law society fees
That’s it. Instead of paying high monthly subscription fees for practice management software, I used an excel spreadsheet to track my leads and clients. I used the legal templates that I had accumulated over the years or reached out to colleagues when I didn’t have what I needed. I worked from home (before working from home was a Covid thing).
In short, I kept my expenses as lean as I possibly could. If I had not, I would have been stressed out trying to make enough money to pay my monthly expenses.
Of course, I will be the first to admit, I would have preferred the Pinterest worthy office, the latest tech gadgets, a beautiful custom website with my branding and logo and maybe even my own personal supply room.
My advice to those of you just starting out in your solo journey is to keep your expenses low. Ask yourself whether you really need that monthly subscription, that custom logo, that fancy desk. You may want it, but do you need it?
Chances are that you don’t. As you drive revenue to your practice, that is when you can start to purchase some of the items you want for your practice. Don’t break the bank before you have even opened your door for business.
You don’t need to go broke to go solo.
Leave a comment and let me know what you want versus what you need to start your practice.
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.