Starting your own law firm can be an exciting venture. At the same time, opening a legal practice can be daunting even for those that have prior experience working as attorneys. This is because there are many intricacies to running a business that aren’t typically taught in school or while working. One of the first questions you may be asking yourself is whether you should form a solo or partner practice.
The short answer is that it all depends on your preferences. If you prefer having someone to bounce ideas off of and share in decision-making, having a partner may be worthwhile. Or, if you are more independent and want an ultimate say in how your practice operates, being a solo practitioner might be the better option.
Benefits of Partnering
That said, there are some practical benefits to partnering with another attorney. First, you can share expenses, such as office space rent, internet, and utilities. You may also be able to expand into more practice areas.
For example, if your experience is in litigation and you team up with an attorney that is skilled in estate planning, you could potentially serve a larger and more diverse clientele. You might also be able to help existing clients at different times and with different legal issues.
It can also be helpful to have another colleague in-house to discuss case strategy. This can be particularly useful for new attorneys or those getting into areas of the law where they may not have much experience. Further, there may be more flexibility in your work schedule if you have a partner.
For example, it might be easier to take a vacation or the afternoon off if you know that someone else can temporarily oversee client and/or administrative matters for you.
Having another attorney working with you may also lead to a more consistent income. Unlike a solo practice where this pressure is squarely on you, working with a partner divides income-generating responsibilities. So, for instance, if one month you fall behind in billable hours, your partner may be able to pick up the slack and vice versa.
Further, at least initially, clients may be more willing to work with a partnership than with a solo attorney. While this might not be fair, often the perception is that multi-member firms are more capable than lawyers that practice on their own.
Importance of Picking a Good Partner
Note that all of the benefits mentioned above depend largely on the partner you choose. For that reason, it is important to find someone that works as hard as you do. Otherwise, you could be put in a position where you are doing a disproportionate amount of legal and administrative work.
Remember that because you are dividing the profits of the business with your partner, it is critical that the workload is shared. In many ways, a business partnership is like a marriage. For it to be successful, both partners need to make sure that their skills are complementary, there is clear communication, and each person’s roles are defined.
Benefits of Solo Practice
By contrast, one of the most appealing aspects of a solo practice is that you get to be your own boss. This also means that the profits are all yours. In addition, you establish your own business processes, schedules, practice areas, business plans, and are in charge of hiring. All of this is done without needing to consult anyone.
Other Options for Solo Practice
While in some ways being a solo practitioner can be more stressful, one of the overarching benefits is that you can take pride in the fact that you created something all your own. If you decide that this is the route you want to take, you’ll be glad to know that there are some options available so that you are not operating completely alone.
One option is to reach out to potential mentors. These are attorneys that have experience in your practice area and can give you many of the benefits of having a partner while maintaining your solo status. Mentors can help you with legal questions or provide general business guidance or other advice that you may find useful in your practice.
Joining your state bar association can also be beneficial. There may be client referral programs in place or other networking groups that you should look into as well. These can help you build your business and also lead to forming relationships with colleagues in your field, including other solo practitioners.
Sharing administrative staff and office space is also an option. Today there are many different coworking arrangements available. Using these spaces can help you cut down on administrative overhead and give you greater flexibility in how you work.