Washington Lawyer - April/May 2018 - 8
CAREER & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
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DO'S & DON'TS
FOR GOING SOLO
By Erika Winston
ach year hundreds of lawyers part ways with their law firms and other
legal employers to open their own solo practices. Before you embark
on this challenging endeavor, hear from experts on how to ease your
transition to becoming a solo practitioner.
DO HAVE A PLAN
Daniel M. Mills, assistant director of the D.C. Bar
Practice Management Advisory Service (PMAS),
Regulation Counsel, champions the importance of
having a plan in place prior to leaving your law firm.
"Think it through and prepare intensely," Mills says.
"Also, don't go into your meeting with the managing
partner to announce your departure, thinking that
you can negotiate for 30 days before leaving. You
might just be escorted directly to the lobby without
a chance to even go back to your office."
DON'T BE AFRAID
TO LAUNCH 'LEAN'
According to Mills, you don't need a fortune to
launch your own practice. "While it helps to have
funds, lean launches are quite possible when the
circumstances require it." He says the PMAS has
helped lawyers launch their practices with little
more than their last firm paycheck. "Contact me
or Rochelle Washington at the D.C. Bar and attend
one or more of our regular programs on starting
and growing a law firm," Mills advises.
DO TAKE STOCK
OF YOUR SKILLS
Alvin M. Guttman, Esq.
Anna Rappaport, owner of Excelleration, LLC,
suggests lawyers do a serious inventory of their
skills when moving from law firm to solo practice.
"Successful entrepreneurship requires legal skills,
sales skills, long-term visioning, attention to detail,
ability to manage others, etc.," she explains. "Almost
no one starts out excelling at the full range of
required skills, so find ways to augment your
strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
Choosing partners and staff with complementary
strengths is a crucial first step."
DON'T GO OVERBOARD
WITH PAID ADVERTISING
Rappaport warns against relying too heavily on
paid advertising. "Although for some practice areas,
Google ads or other forms of advertisement
can be helpful, it is a lot more complicated than
most people realize. If it were as simple as hiring an
expert and suddenly you have all the business you
want, everyone would do it," she says. According to
Rappaport, the ability to attract clients is based on
relationships and reputation. "Leveraging your
existing relationships, figuring out how to network
effectively, or creating more opportunities for
visibility is generally more effective than relying
Tasha "TC" Cooper, founder of UpwardAction,
says lawyers should start thinking about their
development and marketing strategies as soon
as they decide to leave their law firm. "As early
as you begin thinking about leaving your firm
for a solo practice, you should be thinking about
a plan to continuously develop business and
attract clients," she says. Cooper suggests
updating your LinkedIn profile. "Use descriptions
that contain popular keyword phrases used
by clients in your areas of practice," she says.
"Also, use a professional photo with a clear
view of your face."
DON'T POST WILLY-NILLY
TO SOCIAL MEDIA
However, Cooper warns against social media
marketing without a comprehensive plan of
action. "Do not start posting a lot of information
on various social networks without a plan for
archiving your content and a strategy for using
your content to increase your impact, expand
your influence, and attract ideal business opportunities. Be productive, not busy, when using
Erika Winston is a regular contributor
to Washington Lawyer.