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« Today's Economy Prompts Rethinking the Billable Hour | Main | Matt Homann Shares His "Ten Rules About Hourly Billing" »

Susan Cartier Liebel Explains Why Now is a Perfect Time to Go Solo

Gloom.  Plunging stock prices.  Layoffs.  "Negative growth."  Does any of that sound familiar?  It does, if you've been following mainstream news and blog coverage of the current global economy.

In these tumultuous times, law firms are laying off lawyers and lateral positions and first jobs are increasingly difficult to find.  So, what can you do?  You can keep looking for employment.  You can lie awake at night and beweep your adverse state.  Or you can hire yourself.

Yes, you read that right: hire yourself.  Susan Cartier Liebel is a coach and consultant who helps lawyers start and build solo practices.  In an inspiringly optimistic article, Liebel explains, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, why now is "the perfect time to start your solo practice."    Presenting historical examples of numerous successful companies that were started during a recession or depression, she argues that a shaky economic environment creates "the perfect climate" for lawyers to start a solo practice. Why should this be so?

First, Liebel explains that the opportunity costs to entering solo practice are lower now than they are in so-called "prosperous" times.  During a period of slowed economic activity, entrepreneurs (such as solo lawyers) understand that they have nothing to lose but everything to gain by starting a new business.  After all, if you are unemployed or underemployed, how much will you be sacrificing if you give up that state in order to hang your own shingle?

Further, changes happening in the legal profession now are creating favorable conditions for solo practices to thrive.  There are many such changes, and Liebel points out that competitors to solo practices--that is, larger law firms--are weakening, especially if they are reducing their marketing efforts.  At the same time, clients are looking for better deals.  By aggressively marketing their services, solos can create opportunities for themselves because they can be more cost-effective for clients and may be able to offer some services that larger forms have reduced or eliminated.

Finally, by following an effective start-up strategy, you can launch a successful solo practice.  Liebel offers a few pointers about how to do that:

  • To clients who may be seeking new legal counsel, present yourself as a viable and valuable alternative source for the services you provide and how you bill for them.
  • Market yourself aggressively so prospective clients can find you.
  • Offer innovative and cost-effective solutions to the prospective clients.
  • Make yourself available to Big Law firms as an independent contractor to work on an as-needed basis.  Offer firms an option they firms will find attractive because contracting for your services can be less expensive than hiring an associate to do the work.

Read Susan Cartier Liebel's article.  It will inform you and present a strong case for considering solo practice.  If you're not already a solo, it very well might convince you to hire yourself.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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Thank you for providing a link to my post. I strongly believe this. But regardless what I believe, history bears me out. And while I use examples of well known corporations it would be very interesting to discover what Big Law firms were started by aggressive entrepreneurs during previous challenging economic times.

Opportunity costs are never better than now. Besides, we are a society that has forgotten the pride one feels in creating something from our own sweat. There is nothing more fulfilling than creating something from nothing based upon ingenuity, flexibility and hard work.

Starting a solo practice is no exception.

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