Employment vs. Solo Practice

Some lawyers are content to work within a firm – big or small – and be comforted by the presence of other lawyers, paralegals,


How do you know it is time to follow your dreams?

Spread your wings and fly away
Fly away far away…

– Music and Lyrics by John Deacon, recorded by Queen.

Some lawyers are content to work within a firm – big or small – and be comforted by the presence of other lawyers, paralegals, secretaries and accounting staff – to know that they are part of a bigger organization, have the support of the group and to take comfort from these surroundings. In others there burns the need, the desire and the allure of one day spreading their wings, soaring and establishing their own nest. But when do you know when it is time? What preparations should be done before taking that giant leap into the unknown? How can you best prepare yourself to fly solo? Here is a selection of things to ask yourself:

  • Are you a motivated self-starter with a can-do attitude? Are you comfortable making decisions on your own and wishing to build your own brand and get that message out to the broader market? Or are you more comfortable having job security and little financial risk?
  • Have you been thinking – or even dreaming about – going solo for some time, or is this more of a reaction to a current event or situation?
  • How much of how you perceive yourself is related to being part of a larger organization? Which rings louder for you: being called Jane Smith of Colossus Law Firm, or Jane Smith Barrister & Solicitor?
  • Are you prepared to look after all aspects of running your practice: from fixing the photocopier when it jams to paying salaries, the rent and CRA in full and on time?
  • Do you enjoy the idea of being an entrepreneur: of getting out there and marketing yourself, of working crazy hours when the work comes in and cancelling family dinners and such when sudden deadlines pop up?
  • Do you have enough savings accumulated and/or a life partner who can finance your living expenses up until you have a positive and healthy cash flow?
  • Who is in your network today? Do you have a spouse, friends, colleagues and clients that will support your move to solo practice?
  • Do you have a LinkedIn presence, a Facebook page and other social media accounts that will be used to launch your marketing? Are you comfortable walking into a room of strangers and passing out business cards and schmoozing?
  • Have you planned out the new practice? Have you thought about, and written, a business plan?
  • Are you good at keeping costs low and looking for ways of saving money? In the early years, this is an essential skill while you build your practice and cash flow.
  • Are you prepared to keep trying new things, new approaches and new technology? As an entrepreneur you have to be nimble and quick on your feet – and that means moving and changing things up to see what can work better, always seeking efficiencies and effectiveness.

Only you, being retrospective and deeply honest with yourself, will know when you have reached the point when it is time to lift your head, take a deep breath and spread your wings and fly… far far away.

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