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Solo Law: Four Unexpected Challenges Hanging Up a Shingle

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As a relatively new attorney, Geneva Yourse took a big risk:  She quit her job at a law firm and started a solo practice. Three and one-half years later, another firm bought out her business and brought her on board.

Starting one’s own firm may well be part of the American dream, but for Mrs. Yourse, it didn’t come without unexpected challenges.

She explained those unexpected challenges as the final presenter rounding out a three-speaker webinar titled Hanging Your Shingle 101.

1.  Establishment takes time.  This was one of Mrs. Yourse’s largest challenges. While she anticipated the challenges of finding clients and developing business, she hadn’t thought about pricing. How much was her time worth?  She ended up tapping into her network of trusted peers in order to determine a fair market value for her time.

2. Building a business is not easy. She didn’t anticipate the strain starting business would have on her work-life balance.  As a solo attorney, if she wasn’t working, then she wasn’t making money.

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3. What to do with closed files?  Her previous employer had a large storage space, but as a solo attorney she did not.  She certainly wasn’t going to keep boxes of files in her home!  After checking with her local bar association and reading up on ethics opinions, she decided to scan closed files into an electronic format.  She also offered her clients the chance to pick up the paper files for safekeeping.  For those who did not, she shredded the files with a reputable shredding company.

4.  Learning how not to waste time.  Ever wonder where the time goes?  Again, when solo attorneys aren’t working, they aren’t making money. Mrs. Yourse wound up tracking all of her time – even the non-billable time – so she could later analyze how she was spending it and eliminate the waste.  In addition, she was able to use this data to compare how cases she accepted on a contingency model might have turned out if she had used an hourly billing model instead.

For those aspiring solo attorneys that find these challenges daunting, Mrs. Yourse is quick to point out she also “learned I knew more than I thought I did.”

Note:  The full webinar is recorded, run for about 60 minutes and is available for viewing on demand.  It consists of three segments:  1)     Jonathan Biebesheimer of LexisNexis provides three keys to starting a business 2) James Province, J.D., of TabletLawyer provides some excellent technology tips and tricks and 3) Geneva Yourse, J.D., shares her story of starting a solo practice.

Photo credit:  Flickr via Creative Commons

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.