Starting your sole practice: Tips for success
September 13, 2016 at 1:14 PM
There’s not much that’s more exciting – and terrifying – than going out on your own in law practice.
It’s highly common in New Zealand for lawyers to split off from their larger firms and create their own sole practices.
Half of the law firms in New Zealand are a single practicing lawyer, and they make up 8.2% of New Zealand barristers and solicitors.
But when it comes to actually establishing your own sole-practice law firm, there can be a lot to think about.
So what key areas do you need to look at and consider for your sole practice success? We walk you through.
Sole practice can be lonely, but not if you’ve got a great network around you to discuss your challenges with.
Most of the larger centres in New Zealand have specialist law-type groups where you can meet with others in the same boat, listen to speakers and learn from experts in the industry.
If you need support and mentoring, Business Mentors New Zealand offers these services to Kiwi lawyers. They have a team of experienced, independent mentors who can act as a sounding board for your ideas, and guide you in good business practices.
The New Zealand Law Society has a National Friends Panel which also may be able to help. The panel consists of experiences lawyers who are willing to be contacted on a confidential basis if you’ve got any questions or concerns relating to practice issues.
Plug in to law-related publications, email lists, and go to those conferences and events. Staying in the know will be invaluable.
Your practice management system has the potential to make and break your business. A poor system will be frustrating, cumbersome and hinder your work.
A great one will be intuitive and up-to-date, making the administration-type work easy, so you can focus on your clients.
While most going into sole practice know this, many have no idea what they’re looking for in a system.
We often get calls from lawyers going out on their own – who have absolutely no idea what they need in a good system, or what it might cost. “I truly have no idea what the ongoing operation fees are - $1 a month, $1000 a month?” one asked recently.
It’s important to do your research and chat to others in the industry about your options. A practice management system is something you want to get right the first time, so ask for quotes, go to demos and get a really clear understanding of what’s on offer. Then make your decision.
Going into sole practice can be hugely rewarding in the long run, but it’s very important you know to look after yourself, especially in the establishment phase.
No, you can’t expect too much sleep in those first few months, but burnout can be a huge issue – and it will affect your business.
Make sure you set clear goals and timelines as to how you want to work, and stick to them as much as go can.
Take a weekend break. Go for a round of golf. Enjoy dinner with family and friends.
Then you’ll be able to get back to work on Monday fresh, re-energised and ready to take on the world as a sole practice owner. All the best.