• Advice

How to start your own solo law practice

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If you're a lawyer who wants greater flexibility and control over your law practice, freelancing may be the answer! Work Made for Hire founder and Freelancers Union member Katie Lane provides legal services and private negotiation coaching for fellow freelancers. Her warm smile and friendly nature defies all stodgy lawyer stereotypes. She's a fan of comic books and comedians -- and, of course, contract law.

Over time, she has built her practice by refining her niche and establishing incredible relationships with her clients. She shares a few tips for jumpstarting your solo practice and finding work in your area of specialty:

Make a plan

Katie worked her day job for several years while freelancing part-time. As her career evolved she decided freelancing full-time would offer her greater flexibility and control over their career. But her transition required a lot of patience and a plan of action.

“Once I made that plan, I approached going freelance the same way I approach a lot of negotiations: I identified what was important to me, created a structure that was strong enough to support those interests and flexible enough to change when I needed it to change, and I made sure I had a good back-up plan.”

Her road to freelancing wasn’t easy, but planning ahead made it possible. She gave herself small goals to stay encouraged. “I’m always accomplishing something that gets me closer to where I want to go, even if it isn’t the great big thing that I’m working toward.”

Pick your specialty

For freelance lawyers, defining your niche and establishing a clear picture of your practice is critical. It helps you define your client base and grow your business. She recommends asking yourself a couple questions to kickoff the process:

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Who do you want to work with?

According to Katie, by developing your specialty you can start to pare down our offerings, and focus on networking exclusively within that space. From there, you can start to brainstorm specific legal services you’re qualified to provide.

For example, Katie’s niche and client base is intentionally concise and specific: reviewing, revising or drafting contracts and understanding potential legal issues related to your art. And if you're unsure of what type of law you really enjoy, do a pro bono case for a legal services provider to get a feel.

Do your research

This may seem obvious, but doing a little research can go a long way. Discover the online tools that work for you and keep them bookmarked. It’s great to have a online community to connect and network with! Katie has an active Freelancers Union profile and visits a variety of websites to keep up to date with her industry. Here are a few of her favorite resources:

  • The Lawyerist - on the Lawyerist and its companion forum, the Lawyerist LAB, you will find information and advice for innovative lawyers who are starting or building a law practice.
  • My Shingle - an online resource for solo and small firm lawyers with thousands of blog posts and an impressive stock of free e-books, checklists and forms on starting and running a law firm.
  • FastCase - a legal research service that provides lawyers online access to a comprehensive national law library.

As a freelancer, Katie emphasises that “you don’t need to get it absolutely perfect”. It’s all about learning and working towards important goals.

“Each and every negotiation will teach you something. Each wacky client demand will give you an opportunity to practice your skills. Each job will be a chance for you to learn about how you like (and don’t like) to price your work. Each contract will give you a shot to stand up and protect yourself.”

Katie was open to the possibility of working independently and essentially, her freelancing plan worked!

Your turn: Have you ever considered starting a solo legal practice?