Why I Don’t Focus on the Hardships of Starting a Law Firm

Starting, or more accurately, sustaining a law firm is hard. Scott Greenfield hammers the point sharply but accurately; Sam Glover more mildly but equally accurately. So why don’t I?

As a longtime blogger focused on solo and small firm practice, and author of Solo by Choice, I’m the first to admit that I, like other bloggers of this genre,  have an obligation to cover the grim realities associated with starting a law firm.  From time to time I do. I’ve written about the loneliness of feeling that you’re the only solo in the world who’s floundering and shared my own experience of having to give up my office when my second daughter was born and start all over again.

And yet when I sit down to blog, it’s just too easy to forget the misery. I can’t help myself. Because when solo practice clicks, there’s nothing else like it in the world. To build something out of nothing, defend clients and do justice and yes, I’ll say it, still make time for family is nothing short of miraculous .  And even when solo practice doesn’t work out, having had the courage to make the leap makes you realize that you can always pick yourself up and start again. Which is far better than the alternative.

Tim Ferris’ popularity aside, I honestly don’t believe that the majority of lawyers who seek out solo practice are looking for a four-hour work week. Rather, we want work that makes us want to dance a jig. Work that’s so engaging, so rewarding and so energizing that those 18-hour days that spent pumping out an appellate brief goes by in 18 minutes, and showers and long commutes and those minutes before you fall asleep are consumed by pondering the precise clause or phrase for a contract or opening argument.  Most lawyers worth their salt don’t want a life without work but rather, one that’s rich with meaningful work that matters and makes a difference in our clients’ lives (that’s why it’s mostly consultants rather than lawyers who preach the 4-hour work week stuff).

Is solo practice hard?  You bet it is.  So is life, after all. But is solo practice worth the hell — the fear that never goes away even 20 years in, that another client may never come through the door, the constant  hustle and the snubs from colleagues who think that solos are losers who couldn’t find other jobs? Absolutely.

What do you think?