From Carolyn Elefant, creator of MyShingle.com, the longest running blog on solo and small firm practice.
What People Are Saying...
“Thanks to this book I feel more confident about going solo.”
“This is a great book. (The author) has done an excellent job to reflect the current economic times. It’s a must-read. I could have never started my practice without this book.”
“Solo by Choice is an excellent how-to for hanging your shingle. The author covers almost all the ground needed in just the right depth. It’s detailed enough, and has some personal perspectives that also help...”
“I put off buying a how-to book for a couple of months, thinking that I’d just figure stuff out on my own. And while I didn’t make any huge mistakes, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to do things. I finally bought this book, and wish I would have bought it sooner; it would have saved me a lot of time. The book discusses most of what you’ll need to know to set up your practice and get it running. It’s incredibly practical, up-to-date on technology, ethics rules, etc. A fantastic resource...”
“Although I read a number of how-to’s before I set up my own firm a couple of years ago, this is the only book that still sat on my desk. (The author) is both inspirational and realistic. She seems to have an intuitive feel for precisely the type of questions you will have. Her book is comprehensive without overburdening you with information. I used the book as a road map/checklist for all the things I needed to do.”
This new third edition of Solo by Choice lands at a pivotal moment as the legal profession emerges from the shadow of the pandemic. Though solo practice has often been a tough sell, the legal community – from new grads to senior lawyers – is taking a fresh look at law firm ownership for numerous reasons: the elimination of many traditional legal jobs, more enlightened attitudes towards entrepreneurship, technology advances and the capabilities that have slashed startup costs. and a desire to control one's destiny and do work that matters.
Whether you’re a lawyer evaluating the solo option, or you're ready to start your own firm -- or you're an existing solo looking to update your practice to take advantage of new opportunities -- here is some of what you’ll learn in Solo by Choice:
- How to decide whether solo’ing and small firm practice might be right for you;
- How to overcome your biggest fears about solo practice;
- How to select a practice area that serves your interests, financial goals, and lifestyle;
- How to assess your technology needs and choose a tech stack for your practice;
- How newly emerging business models can create new opportunities for solos;
- How to build strong client relationships and develop a solid retainer agreement;
- How to outsource and automate to manage busy times and grow your practice
- How to leverage digital marketing and social media
- How to manage personal challenges and maintain balance while running a successful practice.
About the Author
Carolyn Elefant (Cornell Law 1988) owns the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, a national practice founded in 1993 that fights climate change through representation of renewable energy companies and sustainability entrepreneurs on permitting and IP and defends communities and landowners across the country impacted by pipeline infrastructure and eminent domain in federal district and appellate courts where Carolyn has argued cases of constitutional import. Carolyn also founded and served as legislative counsel for the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition from 2005-2014, a 55-member national trade association responsible for early commercialization of offshore renewables in the United States.
In 2002, Carolyn created the blog MyShingle.com, the longest-running blog on solo and small law firm practice and responsible for helping thousands of lawyers launch their own firms. Dubbed the patron saint of solo and small firms, Carolyn writes and speaks on topics including starting a modern law firm in the digital age, how small firms can leverage technology to compete with large firms, the need for regulatory and ethics reform to ensure the sustainability of small law firm practice, and the role of woman-owned law firms in achieving gender equality in the legal profession.
In addition to “Solo by Choice," Carolyn has co-authored the ABA Publication “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier" and "The Legal ClauseIt: Plug & Play Engagement Agreements and Power Pacts for Small Law Firms" Carolyn has been listed as an Energy and Environmental Super Lawyer for Washington D.C. since 2012 (the only small firm lawyer on a list of AmLaw 200 firms), was named an ABA Legal Rebel (2010), a Fastcase 50 Innovator (2011) and an ABA Woman of Legal Tech (2014) and appeared on the Daily Show in 2014 to discuss law firm business models.
What they’re saying about Solo by Choice….
Nonetheless, it’s not just the work-life balance that Elefant cherishes in her work. A recent blog post describes the joy of going it alone: “There’s nothing quite like those first few months of getting a law firm off the ground: the heady feeling of building something that doesn’t exist, the thrill you experience the first time you introduce yourself to ‘your client’ and the wild optimism you feel once you take charge of your destiny.”
That is perhaps Elefant’s main message. Going solo isn’t just about taking control of your career. It’s about taking charge of your life.
Balancing Act: Carolyn Elefant Wants to Be the Voice of Solo Lawyers, Debra Bruno, Washington Legal Times (3/24/08)
“In the past 10 years or so, more and more large-firm lawyers are thinking seriously about leaving and taking a piece of their practice with them –not poaching or stealing clients, but maybe taking those not able to afford large-firm rates, or else clients conflicted out due to firm mergers,” said the “Solo by Choice” author. “There have always been lawyers who’ve done that, but now because of technology it’s easier for younger associates to do it.”
Ms. Elefant’s said her notion is buttressed by data in a recently released study of 4,000 law school graduates conducted by the American Bar Foundation and Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession that show apparent dissatisfaction among young lawyers at commercial firms.
The study found that large firms lose up to half their associates within as few as four years, though not because of dismissals or layoffs; nearly two-thirds of the defections are the result of associate choice.
“In these recessionary times,” said Ms. Elefant, who has worked at a mid-size commercial firm as well as a federal agency, “it makes sense for law firms who have to lay people off to watch where their associates go, and how they might build their own practices. If they were treated well, former associates might call in their firms on matters they can’t handle alone – or even go back to their firms after they’ve had valuable court experience.”
Speaking of valued ex-associates, Ms. Elefant added, “I know of small firms and solos making a good practice just taking conflict clients.”
Despite Economy, Author Says Now Is Time to Go Solo, Thomas Adcock, New York Law Journal (3/7/08)(subscription only)
Solo by Choice blew me away. As I read it, I became deeply concerned that I didn’t have enough glowing adjectives at my command to capture just how fantastic this book was, and how much I recommend it to anyone who has even a twinkle in their eye about the possibility of breaking out of the grind. If I wasn’t already a solo, I would become one after reading this book, it’s that thorough, balanced and persuasive.
Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice
Solo by Choice: How to be the lawyer you always wanted to be, by Carolyn Elefant (Seattle: DecisionBooks; 2008), contains 300 pages packed with down-to-earth, well organized advice on everything from making the decision to set up your own law firm, to deciding if and when to expand your solo practice. There are appendices on everything from writing a business plan to creating a forms library, that invaluable shortcut provided for you in a big firm.
The four chapters on marketing are some of the most positive prose I’ve read about the topic, even by veteran, trained marketers. Messages like “Marketing makes you a better lawyer” and “Marketing gives you more control over your practice” are music to the ears of those of us who believe that even the best law firm marketing departments are wasting their time if their lawyers don’t actively engage in business development.
Margaret McCaffery, Law Marketing Portal
[Solo by Choice] is a detailed road map, and really an inspirational road map, for anybody who wants to succeed in the solo practice of law. I would think it is a must read either wanting to or needing to take this journey. There does not seem to be a detail or consideration not covered. When I graduated from law school we had Jay Foonberg’s How to State & Build a Law Practice, which was broader in scope in many ways. But, Solo by Choice seems to be the guide for the new ages. It is heavily steeped on example and in the new trends.
Chuck Newton, Third Wave Law Firm
[N]o one book can answer all the questions an attorney will have in facing this most profound career choice. And Foonberg’s [of How to Start and Build a Law Practice] experience as a solo who’s been in practice for a long time is very different than that of someone like me, for instance, who did it in the 21st century; mine will likewise be different than someone who launches a practice in 2010. It’s just the way things are, as technology in particular and the world in general drastically change the landscape for entrepreneurs of all stripes. Part of the value I find in Carolyn’s book [Solo by Choice] is its timeliness; she addresses topics such as websites and blogs both as marketing tools and as assets to be planned for and divided in the event of a split from a firm.
Sheryl Schelin, The Inspired Solo
EVERYONE will find something in this book they knew little or nothing about or were totally misguided about when it comes to practicing as a solo or seeking out resources to get them started on their mission to improve their practice….In conclusion, regardless the stage in your professional career, this is a no-brainer. You must buy this book for a myriad of reasons, but also because it is a good reference book filled with great information aggregated in one easy to read collection and a necessary tool for your solo practice.
Susan Cartier Liebel, Build a Solo Practice LLC
Of course, near and dear to my heart, she has 48 pages devoted to practical, down-to-earth legal marketing ideas. Carolyn includes:
- An overview of lawyer marketing,
- Traditional marketing ideas (e.g., yellow pages, Martindale-Hubbell, elevator speech, sponsorships, trade groups, public relations, referrals, networking, speaking and writing, and putting on seminars),
- Internet marketing (and even references this blog, thank you very much), and
- “High-Impact” marketing, where she covers prospecting, organized networking, niche marketing, and “nontraditional consultations” (or what I would call providing quality service)
Tom Kane, Legal Marketing Blog
How does one go from law school or a big-firm job to a career as a solo? Elefant’s book provides a blueprint. You’ll find out how to reach a decision about whether a solo career is right for you, how to plan for the change, and how to grow and market your new practice. One of the book’s principle strengths is that it draws on personal anecdotes and insights from scores of real-life solos. There are checklists throughout the book and a number of helpful appendixes with tips for buying equipment, setting up a “paperless office,” performing on-line research inexpensively, and creating a sample forms library.
Evan Schaeffer, Illinois Trial Practice.com
I highly recommend that anyone considering solo or small firm practice read this book. Carolyn has provided detail beyond any expectations.
Enrico Schafer, Greatest American Lawyer,
This question also gives me the chance to single out and praise Carolyn Elefant’s new book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be. I had the privilege of reading a pre-publication version of the book and wrote the following short blurb about it:
Carolyn Elefant’s new book continues the tradition of her MyShingle.com website, which I once called “the perfect example of a great web resource.” It’s chock-full of exactly the practical advice I was looking for when I left a big firm to go solo. Highly recommended.
It’s the most current of the books about solo practice.
Dennis Kennedy, Dennis Kennedy Blog,
If you’re a lawyer and those law-school dreams have all but evaporated and you’re contemplating taking the plunge to start your own law firm, perhaps as a solo, perhaps as a group of lawyers who all have these unrealized dreams and want to run your own show, then…
You need this book. Don’t do anything else to start up a new law firm without reading this insightful guide, Solo by Choice, by Carolyn Elefant.* Even if you have a long-established solo or small firm, then this book will help you fine-tune your practice in ways you can’t even imagine. Even if you are in BigLaw or even a government prosecutor, there are a few tips you can pick up to help your practice (see the chapter on Dealing with clients).
Even after starting this firm, The Williams Lindberg Law Firm five years ago and after more than twenty years of practicing law, I learned more than a few things from this paperback. You’ll find it more than helpful, I’m sure. Your investment will yield much in return.
Craig Williams, May It Please The Court