10 Rules for Surviving as a Solo or Small Law Firm

Change can be unsettling or exhilarating — you decide.

We hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but the legal profession is going through some monumental changes.

Walmart now has a niche for lawyers next to the bank and a doc-in-a-box in many stores. Sam’s Club now offers LegalZoom as a benefit. And a growing number of states are licensing paralegals to deliver limited legal services, a la physician assistants. But that is just a tiny glimpse into what’s in store.

Some futurists predict that as many as one-third of the lawyers in practice today will have left the profession within the next five years.

What Are You Going to Do?

News like this can leave a solo attorney or small firm lawyer feeling (to paraphrase “Hamilton”) outgunned, outmanned, outspent and outplanned. It doesn’t have to be that way. How will you need to change your thinking to stay viable? Here are 10 rules and recommendations:

  1. Learn from change, don’t resent it. Ask yourself, “what is the opportunity here?”

  2. The past ain’t coming back. Move forward or be left behind.

  3. Embrace technology. It’s not a choice. Every old dog can learn new tricks. As Yogi Berra once said, “first ya gotta wanna.”

  4. Hire or keep a strong right-arm paralegal or assistant. Without this, you don’t have a practice. You have a job.

  5. Attracting work is just as important as doing it. Get over it.

  6. Develop a clear identity. General practice is not an identity. It’s a plea.

  7. Three (OK, four) words to remember that will help you stay alive: focus, niche and target market. You can’t survive trying to sell everything to everyone.

  8. Be highly visible and active in your own and your target market’s community. You won’t be found by prospects if you are hiding in your office.

  9. Your worst enemy is inertia, not your competition.

  10. Think beyond this month’s billings. Without a road map to tomorrow, you are living in yesterday.

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