Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
So, you’ve made the decision to start your own law practice. Congratulations, step one is complete! Chances are your head is spinning from thinking about the things you need to do to get started. Starting a practice can be overwhelming at first, especially if you plan to have a full-time practice.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, organization is usually the key to decreasing your stress. The first step I take when I need to get organized is to make a list of things to consider. The next couple of blog posts will cover the things that I think you should consider when making your list. Your challenge is to simply think about my suggestions. If you like them, add them to your list and flesh them out according to what is right for you. This week, I ask you to consider whether or not you want to be a solo or work with a partner.
This question requires some serious soul searching. If you are thinking about partnering, the first question to ask yourself is who your partner will be.
Remember how frustrating it was when you argued with your college roommate about who would clean the bathroom? I imagine that it’s much worse when you are arguing with your business partner about how much money you are owed or how the office files should be kept. You need to think really hard about your personality type and how that will or will not mesh with a person that you may have in mind. The last thing that you want when you are just starting out is to walk into a land mine.
You will also want to ask yourself whether your partner will be someone who has never started a law practice. It can be a plus to have someone learning along side of you, which can make you feel less alone. But, if you partner with someone who has never started a practice, it may take some time for both of you to learn the ropes. In the alternative, your partner can be someone who has experience running a practice. This may be a good idea because you can learn a lot from that person, but they may also require a bigger piece of the pie when you bring in fees.
If you are going to partner up, you need to decide if the arrangement will be a formal partnership or other type of arrangement. There are obvious risks involved in a formal partnership, and there is paperwork that needs to be done. I don’t profess to be an expert in partnership formation and everything that goes along with it, but there are certainly people out there who are experts. I would recommend asking someone who has already formed a partnership about their arrangement, and how they came to it.
There are other options that don’t involve partnership in the traditional sense. You can simply share office space with another attorney. This can be a good way to network and get referrals, but that other attorney may also choose to have nothing officially to do with your firm and focus on his or her own practice. You may also decide to co-counsel with another attorney and split fees. This can be a good arrangement, but you will need to negotiate with the other attorney and clear this arrangement with the client.
The decision to have a partner can have a great impact on the trajectory of your practice. It will dictate what sorts of clients you have, where your office will be and how the administrative aspects of the practice will be run. Having a partner can be the best decision you will ever make, or it can be a disaster. You should really think it through before you make your final decision.