Welcome to the final post of this three-part series on making the transition from solo practice to a small firm. We have discussed the decision to expand your firm, funding your growth, and how to find the best administrative assistance. Now, you’re ready to bring on a new attorney or two. This can be an extremely stressful process. Your law office is the culmination of years of hard work. The last thing you want is to bring someone in who does not have the best interests of the firm in mind.
An article published by the ABA’s Solo and Group Practice Magazine offers some valuable advice for making this important decision. Though the article is a bit dated, the guidance it offers is timeless.
When looking for a partner or new associate, you want to choose someone who will practice law with integrity and ethics. A good relationship starts with trust, so you need a person you can count on to conduct themselves appropriately. Remember that this person’s actions represent the entire firm. Don’t just hand over the good name and reputation you have worked hard to build. Ask about past and present grievance complaints. You should also do your own research by checking with the Bar to ensure the candidate is in good standing and contacting professional references.
Your clients expect a certain quality of work from your practice. When choosing an additional attorney, find someone who can provide them with the level of service they are accustomed to receiving. Perhaps you are considering a local attorney whom you see in court on a regular basis. How is her courtroom demeanor? Did she appear prepared and able to adequately represent her clients? If you are considering someone with a solo practice of his own, check legal websites for client reviews. Attorneys tend to develop reputations within the legal community. Pay attention and act accordingly.
There’s nothing wrong with considering a potential partner or associate’s rainmaking potential. If you want to grow your practice, why not bring someone on board who can help you reach those goals. Has he already cultivated a successful solo practice? If so, that shows a willingness to work at getting clients in the door. Choosing someone with a different expertise can also be useful for expanding your clientele. For example, you currently practice domestic relations, but you want to expand into estate planning. Why not bring an attorney on board with estate planning experience?
A Good Fit
I threw this one in, but any good relationship requires a good matchup of personalities. Who wants to spend hours upon hours each day working with someone they cannot stand – and isn’t that part of the beauty in establishing your own firm? You don’t have to work with the overly talkative fashion plate who barely gets work done, or the gym obsessed inappropriate guy who constantly calls out sick. Listen to your intuition and use it to make an appropriate decision about the best fit for your firm.
As we come to the end of this series, I hope it provided you with some useful tips or at least gave you some things to consider. There are many lawyers out there who maintain thriving solo practices, and would not have it any other way. But if the possibility of expansion is calling to you, don’t let fear or uncertainty keep you from answering.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a freelance writer with a passion for law. Through her business, The Legal Writing Studio, she helps legal professionals deliver effective written messages. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.