Some of you may now consider venturing out into solo practice. This is a common side effect of taking the bar exam akin to a night of binge drinking or receiving a massive head injury. I wish you well. All kidding aside, venturing into solo practice can be a rewarding experience if done correctly. Keep in mind, however, that you face an uphill battle. Depending on where you hang your shingle, you will quickly learn that there are already a myriad of entrenched practioners in your neck of the woods. So how does one compete? These guys have years of experience on you. As Arie de Gues had eloquently stated "your ability to learn faster than your competition is your only sustainable competitive advantage." More than likely, your competitors spent years building their practice. They learned from their mistakes. Of course, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Learn from those that have walked a well trodden path ahead of you.
Now, I know there are several self help books out there that promise to light your path through the dark, dismal overgrown poison ivy filled forest that is solo law practice. I would like to recommend one that will surely become a well thumbed addition to your legal library. In her book, "The Ultimate Guide to Solo and Small Firm Succes," author Renee Caggiano Berman offers you a compass in your quest for private practice success. A practicing Connecticut attorney, Berman's book balances tried and true practice tips with her own fresh approach to solo practice. Her well researched book includes references to a broad spectrum of experts in the field of law practice management including two of my personal favorites Attorneys Jim Calloway and Jay Foonberg. (I steal tips from Jim and Jay on a constant basis and apply them to my own private practice. If these two guys ever went on tour, I would be in the first row waving a lighter over my head.)
There were a few things I immediately liked about this publication. The first was that a CD was included with the book containing over 30 helpful templates of documents that are essential to daily practice. These documents include retainer agreements for a variety of practice areas, client intake sheets, standard form letters and claim release forms. I took the opportunity to reevaluate my own retainer agreements and incorporated many of Attorney Caggiano Berman's suggestions.
Although I recommend this book to new attorneys, it can be just as helpful a tool to the old curmudgeons out there. The book tackles a variety of subjects including setting up your office, tax issues, collecting fees, employee or independent contractor designations, office management software, work delegation to staff, controlling client conflict, as well as balancing your personal life with your professional one. The author includes a chapter devoted to female practioners as well. It never hurts to get a fresh perspective on your practice. While this publication is offered through the Connecticut Bar Association, much of the content is relevant in whatever jurisdiction you happen to hang your hat.
Editor's note: I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the Connecticut Bar Association for providing me with a complimentary copy for review. The CBA is a great resource for attorneys of any experience level. Visit there website for a list of other publications that can help your law practice. May I also suggest Gary Munneke's Law Practice Management text book as an exceptional reference tool. A professor at the Pace University School of Law, Prof Munneke's book will help you with the nuts and bolts of starting and maintaining your practice.
Attorney Caggiano Berman's own legal practice can be found at http://www.bermanlawct.com/