In a recent poll, the following areas were said to be the greatest concern for sole and small firm practitioners:
- Income fluctuations
- Managing the practice
- Lack of help in the practice
- Isolation from other attorneys
- Inability to discuss ideas with colleagues
This list is not unexpected.
It’s very difficult to make plans when your income fluctuates; this becomes more challenging for a younger attorney who is also growing a new family. We oftentimes are not taught the need or skill set to save money and to live within our means. And it becomes too tempting to live according to the higher end of our income stream, hoping that that sum will not decrease. But, the vagaries of the marketplace, the highs and lows of cash flow, are there and need to be handled. It is a challenge.
Managing the practice like a business, again, was never taught to us in school, unless you include the School of Hard Knocks. And, most of us want to do that which we love, practicing law, not managing the practice of law. But, if you focus on the business side of the practice, then you just might be able to do both, practice and run the business. When you manage the practice, you will know when it is economically wise to engage help. This brings us into the realm of delegation and "outsourcing," both important principles of running a business.
The first 4 items on this list are economic and can, with the help of a coach, be addressed successfully. However, isolation and lack of camaraderie with other attorneys is more psychological than economic and can, perhaps, be the largest single challenge facing sole practitioners. Networking is an essential ingredient to preserve one’s sanity. While there are many jokes about this subject, it should be taken seriously. Isolation can be debilitating. There are many advantages to being solo … this clearly is not one of them. By nature, we are a gregarious species and need to be well-connected with others. Again, coaching is one approach to dealing with this issue because a coach can and should be your ally, your colleague. This is the one person that should be there whenever you are feeling challenged. The investment in the coaching process is a small price to pay for the connectivity you will achieve.