I got the following questions from a reader, and I thought I would post my reply for the benefit of other readers. It did occur to me that there might be some cognitive dissonance on the issue of solo practice; why I might recommend that path to others while admitting that I dislike the practice of law. This guy asked, so here you go.
Enjoying your blog. Questions:
1. About how many hours per week would you say you work?
2. How hard is it to concentrate on one boring legal task after another?
3. Since you were trying to get out, why would you recommend other lawyers go solo?
I think it makes more sense to take these in reverse order:
3: There are days when I don’t enjoy being a lawyer, but my primary motivation for wanting to leave the practice of law is pecuniary. I don’t make much money and I would jump ship for a job that paid a sum certain. I would also quit my practice for a position with another law firm, if it was a good move financially. The reason I suggested that readers consider a solo practice is because my guess is that many of them are in a position where they graduated and took the bar, and then could not find employment. If they are still committed to practicing law, i think that is a better move than working a non-legal job or doing doc review waiting for an opportunity to come along. I can’t think of anything worse for job eligibility than a large gap in legal work history. Although I don’t have any data to back it up, I doubt a lot of lawyers that tread water in non-legal careers have success finding legal work after a year or two. A solo practice forces you to learn the practical aspects of law that law schools don’t teach. It can be an unpleasant task, but you certainly learn faster than you probably would otherwise.
UPDATE: I also want to add that there is the potential to hit it big as a solo practitioner. There is an element of risk and reward that shouldn’t be discounted. I know a few solos who are doing quite well for themselves. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but one good case can turn your situation around. That is an incentive.
2. This is kind of a hard question to answer. Most of my matters are pretty different and I don’t encounter a whole lot of repetition (at least not on an hourly/daily basis.) Certain tasks are not particularly interesting (Wills, for example) but they are fairly easy and I know that I will be getting paid a certain amount when I’m finished. Money can be a big motivator, which I think is something that a salaried lawyer might not grasp in the same way a solo does. When your paycheck is contingent on you getting work done, there is some extra motivation there. I find myself less eager to do appointed work, because I know that I won’t be getting paid on those cases for six months or a year.
1. Really hard to say. Honestly, I try to work a pretty standard 40 hour week. Of course, there are times when I am really busy and work significantly more. When you have a trial or a deadline coming up, it is up to you to be prepared, and so you suck it up and put in as much time as you have to. There are times when I come in on the weekends (like today) to get caught up or check on a few things. However, if I don’t have to be in court or meet with a client, I can forward the phones and work from home. If I want to come in late, or leave early to mow the lawn, I can do it. An upside to a solo practice is that you have more flexibility in the hours you work. No one is tallying up my sick-hours or vacation days.