If you’re thinking about starting a solo practice, remember it works best as a family decision.

Unless you’ve managed to sock away a year of living expenses, as recommended by solo-startup guru Jay Foonberg, you’re going to subject your family to fluctuating income (including periods of little to no income).  Like your income, your schedule will be irregular—as Randall Ryder points out, you may not be able to take a planned vacation with your family anytime soon.  And you’ll need to make smart investments in technology, education, marketing, and networking that were probably not expected when you were an employee.

What You Need To Know
If you’re planning to work at home, the impact on your family is magnified—after all, you’re bringing your business into their living space.  Some key considerations are confidentiality, security, and liability.

If you plan to keep your paper or electronic files at home, can you keep them separate from house files and in a secure place so that the confidentiality of your clients’ information is preserved?   Are you comfortable if your clients (and prospective clients) meet you at your home?   If a client were to visit your home office and trip on the carpet, would your homeowners’ insurance cover it?

Besides this, it’s important to be realistic about working at home.  For example, it may not always be office-quiet when you need to take a business call.  And since you are surrounded by plenty to do that’s not work-related, distractions will multiply unless you are able to impose order and maintain it.

What They Need To Know
If you’re starting a practice intending to have more time with your family, it may be hard for everyone to understand why you’re not “home” when you’re at home.  They may not understand why you need to get out and network with other attorneys, or why you may need to close the door and resist the pull of the honey-do list.

Starting a practice requires commitment—as Sam Glover has said, you can’t start a successful law practice by half-assing it.  Resist the temptation to think of your practice as a chore or a hobby.  Get up early, get dressed, set “office hours” during which everything else is on hold, and set a time when the workday ends and you can come “home”.

A Checklist And A Calendar
So – call a family meeting and bring a list of discussion topics.

  • Why you want to go solo
  • The upsides and downsides, and what you’re doing to minimize the downsides for them
  • What their concerns are
  • What they can expect from you
  • What you need from them
  • How they can help you
  • When to check in for updates (put it on the calendar!)

Your family can provide the support and give you the range you need to succeed in your new venture.   Whether you plan to office at home or away, I recommend you don’t launch your practice ‘til your loved ones on board.

 

Karin Ciano
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Karin Ciano

Attorney at Law at Karin Ciano Law
Karin Ciano is a former federal career clerk in solo practice who likes to meet good people, work on interesting cases, and get back into federal court whenever she can. She practices civil rights and employment law, and she is also a freelance attorney who assists other attorneys with putting their best foot forward in federal cases. She is also the Twin Cities director of Custom Counsel LLC, the freelance legal network, and one of the co-founders of the Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network.
Karin Ciano
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