You’ve scheduled lunch with a potential mentor and want to ask questions about their practice.  What to ask?

As always, do your homework first.  Visit their website, review any available social media profiles, check out recent articles and blog posts.  Be sure you know what they do; their choice of business entity; whether they have a physical or virtual office; and their significant affiliations (bar associations, committees, officers, pro bono work).  They’ll ask you why you’re interested in their practice area, so prepare a thoughtful response.

Then, sketch out some questions:


Opening questions

  • So how did you come to practice in family law?
  • Did you plan to be a trial lawyer in law school?
  • When did you discover estate planning?
  • What do you like best about bankruptcy?
  • What was your first year as a solo like?
  • What do you wish you’d known about criminal defense when you were starting out?


More pointed questions (if you don’t mind my asking…)

  • Would you recommend immigration law to someone just starting out?
  • What advice would you have for a lawyer starting a new practice in trademark law?
  • What are the major expenses of practicing admiralty law?
  • Is it essential to have a physical office space when starting a workers’ compensation practice, and if so, what’s your advice on choosing a location to set up shop?
  • Is it essential to have a website when starting an appellate law practice, and if so, what’s your advice on setting one up?
  • Is it essential to have case management software when starting an employment law practice, and if so, what do you use?
  • What are some worthwhile expenses to budget for when setting up shop as a real estate lawyer?
  • What are some costs to avoid?
  • How do your clients generally find you?
  • Who/what are your best sources of referrals?
  • Do you charge flat fees, contingency fees, hourly rates, or some other way?
  • Have you ever had issues with clients not paying on time?  (Yes.)  How do you manage that?


Brainstorming, listing, visualizing and advising

  • Which (bar associations, committees, listservs, other groups) should I join if I want to keep up with securities law?
  • Which (newspapers, magazines, blogs) should I read if I want to keep up with insurance defense practice?
  • If I were to write an article on environmental law, where would you recommend I try to publish it?
  • If I decide to start a consumer law practice and want to do pro bono work, where would you recommend I volunteer?
  • Is there anyone you know who might be willing to talk with me about starting a practice?


Last but not least… say thanks, pick up the check, and ask if you may get back in touch with more questions.

Experienced solos:  what great questions did I leave out?  Please share in the comments.

Karin Ciano
Follow me

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
Follow me

Latest posts by Karin Ciano (see all)