The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a Solo Law Practice

by Lydia S. Terrill, Esquire | Terrill Family Law LLC

On April 1, 2021, I launched my solo family law practice. I had left my position as an associate attorney at a law firm several months earlier; a comfortable position that allowed me a lot of flexibility to both work and raise a family. However, even with this flexibility, the demands of parenting two small children during a pandemic, while also trying to be an effective and productive associate attorney, became too much.

As I contemplated my next moves, it dawned on me that perhaps going solo was the right decision at that point in my life. I set out to learn as much as I could about starting a solo law practice. I read countless articles on the subject and spoke with many solo attorneys who made similar leaps in their careers. This list of do’s and don’ts represents the advice that I picked up along the way.

Do: Self-reflect. Start your decision-making process by looking inward to see if starting a solo law practice aligns with what you want in life. For me, this involved making a list of my personal and professional goals and values. My list included things like professional autonomy, flexibility to shape my career in the way that I wanted, and being more engaged in my community. As I reflected upon this list, I found that being a solo practitioner would put me on a path toward achieving these goals.

Don’t: Forget that a law firm is first and foremost a business. You will likely be spending a lot more time in the beginning running the business than actually practicing law. You may need to teach yourself how to do things that you didn’t have to think about while working for a firm, like obtaining professional liability insurance, researching office equipment and software, marketing, and managing your firm’s finances.

Do: Reach out to your bar association for help. Many bar associations have law practice management resources for setting up a law firm. These materials proved invaluable in starting my practice.

Don’t: Overextend yourself financially. Every single solo practitioner I spoke with told me the same thing: don’t get shiny object syndrome and be tempted to spend money on things that you don’t actually need right away. It is possible to start a law practice on a very tight budget. You can always expand your budget later on.

Do: Shout it from the rooftops. Tell everyone you know you are starting your own law practice. You never know when you will meet a potential referral source or someone who can help you build your firm. It can be uncomfortable to feel like you are constantly promoting yourself and your business, but I have found that people generally love to offer help and support people that are going out on their own.

Don’t: Be shy about asking for reviews and client testimonials. When shopping for an attorney, many potential clients are reading reviews online. If you have client reviews or testimonials on your website, Facebook page or Google page, it could make you stand out from another attorney a potential client is considering hiring. Be sure to review your state rules of professional conduct before soliciting reviews from former clients.

Do: Create a mission statement for your firm. There are many online guides to creating a business mission statement. The mission statement should reflect your firm’s values and goals. Crafting the mission statement will help you decide what you want your firm to look like. When faced with an important decision regarding the direction of your business, it is helpful to be able to return to your mission statement to remind you of your goals and values.

This list is flexible and you will surely add to it as your practice grows.


Lydia S. Terrill is the founder of Terrill Family Law LLC, a family law firm located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Terrill Family Law helps clients navigate divorce, alimony, spousal support, custody, child support, protection from abuse, prenuptial agreements, and other family law matters in a compassionate and client-centric manner.

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