Answer this question: “I want to go solo because I don’t want to _____ anymore.”
Was it just one thing? Were there several things you dread doing every day? Do you complain to your friends, spouse, or family about this until someone's phone battery dies?
You might be painfully aware that the shoe doesn't fit anymore (or never did). But until you can calmly articulate why, without setting off an hour-long venting session, you aren't quite ready to make any big bold moves.
Calm clarity on what you don’t want to do anymore is critical to succeeding in the early months of your solo practice. You’ll go into the solo journey with open eyes, and with fewer illusions about the different flavors of hard work that are unique to solo practice.
The reality is that some of those things you dread about your current job will still be there when you start a solo practice, such as difficult opposing counsel, high-strung clients, and rushed deadlines.
However, I imagine that some of those things you listed as reasons you want to escape will be even better than you can imagine today. Don’t like a certain partner at the firm? You won’t have to deal with her anymore. Don’t like the hours? There will still be some long ones, but you’ll have more control over them. Don’t like the commute? Now you can eliminate that. Want to wear flip-flops and jeans to work? Go for it!
Some things about being solo are a double-edged sword. You take more risk, because you’re no longer getting a paycheck from somebody else. You’re no longer trading your time for dollars in the same way (although you’d better keep track of your time!) But when you create a good result, you get to keep more of the success you created and more of the credit. If you are creative, entrepreneurial, or a deeply compassionate type, this provides satisfaction that you only dream about when you're in a wrong-fit job.
Now answer this question: “When I’m working for myself, I will enjoy doing _____ every day.”
If you’re currently unhappy or bored working for others, this question might be more difficult than the first. But it is perhaps more important than the first question, because your vision will pull you forward and keep you going through the less-than-perfect days as a solo practitioner.
There’s a lot more to starting a solo practice than answering my questions above, but don’t dismiss it as mere navel-gazing. You don’t just need something to prod you, or light a fire under your ass. That's not enough. You need a reason to keep going. Unless you just recently passed the bar, you already know “how” to practice law. You just may need a different “why.”
(And if you're brand new to law, that's ok. You also need a "why!")
Need assistance with the “why” -- and a plan to go solo? Please get a hold of me on my coaching page!
Image credit: The Graphics Fairy