On April 25, 2016, five distinguished attorneys served as panelists for the Solo Practitioner Panel at UNT Dallas College of Law. Assistant Professor of Law Tom Perkins moderated the panel, which was open to first and second-year law students. The panelists represented a wide variety of practice areas:
Panelists discussed their career paths, how to prepare for solo practice, and provided advice and tips on how to navigate the process. When asked what is most enjoyable about being a Solo Practitioner, Lindsey Rames stated that it is the ability to determine her own schedule. Jasmit Dhaliwal-Perez said that she enjoys being able to choose which clients she represents and what types of cases she handles.
There was also discussion about the challenges of solo practice and what students can do now to start preparing for a career as a Solo Practitioner. Thomas Maddrey said that during law school students are learning the law, not necessarily how to run a business. He advised students to spend time, “reading books about business and formulating a business plan.” Ms. Rames added, “There are sample business plans online specifically for lawyers.” Amy Stewart spoke of the importance of building your network with other solo practitioners and attorneys that are in small firms. She said this will help with getting client referrals and provide colleagues to turn to when you have a question.
When asked what she would have done differently, Ms. Dhaliwal-Perez told students that she would have been less conservative with her investments in the beginning stages of her practice. She advised students to invest in case management software that will allow them to track their time efficiently as Solo Practitioners. Also, hiring staff is an expense, but it can free up your time to work on more cases and really help grow your business.
Marci Spivey, a second-year law student who attended the panel said, “It was helpful to see such diverse practice areas represented today. The panelists not only highlighted the importance of a solid business plan up front, but that you must also be able to modify that business plan as you grow your firm. Each panelist had a unique career path prior to solo practice.”
In order to attract clients, the panelists have different strategies that work best for their specific area of practice. Ms. Stewart’s practice is centered on the representation of businesses so she is involved in community groups that allow her to meet business owners and in-house counsel. Joe Smith said the best form of marketing for him is “word of mouth. “ He told students that representing each client to the best of your ability pays off because those clients will tell others about you. Mr. Smith is also involved in community groups which allow him to network with non-attorneys who refer family and friends to him when they are in need of legal assistance.
The event was sponsored by the Office of Career and Professional Development (“OCPD”). The OCPD thanks and appreciates the time and efforts of the panelists and Professor Tom Perkins for affording our students a glimpse into the world of solo and boutique practice.