Enjoying the Independence
By Tanya Witt
The Witt Law Firm
One of the issues that solo practitioners often encounter is isolation. Thepractice of law in general can be more isolating than many other types of work. Much of practicing law involves online research and reviewing and preparing letters and documents. As attorneys become more adept at using computers, they often work independently instead of relying upon support staff. This independence, and the accompanying isolation, can be characteristic of solo practice and may make solo practice a poor choice for some attorneys.
Perhaps the best way to counteract isolation in a solo practice is to build a network of other solos, professionals and entrepreneurs who provide advice and support. Many solos assist and guide one another in their practices. Sometimes the assistance is of a technical nature, and other times it may be moral support or a little of both. The collegiality most Chicago attorneys share with one another, regardless of age, gender, race or even practice area, may be the aspect I most admire about the practice. Most Chicago solos are willing to share their knowledge and experience with less experienced solos. If you encounter a solo who is unwilling to provide any guidance or assistance, realize that this is the rare exception.
Successful solos who enjoy their work find sharing their knowledge rewarding and make the time to meet with a newer solo. Those who share their wisdom realize that teaching usually enhances their understanding, and they gain from the experience. The excitement and energy that new solos have can rub off and revitalize an established attorney’s practice. Other solos need not be more experienced to be helpful members of an attorney’s network. The camaraderie among solos who are embarking on new ventures can be strong. New solos can benefit from sharing information and providing support to one another. Even if practice areas differ, solos can share information on common issues such as practice management software, phone services and Internet research options.
Solos can also benefit from including attorneys who practice in government and firm settings as well as non-attorneys in their sphere. These other professionals broaden one’s perspective and may reconfirm a solo’s appreciation of and commitment to solo practice, or provide career opportunities after solo practice. Even with a great network of other solos and non-attorney professionals, a solo can still encounter isolation because solos by definition practice independently. The degree of isolation that solos, and perhaps all attorneys, experience varies depending upon practice area and the physical environments in which an attorney practices.
If a solo’s practice area does not require many face-to-face client meetings or court hearings, he or she may find a home office ideal. A home office offers the efficiency of no commute and no rent and may be more private and quiet than many office suites, allowing for maximum concentration. The downside to a home office can be increased isolation – attorneys may overcome the isolation by engaging in professional and social networking opportunities. Other solos find working in a shared office suite to be a beneficial arrangement. Shared office suites may provide interaction with other professional tenants. Just going to the kitchen or mailroom in an office suite can provide the opportunity to interact and network. The downsides to a shared office suite are the cost, commute and a greater chance for distraction.
Whether a solo works from a home office or in a rented space, sometimes a solo just needs to get out of the office. After all, one of the benefits of a solo practice in Chicago is increased flexibility and being able to partake in all this great city offers. Walking through the Impressionists gallery at The Art Institute may provide the inspiration needed to broker a creative solution to a client’s legal problem. Including brief breaks into the workday can make for more focused and enjoyable work.
When outside the office, solos may want or need to work. With a fully digital and mobile practice an attorney is not tied to an office and can work from almost anywhere. Attorneys can work from the library, coffee shop, courthouse or almost any other location. An attorney can achieve this flexibility with a laptop, software that syncs all documents online and a mobile phone.
To safely enjoy the benefits of a mobile practice, attorneys should enact measures to safeguard private and privileged information. Attorneys should protect digital data by having a password to log on to laptops, encrypting data and locking the computer screen when where others could gain access to the laptop.
If you enjoy practicing independently, take advantage of the flexibility a solo practice offers by finding an office arrangement and work schedule that suits you. Counteract isolation by building a professional network that supports your practice and welcome opportunities to share your knowledge and experience with other solos.