Should I Start A Solo Law Practice Or A Partnership?

Solo vs. partnership?

When it comes time to start and build your first law practice, it is often very tempting to embark on the journey with a partner. Most attorneys think it will be less scary if they have somebody who is working with them towards a common interest. The idea of making mistakes on your own can be much more terrifying that working through challenges with another lawyer at your side.

If you are considering opening your own practice, and trying to decide whether to go it alone or with a buddy, make sure you consider it from all angles. It’s a lot easier to see the potential positives of taking on a partner or partners. It’s much more difficult to recognize and appreciate the negatives though, as many of them come much further down the line.

FACT: Most law partnerships don’t last. So if you are thinking about forming a partnership it’s a good idea to look at it like a marriage from the beginning.

Let’s get the really low hanging fruit out of the way first.

Why law partnerships sound better than going solo:

The following are very legitimate reasons to consider taking on partners:

  1. Collaboration. The idea of having somebody to bounce ideas off of sounds very tempting. This is the case for both business and legal issues.
  2. Coverage. The idea of having somebody to cover your practice so you can go on vacation, have a sick day, leave early for a kid’s soccer game, etc, sounds appealing.
  3. Company. The idea of being a lonely solo may not appeal to a lot of lawyers. It is basic human nature to want to have company in any endeavor, and starting a law practice is no exception.
  4. Costs. There’s a notion that by forming a partnership lawyers save on costs as opposed to going solo. They can share resources such as marketing, research, office space, insurance, support staff, etc.
  5. Perception. There’s a fear among new lawyers (or lawyers going into private practice for the first time) that the public’s perception of them as solos will be somewhat less than it would be in a small firm or partnership. While this fear is unfounded (the vast majority of lawyers are solo practitioners), it is no an uncommon fear.
  6. Rainmaking. The thought is often that two or more people can generate more business than each person by themselves. This is usually an illusion and often times backfires (for reasons explained later), but there are rare instances where cross referrals from attorneys engaged in a partnership who practice different types of law can actually increase the overall size of the pie for all partners.

Reasons why being a solo practitioner might be better than a law partnership:

  1. Your Own Boss. If you are starting a practice to be your own boss, then you might want to steer clear of entering into a partnership. Even a two person partnership requires a certain amount of collaboration and consensus, and if you’d rather not spend your time negotiating, then perhaps you are better off solo.
  2. You’re Highly Competent. If you are a highly competent person, you might be frustrated if your chosen partner is less competent than you in certain areas.
  3. You’re Highly Motivated. If you are ready to set the world on fire and your partner is not, he will definitely slow you down. You may find yourself carrying him or her. It can get frustrating very quickly.

Reasons why you might want a partner rather than going solo:

  1. You can’t figure out things on your own.
  2. You are scared to be on your own.
  3. You are not good with money.
  4. You are not good with people.
  5. You are not good with any vital area of your chosen practice.

It’s okay to have shortcomings. We all do. It’s important to assess the above things and be honest with yourself and your potential partner. If your weaknesses are his strengths, and vice versa, then a partnership is strongly indicated.

About The Author

Attorney Dan Jaffe previously built successful small law practices in WA and AZ. He currently serves as the CEO of LawLytics.

Other posts by Dan.