Sunday, 13 September 2009
Guest Post from Mark Anderson: Sole or SOLO
My good friend Susan Singleton is a sole practitioner specialising in IP/IT/competition law and a regular correspondent on the letters page of the Law Society Gazette. Her letter in this week’s Gazette comments on the joys of being a sole practitioner. One of the necessary qualities for sole practitioners that she identifies is being “emotionally robust”, which certainly applies to her.
Other qualities that I would identify are:
1. When you start in (sole) practice, it helps to have a steady client base that will stay with you when you go it alone.
2. You need to develop a “gene pool” of contacts who will recommend you or feed work to you to replace the clients who inevitably move on, retire, have no further need of your services, or find someone else whose services they prefer.
3. Linked to the previous point, you need to develop and maintain a reputation as someone who is good at what they do, and a credible alternative to using a larger firm. How you do this depends on your skill-set and temperament.
4. You definitely need to be someone who does not need the social interaction of a large office and can concentrate on work without external pressure.
There are different models of sole practice. Susan has chosen the extreme route of having no support, other than occasionally asking me to baby-sit her clients whilst she is on her holiday island off Panama. My route, as someone who worked at the same firm (Bristows) as Susan for 5 years, and set up my firm about 6 months after she set up hers, has been slightly different. Although still a sole practitioner, I employ six people.
What do readers think are the key qualities for successful sole practice?