Friday 5: Signs that you’re a solo practitioner

Going solo has many perks, but be sure to bring a plunger.

plungerAccording to last year’s membership study, nearly one out of every five WSBA members are solo practitioners, making solo work the most common form of law practice by far.  I have been part of the one-fifth for the past seven years — almost a third of my career. It is a usually blessed but sometimes cursed existence, which I have attempted to encapsulate in the following list of symptoms indicating you too may be a solo practitioner:

  1. When colleagues who work in bigger firms say they envy how you can take a day off whenever you want, you point out that it never really feels like you have a day off, because you’re constantly reminded that nobody’s bringing in fees when you aren’t there.
  2. The “somebody” who has to unclog the restroom toilet, straighten out billing problems, do last-minute research, calm agitated clients, fill out tax and bar association forms, perform emergency computer repairs, figure out which toner cartridge the printer uses, argue with Westlaw, organize pro bono projects and remove unauthorized vehicles and people from the parking lot is usually you.
  3. Your typical after-work activity used to be happy hour, then checking out the sales at Nordstrom or REI. Now it’s a bottle of water on the way to Office Max to replace the broken office paper shredder. You lift your spirits not with a microbrew, but by repeatedly reminding yourself that what you pay for that shredder is tax-deductible.
  4. You could be driving a decent sports car for what you pay in health, malpractice, business, data-protection, and cyber-liability insurance premiums.
  5. Your old law firm’s annual retreat was a three-day weekend at a resort, where you would complain about each other and the clients. Now your annual retreat is lunch at Subway with your staff (if you have one), where you complain about each other and the clients.