I speak with experienced lawyers in private practice almost every week that are stressed out and struggling to fulfil their personal goals both in and outside of work. It’s no surprise really; after years spent honing their craft they’re usually left to navigate the internal politics, succession issues and non-paid commitments that are part and parcel of progression in a traditional law firm.
Most feel shackled to the hierarchy within their organisation and find it practically impossible to drive their practice forward in a way that suits both themselves and their family. That isn’t necessarily because they haven’t thought about what their ideal way of working could look like; it’s more that they haven’t been offered a viable opportunity to make it happen.
With that in mind, here are a few key questions I tend to discuss with senior practitioners as they look at turning their dream legal practice into reality.
For too long the legal profession has been defined by long hours and a lack of real autonomy. That’s why more and more lawyers are looking to transition to a more agile way of working where they can work from wherever they want, avoid commuting everyday, spend more time with their family or pursue other projects.
That said, it’s still crucial that lawyers have a central office space at their disposal to hold client meetings and network with colleagues. There are also those who simply prefer working in an engaging office environment where they can socialise. The big difference is choice and being able to run their practice in a way that suits their day-to-day lifestyle.
Most lawyers see the long-term value in developing strong relationships with their core client base. Ideally, they want to be seen as a trusted advisor rather than a third party provider; yet that’s only possible when lawyers have the time and freedom to build trust, offer added value and work in a way that suits the specific needs of their clients.
Every lawyer should be able to visit client premises to get to know their business, their challenges and how they operate. They should also have the opportunity to grow their own close-knit network of colleagues and other legal specialists through which they can share work and source new clients.
The majority of senior lawyers in private practice are already tasked with developing a specialism, sourcing new projects and maintaining a strong client base. These are essentially the core elements of building a successful practice, though the people putting in the work don’t always see the right level of return for their efforts.
Ambitious lawyers stand to gain a lot by structuring deals themselves and marketing their services in exactly the way they’d like. Many also want the opportunity to build their own core team and scale operations at their own pace, free from any internal pressure or influence.
When considering their next career move, experienced legal professionals usually have two main options: joining another firm or becoming a sole practitioner. Whilst the latter certainly offers more flexibility and control over your own practice, it also requires a lot of additional time, investment and planning to get fully operational.
One of the main reasons why we started gunnercooke was to provide lawyers with a strong foundation to start running their own practice as soon as possible. We employ a first-class support team to help manage every aspect of invoicing, accounts, compliance marketing and admin, just as any mid-sized firm would do. This support has proven crucial to our lawyers’ success and allows new joiners to hit the ground running with their own practice.
Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself when building your own legal practice is whether you are committed to making it a success. Those that do succeed have usually started to build their own following, though they are also willing to learn and keen to develop their business skills, no matter how many years they’ve spent in practice.
The other important thing to remember is you don’t have to go it alone. By joining a thriving community of like-minded lawyers with similar backgrounds and similar ambitions, you’ll have access to all the guidance, support and resources you need to redesign your life for the better.
If you’re currently exploring your options or feel that now is the time to take charge of your own legal practice, feel free to send me a message by email, LinkedIn or arrange a quick chat over the phone.