Practical Considerations for Starting a Solo Practice: Expectations, Startup Costs and Client Acquisition

  • November 02, 2020
  • Sukhi Hansra, Hansra Law

So you decided to take the leap of faith and start your own law firm. Or maybe you are simply interested in the nuances of becoming a sole practitioner. In this article, I explore some of the key considerations of starting your own legal practice, as well as some tips that may help you better understand what a solo legal practice is all about.

A Sole Practitioner is a Business Owner First, and a Lawyer Second

As a sole practitioner, you are not simply a lawyer. Instead, you have graduated into becoming a full-fledged business owner. What’s the difference, you may ask? When you start your own practice, your responsibilities now expand to include marketing, accounting, client management, client acquisition, firm strategy and operations management, to name a few.

Many young sole practitioners will find themselves wearing multiple hats in the beginning—spending a large part of the day on administrative work and marketing, while relegating the rest of the day to actual legal work. In the beginning, you may find that you are doing less legal work in terms of number of hours as compared to your legal counterparts who are working as associates in established law firms. The important thing to remember is that since you are not simply a lawyer anymore, the business aspects of your firm, such as marketing and your firm’s operations strategy/technology stack, are just as important as providing competent legal services. After all, a sole practitioner is not just practicing law, but is rather building a brand, a company, and the policies that will guide this machine.

Most lawyers often believe that what makes a lawyer great are aspects such as staying on top of legal updates, providing high-quality and competent legal service, and client management. What makes a law firm great, however, is an entirely different story. As a sole practitioner it is important to always think about client acquisition strategies, branding and image, and finding operational efficiencies. For example, drafting automation software can free up more time to identify new clients and spend time cultivating the relationships with your current clients. To truly flourish as a sole practitioner, you must wholly embrace your role while wearing these different hats.

Major Expenses of Opening a Solo Practice

A decade ago, becoming a sole practitioner was definitively more costly and difficult. Today, with the ubiquitous rise of practice management software and the well-accepted concept of the remote office, becoming a sole practitioner is not only easy but also relatively cost effective.

Below is a sample list of start-up costs for a typical sole practitioner in Ontario. Please note that any items marked with an asterisk are optional, but are highly recommended.