Ready to go solo? 6 signs it’s time to start your own law firm


When you were a brand-new attorney, perhaps nothing felt safer than working for an established law firm invested in your career success. Yet as your experience grew, maybe that protective nest started to feel pretty cramped. 

If so, you’re not alone. 

Many attorneys report feeling restricted and eager to break out and fly on their own terms. Some do; some don’t. But for those that don’t—that feeling never goes away. It only gets stronger!  

In August 2022, Bloomberg Law did a survey in which 25% of respondents reported they’re “at least somewhat likely to leave” their current jobs. A prior survey found that 10% were actively seeking new jobs and a whopping 38% were “open to offers.” Two of the most-cited reasons for wanting to leave? Anxiety and depression. 

Aside from the risk of burnout, there is the obvious financial downside of working for a firm. Non-partners only keep a fraction of the revenue they bring in. After a while, it may make sense to launch a solo practice where you can keep 100% of your hourly rate. 

Just the thought of being a solo attorney evokes strong emotions ranging from fear to excitement. Too frequently, that dread of the unknown causes lawyers to hesitate instead of striving for something better. If you’re having doubts about striking out on your own, maybe it’s time to do a quick inventory. There could be some glaring signs screaming YES, you’re ready to go! 


6 signs you’re ready to start your own solo practice

Sign #1: You're reading this article!

If you’re searching the web for information about setting up a solo attorney practice, something in your life must be prompting you to do that. Conducting a bit of online research hardly means you’re close to a decision point, but still—at a minimum, you’re starting to realize that a decision needs to be made. 

Whether you’re just fantasizing at this point or are gearing up to go into business for yourself, it’s good you’re doing your homework in preparation. Starting your firm will require plenty of legwork. Just remember: If your boss did it, so can you! 

Of course, your boss has employees to delegate tasks to, such as paralegals and a front office receptionist. Luckily, Ruby can jump in to help with the latter with our 24/7 virtual receptionist service (which is also conveniently integrated with Clio to make running a solo practice even simpler). 


Sign #2: You feel professionally unfulfilled

Whatever led you into the legal profession, the reality of the daily grind can make you second-guess yourself at times. If that’s happening frequently, maybe you need a change of pace. Unfortunately, your employer hired you to represent the cases they take on, not the ones you want. 

To rekindle your passion for law, you may have to reconsider whether or not your current situation is tenable. It’s common for younger attorneys to jump at the chance to work for an established firm to gain experience, hone their skills, and build their reputation. But if the experiences are truly unfulfilling, you probably don’t want to spend the rest of your life stuck at that firm. 

With a solo practice, you’re always in the driver’s seat! 

For more, check out this article from Work It Daily: Feeling Unfulfilled At Work? It’s Time To Make A Change.


Sign #3: You waste time doing work that doesn't match your talents

Ever think to yourself, “Boy, am I being underutilized at work!”? If so, you wouldn’t be the first (or last) worker to feel that way. But unlike many people, you don’t have to take it. You have options. 

As an attorney, you possess a unique set of knowledge and skills that clients will line up to hire you for. Not every worker can say that, so be grateful for the leverage you have. Use it to your advantage. 

If your current firm doesn’t maximize your talents, it’s probably time to look elsewhere…or open your own firm. Because who is better at recognizing your abilities than you? 


Sign #4: You don’t have advancement opportunities

Maybe you joined a firm that simply doesn’t have many opportunities for upward mobility. It happens all the time. Unless a partner retires, you could be stuck on the same rung of the ladder for years…maybe decades! 

Meanwhile (as you wait impatiently for an opportunity that might never come), you’ll likely experience a disconnect between the amount of time you’re putting in and the income you’re getting out in exchange. 

All those long hours lining the pockets of the firm’s partners instead of yours can start to feel unfair after a while. That’s understandable. After all, do you want to be a rainmaker for someone else’s profit, or use your talents for your financial interests versus theirs?

Read Monster’s So You Haven’t Made Partner — What Now? for some helpful decision-making info. 


Sign #5: You sacrifice too much of your personal life

Success in any field comes with sacrifice. But there must be limits because we don’t exist only to work. All of us deserve some semblance of a personal life where we can enjoy the fruits of our labors! 

Yet lawyers never seem to catch a break. Nationwide, all those long hours are contributing to a range of serious problems within the profession. These issues are so widespread, the American Bar Association has launched a campaign to raise mental health awareness among those in the legal field. 

If you feel like your work/life balance is lopsided, you can’t let it get the better of you. Alas, what can you do to correct that when your employer dictates your schedule? Not much, frankly. But when you’re in control, you set the pace. And the only way to gain such control is through your own solo practice. 


Sign #6: Your work isn’t aligned with your values

This one often ties into feeling “professionally unfulfilled.” We all grow up with certain core values instilled through various influences in our lives (i.e., parents, friends, teachers, mentors, and so on). Sometimes we even discover those values despite or in opposition to the people or environments of our youth. 

However you arrived at your value system, one thing is for sure—if your work doesn’t align with it, you’ll be miserable. As humans, we can’t simply disconnect our hearts from our jobs. No, our careers don’t define our identities, but what we do for a living is connected to who we are. 

Perhaps you have a preference between prosecution and criminal defense work. Maybe you’d rather work in immigration law versus dealing with tax laws and regulations all day. It’s up to you to determine which work matches up with who you are and what you believe in. If you can’t get to that place within your current firm, it might be time to plan that exit strategy!


Whatever you decide—Ruby is here to help!


As the late legal recruiter Frank D’Amore once said of successful attorneys, “The ones who do ascend to the top, without exception, are confident lawyers who…want the ball in their hands at the end of the game.” 

In the end, it’s up to you to decide your priorities. If you hang in there just for the money, you won’t be the first person toiling away year after year for a steady paycheck. However, if you demand more job satisfaction in your life, you might have to get out there and take it yourself!

Whatever you decide—Ruby is here to back you up. Head over to our legal industry resource hub for more tips and tools, and stay tuned for our guide to starting a solo practice coming soon!