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Young Lawyers: Flying Solo

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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
“There are many people who are very good at what they do but not very good at running a business. ”
Young Lawyers
FLYinG soLo
You have completed law school, passed the bar and decided to open your own law practice. Congratulations! There are many reasons you may consider owning your own practice: you’re ready to be your own boss and do things “your way;” you’ve always wanted to own your own business; or you haven’t found the perfect job (or any job) in today’s job market. Whatever your reason for branching out on your own, here are a few of the (many) things to consider before you take the leap. As the saying goes, “Begin as you intend to go on.” Set yourself up for success and you will distinguish yourself from day one. with you; get it and you’ll hopefully never need it. Go without, and you may seriously regret that decision, especially if you are new to the practice of law, client relations and case selection.
Get a Room
Who are You?
While working out of your favorite coffee shop in your college sweatshirt and jeans may sound more enticing than spending money on an office and a suit, be aware that your image, from your office to your outfit to your letterhead, says something about what you do and how well you do it. Look for office space that is professional, affordable and will send the right message to your clients.
When you decide to start your own practice, pick a business entity. Or don’t. As a solo attorney you have three options for running your business: operate as a sole proprietorship, form a professional corporation or form a professional limited liability company. If you decide to go the route of forming a professional business entity, in addition to organizing your business pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) chapters 78 or 86, NRS chapter 89 governs the additional requirements for individuals offering professional services. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you obtain a business license and a tax ID number, and that you are in compliance with all state or city business regulations.
Seek Professional Help
Open an IOLTA Account
We all know what attorney trust accounts are: those scary bank accounts they talked about in your professional ethics course by using checks with jail bars drawn over the front of them. Don’t risk a mistake or a surprise. Set up an IOLTA account with a trusted banking institution and review Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 78.5 which sets forth the requirements for maintaining client trust funds. When in doubt, as with most ethical and licensure matters, call the bar’s ethics hotline at (702) 382-2200. Though not officially required, obtaining and maintaining professional malpractice insurance is like bringing an umbrella
There are many people who are very good at what they do but not very good at running a business. Sure, you can find your own office space, answer your phones, manage your books, file your taxes, set up a webpage, attend every networking event in town and clean your office if you don’t have any clients. However, once you are busy with work (which will be soon!), decide what is, and is not, a valuable use of your time and find professionals in other fields who can help your business run better. But what do you need and who can help? First, prioritize your needs. Today a computer for research, writing and communication is mandatory; an expensive desk is not. Next, take into account how much time you really have to devote to your business – both legal work and business growth and maintenance. Be honest. Finally, assess your personal strengths and weaknesses. Not good at accounting? Hire a CPA. Enjoy cleaning? Skip the maid service. Once you decide what you need, what you can live without, what you can do yourself and what it is worth hiring someone else to do, you’ll be well on your way to the success you always knew you’d have.
Plan for a Rainy Day
cATHERINE REIcHENBERg is a senior associate at Gunderson Law Firm. Her father, Mark Gunderson, founded Gunderson Law Firm in 1981, as a solo practitioner.
40 Nevada Lawyer
December 2012

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