Starting Your Own Practice: Tips for Success From a Budget-Savvy Solo
Attorney Lorenzo Napolitano
Lorenzo Napolitano of the Law Office of Lorenzo Napolitano in Rochester, NY, recently took the time to share some fantastic insights about launching and growing a successful solo practice. His advice includes ways to maximize impact without breaking the bank, developing a profitable client base and the importance of charging the right legal fee.
Lorenzo decided to pursue a legal career in college when an academic advisor guided him towards the path of attending law school upon graduation. After completing law school, Lorenzo began his career practicing in a small firm in Rochester, NY. In this role, he maintained a robust general practice with expertise across many areas of law including real estate, family law, and criminal defense.
Starting Out Solo
While Lorenzo enjoyed his colleagues and the work he was doing, he knew that he wanted the freedom that comes with solo practice, “I really like the flexibility to control my own schedule,” he says, “For example, if I want to take my kids to the zoo, I can just do it. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission.”
After about two years, Lorenzo took the plunge and started The Law Office of Lorenzo Napolitano, in the same building as his former firm, and has never looked back.
Like many first-time solo attorneys, Lorenzo had concerns about beginning his new venture. Finding a steady client base and managing the day-to-day business of the firm among them. Luckily, while working in his previous firm, Lorenzo had built up a base of loyal clients and was able to start out with an established book of business. However, he knew that he would need to expand and grow his practice, so he began the often daunting task of acquiring new clients.
Lorenzo advises starting with a targeted advertising niche. “Don’t do radio or TV,” he says, “Stick to one or two targeted pay-per-click ads or directories, and focus on your niche.”
Growing a Client Base
Lorenzo opened the doors of his solo practice in 2006 when social media and online advertising were in its infancy. To attract new clients, Lorenzo heavily focused on networking with other attorneys to build a solid referral network. In addition to taking referral cases to build business, he recommends volunteering to cover court appearances when lead attorneys aren’t available to add billable hours and build relationships.
As maintaining a website and online advertising became industry-standard, Lorenzo began a partnership with FindLaw in 2010 through the recommendation of a friend. Currently, Lorenzo says that online advertising is his number one driver of new clients, but recommends starting small when beginning a solo venture and the advertising budget is slim.
Lorenzo advises starting with a targeted advertising niche. “Don’t do radio or TV,” he says, “Stick to one or two targeted pay-per-click ads or directories, and focus on your niche.” Lorenzo recommends building on this strategy as the business grows, “It’s a snowball effect,” he says, “It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill picking up steam along the way. The more revenue you produce, the more you can invest in your business.”
High-Impact Budget Maximizers
In addition to maximizing a solo budget for advertising and client acquisition, Lorenzo recommends other high-impact tactics to make the best use of resources. “Keep your overhead very small,” he cautions, “especially when starting out.” Finding other solo attorneys to share resources with can be a game-changer when making the most of your budget, and can even include sharing support staff such as paralegals and receptionists.
Lorenzo also recommends sharing office space with other solo attorneys, not only for potential cost-efficiencies and the ability to share resources but for the opportunity to collaborate.
Sharing space with other solo attorneys can marry the benefits of practicing in a firm with the benefits of a solo practice. “By office sharing, you have an informal ‘law firm’ that allows you to ask questions and bounce ideas off of other attorneys, but you still maintain your solo flexibility and other benefits,” Lorenzo says, “I wouldn’t recommend that a new solo attorney get an office alone, it can be very difficult to be so isolated, especially when starting out.”
Know Your Worth
Finally, Lorenzo cautions that if you are a new solo attorney, or just trying to build up your client base, it is important to resist the temptation to offer rock bottom legal fees. “Don’t sell yourself short,” he says, “Don’t take a low legal fee just to get the work because this begins a cycle of underpaying clients. Don’t be afraid to say no to work that you don’t want to do,” Lorenzo explains. “Having the ability to say no and be the master of my own destiny is one of the most rewarding aspects of solo practice,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”