Why go solo? Some have no choice, but discover they like the flexibility and client interaction

Woman sitting at computer smiling

Some lawyers who go solo make the choice after discovering they don’t like doing document review or working for others. Others can’t find a job.

About 4.4 percent of the law school class of 2014 went solo, according to statistics compiled by the National Association for Law Placement in 2015. (sub. req.) spoke with several newbie solos about their practices.

Many like the flexibility of solo practice and the rewards of making a difference in their clients’ lives. For some, money is a struggle, particularly because of student loan payments.

Michael Pernesiglio of Hauppauge, N.Y., a 2013 law grad, told he is glad he went to law school and the profession is “absolutely terrific.” He started out as a law firm associate, but he made more money cleaning pools. He eventually joined a practice incubator that provides office space and support for new solos. He practice is about 50 percent criminal defense.

Denver solo Tausha Riley, a former accountant and a 2014 law grad, became a solo because she couldn’t find a job at a law firm. She’s glad she went to law school, even though she has about $150,000 in law school debt after getting an LL.M. in taxation. The learning curve and the lack of resources was the most difficult thing about going solo. “When you start your own firm, you are the end-all and be-all—you’re the receptionist, you are the office manager, you’re the file clerk,” she said.

For Richard Thompson of Swainsboro, Georgia, a 2014 law grad, the most nerve-wracking thing about going solo is the money. He has more than $100,000 in student debt and “it can be a struggle just to pay bills month to month.” He enjoys working with clients and feels personally fulfilled in his work. He went solo because he couldn’t find work, but the transition was easier because he moved into the law office his father used before retirement.

John Varga of Seattle, a 2012 law grad, has mixed feelings about his decision to attend law school. His first job out of law school was mostly document review, and he decided to go solo because he wanted to practice law. He would tell anyone considering law school that “it’s been much more difficult than I ever envisioned.” But he is beginning to see some rewards for his efforts and he feels good when clients tell him they are happy with his work.

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