Fortune favours the Brave

As 2023 quickly hurtles past us, with a quarter of the year left, it’s a good time to stop and take stock of the year and ask yourself some important questions. What has happened this year? Am I where I want to be? Is my work fulfilling and satisfying? Am I recognized for my contribution to the firm? Do I need more of a challenge?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it might be time to think about branching out on your own. Or perhaps, you’ve been thinking about it and you’re looking for a sign. This is it. Stop procrastinating and over analyzing – do it.

In all seriousness, taking the leap of faith and practising on your own is a huge leap. I set my own law firm up in 2014. The time was right and knew if I didn’t do it then, I would never do it. Almost 10 years later as I wind up that period of my life to help others with the business of law, it’s good time to look back and think about the pros and cons.

In my view, the pros outweigh the cons, and the cons can all easily be managed. Forewarned is forearmed.


You can start from scratch

One of the disadvantages of buying into an established firm is that you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. If you set up your own law firm from scratch, you start with a clean slate. You can implement things the way you want right from the start, without having to worry about changing things (and the potential staff backlash that could come from that). Have a read of this article by my Law-X NZ colleague Gene Turner “Tidy up your Law Firm before you Sell it” for more on this.

You can do things your way.

Yes, you read that right. When you set up your own firm, you don’t have to stick to tradition and run your firm like everyone else. You can do it your way. For me, it meant setting up a paperless office (so I could work anywhere in the world), ensuring a welcoming and engaging company culture (for both clients and staff), fixed billing, no time recording and being able to bring my dog to work (which clients loved!) If you want flexible working, do it. If you want to work 4 days a week, do it! You can do anything, as long as you manage your clients’ expectations.

You become the captain your own ship.

As soon as I set up on my own, my day and life took on a whole new meaning. I lost all concept of time and days flew by as I threw myself into client meetings, work, managing staff, networking, marketing, and managing the business. I fell back in love with my role as a lawyer. I discovered a knack for breaking down the legal process of buying a house into simple terms. My business organically created its own niche in the first home buyers’ market. I didn’t force anything. I worked hard and opportunities and work presented itself.

You might even re-discover the passion for your career.

Now that I look back, if I hadn’t taken this huge leap, I would probably have considered leaving law earlier. For me, running the business added a whole new dynamic and challenge which was just what I needed at the time.

You’ll learn more about yourself.

During the 8 years that I ran Emma Stanley Law, I met some amazing people and discovered things about myself that I would have never known – like a knack for creating and running a business! The business side won’t be for everyone, and you will quickly learn whether it’s for you. Don’t be put off if it’s not. These days, much of the business side can be outsourced.

The profit is yours.

As a young lawyer, I was always good at networking and attracting clients to the firm, and generated repeat work. While at times this was recognized and rewarded, it was not always consistent and something I found incredibly frustrating about being an employee. When you work for yourself and start to see the seeds of your hard work start to bloom, it is truly satisfying. Not just the monetary reward, but also the non-monetary reward of helping clients achieve their goals and creating a legacy.

Smash the glass ceiling and throw away the ladder.

I worked so hard as a young lawyer to climb the ladder. Partnership was always viewed as the golden ticket that I couldn’t quite reach. When I set up on my own, I dispensed with any hierarchy in the firm. Most of my staff were young lawyers or smart, young people looking for an opportunity. I strongly believed that no one was better than anyone else, everyone’s contribution to the firm was appreciated equally and we were there to accomplish the same goal. I can now see that as I tried to climb the ladder in the traditional way, and the universe kept yanking it away from under me (not quite that dramatic!) these were all nudges (or falls) in the right direction.


It’s hard to take a holiday.

One of the hardest things about setting up on your own (particularly if you are the only senior lawyer) is that it is very hard to take a holiday. You have to be prepared to do some work during your holiday. As time went on, I got much better at turning away work in favour of time-out. This is always hard when you’re building a business, but your wellbeing is important. Learn to put boundaries in place around your holidays and stick to them. If you can make an arrangement with a fellow sole practitioner to look after each other’s work during time off, this could be an ideal arrangement that would work well for both.

It’s not for the faint hearted.

It’s not a walk in the park. I worked some incredibly big hours during the time I had my business. I caution all my consulting clients against working that way – you don’t need to work these long hours.

In summary, apart from better managing my workload, I wouldn’t change it for the world. For me, the experience was incredibly satisfying, I learnt a lot about myself and enjoyed making a difference in my client’s lives.

“Fortune favours the brave”. You have to do what feels right for YOU! For some, this is the right step, and for others it not. And like anything in life, if you do it, and don’t like it, you just go back to what you were doing or do something else. Either way, you will be richer for having taken the leap, trusting yourself and backing yourself!

If this is a step you are thinking about taking, please contact me for an initial consultation. I am also a member of LawX NZ, together we can help you with all facets off setting up a new firm. If you’re not sure if the leap is right for you, I can also help you work through this.

Article originally posted at Emma’s website Bizwell here

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