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December 18, 2007

You Can Win the "So, You Want to Fly Solo" Contest - It's Easy!

(UPDATE: 1/5/08 - Look for the winner(s) in a special newsletter through the Solo Practice University E-zine to be broadcast to your in-box at 11:45 a.m. on January 7, 2008.  If you haven't signed up for the E-zine it's not too late.  There is a special surprise for some lucky entrants!)

(UPDATE: 12/30/07 - While there has been a wonderful turnout to this contest, including those who e-mailed me and asked I post their comments on their behalf, I will be accepting entries until  Sunday, January 6th 12:00 p.m. So, don't be shy about entering. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! And remember, the winner will be announced in a separate broadcast through the Solo Practice University E-zine so don't forget to sign up to find out if you are a winner!)

(UPDATE:  12/19/07) I've been getting private e-mails asking if this is open to current solos or just those who want to first go solo.  It's open to all solos, newly minted or well seasoned, at BigLaw, just getting out of law school, lawyers who want to get back in the game...everyone and anyone who is or wants to go solo.)

I"ve decided to make this my last post for the 2007 (didn't exactly adhere to that) and hopefully help bring a lucky future soloist into 2008 with a free in-depth 2 hour consultation to help them get started.  I'm placing no dollar value on this prize...that, quite honestly, is determined by the recipient.

The rules are simple: 

Answer the following question:  "I want to open my own solo legal practice because___________."

In the 'Join the Discussion' section please let me know why you want to go solo and why you feel getting some concrete advice and direction unique to your personal situation will help you get to where you want to be....an entrepreneur in charge of your professional future.  The more honest, the better your chances of being selected.  If you are concerned about showing your true identity, no worries.  Use an alias for public consumption.  However, if you use an alias, please e-mail me seperately with your true identity and indicate which comment is yours.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

I will announce the winner on Monday, January 7th in a broadcast through the Solo Practice University E-zine. (If you are not already one of the over 400 subscribers to this popular free e-zine join the fun.) And if you are a reader who would like to offer an opinion as to who should win, also let me know this in the 'Join the Discussion' section. 

(And, hat tip to my son, Maximus, who just turned four years old.  This little mitzvah was inspired by him. We just celebrated his birthday and he wanted to give some gifts rather than just receive.  So, he first shared his birthday party with two other darling little four year olds.  Rather than parents giving toys, each guest generously donated to the Stratford Professional FireFighters Burn Foundation for the explicit purpose of funding the Children's Burn Camp....a camp designed for children who have suffered burns and is staffed by volunteers who are qualified to assist them with their special needs. Oh, the things we learn from our children.)

And another hat tip to Kevin O'Keefe for also providing the inspiration for this contest based upon one of his blog posts I can no longer find! Kevin, if you are reading this, please send me the link so I can insert!


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» FREE HELP!!! -- For A Lucky Wannabe Solo!!! from Chuck Newton
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Grant Griffiths

Susan- what a great idea and your postings will be missed until you return.


Well, I'll have a go at this because I sure could use the help. I'm a non-trad 3L at a T4 school by choice because it has a terrific program at the right price and was the right selection for me for too many reasons to list here. My background is in customer service and the medical supplies industry. But I've always known I wanted to go solo so my path in law school has been all about practical training. I've helped a solo this past year and without being mean I don't know how she stays in business. She's a terrific person but not very marketing savvy. Yet her clients love her and I suppose that's what's important. But all I dream about is not being bound to an office, coming and going as I need or want, self-reliant, doing house calls is fine for me, too. And I know it will happen if I can get on the right track from the very beginning. This is what I really need help with to get me from 0 - 60 (clients?) in the shortest amount of time. So, if you can take mercy on a non-trad 3L who's hard-working and a quick study, I'm tossing my hat in the ring! Oh, yeah, forgot to mention I'm a single dad. So, being my own boss is an absolute for me in order to work with my daughter's schedule. Thanks for your time.


Ms. Cartier-Liebel,

I've been reading your blog for almost a year now, started reading it in my last semester, and think it really provides a unique insight into the issues facing solos. The reason I want to build my own practice is I simply cannot work for anyone else. That may not be the sexiest reason or the most noble reason for wanting to go solo, but it is honest. I trust myself enough to know I can handle clients effectively as my focus will be on immigration. I'm bilingual, Spanish. I have a very extensive family network and connections to a huge potential client pool. I like to think I'm smart enough to seek out answers to problems from more experienced lawyers when needed. What I didn't learn in law school (or in my short life so far) is how to run a business. While I don't think it requires more than a fair amount of competence and common sense, I would like to get intelligent advice from someone who is an acknowledged authority on the subject so I don't have to struggle through the mistakes needlessly. Those mistakes can be costly and foolish. And I like to think I'm anything but foolish! I would love to be selected for your in-depth consultation as working at the courthouse since taking the bar exam (and passing!) has taught me one thing, the only way to go is being your own boss. I'm formulating my plan but it has huge gaps. I already get your E-zine and have benefited tremendously. I'm so glad you are running this contest. Maybe you can do it every year (lol)!


Thanks for clarifying who may enter. And thanks for allowing anonymity, too. I'm an old war horse who just doesn't get marketing. Never have. Where I practice is a small town in the midwest. (Yes. Just got my power back.) I'm what once was called a general practitioner. Everything is done on a handshake and who knows who. And you learn to do what you have to. But in a small town that only gets you so far. I want to expand my practice and actually make a living! I may be old but I can certainly learn new tricks. I also hate (strong word, I know) billing by the hour. I know it's almost as antiquated as I am with everyone talking about value billing (be damned if I know what that really means!). But I've been known to take a chicken or two in exchange for some legal advice. I hope while you are laughing through this you realize I'm very serious. My preferred area of practice is, well, anything that pays well. I guess what I'm saying is I'm comfortable learning any area of the law but I want to focus on an area of the law which doesn't limit me geographically anymore. And I'm realizing after all these years, I need some guidance. And a website. Thanks for your great blog, by the way.

New Mom

First, thank you so much for running this contest. Your blog has already been so inspirational.

I have been a lawyer for five years clerking for a high profile judge. I went to a T14. What I didn't get was an education on how to start a solo practice which I very much want to do. I left my position when I gave birth to my son who is now one. I always thought I wanted to be home just for the first year but the reality is I want to be home period, creating a home office for my solo practice. Clerking for five years taught me a lot about the area of law I want to practice, including media in the courtroom. Don't get me wrong, it was a unique experience, one I know I can capitalize upon but I don't know the first thing about juggling a home based business and life as a mother. I get the distinct impression you do. And this is the reason I would like to win. I want to be a solo practitioner working at home and raising a family. I have the work ethic; I believe I have the legal knowledge and experience, just not the know how on how to set-up, function, market, network, use the web. I'm not so much afraid as just don't know how to tackle it, where to begin. I, too, have already signed up for you e-zine. It's terrific. Ok, enough brown-nosing ;^) Thanks.


Ms. Cartier Liebel,

I'm a 2L at a mid-ranked school and I'm in the middle of my class in the midwest. But I'm anything but mid grade. I've always known I would go solo as I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I'm less interested in grades and more interested in practical training. So I've taken every 'hands on' course I can - Negotiations, Arbitration, Client Counseling (we don't have Law Office Management), Clinics and everything that gets me actually doing legal work. I AM going solo. I just want to be successful sooner rather than later as I am newly engaged with a very supportive, but nervous, finacee, and a wedding planned two months after I take the bar exam.

I am highly motivated to succeed in the area of criminal law and have already started networking extensively also spending what little free time I have at the GA. What I need is a working business plan that makes sense for me. That's why I NEED you to pick me. (All my money is tied up in this wedding!) Great blog. Great E-zine.


Susan, I'm currently one of the unhappy associates you hear about at BigLaw. I'm not unhappy because I'm overworked (which I am) but because it's simply just not where I want to be. I followed all the rules, went T14, moot court, law review, OCI with The Vault. Got the coveted job. I did what I was supposed to but it's simply the wrong fit. And when I look around, it's the wrong fit for a lot of associates but they don't really know what to do.

I'll be ready to leave in 2008 and do this my way because I really like practicing law. Of course, I'm currently doing work which does not translate into traditional sole practice work so I'm going to have to retrain myself, start from scratch. And I know nothing concrete about running a business except intuitively. I'm sure you won't pick me as I probably can actually afford to hire you! But I guess by commenting here I'm letting you know your blog has been instrumental in my resolutions for 2008. I'm sure we'll be talking soon.

Anon in Miami

Ms. Liebel,

I've been following your blogging for six months as well as others who speak to issues on creating a solo practice. This is my ambition. I am not native to the United States but it is now my home. While I do not have my network in place it is something I must make and need much guidance. I passed the bar in 2006, top one third of my class. I currently do document review which makes my head hurt on a daily basis. It is not the reason I went to law school. I need to help people but the plan fails me. This is why your help would be much appreciated. I understand immigration very well having expereinced the process in the first hand. It is also an area which will need many capable attorneys especially in large metropolitan areas like Miami. This may be an area you can help. You often talk to the subject of immigration being a good area for economic reasons. I hope you will consider my motivations when deciding as I would bring great benefit to many. Thank you.

Solo in San Jose

When I went into law school, I knew I wanted to come out a solo. Along the way, I got a bit derailed.. during law school, I was a summer clerk for a federal district court judge; all the talk between the other clerks, the big law firms they were entering and some comments about the work qualify coming through.. including a disproportionate amount aimed at the solos and small firms work, kicked my confidence and desire to go solo as a newly minted attorney to the curb. So.. I was an associate at an insurance defense firm. Glamorous, right?

It's been a crazy year for me; this new job, I just planned a big wedding and got married, we moved, friendships have shifted, we decided to try for kids in 2008, my husband started a new job, I began to truly hate my own, and recently, my grandmother passed away. In the mix, I got distracted, especially when my grandmother got sick, didn't play the political games at my work, and got fired! The day I came back from my honeymoon!! I can't believe it, it has never happened to me before!

Oddly, it actually has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. I don't go to sleep dreading the next day. I'm excited about my new, unexpected business venture. I have three paying clients! I'm signing a lease on office space! I'm working (and paying!) a paralegal! I'm providing some attorney training in January for a foundation I used to volunteer with! Things are moving quickly! It's only been twelve days!! I'm a little intimidated by what the next twelve may bring. I need some structure before this takes off and gets too big to handle, or worse, doesn't!


Thanks for allowing us to post with an alias as I am quite vocal on many listservs and wouldn't want to give myself away! (My legal advice is always sound, but when it comes to office procedures and profitability, best to stay mum.)

I have a small practice that breaks even every year. While I have a spouse who handles all the living expenses, the bottom line is I'm not doing very well in the traditional sense. It would certainly be nice to turn a profit. But I enjoy the size of my practice and the clients I deal with. But I must be doing some things incorrectly if all I do is meet my operating expenses. I imagine I need to learn how to work smarter rather than harder.

I have a traditional office. I know you talk about cutting expenses, but I enjoy having a place to drive to. I also have part-time help and I know you talk often about outsourcing. But I like my set-up. So, I guess I need help figuring how to work all the puzzle pieces and actually come out in the black. I've even contemplated taking on a partner to bring more business in but my gut says, 'not so sure.' I could certainly use a couple of hours of your time to give me some objective advice. Maybe I'm just not seeing the forest for the trees. I would certainly appreciate your consideration. Thank you and Happy Holidays. This was a lovely contest to run this time of year.

Soon to be Solo in Seattle

Hi Ms. Liebel, I've just graduated mid-year and will be taking the bar in my NEW home state, Washington, where I know absolutely noone but my new bride's family. I have a few months until I learn my fate.

It has been understood from day one I will be opening my own practice (second career lawyer) because I have sworn to never work for another. I have read countless books on networking, marketing, etc. But they are just books without any concrete guidance for implementation or specific to me. Generic, although good basic advice.

There is still trepidation as I will have the one additional major hurdle of being thrust into a new environment, knowing noone as I'm not sure my new extended family will be helpful, loving, but how helpful. I need to know how to not be Alex in Wonderland because I won't know how to connect professionally. Imagine East Coast meets West Coast. It's exciting but disconcerting to say the least. I'm game. I'm doing it. But I realize there is a way to do it better. That's my story.

Fearless in Fresno

I passed the bar in 2006 but took a year out of this country and now have returned home to dismal job prospects (at least in the areas I am interested in which does not mesh with my significant professional background). While I thought it would be nice to get some 'experience' on another's dime I don't see that happening. But I also don't see it as a deterrent to opening a practice. I'm a little older and have beaucoup life experiences to help me start a practice. But because my background is so highly specialized (medicine) do I immediately jump into those areas and niche myself, become an authority as everyone talks about? Or do I pick the areas that interest me? Or do I see what comes in the door? I keep reading about finding your 'ideal client' but what about finding your ideal practice area first? You write often about the economy and its impact on us solos. Well, I'm not too worried about the business-end of things, just do I practice what I bring with me from another life? This is where I believe you can help me best. Or, maybe this is better as a question for "You Ask...I Answer?" You'll let me know, I'm sure ;^)Happy Holidays to you and yours.

3L Ready to Go Solo

Dear Ms. Liebel, I am a 3L from a T14 who has absolutely no ambition to go to Big Law. I want to do more work with the indigent. I realize upon reflection while the school is excellent in so many ways, if I had thought about it more, I would have gone to as best a school I could that was more in keeping with 'lesser or no debt.' You always hear, 'go to the best school you can.' I now realize you better know 'why' you are choosing the school you are choosing. This debt is going to force me to make choices I would not otherwise have to make. But I am going solo; I've known this upon taking the LSATs. So, my interest in winning this has more to do with starting a solo practice on a shoestring and having lower paying or no paying clients. How do I make this work? (I know this is an unusual question, but even if you don't pick me maybe you can answer it?). Happy Holidays...and your E-zine is great.

Texas Two-Step

I just graduated in May 2006, passed the bar first time out but after sending out more than 100 resumes got zip, nada, nothing. Not in the top 10% so this could be part of the problem. But stuck doing document review was never part of the dream, either, even though that's what I've been doing. I need to pay the bills, student loans pressing, otherwise OK. How do I start my own practice? It's really all I've wanted to do despite the pressures of the school to work for "The Firm." I'm with you..it's their numbers game, not my best interests. I love family law, always have. It's my calling. I know that. And I also know it will do fine in rough economic times, as you call them. I see where this country is going too, also. Someplace in a handbasket? But families will always need lawyers. Kids will, unfortunately, always need lawyers, too. So, this will work for me. But how do I get started. That's the key. My school definitely did not discuss, encourage, do anything related to solo practice. And I know I can do it. So, thank you for running this contest. And I've been getting the E-zine now for a month and thank you for doing that for all of us out here who weren't lucky enough to attend where you teach. Hope I see my name in the e-zine on January 7th!!

Admiring Solo


I'm not entering the contest because, well, I know you through listservs and we've actually met in Philadelphia but I'm not sure you would remember me.

I just wanted to use your contest as an opportunity to let you know you have really added value to the solo community which frequents the blogosphere. You give so much great information, answer questions posed in e-mails, publicize those who might otherwise not get publicity and you are just very generous. There are many others who are generous towards solos such as Chuck Newton, Grant Griffiths, Jim Calloway and Carolyn Elefant but your blog has always just struck a chord with me as well as others I've talked to.

So, this is just an anonymous Happy Holidays to you and yours and hope you continue to keep blogging long into the future.


Ms. Liebel,

I would love to win this contest because I can't afford your services right now. I am a single mom working part-time while I get my business going. My part-time job (an E-bay store) helps pay the bills and doesn't tie me to an office or 9-5 job. Actually, have been doing this all through law school. I am very entrepreneurial and not afraid of hard work. I'm computer literate and even get marketing...just not for the legal end. Can even put together a decent projection. I'm comfortable working at home as I have many places i can meet clients and want to limit my practice to non-litigious areas such as wills, real estate and small business incorporations. This will give me flexibility when it comes to being a mom as I don't want to be tied to any schedule other than the one I make myself. If you want to pass your wisdom my way, I won't look a gift-consultant in the mouth. Thanks.


It was a bitter cold December night about a year ago when Santa Claus retained me as his counsel in a personal injury suit brought against him by several of his reindeer. They were alleging negligence because the harnesses used to strap them all to the sleigh were old and warn--which unfortunately caused an accident on a test flight a few weeks before Christmas last year. Sadly, because I haven't had the services of such a wonderful and talented consultant (such as yourself) for my practice, scheduling has been a nightmare. And, because of such I've missed a couple of deadlines and basically screwed Santa into the snow-covered ground. Now... he's had a default judgment rendered against him in the amount of 1000 tons of reindeer food because I missed some stupid filing deadline. Anyway, that's why I'd like you to select me. Destroying the lives of holiday icons via malpractice leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Thank you.

P.S. Since my fees have been paid with candy canes, I am currently overloaded on a fine stock of this delectable peppermint. I would be happy to pass a box of them your way *wink wink* should you select me.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Josh, I had to come out of my self-imposed fortress of solitude for your commment. Talk about laughing out loud! Of course, this in no way influences my decision, but you are too funny. Give Santa my best.

Keep the entries coming. I may just have a holiday surprise for everyone!

Scott Greenfield

Did I win yet?

On the Runway

I was once advised that there are only two types of lawyers: those who work for their clients and those who work for other lawyers. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being an assistant or working for other attorneys, I just don't think that I want that life as a permanent situation. After all, I went to law school because I admired attorneys and wanted to be one of them. And, not one of the attorneys that I happened to know (and admire) was the sort of attorney that built a career working for other attorneys.

Perhaps I might have preferred to begin my career in some other way that offered both the income that I need and the mentorship that I crave, but, life is too short to ponder the bus that left 5 minutes ago, let alone the bus that never arrived. Ultimately, my life is mine to define by opportunities present, rather than by limitations past.

This, to me, is what the decision to go solo is all about--defining myself and seeking opportunity.

So, to answer your question: I want to open my own solo law practice because...... Because I want to become the attorney that I admire. I want to be the attorney who works for her clients and who holds her own in a room full of other attorneys...who work for their clients. I guess I just want my seat at the table. And, I am not afraid to go for it!


Having worked 2-3 jobs during undergrad & law school to help support my husband (in culinary school) and our three kids, I looked forward to the 6 figures promised by the BigLaw firms offering me jobs. As a female minority with good grades, a top law school & military experience, I looked good on paper and had several offers. I knew almost immediately that BigLaw was not for me, but fought the guilt of walking away from my family's financial security for 3 years. Then my teenage daughter started going down the wrong path, my marriage fell apart, and my mom had a debilitating stroke and I knew the time had come. I specialize in family law (something my BigLaw firm discouraged me from practicing) and have never been so gratified to be a lawyer. I laugh and cry with my clients, i've reunited families, I've taken kids out of dangerous situations. My clients are great and so appreciative, but most have financial difficulties and can't pay their legal bills in full. In the past nine months, my income has dropped 50%, I've lost my home to foreclosure and I'm on the verge of bankruptcy. But I feel called to do the work I am doing and helping the people I am helping and cannot even entertain the notion of going back. I desperately need help to keep this thing afloat...

Rob Schenk

Ms. Cartier-Liebel,

I graduate in May 2007 and am going solo for 2 reasons:

1.) I get to pick what kind of coffee in the office.
2.) You can't fire yourself. (or can you?)

I would love and surely utilize a two hour marketing session with you for two reasons:

1.) There are only so many ways I can place my picture on a bus.
2.) Your knowledge would be like running an ad during the SuperBowl.

I believe in my heart of hearts that I am deserving of this award for two reasons:

1.) Your blog is the only blog on my IGoogle page. It sits next to "This Day in History" and "Chuck Norris Fact Generator"
2.) I love reading your blog!!


I graduated in 2007 and thought I was set. I landed a job in the legal department of a union before graduation. I quit the postal service after 18 years of service. Seven years as a local union president and six years of being a "front line" supervisor led me to making the decision of getting paid for my knowledge and hardwork fighting for the rights of employees. However that first job did not turn out to be the dream job I thought it would be. It was a nightmare. It made me realize that I may not fit into a law firm or a in-house legal department. I have been told over and over that I'm not like any lawyer people know. I've been told many times how I will make a great lawyer because I'm so easy to talk to and that I genuinely care. This is the biggest reason for going into solo practice. I don't want to play by the "good ole boy" rules. I want to do the right thing and enjoy what I do. Of course, I need to make money to survive. I'm hoping that you will help me to realize my goal of "doing what I love, and the money will follow." I need all the help I can get to realize my dream. I want to help people and make a comfortable living doing it. I want to work smarter not harder. I'm too old to be worrying about billable hours. Thank you for your consideration.


I want to open my own solo legal practice because as you put it in your latest email, I've been hit flat upside my head with a number of career surprises. Most notably, poor job prospects driven by school ranking. I went to law school not having any idea school rankings really mattered. I was under the impression that if I worked hard and did well in school, I would land a job. Clearly my thought process was a bit flawed. I assumed that anyone who spent close to 100k on an education would certainly have to find a job. So, I worked as hard as I could. I graduated with honors, participated in law review, etc. I moved home, took and passed the Bar on the first attempt, and now here I sit almost 2 years later working in the salt mines of document review. I now feel I have two choices. I can continue digging for salt in document review land while my law school knowledge gets sucked away, or I can stop waiting for a "real" job and take things in to my own hands. I have decided that the idea of going solo is the perfect solution. Only one small problem . . . I do not have a clue where to begin. Your services would prove invaluable. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and happy holidays.


I want to go solo because I have tried to fit in a mold others had for me, and not been true to myself.

I’m ready to be brave, take courage and step out to hang a shingle and go on my own. I want the freedom, flexibility and creative expression that a solo practice can bring.

I’ve been corporate counsel for 20+ years and am ready to break out after finally getting aptitude testing.

Please post this e-mail for me as I haven't figured out how to comment. Thanks.

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