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November 10, 2008

In Honor of Our 2nd Birthday I Have A Valuable Prize To Award

http://blog.ning.com/files/Happy%202nd%20Birthday!.jpgI can't believe today marks the 2nd anniversary of Build A Solo Practice. (And it's actually my birthday, too!!!)

So much has happened in these two years.  Nearly 800 posts, 1300 comments, the creation of Solo Practice University E-zine on this day one year ago with currently over 1100 active subscribers.

And now we are so very pleased to announce we have just as many subscribers receiving news on the pre-launch of Solo Practice University.

So, in honor of the remarkable two years, your continued readership and wonderful commentary which has really brought this blog to life... I have decided to award another free lifetime scholarship to Solo Practice University to any practicing lawyer or current law student... but with a twist.

Here are the rules:

1.  You must be a practicing lawyer or current law student;  (You need not currently be a solo to be eligible)
2.  Tell us why you wish to go solo and;
3.  Why you believe Solo Practice University will help you achieve your goal of entrepreneurship (best to go to the site and read our mission as well as what we are offering)
4.  Provide the answers to the above in the comment section of this post.  You may do so anonymously if you feel more comfortable)
5.  Send me a separate e-mail with your full name, e-mail addresses (law school e-mail address if you are a current law student) so you can be reached at a later date if you win. And don't forget to identify which comment is yours.
6.  And make sure your comment is received by November 30th dat midnight.

And here is the fun part. I won't be picking the winner.  After the comments are submitted, I will create and post a poll listing all the entrants by how they identify themselves in the comment section (so be distinct) and my readers will select the winner*.  And the winner with the most votes will be announced on December 22, 2008 just in time for one lucky person to maybe have an even better holiday and start to their new year.

So, if you have an interest in a free lifetime scholarship to Solo Practice University or know someone who does...spread the word and start commenting!!

(*I have the right to veto the winner if I suspect something fishy and the recipient of the second highest number of votes will be awarded the scholarship under the same rules and conditions.)

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter


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Dave Carson

Happy Birthday!

D. Todd Smith

Happy birthday to both you and BSP, Susan! You're doing great things to foster the development of solos. Keep up the good work!

Jay Fleischman

Happy 29th birthday, Susan - you don't look a day over 27!

Jessica M.

Well, I knew I didn't qualify for the 100 free scholarships but thank you for giving me another opportunity.

I am currently out two years and know there is only one way for me to practice and that is as a solo.

Why? I currently work at a decent-sized law firm but I see the writing on the wall. While the firm did well when times were good, they are not prepared for times being bad. And times are going to get bad. They have no business sense. Everything is as you have called it 'second wave' and this lack of ingenuity is stifling and job threatening. I can't operate in this type of environment and I know I can do better.

Plus, I want the flexibility. I don't mind working hard or long hours, but I need flexibility. And no one else is going to give me the freedom I require.

After reading about Solo Practice University (which is so sorely needed) I realize this is the perfect environment for me to learn what I need to know to be successful. Just as I need to work on my own, I need to learn as I need to learn, not on another's schedule. And there is no way it would be practical to learn from all this astounding faculty you are lining up. If the first five are any indication of the type of education students will receive it's pretty amazing.

I know going solo isn't easy. I have no illusions. But to make learning 'how' to go solo so comfortable certainly lowers the 'fear' threshold most attorneys I know feel.

Having a scholarship would certainly make this even more possible for me to do.

Well, that's my story. Nothing extraordinary. No missing limbs or poverty. But I sure would like this scholarship.

Thanks for you time and what you are creating. Wow. All I can say is 'Wow.'

And Happy Birthday to Build A Solo Practice and You.

David K.


Thanks for this great opportunity. This post was passed along to me from someone who reads your blog religiously and clearly I will become a devotee. I have not found other resources, even though I'm sure there are some blogs.

I have no choice but to go solo. I am currently a student at a T3 school. (That's not why I have no choice.) I am also a non-traditional student who will be taking the bar in both Pennsylvania and New York because circumstances require me to be flexible.

I do not know which state I will end up in and have to prepare for both. I'm not an attractive candidate for law firms because I have a very independent mind and track record of entrepreneurship. I'm not guessing this. I've been told this numerous times. Plus, I'm simply not interested.

What I find most appealing about Solo Practice U is learning from like-minded individuals; being part of these mini-communities and being taught the fundamentals of marketing. The icing on the proverbial cake; one location to learn it all. Quite frankly, as someone with limited time, I do not have the luxury of discovery.

It appears you have really thought out your faculty choices and I have confidence they will teach me what I need to learn.

I'm hoping you will bring someone on board to teach immigration. I'll just have to wait and see, won't I!

Thank you for your consideration. Actually - VOTE FOR ME!

Naomi from AZ


First, thank you for creating Solo Practice University. I signed up to follow the construction back in March. Needless to say, I'm very excited!

While I'm sure my situation isn't unique, I do feel like I am alone and there are no resources comparable to what you and David are creating.

I graduate in May and will be moving to Oregon and taking the Oregon bar.

The prospect of starting over in every aspect of my life is just a bit overwhelming :-)

I (we) won't know anyone (moving for husband's advancement)yet I've always known I would open a solo practice. This combination just makes it seem like I will be facing triple the challenges others face because I'm assuming others at least open their solo practice where they live and/or get a job first for that 'training.'

Well, I don't see that happening for me. So, with the triple challenge of coming right out of law school, moving, and not getting a 'job' first, I feel a little overwhelmed.

Plus, all I've ever wanted to do is adoption/surrogacy law and saw you will have someone teaching on this very topic! I know I will be very good in this practice area but realize I may have to do what you once called 'dead presidents' law.

What I'm hoping SPU can provide for me is support on many levels with resources on the law and business. Networking with others is really important to not feel so alone, too. Your mini-communities sound perfect.

I get a very strong impression SPU is about community for people just like myself.

To be able to get a jump on this while in law school by attending SPU would give me much that much needed B12 shot of energy and confidence.

Thank you all BSP readers for considering me for the free lifetime scholarship. I could really, really use it.

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Dave, Thanks, Dave...for all the gray hairs you've given me this year (only kidding)
@Todd, Thanks for your kind words. I'm trying :-)
@Jay, ...actually, not a day over 26!

@Jessica and David K. - Thank you for sharing your stories. I can see by your posts you are really getting what we are trying to do at SPU. That means our message is coming through loud and clear. And congratulations on your ambitions to solo. December 22nd isn't that far off....:-)


Well, I missed the first round of scholarships so I'm going to try yet again.

I am a born entrepreneur, hand fed by two entrepreneurs who have no idea how to work for anybody and have me thoroughly convinced not to bother trying. It's simply not my nature.

From paperboy routes (yes, I'm not 23) to many businesses created and sold (OK, not THAT many :-) I know I could never work for another attorney.

But, I also know enough to know that I don't know what I don't know when it comes to the legal profession and smart enough to understand I need to learn even if I'm a quick study.

That's where SPU comes in. I'm a 4L (last year at night) and I need to hit the ground running. (So, when did you say you are opening? My track shoes are on as I can sprint with the best of them!)

My school simply doesn't 'get' anyone who wants to open up a solo practice never mind right out of law school so I have to look to other resources. SPU seems to be the solution. Plus, I really appreciate you are getting your faculty from the business world, not just the legal world.

I'm planning on helping other entrepreneurs by going into business law, startups, small business incorporation as I have some familiarity with this. It's also what I love.

I'm charming, a Sagitarrius, blonde, blue-eyed. Oh, wrong site :-)

Well, vote for me. OK, even if you don't I'm still signing up when you open.


Metro Solo

I'm currently in the process of transitioning to a solo practice. Over the summer, we returned to the Northeast (where I'm licensed) from 2 1/2 years out West (where I'm not licensed).

When we lived in the Northeast before, I practiced a specific type of insurance defense law in 2 insurance companies and in one law firm. I have enough experience in that area of law to know that I do not want to go back to it. In addition, that particular area is not conducive to solo practice.

Ever since I got an 'inside look' into the workings of a law firm while I was doing insurance defense, I've wanted to set up my own firm. I'd like to go back to a version of the kinds of law I was practicing as a legal services lawyer in Texas: plaintiff's employment, SSDI/SSI, disability rights issues, and estate planning. I only worked in those areas for a year-and-a-half, so I don't feel comfortable jumping into the deep end of the pool just yet.

But jumping into those newer (to me) areas of law is really my only option if I want to go solo, since I cannot practice my old area of insurance defense (nor plaintiff's side, either) as a solo - not to mention the fact that it would not make me happy to practice in that particular area of law.

I am taking as many free or low-cost CLEs through legal services organizations as I can. There are not enough practical CLEs to take that would enable me to feel comfortable going full-throttle on my solo practice. Not to mention the fact that I don't know how to find clients!

Even the thing I thought would be easy to do - finding malpractice insurance that won't take forever (2+ weeks) to get quotes on and that won't cost an arm and a leg - has proven to be quite a challenge. I think I may have this problem solved, though, but only after a lot of time-wasting trial and error.

Overall, I'm afraid of what I don't know about - what dangers lie in wait for me as I round the corner into the unknown world of a solo practice? I'm scared to death of inadvertently committing malpractice. I feel that Solo Practice University will give me the solid foundation upon which to build my new practice and to help me overcome the fears that hold me back.



Congrats and Happy Birthday!

I would appreciate being considered for the scholarship to Solo Practice University.

I am a non-traditional lawyer in that I have been practicing law for three years and will be turning 40 (!!!!!) in a couple of months. At the current time, I work for a small firm and would love to go solo. I love the practice of law and would love the freedom to be able to run my own show and practice law on my own terms. Plus, I think the solo route would allow me to do more pro bono work, which I get great fulfillment from, and would also allow me to have a better work/home life balance.

This scholarship would be extremely helpful in that one of my biggest concerns and fears about going solo is financial. I am a single mother of two teenagers so I need a way to generate income and I am very nervous about taking the solo leap. Therefore, I am currently doing as much research and reading as I can to gain as much knowledge as possible from those who have been thru the same experience.

Solo Practice University will help me achieve my goal of entrepreneurship by one simple word. Knowledge. I am very interested in a Virtual Law Office and the information and experience that will be offered thru Solo Practice University can help me achieve that goal. I also believe that gaining knowledge regarding how to work with a virutal assistant, marketing and law practice management would be extremely beneficial in alleviating some of my solo fears. All of these are going to be offered thru Solo Practice University and I couldn't be more excited.

This site is a much needed and valuable resource. I look forward to seeing what unfolds in the weeks to come.


Jerry G

I am currently a 2L but have been reading your blog since before I started law school!

With this current economy in such a precarious place I am more than extremely interested in going solo.

There are four law schools where I live and the competition for jobs is rather cutthroat.

But beyond that, I've always wanted to own my own business and control my professional future. I feel that the best way to do this is with a more learned profession and to be part of a firm that you own.

I've heard countless horror stories of Big Law life and how it is all about sweating to enrich the partners.

I know I want to work for myself, but sweat to enrich my family's life. It may sound cliche but I also want to be able to pick and choose the clients I want to help.

Solo Practice University, based upon everything you have described, can help me because my business experience is sorely lacking.

I'm both efficient and competent at my work regardless of what I do. But I've had trouble attracting my desired customers, closing the sale, and networking with colleagues.

I think Solo Practice University can provide the tools and knowledge I require with an added bonus: possible mentors in my chosen practice areas.

You're doing a great service here even with a tuition cost because I have yet to see anything like it. Plus, after following you for two years, I trust you and your integrity. After seeing the faculty, I know my trust has not been misplaced.

Ignacio Alfaro

Happy B Day!
Greetings from Costa Rica. I always learn from your posts and try to see what can be followed here and what probably won't work. Down here everything seems at first upside down but the practice is always the same, here, there and everywhere.
Thanks for your advices!
Keep up the good work. Following your example I have started my condo law page.


I am currently a 3L and am genuinely interested in going solo after law school. When I graduate in May 2009 I plan on opening an immigration practice.

Growing up I watched my mom and dad start their own clothing business after both worked as employees for another clothing business. Now they own a chain of clothing stores.

Eventually they achieved a certain amount of personal and financial freedom. However, I know in the legal profession freedom will be quite different. Working for myself I can choose the work I want to do. Helping those individuals with their immigration issues is very near and dear to my heart. Don't get me wrong. I've watched OCIs very carefully trying to determine if it would be best to 'get a job.' There is no right job for me but self-employment.

It's also been painfully obvious to me there are so many people practicing immigration law that don't know what the heck they are doing. But my passion for this area runs deep and even though I'm still in law school I have been insatiable for knowledge about the practice area.

I have been very active in our school's clinical program and had my first taste of what it would be like when I worked on an asylum case before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The case was a mess because the original attorney missed key points and didn't argue the case well yet was paid well.

It was then I realized my obsessive attention to detail and strong work ethic were my strengths. These will stand me in good stead when when going solo.

And, like others I've seen commenting on your blog, my school strongly discourages any idea of going solo right out of law school.

I could have let that get me down but then I found your blog and realized I was listening to the wrong people. You are incredibly inspiring yet realistic. You are really helping law students, practitioners and the profession by recognizing the sheer numbers of solos and the drive that propels most solos.

Where I see SPU helping is with the community you will be building. There will be like-minded (entrepreneurial-minded) individuals who will keep each other motivated and inspired while respecting each other for their efforts.

I'm also seeking mentorships and guidance and believe SPU will provide this throughout my entire professional career.

Thanks to the readers for considering my application!


I'm currently a third-year student, graduating May 2009!

I believe I could be more successful doing things "my own way." I'm an entrepreneurial "creative type" who enjoys challenges and problem-solving. I love the idea of making my own schedule, and I am organized and disciplined enough to manage myself without a boss. I want to go into a niche area (entertainment law) that not many large law firms specialize in. I want to have a family someday and travel often. I enjoy flexibility and having hobbies outside of the law, and I believe structuring my own practice will make me happier and more successful than being a number in a firm working 90 hours a week with unending billable hours.

Why Solo Practice University can help? It is an incredible help and relief to know there are others attempting the same thing you are -- going solo! I want to avoid as many mistakes as possible, and being tied in with a solo practice resource like this will connect me to novices and experts alike who can guide each other regarding the best ways to run a solo practice. I am already seeing faculty members who share my interests and even alma maters, and I feel confident that these are people passionate about what they do, and they want to see others succeed as well. The practice of law is ever-changing, and the new technologies being introduced every year open up so many new possibilities for solos that never would have been manageable or affordable decades ago.

Thank you for this opportunity!


Congrats on the 2nd anniversary and hope your birthday was wonderful, Susan!


I'm currently a 3L at and am interested in becoming a solo
practitioner. As a "non-trad" (and older than most non-trad) student with a
growing family, I'm not really interested in trying to bill 2400 hours per
year at a BigLaw sweatshop while never seeing my young kids.

And even if I wanted to do this, the likelihood given the economy and layoff makes my chances slim to none, right?

I'd much rather create a practice where I have the opportunity to engage with real clients who have everyday problems and can sink my teeth into the matter rather than spending hours doing document review or 1/8th of 1/10th of one motion on a huge case. I actually want to see the inside of court room as lead counsel on my own cases.

SPU will be a great way to leverage the collective wisdom of peers and hopefully help me avoid costly rookie mistakes, costly in terms of dollars and credibility.

I know going solo is no walk in the park. But certainly it is better than the alternative, as far as I'm concerned. The rewards which derive from creating something from scratch, that's priceless.

I'm so looking forward to the doors opening on your virtual university. You definitely had your V-8 moment when you came up with this idea. Thank you.


I have been following 'going solo' websites since I started law school last year. Solo Practice University seems to be the ideal source of the education I feel I am not going to get in law school. I am VERY excited about your impending launch.

I'm now almost half-way through my second year and as I follow SPU's launch I just get more anxious to get started learning.

Like many other law students, I have been advised by my school's career counselors (as well as fellow law students) that I should spend "several" years in a big firm after I graduate. Who are they kidding? With more news coming out everyday about Big Law meltdowns and layoffs? But more than that, I simply can't imagine myself as an associate in one of these firms.

My goals are much more practical. I'm interested in learning what I can through internships then setting out on my own.

While I'm sure the 60 (or 80)-hour-a-week law firm life is ideal for some, I just can't imagine it for myself - ever.

I believe I can bring more to my clients by starting small and staying focused on one or two areas. I am interested in the needs of small businesses, and what better testimony to my ability to serve my clients then to be a small business myself.

Big Law firms seems ill-suited to the ever-changing modern legal model, and I would like to remain on the cutting edge.

Law schools are often criticized for not teaching practical lawyering skills during law school. But what is worse, IMHO, is it's failure to help one operate as a businessperson. One could argue 'that's not law school's role.' Well, I beg to differ. It should at least be offered in recognition of the significant majority of private practitioners who do, in fact, require these skills.

Further, many other types of resources a solo could try to use either do not apply to the needs of the legal professional, or are so outdated or outmoded that it is hard to rely upon the information. (I keep finding solo-lawyer books, for example, that demand the purchase of a fax machine and 56.6kbps modem).

Solo Practice University is catering to the needs of the solo with its focus on technology, social media, education on a practical level which is just woefully lacking elsewhere.

There is nothing more exciting then learning from those passionate about helping others to learn.

I would love to receive this scholarship and be able to kickstart my solo career right after passing the bar.

Thank you for the opportunity.


I'm currently a new attorney who's just been admitted to NY for a year & soon to hit that mark for CT admission.

My story is very unique because I've actually had a chance to get into entertainment law and form a new firm despite a litany of people saying it likely wouldn't happen.

I'm a Quinnipiac alumna who does not come from means. Life for my family continues to be an endless game of Tetris where the pieces are almost to the top of the board. I left a legal job in Atlanta to go to law school and did not have the money for study aids; I nearly had to resort to illegal or immoral means just to stay in law school due to not having a credit worthy co-signer.

In fact, I'm the first person in my entire family to go to law school & the first in my immediate family to attend college. My life could easily have taken a different turn had I not received the encouragement and faith to aspire for more and refuse to settle for a life that works for many people I grew up with, but would have made me suicidal. I also had to fight classism just to get admitted as an attorney because I had no way to pay off old credit card debt acquired just to pay basic expenses like food, gas for my car, etc.

I actually got into entertainment law because I was able to do what my entertainment law professor advised and met people who had faith in me. I'm now a partner in an up & coming film production company but have to pay bills in the meantime.

This led to my choice to become a freelancer (I couldn't be a solo b/c of lack of money for office space and b/c I was offered a full time job in the film company once it gets full financing). One of my freelance clients has a huge case, also came from a lower class background and went through more strife than anyone my age could relate to. He has volunteered to be my benefactor & help me with a few things in setting up my own law firm. I'm setting up a firm b/c I want to work with my film company, I don't want to abandon clients, I know I'm going to need help if I want to do this properly and I want to have a firm on the market that listens to clients, involves them in the process, is not a typical white shoe firm and caters to small businesses, actors and others who aren't major industry players or big business.

The typical law firm job is out of the question for me because I'm used to being in charge at my own company and having my views listened to as well as respected, I can't lie about my interest in entertainment law and I feel it would be a giant step backward for me. I am also a creative type who doesn't fit the typical lawyer mold; I'm a natural redhead who looks like a college student and pretty enough to be a model or actor.

Furthermore, firms do not respect anyone with my background because they only look for law review, straight As and a T10 school; quite frankly, I think the fact I graduated without making lower than a C in light of my circumstances is an accomplishment worthy of respect.

I also refuse to give up my marriage or people I value for a job considering my younger sister's husband died from a heart condition at the age of 21, 3 weeks after my nephew was born. This also occurred a few weeks before I learned I was accepted to Quinnipiac.

Document review is also out of the question because I despise micromanagers and have serious problems with the working conditions I have seen. I also saw lawyers who were defeated and refuse to become that myself.

Rather than trying to be something I'm not and hating my job, I opt to keep my sanity and my identity intact. However, I will not have money to start the business as effectively as I'd like and don't want any of my partners to be forced to bank roll everything since they likely have to worry about student loans as well.

I think Solo Practice University could be beneficial in teaching my partners & I how to effectively set up this business, handle financial and business matters in a legal context and simply be a helpful resource when we need it. I welcome words and advice from those who have been there before and have attempted to shape my career around others' experiences, good or bad.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Amy Derby

I'm horribly late to the party, but HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to you and your blog. :-)


Hi Susan,

It's been awhile since we last spoke. Class has been moving along very well. In fact, I may complete my classes in December and sit for the bar in February. I look forward to it. More importantly, I look forward to practicing and I do have a continued interest in pursuing a solo practice. For me, a solo practice is the right choice for a number of reasons:

(1) Business. I enjoy managing a business, and I have the background and education with experience. Not only general management, but finance, sales, advertising, and process management.

(2) Freedom. I trust myself--I trust my decision making skills, and I do not need "direct supervision." Mentors, on the other hand, are essential. And I will continue to develop those important professional relationships.

(3) Flexibility. If I want to focus on trial work, civil, criminal, or purely focus on client counseling (thereby outsourcing certain other tasks), I am able to make this decision. Again it's my business.

(4) Age. I'm not old, but, I'm not 24 anymore. I'm 29. I have professional experience and have experience managing clients. I don't need an associate holding my hand. Especially an associate who is less experienced and possibly younger than myself.

(5) Security. A law firm could lay me off anytime. As an entrepreneur--I am in control.

Solo Practice University is an excellent resource to help me achieve my goals. Law school has not helped me develop my practice management skills. I've been forced to develop these skills on my own, and it would be a great benefit to have access to resources and people that can speak specifically to the challenges I will face as a "solo practitioner," as opposed to the challenges an employee faces working for a mid to large size firm.

In law school, they teach us "how to think like a lawyer," and overwhelm us with gray clouds of theory. I expect Solo Practice University will clear these gray clouds, and provide me with guidelines that will allow me to better manage my practice.

Susan, I would be honored to be a part of your university's first graduating class.

Thank you for this opportunity!


I will keep it short and to the point.

I was at a Big Law firm and working myself half to death, resulting in a serious health condition. At the same time, my fiance's father became terminally ill. I decided to give up the lucrative job and spend my time split between practicing law and helping out in the care of his father. It was a scary decision, but I don't regret it.

I am seriously happy being my own boss, but I am struggling. It has been nearly a year and my business is abysmal. I'm a good lawyer and I have a lot to offer, but I can't seem to find the work. I'm desperate to know what I'm doing wrong, because I am literally going to go bankrupt if I do not figure it out soon.

I believe that you should be happy being a lawyer. I believe it is possible. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to realize it!

Best of luck to you all.



I want to go solo because I want professional autonomy. It's tough going solo and tougher when you are a new lawyer out of law school. I believe your program offers the community of like minded people who can help me achieve my results more efficiently.



You know, if you leave this top post up I almost never think to scroll down the page to see the new posts and I just miss it all. I suggest putting the top post in a box or something and changing its appearance. I really thought you had the same last post up for three weeks.
Just a thing

Esther Wu

Dear Ms. Liebel

My name is Esther Wu and I am a May 2008 graduate of law school and passed the July 2008 bar exam. I am interested in the solopractice university scholarship. The reason why I am interested in going solo is because I want autonomy in my profession and what better way to do that than to jump into solo practice. I believe solopractice university can offer me a method for starting my solo practice based on gaining a community of like minded people on all aspects and challenges of going solo. It is hard starting out and even harder when you have less experience than most lawyers who are going solo.


Susan Cartier Liebel, Esq.

@Per - while we are running the contest we feature it. However, you can always subscribe to the RSS (look to the right for the button) this way you get our new posts fed to you. Just a thought :-) Wouldn't want you to miss a thing!!

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