Solo Practice Career Guide

By Devan Orr
Revised February 2022

Oral argument
Blogs & Books

The Business Guide to Law: Creating and Operating a Successful Law Firm, by Kerry M. Lavelle, Chicago, IL: American Bar Association, Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, 2015.
This indespensible guide starts with what to consider while still in law school and moves through all of the practical aspects of owning and managing a law firm, including billing practices and physical space, social media networking, and how and whether to hire an associate.

Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for the Solo Lawyer, 5th ed., K. William Gibson, ed., Chicago, IL: American Bar Association, Law Practice Management Section, 2014.
This collection of essays by primarily solo practitioners covers all aspects of individual practice, including articles on topics such as vacations, billing, and part-time help. The multi-author approach provides a variety of insights and experiences.
OCS KF300 .F58

How to Start and Build a Law Practice, 5th ed., by Jay G. Foonberg, Chicago, IL: American Bar Association, Law Student Division, Section of Law Practice Management, 2004.
This book is organized into ten parts: getting started; getting located; getting equipped; getting clients; setting fees; managing the law office; ethics and professional responsibility; resources and advice; a management checklist; and a section on quality of life. Using a "nuts and bolts" approach, the author devotes short sections within each chapter to considerations ranging from postage to insurance to Christmas cards.
OCS KF300 .Z9 F66

Billing itself as "The Lawyering Survival Guide," Lawyerist is the product of a consumer rights lawyer and a former election lawyer.  The articles are written for solos/small firmers on the topics of marketing, ethics, technology, practice management, and related concerns.  Of particular interest is the entry on "Starting a Law Firm."

Minding Your Own Business: the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer's Guide to a Profitable Practice, by Ann M. Guinn, Chicago: American Bar Association, General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division, 2010.

Solo Lawyer by Design: A Plan for Success in Any Practice, by Gary P. Bauer, Chicago, IL: American Bar Association 2017.
OCS KF300.5 .B38

Start Your Own Law Practice: A Guide to All Things They Don't Teach in Law School About Starting Your Own Firm, 1st ed., by William W. Huss, Naperville, IL: Sphinx Publishing, 2005.
This book describes in detail how to set up and manage your own practice, whether located in a conventional office setting or in your home. Covers business structure, office selection and organization, design and furniture considerations, marketing, and billing. Also includes a refresher on ethics and how to maintain good relationships with clients.
KF300 .H87

Journal Articles

Li, Victor. "Launch Codes: 50 Startup Tips to Get Your Practice off the Ground", 107(2) ABA Journal 32 (2020). 
Quotes and advice for starting a law firm from other solo practicioners and small firm partners.

Carter, Terry, Stephanie F. Ward, and Rachel M. Zahorsky, "Legal Rebels 2010: Riding Solo", 96 ABA Journal 33 (September 2010).
Short profiles of various sole practitioners in different practice environments.

Cohen, Deborah, "So You Want to Go Solo? You Sure? Here Are the Tasks You Need to Master to Live the Shingle Life", 95 ABA Journal 48 (November 2009).
A pull-no-punches look at what goes into a successful solo practice.

Johnson, Desiree A. and G.M. Filisko, "Starting Strong: How I Found a Niche, Built a Client Base and Turned a Profit in Just One Year", 93 ABA Journal 26 (December 2007).
A 29-year-old starts a solo firm two weeks after passing the bar. She talks about how building her client base through word of mouth and a personal interest in her clients has been more useful than traditional networking meet-ups and power lunches.

Stansky, Lisa, "Plan for the Rewards and Responsibilities of Solo Practice", 36 Student Lawyer 10 (April 2008).
The author urges students who are considering solo practice to use their third year of law school to get a handle on details such as office location and equipment, a marketing plan, and how to support the business (and the attorney!) while waiting for the first fees to come in.


Features a regular column called "GP mentor", written specifically for law students.
Library has Vol. 17, no.1, 2000 - present.
Six issues/yr.
Chicago: ABA, General Practice, Solo, & Small Firm Division.
ABA Website:
Available on Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline.

Legal Times
Features a monthly column called "Going Solo".
Library has Vol. 4, no. 38, 1982 - present.
Washington, DC: Legal Times of Washington, Inc. Weekly.
Available on Lexis and Westlaw


The following organizations are active or maintain an interest in the field of solo practice. Most of them sponsor seminars or conferences on relevant topics.

American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
321 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
This section provides support and information for sole practitioners, including, events, membership information, and state and local bar association contacts. Publishes GPsolo, a newsletter for sole practitioners.

United States Small Business Association
409 Third Street, SW
Washington, DC 20406
tel: 1-800-U-ASK-SBA
The Small Business Association (SBA) has resources for students considering starting their own practices. Materials cover general business start-up as well as information about financial and practical assistance available through the SBA. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides ongoing assistance and counseling after a new business is established.

Virginia State Bar
General Practice Section
707 East Main Street, Suite 1500
Richmond, VA 23219-2800
Like the ABA, most state and local bar associations have sections or committees to assist sole practitioners.

Photo:  Associated Press