Russ Krajec is a registered patent agent, engineer and inventor who owns and operates anything under the sun made by man blog. He started an excellent discussion on what it means to hang out your shingle, the good, the bad and the ugly. Here is a post that he calls "Hanging Out Your Shingle – The Upside." In this post, Russ talks about all the great things about being an independent practitioner.
Here’s a post he calls "Hanging Out Your Shingle - - The Downside." Here he talks about some of the trials and tribulations involved with being an independent practitioner.
You can never talk about the differences between being an independent practitioner and working for a larger firm enough. The differences are dramatic as pointed out by Russ Krajec in his two posts. On the plus side, he notes that you don’t have to share any of the profits with anyone. Instead of working five hours in order to receive the profits from a single hour (essentially working for your partners). He is correct that the fact that you don’t have to share profits with partners is one of the best parts about being an independent practitioner. You can either work less for the same money or earn even more income at the same level of effort.
Fundamentally, being an independent practitioner just feels different. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel the stress of having to make an appearance in the office, being the last partner in your seat, feeling like I have to get dressed up because all the other partners are, or any other activity which really amounts to "form over substance." Instead of wasting energy on peripheral things that really don’t or shouldn’t matter, I concentrate on what I do best. I think about the important things I am facing each day and how I’m going to be a good problem solver. I think about what I want my firm to become tomorrow and I implement the steps necessary to make that happen. Nothing gets in the way of my vision. Instead of waking up with a sense of dread, I wake up with a sense of expectancy. Instead of wondering about what problems I face in the day, I am eager to face the problems of the day. If I am simply burnt out, I go home without thinking twice (and encourage my staff to do the same).
On the downside …well it’s hard for me to think about the negatives. Maybe I am just an eternal optimist, but I don’t see the downside. A lack of work has not been a problem. Too much work has been the constant challenge. Revenue has been continually strong. After a year, I don’t spend much energy wondering whether or not I’m about to lose all my clients and go out of business. I agree with Russ that the loss of a single client can be more problematic for a sole practitioner than for a large firm. However, and I am sure Russ would agree, that next client comes through the door soon enough. Somehow, things tend to work out.
I am at a little bit of an advantage in that I do not work from home. I have a great office and four to five staff working with me on most days. We all go for coffee in the morning. We relate during the day and break the monotony. Everyone gets along great and loneliness is certainly not a problem. If I were a solo practitioner working out of my house, I might go a little stir crazy.
I do agree with Russ that it is a different sort of stress that one faces when they go out into the market as a single attorney. The buck really does stop here. Some days, that can be drag. Or for any attorney with an entrepreneurial spirit, the reward is way beyond the burden. If you have broad shoulders and revel in the thought of being an innovative businessperson, then being an independent practitioner is certainly for you. You know my saying: "Jump, Jump, Jump."