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Solo No More: Considerations for Selecting a Practice Partner

By William Peacock, Esq. on April 11, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

I like people. Working as a solo has little to no appeal to me, as it means I'm locked in an office all day with little to no human contact, other than the occasional client meeting or angry opposing counsel. Plus, there are a lot of things I am not good at - such as staying organized and finding time for real-world networking.

On the other hand, I am pretty damn great at anything tech-related, online marketing, and explaining things to clients in plain English. I also have clients banging down the door, begging for representation, and I could use someone to handle the overflow.

(Okay, that last part was made up.)

It's time to find a partner - someone who, much like a spouse, is strong where I am weak and weak where I am strong. In other words, someone who compliments me. However, not everyone is cut out to work in a small firm, run a business, or to work with humans for that matter. Here are a few things I would look for if this post wasn't purely hypothetical:

Similar Vision for the Business

We're not talking a "whatever you would like" type of partner here. That's not going to help anyone. What we are talking about is a partner that has the same vision of the same type of practice - such as a small firm practicing family law and other complimentary practice areas (like estate planning). Before you agree to partner up with someone, sit down and discuss your visions for the next five years. Will you get office space? How fancy should that space be? What aura should the firm have (casual, bourgeois, paper mill?)

Friends, But Not Too Friendly

Lets just throw it out there: don't sleep with your business partner. We know, it should be obvious. But if there is "something" there, or you want something to be there, you shouldn't be pairing up with that person professionally. You'll be spending countless hours together. Nothing will ruin that quite like a post-nightcap frolic or a failed attempt at one.

Are They Ready Financially?

We know you are. You wouldn't be dumb enough to jump into private practice with $20,000 in credit card debt, a mortgage, and a car payment. (Notice we didn't mention student loans. Everyone has those, right?) Though you may not feel like such an inquiry is appropriate, you should be confident that your future law partner won't hit the financial desperation point in a few months and either ditch the firm (leaving you to cover the overhead) or worse (dip into the trust account).

Have any other suggestions for things we should consider before jumping into bed (metaphorically!) with a practice partner? Any fun horror stories? Share them with us on Twitter or Facebook.

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