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Leaving Big Law As a Seasoned Lawyer

A seasoned lawyer has certain advantages when leaving big law to start a boutique law firm

seasoned_lawyerIn our work, we interact daily with lawyers who have chosen to start their own practices. For a seasoned lawyer considering a move away from Big Law, the change can feel daunting. However, your experience places you at a competitive advantage.

Taking the first step

If you have worked for an established law firm for several years, taking the first step away from the known can feel overwhelming and uncertain. You know the landscape at your current firm. The cases and clients are familiar, comfortable territory. You fit.

If you’re reading this post, it’s likely not a perfect fit, though. Right? Part of you knows there must be something more out there, or something calls you in a different direction for the next phase of your law career.

That next phase could be independent law practice. If that thought has crossed your mind, you owe it to yourself to consider it more seriously.

Talk to other seasoned lawyers who have ventured out on their own. Ask a million questions. Their answers might surprise you. While starting any new business carries inherent challenges and risks, many independent lawyers have found success and a renewed feeling of freedom in their practices.

Charting a new course

One hurdle seasoned lawyers must overcome? Learning to do things a new way, rather than the old way. From billing to types of cases, you don’t need to model your new law firm after your old one.

In fact, your years of experience can help you create something new. That something new might even be better — for you and for your clients. Think about:

  • What worked well at your old law firm; what didn’t
  • Process or client service improvements that could set your new practice apart
  • Firm culture and what’s most important for your career and personal life moving forward (work-life balance can factor in to your new business model)
  • Your personal work style and what differentiates you from other lawyers

When establishing an independent law practice or small law firm, you have the flexibility and freedom to do things your way. You also have the benefit of learning from a big, successful law firm. You know what works well and what doesn’t, and that’s knowledge you can only really gain first-hand.

Use your experience to your advantage

As a seasoned lawyer, you have a head start in creating a brand and developing a client base. Your years of experience can only serve to establish your credibility and show potential clients your value.

As you launch your new law firm, think strategically about how to present your past experience.

If you worked for a well-known and well-respected big law firm, it might be helpful to mention the firm’s name. However, remember to sell yourself and not your old firm. When writing about or talking about your resume, think carefully about what matters most to a potential client:

  • How many cases you have handled
  • Whether you have experience on cases like theirs
  • How much court experience you have
  • Large settlement amounts or contracts negotiated

Your clients will respond well if you show an ease and deep knowledge of your practice area. Even if you can’t discuss details of specific past cases, you can talk in more general terms about your experience with a certain type of case or area of the law.

Beyond your resume, you will also want to present a personal and firm brand to potential clients. Give them a feel for what it’s like to work with you vs. a larger firm. Tell your story and share a little bit of your personality.

Starting a new law firm leads you down the next leg of your career journey. It can bring both personal and professional satisfaction to create something new, even if you are decades into your career.

If you have considered starting an independent law practice, contact us. We offer unique office space to lawyers in Denver. Each of our three locations allows you to build and grow your independent law practice or small law firm in a way that’s best suited to you.