The Top Five Risk Tips for Solo Attorneys

The Top Five Risk Tips for Solo Attorneys

1) In accordance with ABA Model Rule 1.3, plan for your death or disability by designating a successor attorney. There is an obligation to prevent neglect of a client matter post attorney death or disability.  Therefore, finding someone willing to step in and administer the winding down of your practice should the unexpected ever happen, is of the utmost importance.

2) Develop and nourish personal and professional support systems. Loneliness and isolation can be devastating if left unchecked.  Having colleagues you can to turn to for support when times are hard or even for a little advice when you’re not sure how to proceed on a matter can be invaluable.  People that are there for you in your personal life are even more important. Neglect them and in time there may be no one around to share your life with.

3) Always remember that getting hired isn’t that hard. The hard part is getting paid.  Never take on a client who can’t afford your services.  Doing so serves no one. It’s a fee dispute in the making, a collections problem regardless, and often ends up with having to write off a significant portion of the bill. You really must determine every prospective client’s ability to pay for all proffered services before you take any new matter on.

4) Learn to say no. The inability or refusal to say no can lead to your taking on more matters than you can handle, taking on work that is beyond your comfort zone, or agreeing to work for someone you just know is going to be a “problem client.”  Life’s too short as it is.

5) Don’t forget to take care of yourself. The failure to prioritize yourself can all too easily lead to high levels of stress, burnout, indecisiveness, apathy, and the list goes on. Find a backup attorney and take an extended vacation, at least once a year.  Set aside time each week for the pursuit of personal interests and for heaven’s sake unplug now and again.  Just because you can respond to a call, text, or email 24/7 doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  Set some boundaries and stick to them.

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Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 550 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.