Mentorship is a Secret Weapon for Solo Practitioners and Small Firms, 0121 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 1 Pg. 22

PositionVol. 50, 1 [Page 22]

50 Colo.Law. 22

Mentorship is a Secret Weapon for Solo Practitioners and Small Firms

Vol. 50, No. 1 [Page 22]

Colorado Lawyer

January, 2021



New attorneys often begin their legal careers in law firms[1] and government law offices.[2] This is an excellent way to gain experience and start building a network. But if you're like many attorneys, your ultimate goal is to start your own firm and work for yourself. While entrepreneurship has its upsides, the journey to a successful and profitable small or solo law firm is often long, bumpy, and lonely. The right kind of support is crucial for making it through these times so you can ultimately enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Participating in mentorship programs is one way to smooth the road ahead and build fruitful professional relationships along the way.[3] Moreover, once your practice is established, mentorship can help you stay successfully engaged in business ownership and take your firm to the next level.

Mentorship Benefits

Becoming a lawyer is a significant accomplishment, as is owning a business. Doing both simultaneously is on another level of difficulty. When you open your own firm, you lose the safety net of working in Big Law or being employed in someone else's firm. The financial challenges of owning a business come down squarely on your shoulders.

This can be not only scary, but also isolating. Long after you have finished your casework for the day, you could be up looking at tax bills, balancing your payroll, and trying to figure out how much you need to make to get through the next quarter. The long hours and isolation can drain a new solo practitioner's motivation quickly. Some will consider giving up.

As any business owner will tell you, running your own business is messy. Some days you will work 18 hours without remembering to eat. Some weeks you will wonder why you even took this route. And some months you will not be sure whether you can pull ahead financially. An effective mentor can help you overcome these challenges. Research indicates that while only half of all small businesses survive five or more years,70% of small business owners who are mentored stay in business for five years or more.[4]

Flattening the Learning Curve

Law school teaches you how to be a lawyer, but not necessarily how to be a business owner—and it provides even less insight about how to wear both hats simultaneously. In the early stages of creating and launching a small law firm, owners can find the support they need in mentors.

Laying the proper groundwork ensures easier operations down the road, but without previous business ownership experience, it is unlikely that a new firm owner will know what this groundwork entails. A mentor who provides in-depth business advice and insight can flatten the learning curve and help you avoid common errors.

When questions arise regarding the day-to-day management of your law firm, a mentor is essential. Mistakes are part of the learning process, but with a mentor, you can make fewer mistakes while still benefiting from those learning opportunities. This reduces the amount of money and time lost to simple errors.

As a new business owner, you will experience problems that demand fast solutions. Brainstorming works, but for best results, you need a sounding board. Your mentor can work with you through these brainstorming sessions, providing feedback for your proposed ideas and helping you fine-tune those that best fit your needs. This type of relationship is also valuable when you are trying to create relationships with vendors and service providers. A local mentor...

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