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15 Must-Have Traits of Successful Attorneys: The Keys to Solo Practice Prosperity

February 16, 2023 (7 min read)

Updated November 20, 2023

What makes a solo attorney successful?  

There’s no clear-cut formula for rising above the competition and standing out as a solo practice; however, there are myriad traits that successful lawyers tend to have in common, ranging from well-developed expertise to an impeccable ability to handle stress. Becoming aware of these characteristics can help you strategize a plan for both personal and professional development – both of which are necessary for a long and satisfying career.  

Get started by checking out this list of 15 of the most common traits successful solo legal practitioners share, and use the tips listed to dive headfirst into your next big achievement.

1. Strong Technical Skills

A deep and technical understanding of the law is the cornerstone of a successful practice. While this may seem obvious, it’s important to bear in mind the importance of keeping your technical skills sharp over time – especially in solo practice, where you may have limited access to resources. Give yourself a competitive edge by continuously looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge.

2. Effective Communication Skills

It’s your job to help clients understand complex issues so don't underestimate the power of excellent communication. Focus on clarity and simplicity. Developing this skill can help build trust and promote positive client relationships.

3. Strategic Thinking and Problem-Solving Abilities

The best lawyers are creative – especially when you’re managing a firm and representing clients at the same time (as any solo attorney does). Your ability to think creatively can make the difference between finding a unique solution or ultimately losing in court.  

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4. Exceptional Client Service

You are well-positioned to provide thorough expertise and care. Being responsive, attentive, and proactive in serving clients' needs helps to build a formidable reputation and create repeat business. 

5. Clear Marketing and Branding Strategy

You may not be a marketer, but you are running a business – and marketing is a key element of success. Understand the target market and develop a clear message. Create a plan for reaching and engaging with potential clients – and stick to it.  

6. Time Management and Organizational Skills

Because you manage all aspects of your practice, organizational and time-management skills are imperative for staying on top of deadlines and promoting client satisfaction, which goes a long way with word-of-mouth reputation.

 7. Continuous Professional Development

Never stop learning. Invest in your professional development by staying up to date on changes to your practice area and by continuing your education.  

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8. Financial Discipline and Budgeting Abilities

Your budget is a road map – and crafting that map is a skill that requires practice. An excellent budget, coupled with the discipline to stay on track, can empower you to make sound decisions regarding business purchases. You may surprise yourself by what you can afford – and by how promising your next year may seem.  

9. Ability to Adapt and Embrace Technology

In today's rapidly changing legal landscape, you must be able to adapt and embrace innovative technologies. This includes everything from legal research tools to practice management software, and beyond. Not only can this help prepare your firm for a possible expansion (next-gen lawyers are voicing strong preferences regarding law firm technology), legal technology can help you compete against large law. 

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10. Strong Work Ethic and Self-Motivation

Who wins cases? Self-motivated attorneys do. No one said the legal industry would be easy – it's important to maintain a sense of drive through your most complex cases.

11. Networking and Business Development Skills

Building and maintaining relationships is a critical aspect of growing a firm. You must be able to network effectively and build relationships with other professionals, clients, and referral sources. 

12. Reputation for Integrity and Professionalism 

Upholding a reputation for integrity and professionalism is not just a matter of pride, it's a matter of survival. By taking your responsibilities seriously and always striving to do the right thing, you can create a positive image for yourself and your practice, setting you up for long-term success. 

13. Ability to Balance Workload and Maintain Work-Life Balance

Attorneys have a reputation for working long hours – but if you work too much, you could burn out. Play the long game by taking breaks, establishing good work-life balance habits, and investing time in hobbies outside of your profession. This keeps your brain sharp and ensures you’re ready to win for years to come.  

14. Good Relationships with Colleagues, Clients, and Industry Professionals

Strong relationships help to create opportunities for growth and build a supportive network of professionals. You never know who you may need to lean on for help or what opportunities will arise with solid alliances.

15. Ability to Effectively Manage Stress and Maintain a Positive Outlook 

The legal profession can be stressful, and solo attorneys are often under significant pressure to meet deadlines, manage demanding clients, and handle complex legal issues. What can be demoralizing for some can be invigorating for others. And even if you’re not a glass-half-full kind of character, resilience is at the heart of being able to bounce back from an oftentimes intense environment. 

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The attributes outlined in this article are vital for the success of solo attorneys. From technical expertise to the capacity to handle stress and maintain a positive attitude, each trait holds great significance. 

LexisNexis is here to support solo attorneys. With a range of offerings and resources available help you to streamline legal research, manage clients, and grow your expertise, we work alongside you to help you win. Contact us to learn more about how Lexis+ can help you stand out against the competition.

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