The first thing before you go solo

When I began preparations to go solo four months ago, the most important thing I did was to create a business plan. I didn’t think I had time to do it— I would have rather continued to prepare my forms, create procedures and protocols, work on the website and try to secure more referral sources. I do mostly plaintiffs’ personal injury (auto accidents, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice) and I was of course wanting to hit the ground running because of the long lead time for income in those cases. Settlements don’t typically happen for about nine-to-12 months in a routine auto case, and it can take longer if a lawsuit needs to be filed. Four months out, however, the business plan is something I refer to at least once a week and I’m glad I made it. My bank required one to accompany my application for a business line of credit. They told me to hire an accountant, an expense that was not in my budget (even before I made a budget), so I did it myself. Creating a business plan took me a full week of work and my line of credit was approved (I haven’t tapped into it yet, and I don’t intend to; it’s a nice safety net). An accountant probably could have made it better, but this is where the law of diminishing returns comes into play. My business plan followed the pattern of “worst-case scenario.” (Worst case except for abject failure, anyway.) I tried to be conservative with all of my expectations; I deliberately underestimated the number of new cases I expected to receive every month, the amount of time from intake to resolution and the likely fee for each of those cases. I tried to overestimate my expenses. This is the plan I submitted to the bank.

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