Some Blowback, Some Thank Yous To Are You A Solo? Do You Think You Are An Entrepreneur? Think, Again.

Some Blowback, Some Thank Yous To Are You A Solo? Do You Think You Are An Entrepreneur? Think, Again.

law office law firmLast month, I wrote an article showcasing the difference, in my opinion, between a solo who is self-employed and a solo who is an entrepreneur. This month, I want to share some reactions I received because it highlights the very reason I wrote the article — there is incredible pressure out there from both the profession and each individual solo who ventures forth to set up shop, that somehow they must build empires and be deemed entrepreneurs or they’ve failed as a solo practitioner or are ‘merely’ self-employed.

Email #1

I wanted to reach out and let you know I disagree with your article entitled “Are You A Solo? Think You Are An Entrepreneur? Think Again”, which seemingly has the sole intention of putting solo practitioners “in their place” by reminding them they are not entrepreneurs, but merely working for themselves. Not only do I not agree with your findings, I find it extremely offensive.

This is the definition of entrepreneur:

“A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”

I am starting my own law practice. But I do not think of it as a law “practice”. I am operating it like a business. I am taking on debt. I am putting systems in place to make my business scalable. When people ask me how many people are in my firm, I say, “Just me for now, but I don’t intend on it remaining that way for long.” I am taking classes and seminars on marketing. I have hired business coaches and website experts to capture and follow up on as many leads as possible. I have a cash flow analysis that tells me what I need to be doing for the next three years to hit my targets. If this is not “organizing and operating a business” by “taking on greater than normal financial risks”, I don’t know what is.

Whether or not you agree with the above, I think what bothered me the most about you article was its seemingly sole intention of making lawyers starting their own law firm feel like shit. Is it really necessary to remind us that we are merely self-employed, not entrepreneurs? I can assure you that, as a woman supporting myself in NYC, I don’t appreciate the insinuation that the incredible risks I am taking – both financial and otherwise – do not qualify me for “entrepreneur” status, but merely “self-employed.” It’s pretty demoralizing. I don’t think this is the message you want to be sending to your core audience.”

Email #2:

“I just finished reading “…Do you Think You Are An Entrepreneur? Think Again.” Thank you for validating self-employment as an alternative to the entrepreneur model that seems to be hyped by every blogger and author out there with an opinion on solo practice.

Ever since going solo 2 ½ years ago, I’ve listened to and read people going on about being an entrepreneur and working “on” as opposed to “in” a business.  The whole time, I’ve wondered whether I’ve just been missing something basic about why we do this. It was refreshing and reassuring to hear from someone who doesn’t start from the premise that we all should aspire to be tycoons first and lawyers second.   

Thank you for that message.

Email #3:

Your article really opened my mind to the distinction between being self-employed and an entrepreneur. I’ve worked for my dad’s law firm since graduating law school some 20 years ago. He’s always prided himself on being an entrepreneur. And, if I’m being honest, I’ve always felt so restricted and smothered in this practice. 

Thanks to your article, I believe I now understand why.

For all of my legal career, my dad has resisted any efforts I’ve suggested to re-imagine and re-shape how we deliver legal services. He feared opening up exposure and liability from straying from the path beaten by other lawyers. I’ve nicknamed him Dr. No because the immediate response to any new suggestion or innovation is met with a resounding no. I exhaust energy trying to convince him of the merits of these ideas and when/if I convince him, I have nothing left to expend on execution of my ideas. 

Your example with cupcakes really drove the distinction home.

The reason I shared these responses is because every solo needs to have a vision of their practice, what they are trying to build and how it works with the goals for their lives, both professionally and personally. There is nothing worse than responding to external pressure from a profession first and building a practice that strives to hit an ever-moving target instead of building a practice which works for you. And in that freedom you will be either self-employed or an entrepreneur, or start out as one and evolve into the other. Just be comfortable in your own professional skin while you’re doing it and you will meet success as defined by your personal goals.

Susan Cartier Liebel is the Founder and CEO of Solo Practice University®, an online educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students who want to create and grow their solo/small firm practices. She is a coach and consultant for solos, an entrepreneur mentor for, a member of the advisory board for the innovative Suffolk School of Law – Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation, an attorney who started her own practice right out of law school, an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law for eight years teaching law students how to open their own practices, a frequent speaker, and a columnist for LawyersUSA Weekly, The Connecticut Law Tribune, The Complete Lawyer, and She has contributed to numerous legal publications and books offering both practical knowledge and inspiration. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, and you can email her at


Published at Wed, 08 Mar 2017 00:44:23 +0000

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