No job? Simple: go solo. Really?

First, a little perspective. The New York Times recently reported a study that compared available full-time job openings in the general population with the number of people unemployed.  The ugly results: six people for every job, the worst ratio since researchers began tracking those numbers. 

Opportunities for new attorneys may not be much better.  Summer positions are disappearing.  Employers are retreating from on-campus interviews.  And the big firms are downsizing. 

Against that backdrop, law school career counselors have pulled out all the stops, advising students to try smaller markets, to consider alternative careers, or to open solo practices.  Yes, solo practices.  No less than the executive director of NALP predicted that more grads would strike out alone in the next few years (“As OCIs Drop at Top Law Schools, NALP Official Predicts More Grads Will Go Solo,” ABA Journal, Sept. 23, 2009). 

Well, I suppose you could pull it off (in Narnia), but it seems crazy, as a new attorney, to hang a shingle in this economy.  Most start-up businesses fail within the first two years, and in the legal profession, specifically, the most common reason is a lack of investment capital.  You need enough money to carry the firm through years of losses while working toward the breakeven point (consider the start-up and operating costs: rent, furniture, utilities, insurance, phone, Internet, computers, legal research services, advertising, etc.). 

On the one hand, it would be difficult for a cash-strapped law graduate (student loans, anyone?) to produce that kind of money.  It would be even more difficult to do so in this economy.  On the other hand, at the rate banks have been approving business loans (think glaciers), it would be tough for anyone to secure that kind of capital. 

But what do you think?  Would you strike out alone in this economy?  Why or why not? 

by Jon Peters, a third-year student at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, is student editor and columnist for The National Jurist