Originally Posted by munchausen
Who here has done it? I've got the money saved to live on for about 6 months, I've got a space to use in the short term (i will probably do most of the work from home, but I have a space I can use to meet clients that I can pay for with a few hours of work per week), I even have a source of at least a few clients already lined up. Given these facts, what is your advice? What are mistakes I need to be on the lookout for? How do I market a new solo form run by a relatively young attorney?
I'm 26 and run my own part time practice in addition to clerking for a judge. Some solid advice in this thread so far. Here's what I can add: 1) Get a website NOW.
Clients won't find you by the yellow pages any more. Many of them are simply Google searching "Lawyer 'insert name of your town'" and calling whoever's name comes up. 2) Read. A lot.
Join the ABA SoloSez Listserv. It's a mailing list of several hundred (thousand?) attorneys who are all willing to share knowledge, forms, stories, etc. It's free and you don't have to be an ABA member. Read Jay Foonberg's How to Start and Manage a Law Practice
and Carolyn Elefant's Solo By Choice
. Read as many websites dedicated to solo practice as possible - like MyShingle
for example. 3) Figure out what you want to practice ultimately, but don't be too picky starting out.
I want to ultimately have a 90% criminal defense practice. Up to this point, though, I've gotten small businesses, condo associations, landlord tenant cases, etc. 4) Get paid. First.
Cash up front. Foonberg's Rule: It's better to not to the work and not get paid than to do the work and not get paid. 5) Think About Marketing.
I'm not talking billboards or daytime TV ads, but actually targeted marketing. For example: my practice is neighborhood based. I named my practice after my neighborhood. I have a logo that invokes my neighborhood and is readily identifiable (because my last name is a pain to spell). I've printed up 500 beverage coasters and given them to local bars and sent announcement cards to all my attorney compadres and local businesses. Total cost = about $300.00. But all I need is one client to cover that cost. Antecdote: I serve on a local board for a theater. Because of some litigation, we ended up on the People's Court as a plaintiff. We won. The other attorney on the board and I issued a press release as soon as we left the taping. Turn these things into opportunities to showcase yourself. Don't forget AVVO and Yelp. 6) $$$.
Make sure you have reserves. If you live with another person, I hope they're working too to provide income. 6 months is not a lot of money. Focus on keeping expenses LOW. Do you really need engraved letterhead on linen paper? 7) Join your local bar, boards, and business associations.
I've gotten clients from each of these. 8) Volunteer
. Philadelphia has a program called Volunteer Lawyers for the Indigent Program. We take pro bono cases that have been screened by Community Legal Services. You do a good job, your client spreads the word and you get referrals from them. If you have a local court appointment list, get on it. I'm up for misdemeanor appointments and traffic court appointments. After some more time in practice, I will be eligible for felony appointments. It's not going to make me a millionaire, but it helps. 9) Refer work out.
If your jurisdiction permits it, refer work to other attorneys and get referral fees. Try to farm all the cases you can for the intake process, then assess whether and to whom you'll refer the cases. I refer out my employment, family law, and PI cases. 10) Get Lucky.
Yep. Luck matters a lot.
Originally Posted by munchausen
Update on this thread: My life has been a real whirlwind since I started this thread, but I've already secured a loan and a flexible, part time paying gig, signed up a couple of clients, and gotten yet another local practice to promise me some of their referrals. I think this thing is going to happen a lot faster than I thought and I think I will be turning in my notice sooner than I expected. It's amazing how fast things can happen when you focus entirely on them.
A promise and $0.89 will get you a Cheesy Double Beef Burrito at Taco Bell. Just be careful, as many attorneys are quick to promise referrals but slow to deliver them.