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Opening a law office - Page 3

post #31 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by munchausen View Post
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.
Great news!
post #32 of 82
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, I'm very excited.
post #33 of 82
Lots and lots of good advice here. If you're not already a member, join your state's trial bar. They have list-servs. At least in my state, the list-servs are gold. With your membership (sometimes free or reduced to new entrants to the practice) you'll probably have to pick a section. These section list-servs have all the forms, rules, common practice, etc on them. In my opinion, this is the quickest way to learn to practice criminal law or family law (especially if there is a new-admittee/young lawyer division too). You can also volunteer to help write an amicus brief for the association, and by virtue of that, meet older/established lawyers in the association and the lawyers of the party-appellants. In many jurisdictions, you can get your name on a 'list' at the local courthouse to take overflow criminal appointed cases. There are also appellate lists, but you need to have half a brain for those and often there are a few other hoops (have to have done X-many appeals in the past). Those cases pay $75/hr up to a limit here. Don't pick up a pencil until you're paid. There is a reason so many attorneys require a retainer to bill against; there's nothing as useless as used legal services. Luckily, criminal cases pay in advance and you should always get a retainer on domestic cases too. Once the retainer is empty, don't hesitate to stop working if the client doesn't fill it back up. If you do good work, you'll be surprised at how quickly your reputation grows. If you have an iota of tax knowledge, there's also a pretty big need for people to do IRS collections defense. Everyone in the process thinks they are facing jail time, when often it's just civil penalties. They can typically pay, because they own enough things to 1) owe taxes and 2) are worried about forfeiture to the IRS. Tax collections are complex and scary enough to ward off a lot of competition; and a good website with "tax defense" "irs collections" "tax liens" etc and the name of your state in the search terms will get you a lot of traffic. There are also pretty solid CLE books on this narrow area of the law, and with the economy in the dump and the IRS ramping up enforcement there's a lot of demand Malpractice insurance is easy to get and not that expensive as long as you aren't doing high value business transactions or real estate closings.
post #34 of 82
Thread Starter 
Awesome. IRS defense sounds great. I will look into it. Thanks for the advice.
post #35 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eponym View Post
Be a problem solver. Always think of your services through the lens of a businessman, not a lawyer. Why is your client paying you and not someone else? That's a question you should always ask yourself.


+100
post #36 of 82
Also get admitted to the US Tax Court..clients love this stuff (This is not me....)
post #37 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by munchausen View Post
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.
Quote:
Originally Posted by munchausen View Post
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.
post #38 of 82
Thread Starter 
Have any of you used the Abacus Sky service? The price seems decent but I've never dealt with it before.
post #39 of 82
I'm not sure what jurisdiction you're in, but Florida offers some good (and FREE) law firm management advice through LOMAS. See if there is an equivalent in your state, and have them give you some free advice on good suppliers for anything from software to office supplies. Also, be sure to keep your books and records straight. I'm not solo and not very experienced, but I've noticed that almost all the suspensions or disbarrments occur once the operating funds are comingled with the client trust funds. I'm only about 8 months into working at a firm and I have my own crazy ideas of opening my own shop and working from home.
post #40 of 82
Good luck, I hope you keep us posted with your progress. I'm a law student right now, but I'd really like to go solo and start my own firm a couple years after I'm out of school. It seems very daunting though. I'm at a "top" school that caters to biglaw careers, so the focus is really on that. It seems that no one but me came to law school with an entrepreneurial goal -- everyone just wants a cushy job. I didn't come to law school because I wanted to sit in an office for 12 hours a day reviewing boxes of discovery as one tiny cog in a machine. Plus I really hate the prospect of working for someone else forever Can any solos share any tips or advice for a law student like me who wants to strike out on his own as soon as he has enough experience? Do those of you who are solo enjoy it? There's an incessant stereotype that all solos are doomed to a life of poverty and Lionel Hutz-dom, and very little actual, objective information on earning potential for people who are considering such a career.
post #41 of 82
This has been a good thread. It has helped me remember to do a few things, marketing-wise and practice-management-wise, that I had sort of slacked off on for a couple of years.
post #42 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTenenbaum View Post
Good luck, I hope you keep us posted with your progress.

I'm a law student right now, but I'd really like to go solo and start my own firm a couple years after I'm out of school. It seems very daunting though. I'm at a "top" school that caters to biglaw careers, so the focus is really on that. It seems that no one but me came to law school with an entrepreneurial goal -- everyone just wants a cushy job. I didn't come to law school because I wanted to sit in an office for 12 hours a day reviewing boxes of discovery as one tiny cog in a machine. Plus I really hate the prospect of working for someone else forever

Can any solos share any tips or advice for a law student like me who wants to strike out on his own as soon as he has enough experience? Do those of you who are solo enjoy it?

There's an incessant stereotype that all solos are doomed to a life of poverty and Lionel Hutz-dom, and very little actual, objective information on earning potential for people who are considering such a career.

It's really quite difficult. It's hard to find new clients when you are a new solo. If you have an opportunity to work at a large law firm, it's probably good, because then you can jump ship after a couple of years and open your own shop--and you can tell every person who comes through your door that you offer big-firm experience with small-firm service.

I love having my own small firm. In the last couple of years we have taken on new practice areas and hired some associates and extra staff. We are focused on growing in all areas of practice. It's an exciting and scary time for us.
post #43 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by munchausen View Post
Awesome. IRS defense sounds great. I will look into it. Thanks for the advice.
Also, buy a debt collection CLE (or go to one, if there is a seminar around). The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (and there is probably a state-level analog in your jurisdiction) is basically a gold mine. Few attorneys practice in that area, and most debt collectors are basically thugs (granted, your clients are mostly deadbeats). There are statutory penalties for violating it (up to $1000 per violation) but there is also a (mostly) one-way fee shifting provision. So the client quits getting calls where the debt collector threatens to throw them in jail, and even gets like $500 or $1000 because the debt collector threatened to call their boss or get them fired. You, on the other hand, can collect substantial fees at your hourly rate. Further, these cases almost never go to trial, they are typically settled or decided on summary judgment. They are also very low overhead. It's not like a personal injury case where you might need to shell out $1200-$5000 for the medical experts before even filing the lawsuit. Plus, in this economy, there are a lot of people not paying their debts! And at the same time, there is a lot of zombie debt popping up and being sold and resold on the secondary debt-market. Sometimes you can sue 10 defendants at once if they just keep reselling the bad debt amongst themselves and continue harassing your client.
post #44 of 82
Thread Starter 
I just wanted to update this thread in case anyone is at all interested:

My practice has finally gotten to the point where I'm going to make more this year than I would have at my old job. A lot of that is due to a very good PI settlement I just got done but after a lot of hard work, things are stable and getting better every day.

I appreciate all of the advice here, especially the ones about being open minded about what kind of practice I did. A friend of mine let me borrow his SEO tools and we found that employment lawyer was a popular search term but that almost nobody was competing for it. So I gave myself a crash course in Employment law, set up some ads and within a month had signed up three clients for wage and hour claims.

Anyway, obviously I'm a long way away from where I want to be but for anyone out there who is thinking of making that step, I just want to say that not only can it be done but it's surprisingly easy.
post #45 of 82
Read this book, it talks about the most important parts of being a successful law firm - working on the business vs working in the business, and creating turnkey procedures that you can teach new hires.

http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Attorney-Legal-Practices-About/dp/0470503653/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3
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