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Opening a law office

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by munchausen, May 5, 2011.

  1. VaderDave

    VaderDave Senior member

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    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. [​IMG]
     
  2. VaderDave

    VaderDave Senior member

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    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 [​IMG]

    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.
     
  3. crazyquik

    crazyquik Senior member

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    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.
     
  4. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    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.
     
  5. willpower

    willpower Senior member

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  6. bringusingoodale

    bringusingoodale Senior member

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    As an added bonus, I recommend you immediately start preying on the countless interns who want to practice law or want to learn about what it means to be a lawyer and all that....
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    Does anyone know of a service where I could get a legal assistant for about 10 hours a week or so? It's not enough work that I can afford to hire someone full time or even part time. I thought about going the law student slave route but I would rather have someone with some training and I don't want to have to work around a school schedule.
     
  8. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    I wouldn't even need them to come into my office most of the time. I do most of my work from home anyway so it could pretty much all be done telecommuting.
     
  9. Harold falcon

    Harold falcon Senior member

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    There are a lot of services that offer temporary legal staffing on a limited basis. Just google temporary legal staffing and you'll find plenty in your area.

    Be aware though that you'll pay more per hour for a limited employee than you would for a full or even part-time regular employee.
     
  10. MattR

    MattR Senior member

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    I'm about to graduate from law school, and this is a potential option for me as well. So I took a solo practice course some alumni were offering at our school. They have extremely successful practices, so I thought I'd pass along some of their advice.

    One thing that gets repeated over and over is to create systems for doing your work. Break things down into component parts and create a process for fulfilling it. For example, if you do get a receptionist or secretary, what do you want them to tell clients walking in the door? Also, how are you going to allocate the resources you do have to maximize the time you can spend providing a service to the client. It sounds like micromanagement, but it's really a matter of delegation and how to get it done. Someone said it earlier, but think like a businessman, not a lawyer.

    Also, don't just see your salary as a function of whatever is left in the account after paying overhead. Think about what you'd like to make, within reason, and make it part of overhead. This isn't a guaranteed paycheck, but it will help you to understand exactly how much work you really need to bring in to get your practice where you want it.

    There is a lot of great advice on here, especially from those already slugging it out. So, if what I've said conflicts with them, chances are good they are right(er) than I am.

    Another book I could recommend is The E-myth Attorney. Very short and to the point. I've also heard great things about the Jay Foonberg book.

    Good luck!
     
  11. Blackhood

    Blackhood Senior member

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    People per Hour is a great outsourcing website. Gets a huge amount done without my thinking about it.
     
  12. El Argentino

    El Argentino Senior member

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    You are the kind of person I'll be interning for during summers...? *shudder*

    Congrats that your practice is taking off. Hope to be in your shoes in 4 years.
     
  13. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    If you're lucky :tounge:
     
  14. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    I've been running my own practice for about 3 years now after working for a big firm. I'm still not making what I made at the big firm, but I'm getting there. If I could give you one piece of advice, it's this: forget about the books on how to run a law firm and all that; instead, get some books on how to effectively network. The hardest part of running a law firm (at any level really) is developing business and the best way to develop business is to network effectively. I recommend books like "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi. Learn how to master the art of business development, and all of the rest of that stuff will just fall in place. And, if you don't have any business, then it doesn't matter if you know how to delegate to your secretary or not.
     
  15. NorCal

    NorCal Senior member

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    Would you recommend a custom one of a kind font or do you just suggest getting a professionals help in finding a nice one pre-designed one?
     
  16. VaderDave

    VaderDave Senior member

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    I dunno. I would think that any of a number of existing fonts would be fine. I don't actually know anyone who designs fonts, so it never occurred to me to do that.
     
  17. VaderDave

    VaderDave Senior member

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    I'll have to check out the E-myth book. A financial planner I know told me that he had read the non-attorney version and that it changed his whole practice.
     
  18. MattR

    MattR Senior member

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    That is almost word for word what my profs said about how it affected the way they run their practice.
     
  19. VaderDave

    VaderDave Senior member

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    I downloaded it last night and read about half of it. I'll probably finish it today. It's very thought-provoking, at just the right time. The end of the year is when I review how things have gone and set goals/direction for the next year. This year my changes may be a little more drastic than in years past.
     
  20. MattR

    MattR Senior member

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    hope it goes well! glad to hear it at least gave you some pause.
     

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