Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

High volume practice areas for solo

I am a former solo looking to dip my toes in again. This tim uzername08/07/17
Family is a good area. I worked with a firm where all the at becksquire08/07/17
thanks. I've been thinking about family, but I just know not uzername08/07/17
Be very, very careful with this business model. These cases guyingorillasuit08/08/17
yeah, that makes sense. thanks. I should probably just gi uzername08/08/17
family law is also a miserable practice area. not one I'd d dingbat08/08/17
Gigs is right on. Besides some standard court forms it'd alm thirdtierlaw08/08/17
Family court is depressing. You don't want any part of it. isthisit08/08/17
work Comp. but guess what? every other atty in that field us vohod08/07/17
Does he own the debt or do collections for others? uzername08/07/17
He primarily clearinghouses accounts through to regional fi vohod08/07/17
Tough question: If you didn't make it with immigration, what superttthero08/07/17
I actually did make it in immigration when I had a niche, bu uzername08/07/17
I share the concerns of many others on here. Few attorneys " mrtor08/08/17
Depending on location, immigration seems to be a good practi confused1l9308/09/17
The only high volume areas of practice are the crappy ones l trickydick08/09/17
is this supposed to discourage me? lol. the whole point is I uzername08/13/17
No, it was meant to give you an honest assessment of the leg trickydick08/14/17
sorry, I'm still in the 2009 JDU mindset where 90% of posts uzername08/15/17
Agree with trickydick. High Volume law practices must become confused1l9308/13/17
It's funny because so many people on the website scoff at th thirdtierlaw08/13/17
In my town, it is always family law and criminal defense. Th onehell08/14/17

uzername (Aug 7, 2017 - 7:42 pm)

I am a former solo looking to dip my toes in again. This time I'd like to build a high volume leveraged practice where I can primarily engage in business development, client relations, and leadership of the company rather than get bogged down with administrative work.

I've started businesses in the past and feel comfortable with that aspect. I just need to narrow down my practice area.

Which areas lend themselves to high volume? I also want to charge fixed fees and be incentivized for being able to drive down costs. I'm not afraid to compete for clients on cost while also delivering quality. I'm not a scammer nor unethical (I charge low/decent fees and don't gouge based on client's fears).

My last practice area was immigration but I'm open to finding another commodity area. I'm looking for something where the work is generally repeatable and can be done by paralegals with attorney oversight.

I am struggling to find opportunities though. Consumer bankruptcy doesn't seem appealing. PI on the decline and locked up by major firms. In immigration clients just didn't seem to have any money and I believe this is a recurring theme with anything catering to the middle class. Any ideas?

My skills:

* Strong marketing (SEO / web / etc) skills
* Excel at client consultations, emotional intelligence, empathy, gaining client's trust. Well presented.
* Proficiency with technology to develop processes and workflows to gain efficiency

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becksquire (Aug 7, 2017 - 7:59 pm)

Family is a good area. I worked with a firm where all the attorney did was go to court. His well supervised and competent staff did nearly everything else. It worked really well because staff did everything they could while the attorney did only what a licensed attorney has to do. Kept the cost low and was a really streamlined system. This was in CA, not sure if different somewhere else.

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uzername (Aug 7, 2017 - 8:31 pm)

thanks. I've been thinking about family, but I just know nothing about the practice as I've never met a solo family lawyer. Is the money in child custody disputes more than divorce for middle classes? I would imagine without much assets to fight over, there's not a lot of money to make. But I have no idea.

nice thing about family law is you don't necessarily need to be in a huge city, right? also, it lends itself to a "retail walk-in" concept I think, which is something I'm interested in.

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guyingorillasuit (Aug 8, 2017 - 12:43 am)

Be very, very careful with this business model. These cases are fact intensive, and if you show up to court unprepared, you will get destroyed. Most mills I know (and I define a mill as a volume firm where most of the work is done by paralegals) are in PI. There are exactly zero successful family law mills in my area. Court appearances are frequent, client relationships are important, and you must be available to take their calls, not the secretary.

I am a solo family law lawyer, and I know dozens of other family law solos. This is not a practice area that is easily converted to a mill.

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uzername (Aug 8, 2017 - 12:56 am)

yeah, that makes sense. thanks.

I should probably just give up and look into starting a real business.

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dingbat (Aug 8, 2017 - 7:56 am)

family law is also a miserable practice area. not one I'd do if all you want to do is biz dev

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 8, 2017 - 9:18 am)

Gigs is right on. Besides some standard court forms it'd almost be detrimental to the client and likely cost the client more money in the long run.

I find that filling out the forms myself after meeting with the client drastically cuts down on future prep time.

The reason the family court is considered the "wild west" is that the law is minimal, the statutes are by design fuzzy, and the trial court gets great deference. So you need the facts down cold for a hearing.

Add in that family law requires much more hand holding. They want to talk to "their attorney," not a paralegal, because her "ex-husband was 5 minutes late dropping the kids off so she wants to demand full legal custody of the children."

Agh, hate family law, though it can be easy money.

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isthisit (Aug 8, 2017 - 8:17 am)

Family court is depressing. You don't want any part of it.

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vohod (Aug 7, 2017 - 7:57 pm)

work Comp. but guess what? every other atty in that field uses this model.


The best law firm success story I have seen is a guy who owns a multi-office Southeast collections mill. He lives on a Key while legions of morons like me drive the volume.

He is never in court or in a suit

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uzername (Aug 7, 2017 - 8:19 pm)

Does he own the debt or do collections for others?

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vohod (Aug 7, 2017 - 8:33 pm)

He primarily clearinghouses accounts through to regional firms around the 50 states.

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superttthero (Aug 7, 2017 - 9:38 pm)

Tough question: If you didn't make it with immigration, what makes you think you can do it in other practice areas?

I am not asking rhetorically, but earnestly curious why you think this time around you'll be successful, without even having a practice area in mind.

FWIW, immigration is a great practice area for what you are describing because once you have the volume to bring in 1-2 assistants, they can handle 90% of hounding clients for documents, filling out the forms, and more which you just check over.

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uzername (Aug 7, 2017 - 9:46 pm)

I actually did make it in immigration when I had a niche, but my niche gradually disappeared. I got scared by the dry months and didn't think I could make it in "general" immigration. Got distracted by other opptys. I did literally zero networking and referral sourcing; all web based. This time around I'm going to do a lot more of that and try to ride out the early years and get a referral base going too. Also, I'll be in a different market with the ability to avoid paying rent for a while.

I most likely will return to immigration but wanted to explore other options.

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mrtor (Aug 8, 2017 - 9:39 am)

I share the concerns of many others on here. Few attorneys "construct" a successful solo practice from scratch. They usually start with another firm, develop their own book of business or ascend to management, and then simply branch out with their existing business and resources. Others are lucky enough to have deeply rooted familial and friendship connections that can generate steady business. It doesn't sound like you are in either of these foundational positions.

The problem with many solos is that they think a good website, some advertising, and shaking hands at a mixer will unlock the keys to success. The reality is that "free agent" clients are scarce. VERY scarce. Most worthwhile clients have either worked with another attorney in the past, and will return to him/her, or will know an attorney they want to work with. If you, as a new solo, are neither of those, it is an uphill battle to attract their business or seek out the remaining "free agents."

Attracting individual clients takes a massive referral base and/or a very large, well executed, and costly marketing campaign. Most cannot build the necessary referral base over months or even years. Which makes sense -- I'm not going to risk my reputation by referring clients to some newer solo I've only shared a few drinks with at professional events. Even if I genuinely like the guy, I will probably never have a chance to evaluate his work product or client relationship skills. It is safer to refer clients to an established firm with a reputation for successful results. Likewise, new solos usually do not have the resources to mount and sustain a marketing campaign large enough to attract steady business.

On the other side, nearly every institutional client worth anything is already locked down by another firm. While you may be willing to undercut your competition, law isn't really a market-oriented field. Clients will stay with a higher charging firm based upon their relationship and history. The opportunity to genuinely bid on work or seize an opportunity with a dissatisfied client may take years or even decades to present itself.

Ultimately, choosing a practice area at this stage is counting the chicken before it has hatched. We don't know what kind of business you could take with you to start your solo firm, what your established referral sources will send you, or what will prove to be feasible longer term. There is a difference between what you "want" and what you will "get."

Unfortunately, the field has marginalized the very practice you want to establish. There used to be several lucrative volume-driven practices. SSDI? Crushed by the gov't. Personal injury? Crushed by insurers and gov't tort reform. Bankruptcy? Steadily declining due to the improving economy and health insurance reform. Work comp? Steadily declining due to a shift toward white collar and service industry employment, insurer tactics, and gov't work comp reform.

You can still making a living to doing some of these, but the days of some fat cat laying on the beach with his millions while hordes of lowly compensated drones plug away are coming to a close.

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confused1l93 (Aug 9, 2017 - 2:02 pm)

Depending on location, immigration seems to be a good practice area if you have an "in" with the right ethnic community. Easily leveragable. There are some downsides.

1. You need to get really good at charging and collecting money from clients. I beleive this gets easier

2. If you want to make money doing immigration, your practice must be limited to that practice area. It is not profitable unless you have an infrastructure that allows you to quickly and effectively run through easy cases.

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trickydick (Aug 9, 2017 - 4:24 pm)

The only high volume areas of practice are the crappy ones like PI/comp and immigration. In either field, you'll probably spend more time on "legal marketing" than on legal analysis. Best of luck to you.

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uzername (Aug 13, 2017 - 8:50 pm)

is this supposed to discourage me? lol. the whole point is I want to do more marketing. the less legal "analysis" I do in exchange for money, the better. if I want to do legal analysis all day I'd go clerk for a judge.

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trickydick (Aug 14, 2017 - 4:44 pm)

No, it was meant to give you an honest assessment of the legal market for high volume law work. I work with and meet attorneys who have made millions in high volume case work. These are men with their faces plastered on bench ads and buses who spend a lot of their time negotiating with legal marketers, an unsavory group of people. This can make you rich, I've just never seen anyone neck deep in this aspect of this business talk about enjoying it.

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uzername (Aug 15, 2017 - 10:00 am)

sorry, I'm still in the 2009 JDU mindset where 90% of posts were flame. I appreciate the reality check. I doubt I will end up going solo again. Law really is such a bleak business; it's amazing how little demand there is for our services yet the public still thinks we are something special. The demand from large corporates is irrelevant as we can't just "will our way" into biglaw.

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confused1l93 (Aug 13, 2017 - 4:19 pm)

Agree with trickydick. High Volume law practices must become routine 99 percent of the time. Although, I do not know why people bag on these areas so much. Some people straight up dont like legal analysis and prefer the biz-ness side of things.

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 13, 2017 - 5:18 pm)

It's funny because so many people on the website scoff at the prestige focused nature of the practice.

By far the richest attorney I know is a PI guy. The guy has art work worth millions hanging in his home. He got his start doing slip and fall and fender benders.

Second richest attorney runs a work comp firm. Guy works a 30-40 hour week, has his paralegals and associates do most of the work. Makes $1.5-2mil a year.

The grunt work can be tough, the lowest of the low high volume work can pay off massively.

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onehell (Aug 14, 2017 - 2:22 pm)

In my town, it is always family law and criminal defense. These are the practices where you get your money up-front and charge whatever the market will bear. It's also what walks in the door.

I have lost count of the number of solos in my town who have tried to sustain a practice with business clients but ended up with a divorce-dominated practice. Fact is, big businesses go to big firms and small businesses simply do not need attorneys all that often. They can fill out LLC formation papers and license applications and stuff on their own and in the rare event they do need a lawyer, it's usually something for which their insurance company will just pull from an established roster of captured firms.

And as others have said, family law is high contact and high conflict. It's not something that's susceptible to a mill model or something you can do on the side.

Amongst the locals hereabouts, there's a saying that if you hang a shingle, you're going to end up a divorce lawyer sooner or later. The only thing that varies is how long people stay in denial about it.

Exceptions: Residential landlord tenant, debt collection, HOA law and insurance defense are all susceptible to the mill model. But you've got to get on the right lists for the property managers and debt collection companies and insurance companies and whatnot, which essentially means knowing the right people and they usually already have firms they trust.

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