Soloing straight out of law school.

I realize this topic has been discussed, but wanted to get sshikes11/29/12
All sneering aside, if you got a JD you're probably reasonabshithead11/29/12
Start introducing yourself to judges, sitting in on court, dshtlawaspiration11/29/12
I went solo right out of school by choice, I didn't even appjoe1234511/29/12
If you can stomach grossing 25k to 35k your first couple yeamississippilawyer11/29/12
I can stomach grossing 25k for a year or two. My main worry shikes11/29/12
If you can hold out like that, pick an obscure, regulatory pheythere12/01/12
If you need a partner, let me know! :)aterrifiedlawstudent11/29/12
I am trying to do the same. I work fulltime and trying to strazzi11/29/12
Anyone willing to give me their email in case I actually endshikes11/29/12
You can post future questions on here, and other people willguyingorillasuit11/29/12
I'm not sure how it is in other states, but in my state you asdfgh1234511/30/12
I'm in NC. The bar association here has a lawyer referral seshikes11/30/12
There are likely many attorneys on that service, but apparenshtlawaspiration11/30/12
If I ever had to go back, I would do FDCPA cases. FCRA and bigsal11/30/12
Consumer Law is really good. I do it exclusively and will grhelloladies2112/01/12
I left law, but I agree entirely with you on this. Even thebigsal12/01/12
I did this finally gave up. Did really well before the recesattorneydavid12/01/12
I agree with this advice.guyingorillasuit12/01/12
Here, I wrote a blog post about it: http://phillylawblog.jordan12/01/12
Jordan, that's a great blog post. I have worked at a small fflatfee12/01/12
shikes (Nov 29, 2012 - 12:48 pm)

I realize this topic has been discussed, but wanted to get some input after searching around. Soloing is my plan C. Plan A is to take the job I just finished my final interview for, plan B is to take the Bar and apply like hell everywhere else, but if both of those don't work I wanted to give soloing a shot for three reasons: I have at least some capital to start (around 20K), I have a relative who is willing to do all my online stuff (web page creation/updates, google optimization, etc.) for free as well as create business cards for me for free, and I also have had 5 internships throughout law school that were pretty hands on so I at least have SOME idea of what is happening and also have a few mentors that will guide me if needed.

I absolutely pray it doesn't come this this, but if it does: What area of law is somewhat easy to learn? A friend of mine said he takes family law cases on the side cause its quick money and easy to learn. Criminal law has gotten mixed reviews from those I have asked. One attorney told me to do estate planning cause its not really adversarial and there is no court time but I don't know ANYTHING about it.

I realize this is a terrible idea, I pray I dont have to do it, but if I did what areas of law do you think are manageable for a solo straight out of law school?

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shithead (Nov 29, 2012 - 12:51 pm)

All sneering aside, if you got a JD you're probably reasonably adept at learning new things. I'd worry less about which practice area is easiest to learn, and more about your most natural source for clientele.

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shtlawaspiration (Nov 29, 2012 - 12:56 pm)

Start introducing yourself to judges, sitting in on court, do a clinic next semester, anything to self promote. Work those contacts.

If you go solo, you won't be making jack for the first 2-3 years most likely unless you have an "in" somewhere. If you have the guts and money to stick it out, you can get somewhere after a few years. Be aware that for some reason, there is a $50,000 "cap" to what a lot of solos can make. I don't know why, but so many solos seem stuck at that level of income in big cities.

Lean on those mentors, they may be able to tell you what field is good in your area. Are you in a big city? Are you in a bankrupt state like CA that wont be handing out too many paying court appointments? Look up the reqs for court appointments, but make sure that you are comfortable dealing with scummy peeps first. Criminal court appointments can be trouble.

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joe12345 (Nov 29, 2012 - 2:26 pm)

I went solo right out of school by choice, I didn't even apply for a firm job. But, I have a financial safety net from parents, and fiance has a good job. I believe if you can stick it out for a few years you will probably be okay - some people simply have to make more money than they are able to in the beginning, because of kids, no family help, etc. and end up having to find a different job.

As far as areas - shithead is probably right - don't worry about what is "easy", worry about what kind of work you can get. Although this doesn't mean you should attempt a case that is way out of your league.

Solos near me tend to start out with criminal, then add some divorce and family stuff, and maybe simple wills and estates. Afterwords, many will progress towards their own niche and become more specialized, but some choose to stay with criminal. Some areas, like disability, you likely won't get paid for a long time after you sign up the client - therefore as a newbie you probably can't rely on those types of cases and have to slowly evolve into them as you build a client base.

Also, I am legally my own entity, but I share an office with 3 other attorneys who are much more experienced and each deals with different areas of the law (one civil guy, one criminal guy, and one probate/disability guy). So while I am own my own to make money - I have them available to answer questions all day every day. It is also helpful to be able to see them work through more complex cases and see what type of law I want to progress into.

Also, make sure you have some $$$ on hand or maybe even a second job. I got a few nice appointed cases 2 months after passing the bar but they took 4 months to resolve, and the state is slow paying right now so I didn't see any money for maybe 7 months from the cases.

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mississippilawyer (Nov 29, 2012 - 2:57 pm)

If you can stomach grossing 25k to 35k your first couple years, and am willing to take cases that will make you uncomfortable to learn how to practice, you have a chance. Otherwise, get a job.

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shikes (Nov 29, 2012 - 5:12 pm)

I can stomach grossing 25k for a year or two. My main worry is grossing $25 for a year or two. I dont have the money to market the way most other solos do so getting clients may be difficult. Making them pay may be even more difficult. I would highly prefer to find an office share with an attorney who is experience but does some type of law I have no interest in (tax, oil/gas, etc.) to get both guidance and referrals, but that may or may not be possible. I know JDU hates virtual offices but they are so freaking cheap it is tempting.

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heythere (Dec 1, 2012 - 10:26 pm)

If you can hold out like that, pick an obscure, regulatory practice area of law that is of value to companies (yeah, I know that part is hard), become an expert by writing and blogging sensibly about it and offer flat fee service.

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aterrifiedlawstudent (Nov 29, 2012 - 6:03 pm)

If you need a partner, let me know! :)

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razzi (Nov 29, 2012 - 10:54 pm)

I am trying to do the same. I work fulltime and trying to start something on the side. Dont have much of experience yet, but Mississipi lawyer, shithead, aspiration, etc. are all good resources here and always try to help folks like us. Goodluck to you.

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shikes (Nov 29, 2012 - 11:05 pm)

Anyone willing to give me their email in case I actually end up doing this and need some advice on marketing/ insurance / etc.?

I also forgot to mention that my fiancee is also graduating with me and would partner with me. I kinda suck at networking, she is actually good at it so maybe she can get me some clients :)

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guyingorillasuit (Nov 29, 2012 - 11:55 pm)

You can post future questions on here, and other people will answer.

Insurance will be cheap. In California, a first year lawyer can get a $600 policy (per year) through Lawyers Mutual. It's a $100k policy, and I think they will also defend a State Bar complaint for you. That said, I know lots of people who have been sued for malpractice, but not a single new or newish lawyer who is at least mostly honest. If you do right by your clients, you will either never get sued, or you will get a pro per suit or bar complaint, which will likely go nowhere. "Doing right" is picking up the phone, staying in touch, developing a rapport, being on their side, fighting for them, and showing up to hearings on time, among other things.

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asdfgh12345 (Nov 30, 2012 - 7:42 am)

I'm not sure how it is in other states, but in my state you can join a bar association and sign up to have them refer you clients. I know a lawyer whose main income source is clients referred to him by the local bar. When things get slow, he buys flowers and takes them to the girls at the bar assoc. who field the calls. It was definitely a low-rent clientele, but starting out you take what you can get. You'll need malpractice insurance, which you should have anyway, unless you have no assets.

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shikes (Nov 30, 2012 - 11:16 am)

I'm in NC. The bar association here has a lawyer referral service that you can sign up for but it costs like $100/month or something and I am worried that there are thousands of attorneys on that referral service so I may keep dumping $100/mo. and not getting a single client. Though you seem to think that this wouldn't be a problem.

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shtlawaspiration (Nov 30, 2012 - 2:46 pm)

There are likely many attorneys on that service, but apparently NC has less attorneys than other southern states and you could always cut the service after say 6 months and $600 if it doesn't come through.

Part of a building a practice is trial and error, and unfortunately that may mean sinking money into services that may or may not work out.

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bigsal (Nov 30, 2012 - 9:52 am)

If I ever had to go back, I would do FDCPA cases. FCRA and TCPA and state claims too. Easy money.

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helloladies21 (Dec 1, 2012 - 12:16 am)

Consumer Law is really good. I do it exclusively and will gross around 40k first year without breaking a sweat. Plus you get to stick it to "the man" so it's easy to get behind the cause.

Go check your law library for the NCLC manuals in whatever area catches your eye. Join NACA, the listerv alone makes it worthwhile.

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bigsal (Dec 1, 2012 - 12:21 pm)

I left law, but I agree entirely with you on this. Even the weakest of FDCPA cases can generate some "go away" money.

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attorneydavid (Dec 1, 2012 - 1:23 am)

I did this finally gave up. Did really well before the recession hit and then went from 5 calls/day to 3/week. The economy matters even for stuff like bankruptcy (filing up 20% bankruptcy bar 120#% about.)

General considerations.
1. Pick a place with a high attorney fee spread. Where I started lot's of really good experienced attorneys for 150 or so an hours. You can't price 50 because then people will think you're a fly by night. Also, attorneys who have to charge 150 an hour aren't referring decent work out.
2. Start where your from. Going along with 1 above it will be tougher getting referrals than you think. Serious connections take time and depth. I've had 10's of people say they would refer me stuff (without prompting) at cocktail parties and never do.)
3. Check on quality of appointed work. The first six months or so you start you might get a crack at it.
4. Office with other attorneys. Renting you space mean you need work to pay the rent.
5. You will need to spend money unless you can get appointments off the bat.
6. Craft your retainers to allow for withdrawal if you want to get out and get a job. chapter 13 bk's are hard to get out of for instance.
7. Many many attorneys lie about how well they're doing.
8. Webs and blogging can get you some work but I don't think I've seen that many firms built on it. The ones who say they are sucessful with it are usually selling consulting services. Also google messed with everything in may so I don't think you can consistently count on SEO results now.
9. Crappy clients will refer you crappy clients, they don't get better.
10. Keep in mind a starbucks manager makes around 35k with full bennies (or any in corporate america). In 8 years with a law degree you'd think you could make multiunit manager making 100k . If you get a part time job you could try for one with an associated career path in case law didn't work out. Unfortunately my foot went with plantar fasciatis or I'd be trying this.
11. The one successful person I knew started doing real estate closing from a large re/max office he had an in with. He's now cut back signifigantly (had 2 associates at one point) I think his secretary is part time.

That's just some of what I picked up.

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guyingorillasuit (Dec 1, 2012 - 6:38 am)

I agree with this advice.

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jordan (Dec 1, 2012 - 9:49 am)

Here, I wrote a blog post about it:

http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/should-i-start-a-solo-practice/

Not spam, I promise. I did it 4 years out, my partner did it right out of law school. We're doing well, but we're also extremely lucky.

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flatfee (Dec 1, 2012 - 2:44 pm)

Jordan, that's a great blog post. I have worked at a small firm for a few years and in addition to gaining legal experience I've learned how hard running your own firm can be.

I really think the question to whether someone should start their own practice boils down to whether an individual possesses the three factors cited in your post: sufficient capital, a sufficient client base, and sufficient legal experience in the field they want to practice.

In my case I have the experience and capital, but not the client base.

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