Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

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tomtom23
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Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby tomtom23 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:16 am

I have a friend from high school. Nice guy. And no this isn't me. He went to the most famous TTT right out of college. He graduated, passed his bar, and now works as an independent lawyer. Now, I don't think he's making a quarter-million bucks but he's doing pretty well. He's got a snazzy new condo, snazzy new car, snazzy new girlfriend, and a snazzy new office. He's pretty busy, often working 12 hours per day for clients he gets mainly networking. Now, the work he does isn't prestigious but he uses the local laws to create an enticing value proposition for potential clients ("want to break your lease? want to get a bunch of money in the process for talking shit about your landlord? i'm your man"). he also does other general work you'd expect from a general lawyer.

Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with BigLaw or HYS+CCN+T14. In fact, I'm hoping to make it there myself soon. But I do wonder just a little bit why I have not found anyone on this forum talking about wanting to get a law degree either to work independently or in a small partnership or maybe even use it to start a business that requires tons of legal work. Is he a huge exception to what generally happens to new lawyers who take that route? Is there a market to serve the Fortune 5,000,000's legal needs? Doesn't anyone just want to be a good, old fashioned lawyer?

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Grizz
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Grizz » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:21 am

Maybe after I get a few years of experience so the combo of loans + possible malpractice suit doesn't cause to to asphyxiate myself.

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General Tso
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby General Tso » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:23 am

I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.

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General Tso
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby General Tso » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:24 am

rad law wrote:Maybe after I get a few years of experience so the combo of loans + possible malpractice suit doesn't cause to to asphyxiate myself.


I think malpractice risk is overblown. You can barely get mom and pop clients to spend $3,000 for a will and trust. Do you really think they are going to spend tens of thousands on a malpractice suit?

Besides, I would wager that malpractice insurance is pretty cheap for attorneys. ($7,000 a year in CA in 2006 --> --LinkRemoved-- )

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im_blue
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby im_blue » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:08 am

General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.

40-50k is a livable salary in most areas, but debt payments are the killer

mst
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby mst » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:37 am

Small general practices in many areas are hurting. The attorney I worked with a few months ago did a lot of general stuff but with the economy a lot of the family law stuff has been put on hold as people can't afford to liquidate their assets and houses at the current time. Bankruptcy is really the only big thing, and there's not too much money in that. What this means is that many people are not hiring in the tiny firms, and to make things worse many are not retiring/moving up because nobody can afford to retire right now, so the firms aren't replacing people either.

As for just "starting your own practice" right after school... you can't really do this unless you have a ton of direct experience with filing stuff, handling a lot of the technical parts, etc. There just aren't a lot of people (read: basically nobody) prepared to do this kind of work upon graduation. The bigger issue is that you don't have a client base. Attorneys at small, little firms work basically 100% off networking and progressively building a client base. You don't have this at graduation. So starting your own firm right away is not an option both from a technical and marketing standpoint.

Basically, it comes down to this: Most people graduating from law school with huge amounts of debt can't afford to pay this off when they are making 50k a year from a small firm. Finding such a firm that is hiring anyways can be exhausting, and there's probably only a few spots available (and literally hundreds of 2nd and 3rd tier graduates willing to fill them because for them, big law is not an option). Also, big law is a "you do it now or you do it never" kind of thing. Nobody does family law for 5, 10, or 20 years and decides they want to start being an associate or partner at a major firm. It rarely happens because the firms don't recruit there. Alternatively, with big law, you always have the option of stopping and going to work for a small firm. So basically with big law you get the chance to make a large salary for at least a few years (and pay off crushing debt), and then you have the chance to keep pursuing it if possible... or trading down for an easier life. And with little law, you get to do little law and nothing else.

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AreJay711
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby AreJay711 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:18 pm

If that is what you really want to do it might be best to go to the most prominent local school with a scholarship over the t14 (I'm guessing he went to Cooley -- I still wouldn't do that lol). I know owning your own business can give you a lot of satisfaction even if it isn't as prestigious or high paying as your alternative so it might be worth it and eventually you can still make pretty good money if you are good enough.

jarofsoup
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby jarofsoup » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:40 pm

I intern at a small firm. Malpractice suites are a part of the job. Most of the lawyers have been sued for mal practice and have won and are still practices.

That being said I think i will be shooting for "medium" to big law.

Solo practices can be very successful. I just do not think I want to have that kind of burden and the hours are bad. Big law has bad hours but solo it is your life because you are self employed. So no one can take a case for you to go on vacation.

Estate planning is the way to go if you want to do a small practice. Can aviod Malpract law suites if you arent a fool.

tomtom23
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby tomtom23 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:49 pm

mst wrote:. . . you can't really do this unless you have a ton of direct experience with filing stuff, handling a lot of the technical parts, et c.There just aren't a lot of people (read: basically nobody) prepared to do this kind of work upon
graduation.


That makes sense. His dad has been an attorney for a long time. He gets help that way. Thanks for the great post, it was very informative.

AreJay711 wrote:I'm guessing he went to Cooley


Yup.

---

Thanks for the great replies guys.

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Noval
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Noval » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:53 pm

General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.


If you have good grades and manage to get a full ride or 3/4 ride in a TTT, then sure, you CAN have low expectations and you will definitely not be in the poor house with only 50-60k/year, especially when you're a small firm Attorney working human hours and don't have 3 Partners watching your back to see if they can backstab you in your first mistake.

irishman86
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby irishman86 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:40 am

I'm not sure if you are referring to starting solo or eventually ending up solo, but the problem with starting solo is that you don't have any work experience and you don't have the connections to get clients. I can't imagine how people start solo straight out of law school, since law school doesn't really teach you how to practice as a litigator beyond brief-writing and it's arguably difficult to get clients without connections.

And fwiw, just based on the briefs I read at the district courthouse, solo attorneys doing civil work don't really emphasize brief-writing, or whatever we learn in law school, in their job. Solos tend to employ a "kitchen sink" method and try to file as many causes of action and motions as possible to drag the case on in order to get a settlement. Practicing as a solo is completely different from working in biglaw. They don't really seem to care about bluebooking and brief-writing. Some want to drag it on to settle while others who are good orators simply want to get to trial.

As an example of someone who makes a lot of money as a solo, I know a criminal defense attorney who makes 40k a month. However, he used to work as a public defender and gets a lot of his work through connections with the office. He's also one of the few criminal defense attorneys in his relatively small town, so the number of attorneys available to clients is limited.

There are many paths to getting rich as an attorney, but I think it'd be really hard to start solo and have to eat what you kill without knowing what you are doing.

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clintonius
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby clintonius » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:34 am

irishman86 wrote:And fwiw, just based on the briefs I read at the district courthouse, solo attorneys doing civil work don't really emphasize brief-writing, or whatever we learn in law school, in their job. Solos tend to employ a "kitchen sink" method and try to file as many causes of action and motions as possible to drag the case on in order to get a settlement.
Meaning they try to avoid malpractice suits by avoiding claim and issue preclusion?

Aqualibrium
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:48 am

clintonius wrote:
irishman86 wrote:And fwiw, just based on the briefs I read at the district courthouse, solo attorneys doing civil work don't really emphasize brief-writing, or whatever we learn in law school, in their job. Solos tend to employ a "kitchen sink" method and try to file as many causes of action and motions as possible to drag the case on in order to get a settlement.
Meaning they try to avoid malpractice suits by avoiding claim and issue preclusion?



Lol wut?

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:50 am

tomtom23 wrote:I have a friend from high school. Nice guy. And no this isn't me. He went to the most famous TTT right out of college. He graduated, passed his bar, and now works as an independent lawyer. Now, I don't think he's making a quarter-million bucks but he's doing pretty well. He's got a snazzy new condo, snazzy new car, snazzy new girlfriend, and a snazzy new office. He's pretty busy, often working 12 hours per day for clients he gets mainly networking. Now, the work he does isn't prestigious but he uses the local laws to create an enticing value proposition for potential clients ("want to break your lease? want to get a bunch of money in the process for talking shit about your landlord? i'm your man"). he also does other general work you'd expect from a general lawyer.

Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with BigLaw or HYS+CCN+T14. In fact, I'm hoping to make it there myself soon. But I do wonder just a little bit why I have not found anyone on this forum talking about wanting to get a law degree either to work independently or in a small partnership or maybe even use it to start a business that requires tons of legal work. Is he a huge exception to what generally happens to new lawyers who take that route? Is there a market to serve the Fortune 5,000,000's legal needs? Doesn't anyone just want to be a good, old fashioned lawyer?


Is this your friend?:
Image

Image

Image

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prezidentv8
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby prezidentv8 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:53 am

irishman86 wrote:There are many paths to getting rich as an attorney, but I think it'd be really hard to start solo and have to eat what you kill without knowing what you are doing.



--ImageRemoved--

Aqualibrium
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:55 am

Where is the Texas Hammer when you need him?

canuck
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby canuck » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:48 am

im_blue wrote:
General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.

40-50k is a livable salary in most areas, but debt payments are the killer


Not if you want to have a family. That is about $20 to $25 an hour. Do you really want to endure 7 years of university to make less than a mechanic with one year of college makes?

Aqualibrium
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:13 pm

canuck wrote:
im_blue wrote:
General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.

40-50k is a livable salary in most areas, but debt payments are the killer


Not if you want to have a family. That is about $20 to $25 an hour. Do you really want to endure 7 years of university to make less than a mechanic with one year of college makes?


"I don't care what you say. For me, being a lawyer isn't all about money. I really love the law, and I'm passionate about being an advocate for those who don't have a voice. You may think my school is a TTT, but I know 4 grads who've done really well for themselves so you just don't know what you're talking about. Also, I looked at local biglaw websites and saw 10 grads from my supposed TTT. I know 160k is a lot of money, but I'm confident that if I work hard I'll do fine. Even if I only make 40-50k to start I'll be happy because I'll be doing my dream job. Not everyone needs 100k salaries to be happy, and not everyone can get such an awesome score on the lsat. The elitism on TLS is so stupid because, if no one at these so called TTT's got jobs, people would have figured it out by now and stopped going. You'll never kill my idealism so don't even try!"

end sarcasm

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2014
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby 2014 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:47 pm

I work for a small firm (read: 1 lawyer) who does real estate, general local business stuff, land use/planning, and occasional collections. She doesn't work 9-5, doesn't market her company at all, and still has ~100k in revenue a year from a combination of people actively seeking her help and billing $240 an hour.

That might not be the norm, but if you are a good networker and live in a suburban/college town that isn't served by biglaw, it is possible to be very comfortable.

Aqualibrium
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Aqualibrium » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:12 pm

2014 wrote:I work for a small firm (read: 1 lawyer) who does real estate, general local business stuff, land use/planning, and occasional collections. She doesn't work 9-5, doesn't market her company at all, and still has ~100k in revenue a year from a combination of people actively seeking her help and billing $240 an hour.

That might not be the norm, but if you are a good networker and live in a suburban/college town that isn't served by biglaw, it is possible to be very comfortable.



I think most people concede that small law or solo work isn't generally a death knoll. One would have to be very naive to think that everyday people go to 50,100,1000 man firms to solve their legal problems. There is certainly a market out there that is not biglaw. The issue is that very few law students come out of school with the ability or the contacts to run a business, and keep clients coming through the door. Most law students I know are perplexed by the concept of networking for a job; I'd have to think that networking to get clients won't come naturally either.

Also, I don't think small law jobs where you get to get your hands dirty early, but only make 50-60k would be looked down upon so much if it wasn't for the fact that people take out nearly 200k in loans to get them.



I'd also like to take this opportunity point out something I really hate hearing. I get sick of my classmates and people on this site saying things like, "yeah they make a lot of money, but they have no life," or "I'd rather make 50k and do what I want than be some partner's bitch." I don't know if those people are just trying to console themselves about not getting one of those "awful" high paying jobs or not. The fact is, there are firms out there that pay big salaries that aren't sweatshops; there are firms that let you get your hands on cases and get into the courtroom early if that's what you want. They aren't that hard to find if you conduct a tailored job search.

HeavenWood
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby HeavenWood » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:29 pm

tomtom23 wrote:His dad has been an attorney for a long time. He gets help that way.


In other words, the established father is probably referring clients to the greenhorn son. This is not to denounce your friend's credibility, but having a well-connected relative makes establishing a legal career significantly easier.

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Veyron
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Veyron » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:44 pm

General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.


40K with no LRAP = 20k takehome if you want to pay of your loans BRAH.

For people with little debt and an entrepenurial spirit, sure. However, most of these people went to B school or entered the workforce right out of HS/UG.

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prezidentv8
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby prezidentv8 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:39 pm

Aqualibrium wrote:The fact is, there are firms out there that pay big salaries that aren't sweatshops; there are firms that let you get your hands on cases and get into the courtroom early if that's what you want. They aren't that hard to find if you conduct a tailored job search.


Semi-curious which firms these are and how exactly to conduct said "tailored job search."

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Veyron
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby Veyron » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:58 pm

[/quote]
I'd also like to take this opportunity point out something I really hate hearing. I get sick of my classmates and people on this site saying things like, "yeah they make a lot of money, but they have no life," or "I'd rather make 50k and do what I want than be some partner's bitch." I don't know if those people are just trying to console themselves about not getting one of those "awful" high paying jobs or not. The fact is, there are firms out there that pay big salaries that aren't sweatshops; there are firms that let you get your hands on cases and get into the courtroom early if that's what you want. They aren't that hard to find if you conduct a tailored job search.[/quote]

Every time I hear something like this, my bullshit detector goes off. There is ONE way to make a lot of money that doesn't involve working that hard (besides inheriting it)... its called passive income from capital. Outside of that, there are wealthy people who work hard and wealthy people who lie about it.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Good, Old Fashioned Small Law Firm

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:05 pm

Veyron wrote:
General Tso wrote:I am thinking of solo practice or small firm work. I also don't mind making 40-50k per year, which is something most TLS people consider insufficient.


40K with no LRAP = 20k takehome if you want to pay of your loans BRAH.


That maybe true if your loans aren't that big (assuming a normal 10 year repayment) AND you are planning on not paying things like federal taxes, state taxes, social security, medicare, medicaid, etc (i.e. in other words, you had better be getting paid cash). Realistically around $200K in loans will be around $25k /year in repayments (assuming a normal 10 year repayment). If you make $40k /year, after federal taxes, state taxes, social security, medicare, medicaid, etc you will be taking home roughly $27k. After your $25K /year loan repayment, that's roughly $2k /year to live off. Now if you only make $40k /year, I believe you get some tax deductions for interest expense on that loan (but it's not like you get to knock off the entire $16k of yearly interest and the cap for being able deduct interest I believe is around $50k /year). So you might be up to something like $5k /year to live off. Anyways, I digress; the point is this is how people get themselves into trouble because at that income level you literally can't afford to repay your loans. So they then start digging into 30 year repayment plans or 25 year IBR, and IMO both options are kinda retarded because with the 30 year repayment plan you wind up paying something like 3/4 of a million dollars for your law degree. With 25 year IBR, you get screwed in the long run if you become a successful attorney -- i.e. most attorney's don't just sit at $40-60k /year for the rest of their careers, even if that's where they started. So say you are successful and 8 years down the road you are making $100k /year (very realistic, even at a small firm, probably more if you make partner by then), then you are paying close to $15K /year in repayments (i.e. 15% of your income), and at that point you don’t have any choice but to stick with IBR since the principal your student ballooned since your payments for the first 8 year didn’t even cover the interest. IMO, this makes no sense because by the time you reach 25 years, you are still going to have paid a shitload more than you would have if you simply paid the $25k /year for the first 10 years (i.e. think about it, in 15 years when you are a partner, you might be paying $23k /year in payments (for 10 more years!), and at that point that $23k won’t even cover the interest still because of how large the principal on your loan got).

IMO, the only way 25 year IBR makes sense is if you plan on being a terrible attorney and never making more than $40-60k /year (think about it, even public defenders in Chicago break $100k /year after 8-10 years, so in private practice it is unlikely that you won’t break $100k in your entire career assuming you are good enough to stay on as an attorney). And even if you come out ahead with 25 year IBR, you still got that pesky income tax bill at the end of the 25 years, which might end up putting you into bankruptcy at that point (meaning you lose a lot of the assets you have accumulated up to that point and are back to scratch after 25 years of repaying law school loans). Anyways, that’s just my cynical opinion of 25 year IBR, and you are free to disagree with me and think it’s the greatest thing in the world (although, I really do think a lot people opting that repayment plan now are going to regret that decision in the future).




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