Going Solo?

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Matthies
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Matthies » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
NayBoer wrote:Being in the same building is common. I've worked in a building that had three firms (small firm, solo prac and dual partnership) in it, sharing a receptionist and an address. But what you're describing sounds almost like an independent contractor relationship, in that you receive no salary and pay for your own supplies, but you still have some nebulous ongoing relationship with the principal firm. Except that in the legal world there are rules about representation and responsibility that complicate such arrangements.

I imagine that some sort of Of Counsel independent contractor relationship might be workable, assuming somebody worked out all the details and made sure they complied with relevant rules. Maybe some commission-based compensation (reported on 1099s) for the clients you bring in and work. But honestly, I'm not sure a law firm is going to want to start you out running your own clients. And I highly doubt they'd want to have any formal arrangement with you if you aren't even in the firm. That could put them on the hook for your mistakes. And I'm not sure how often an Of Counsel ever has zero experience. My understanding is that it's rare, and Of Counsel usually has either some experience or lots of experience.

You could definitely find some sort of situation where a small building with office space rents you an office or something, and then maybe you strike up a relationship with the lawyers of your neighbor firm(s). But any ongoing formal training or oversight just isn't in their interest and I'm skeptical that it would happen. If you find an example, please post it. I'd be interested to read about how they get around this stuff.


Not having gone to law school or working for a law firm ( I am going to UGA), I would not be able to provide specific examples of how this can be done. I just know I have seen many homes that are commercially zoned being used as offices that contain signage for each entity. I believe this can be done since both entities are posted and there is clear proof that one is not working for the other.

I don't think would be considered illegal or unethical to speak with or ask questions to the other attorneys in the office. Being able to do this in person should not be considered any different than doing it by phone, no? I just think this would be a great way to cut down expenses, start a network of other solo's, and mitigate the malpractice risk. I think if this can be done, then this would be a favorable arrangement (if legal). Of course, if this can't be done legally, then I would not even think about doing it.


Yes, this is done all the time, and there are entire groups in most cities and bar associations set up to foster this kind of networking.

The things you can't do are have shared access to files, ghost write for other lawyers, split fees without client consent, hold yourself out as partnership when you're not and several other things you will learn about in your professional responsibility class and for the MPRE. But asking for advice is not unethical and its pretty much how you get business done at a frim or on your own. Of course you need to keep confidentiality, and lots of time this advice is sought by use of the hypothetical question to another lawyer. Also our bar association has an ethics messagebaoord as well as e-mail and a phone number you can call with ethical questions. LPlus you have bar groups for every type of pratcie area where you can sek advice.

Likewise getting advice and networking and referrals are key to any type of law practice, solo or otherwise. Knowing people is a huge part of being a lawyer. Who you know or have access to is part of the reason why clients pick you over someone else.

imacpa
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby imacpa » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:05 pm

Matthies, your post is the best I heard so far. As a prospective solo, everything you shared is so true and critical to success. I never believe in just limiting myself just because of some potential risk or fear of failure. Mentors are VERY critical to the success of a new solo.

Also, being creative in minimizing your overhead (like a shared office) can help take some pressure off the need for a large outlay of capital. The bottomline is that when there's a will, there's a way to make things happen and to be successful if one desires to be a solo out of law school.

Matthies wrote:There is allot of speculation in this thread, and why I sound like a broken record when i say this, but when you guys get to school get OUT of school and meet some working lawyers and get to know the profession.

First the only really correct info in this thread is you need a network, and you have to create it before you graduate, if you have any shot at being successful as a solo right after law school. You need a networking of experienced lawyers for two reasons: sending you clients and mentoring. Mentoring comes in so you have people to turn to help avoid malpractice and to help show you the ropes.

I'm a bit busy right now doing my own legal work but here are a few things about going solo to mull over (based on my state since that's the only state I have experience with):

1. malpractice insurance: Here for a first year lawyer malpractice insurance for coverage up to 1 million dollars is $450 a year. Int he legal profession Mp actually goes up the longer you practice, not the other way around, your cheaper to insure when your new than when you have tons of clients and take on more complex cases.

2. office sharing: this is renting an office in a building. Lots of lawyers own their own buildings, its actually a really good investment strategy. I know several lawyers here who bought old mansions near the courts and turned them into law offices. There have between 4-7 offices in the old bedrooms, a common confranceroom in the dining room, and kitchen ect. Some are even bigger than that depeing on how big the house was (lots of old mansions near downtown here that have been converted like this). The last time I knew of an opening it was for $270 a month and included a shared receptionist, fax, copier, internet ect, about a mile from the courts.

3. At first, and even later, you can work from home as well. I work almost totally from home or online. About the only type of law that you really can't, or should not do, from home is criminal law. basically you don't want these folks knowing where you live. If not for security reseasons than because they will come to your door at 4AM to get someone out of jail.

4. Office expenses. You already have everything you need from law school: computer, printer, internet access. You can create all the forms in MS Word, there are tons of free templates, all the court documents are online (at here).

5. Lexis/Westlaw: These cost a shitload for solo's (although I here there are some affordable solo plans) but there are some ways around it. For one if you work in the same city as you went to school you might have free access at the LS as alumni (we do). Also here the sate supreme court offers 2 hours a day of free access at their library. Next our state bar has a service called casmaker which is like lexis/westlaw that is part of your dues ($150 or a so a year). But you really won't need lexis/westlaw as much as you think.

6. Mentors. THIS IS KEY. You need to have working lawyers (and ones with several years, 10+ experice) who are willing to feed you cases and help you out, answer your questions and even do cases with you. You would be surprised how many lawyers are willing to do this if you get the F out of school and meet them long before you needed them. Waiting till you a new lawyer is not when to do this. There are also entire organizations dedicated to this type of new lawyer mentoring in most decent sized markets.

7. You can do just about any type of law right out of law school so long as you have the mentors you need. I do environmental law and have far more work than I can actually take, and its 100% referral, lawyers come to me asking for help or giving me cases, I've never once had to ask for anything. BUt this is because I spent four years building up my network and I speclized in LS and worked in LS (I went PT).

8. Finally you can make shitlaods of money as a solo. When you get out and meet real lawyers you will find that most do NOT work in large law firms (or got out as soon as they could start their own), and the really good ones tend to be on their own (because they make more money in smaller or solo practice). Of my classmates the one who is arguably most "successful" in terms of money and practice is a solo criminal defense attorney, she makes far more than any of the kids who went biglaw out of school. BUT, she had #6 down pat. She was a criminal paralegal for 15 years and knows or worked for the biggest names in criminal law here, she has so much work feed to her by these guys she does no adversting at all. Also criminal law is all cash up front. And for those who tell you criminals don't have money, that again is misinformation, people will come up with a lot of money when facing jail time. Also DUIs are pretty luctrivie, 5k-15k+.

Anyway I got to get back to work. But the point is get the hell out of LS when you guys get there and meet real working lawyers (and not 3 year associates, they are pretty useless as to what's really going on) and see how this profession actually works. It's very much still an entrupainail profession.

Finally you should know yourself enough by now to know if you have the skills to make it on your own. Most don't. Many people go to law school wanting a job where someone else tells them what to do and how to do it and takes care of the running the business part, that's fine, but that type of person won't make a good solo practitioner, so know your abilities/limits up front or be willing to learn the skills outside of LS that you will need to go on your own.

Anonymous User
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:09 pm

My line of thinking is with the last two posts. What I would like to know is why more JD's don't do this? If the job market is so bad out there, and this is a viable alternative to being unemployed, why aren't more doing it?

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Scallywaggums
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Scallywaggums » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:14 pm

Wow, Methies, that was ridiculously helpful.

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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:31 pm

Scallywaggums wrote:Wow, Methies, that was ridiculously helpful.



Yes, I agree. Thank you for the helpful tips. Also, do you think going the JD/MBA route is a benefit to going solo? That is what I plan on doing when I start at UGA in the fall.

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Matthies
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Matthies » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:35 pm

Oh, one other thing I should mention that is REALLY helpful if you plan to go on your own or contract out to other attorneys, I do allot of that, this is different than a contract attorney, that is where a firm hires you on a short term basis and you have to apply for the job and hope they hire you and that its lasts, contracting out is where attorneys hire you as an attorney running your own business to do a case for them, research something, write briefs, jury instructions ect, i.e. they come to you and pay you then bill their clients for your work [sometimes at a hirer rate!]). This allows a solo or small firm to take on more work than they might be able to do on their own during busy times. If you have several people feeding you work like this it can be pretty steady, and people get busy/slow at different times.

Anyway, Bench/Bar books are great. for example our bar association publishes a book called the DUI benchbook and its written by an editorial board of DUI lawyers and judges. basically it tells you everything about DUI cases from the stop all the way through driver's lic revocation hearings. has all the cases, laws, statutes, exalmes of forms, jury instructions ect. While not enough alone to do a DUI case right after graduation its an extremely helpful book to have in addition to good mentors and can answer most of the common questions you might have. Our bar publishes these types of books on lots of practice areas.

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Scallywaggums
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Scallywaggums » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:...do you think going the JD/MBA route is a benefit to going solo?


Can you +1 a question?

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Matthies
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Matthies » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Scallywaggums wrote:Wow, Methies, that was ridiculously helpful.



Yes, I agree. Thank you for the helpful tips. Also, do you think going the JD/MBA route is a benefit to going solo? That is what I plan on doing when I start at UGA in the fall.


I don't really know, I don't know what they teach you in business school. I mean the skills you need to run your own business you certainly don't need an MBA for. But any business training would likely help, easpiclly if its focused towards small business/running your own. I also guess it might help you in business law type situations, but I know nothing about that practice area. Best thing to do would be try and contact with some local lawyers when you get to school who do what you want to do and seek their advice, see what they do and what skills they use most. I've learned far more about the law and the pratcie of it from my mentors then i ever did in law school, and I learn new stuff everyday.

imacpa
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby imacpa » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My line of thinking is with the last two posts. What I would like to know is why more JD's don't do this? If the job market is so bad out there, and this is a viable alternative to being unemployed, why aren't more doing it?


I really don't know. Maybe it's fear or lack of confidence? Some of it could be legitimate reasons such as student loan burden (probably the most influential reason) or maybe they have families to support. But in their defense a lot of the graduates are very young with little or no work experience. Plus, you have to consider that a lot of law schools don't put a premium on offering classes with professional/practical skill development. Fortunately, my school does and I'm taking advantage of it.

If some schools begin to mandate more practical skill training, then I think it could influence more graduates to go solo.

imacpa
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby imacpa » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:51 pm

Having held an MBA for a number of years I can tell you it has benefited me prior to law school. Although it's not necessary to have, it would help bridge the gap with understanding the nature of business marketing, operations, finance, and manufacturing.

You'll be just as well off pursuing a concentration in business law in your law school program. An MBA is not going to make you necessarily that much more marketable (imo) unless you have some business experience under your belt.

Anonymous User wrote:
Scallywaggums wrote:Wow, Methies, that was ridiculously helpful.



Yes, I agree. Thank you for the helpful tips. Also, do you think going the JD/MBA route is a benefit to going solo? That is what I plan on doing when I start at UGA in the fall.

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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:08 am

Sounds like going solo straight out can be done. Thank you for the advice. This is what I was hoping for. I know it will be challenging, but I think I am up to the task and willing to take the risk.

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Matthies
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Matthies » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sounds like going solo straight out can be done. Thank you for the advice. This is what I was hoping for. I know it will be challenging, but I think I am up to the task and willing to take the risk.


Jsut to be 100% clear again, the biggest thing and the most impoarnt thing to going solo (or even geting a firm job) in knowing people, so make sure you spedn all three years in law school expanding your netwrok BEFORE you need it. This is KEY

LincolnNebraska
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby LincolnNebraska » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hello. I have read much information regarding how tough the law jobs are out there. It sounds very discouraging, but aren't most other job sectors suffering as well, other than healthcare (and the government)? I have read many stories from other members on here how it appears the law profession will not be the same. True or not, I think any profession is what you make of it. For every person that is struggling, there is someone else who is successful. But aren't most professions like that? Are there any jobs out there where everyone "makes it"? I don't think so either. Now, this may be a silly question, but if the jobs are not there, why don't you go solo? What is holding you back? Is it not knowing how to start your own practice? I am not trying to be negative. I am only trying to find out what keeps new JD's from doing it alone?


Do you really think someone is going to pay you a decent sum when there are tens of thousands of other struggling solos with years of experience who can do a much better job?

Also, have you ever heard of legal malpractice? Malpractice insurance?

Besides, many of those "ITEs" who you constantly trash are giving soloing a shot (though usually with mentors). In three years, they'll eat you for lunch as the competition will be even fiercer due to the glut of lawyers. The economy might recover by then, but the oversupply of lawyers will be with us for as long as the education system perpetuates underemployed college grads who feel they can only be successful by taking on another $150,000 in debt to go to law school.

Flame away, suckers. See you in 2013.

EDIT: Here's a good link on why the idea to go solo might be a bit ridiculous: --LinkRemoved--

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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:19 am

(Posting anonymously because I wouldn't want this information to harm my employment chances, should anyone link my username to my real name)

Great post Matthies. If you don't mind me asking, how long ago did you graduate? What is the nature of your practice? Are you purely a solo?

The prevailing attitude here, and especially magnified on JDU, is that "You only go to law school because you want to work in BIGLAW and make tons of money until you die." The solo-naysayers went to law school because they saw it as a surefire way to a guaranteed income. When the economy tanked and they couldn't get anything with their TTT degree they felt (rightfully so) scammed. So they bash ideas like going solo as impossible (malpractice, marketing difficulties, etc.) and undesirable, if it were possible. It's not for everyone. Frankly, it's not for most. It's extremely risky. There is no guaranteed paycheck, and you're putting your entire career and financial life on the line.

Here's the thing. In many ways, it's like any business. You'll find many people who go to law school expecting to ride the gravy train until retirement, with a guaranteed paycheck every week. They don't have the desire to run a business -- they went to LS to get a good job. When that plan tanks, they go solo by desperation. They almost inevitably fail, and in large part, I believe their attitude is to blame. To succeed as a solo requires the dedication and time commitment you'd need as a biglaw associate, except much of it is spent on the mundane: marketing, networking, paying the bills, buying office supplies. It's also requires a strong entrepreneurial desire.

I've worked for a mid-sized firm, and dealt extensively with another mid-sized firm as an in-house legal assistant at one of their client companies. Both of those firms were very large by local market standards, but not biglaw. I've also worked for a solo, and known several more solos and small firm partners, including some family friends. I'll just say that the solos and small firm partners are much, much happier. But they went in to it by choice.

All that said, I don't think it's wise to go solo straight out of school. I do think that you need at least some experience, not just with practicing law, but with learning how a successful firm operates. I hope to work for a firm for 2-3 years to pay off my debt and get some base level experience, and then go solo. I went to law school with the dream of going solo and eventually building it in to a successful small firm, but I seem to be in the distinct minority, at least on TLS :lol:

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Matthies
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Re: Going Solo?

Postby Matthies » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:(Posting anonymously because I wouldn't want this information to harm my employment chances, should anyone link my username to my real name)

Great post Matthies. If you don't mind me asking, how long ago did you graduate? What is the nature of your practice? Are you purely a solo?



Graduate in May 2009. I do mostly environmental stuff. Never really planed on going solo, just kind of happened. Went PT to law school and worked in firms then took time off for the bar. Started doing contract work for lawyers and it just snowballed to the point that it became a fulltime job ( I just work for other lawyers PI orgs, I don't have "cleients" per say). Want to work doing environmental law for a PI organization, but right now this gig is pretty lucrative and I can work from home in a t-shirt and shorts :)




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