Start my own law firm?

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lawfreak
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Start my own law firm?

Postby lawfreak » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:23 pm

Hi,

I understand the trying times with landing a decent job in a decent law firm. I was just wondering what your opinions are, or if you know of any individual stories regarding starting your own law firm. How does that compare to working at a law firm for someone else? How risky is it? Can you do well coming out of a mediocra law school? etc

Thanks!!

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mpj_3050
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby mpj_3050 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:35 pm

What do you mean by decent job and how much debt would this school leave you with? People I have spoken to who have started/know of people who have started small shops say it is extremely difficult out of school because you don't really know what you are doing and have to compete with people who have established reputations/experience, and you have no money (if you can't finagle something out). Plus, drumming up business is hard with all of the other folks out there. Of course it can be done but I wouldn't want to have to.

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Leira7905
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby Leira7905 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:41 pm

I am a paralegal who works for a sole practitioner... He does pretty well; however, he worked for a small firm for a few years before opening his office. I would suggest finding a small firm or a seasoned attorney to mentor you while you get your feet wet. Sometimes you can find an attorney or small group of attorneys that will let you rent office space... Then at least you'd have a brain or two to pick when you need it and wouldn't be completely out on your own.

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Leira7905
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby Leira7905 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:46 pm

P.S.... If u do decide to go on your own eventually... Individual clients rarely ask where you went to Law School... I've never seen my boss get that question.

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lawfreak
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby lawfreak » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:07 pm

Thanks for the tips! they have been really helpful so far...keep em comin please :wink: :)

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A'nold
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby A'nold » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:05 am

Also note that you can use IBR while starting a firm so your debt load is not actually an enormous factor in this decision. This is b/c you can afford to have a few lean years of, say, 25k-45k or something like that while you put money back into your firm.

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ggocat
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby ggocat » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:24 am

Check out this book. http://apps.americanbar.org/abastore/in ... id=5110508

Your school's library or CSO might have it. You don't need it now, but browsing it could give you some ideas. Plenty (many) of new grads hang a shingle every year.

AJRESQ
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby AJRESQ » Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:39 pm

I posted a bunch of information about this on JDU:

--LinkRemoved--

In short, you have to come at it from the perspective that you're starting a small business -- not that you're creating a lawyer job where you work for yourself. I put a bunch of books I would suggest reading prior to starting a law firm in the JDU thread, most of which center around starting and managing a small business. The Foonberg book is an absolute must for any lawyer. Who do you want as your clients? How do you intend to reach them?

That said, I wouldn't do it right out of law school. There are just too many malpractice pitfalls. Lately young lawyers with insurance have become targets for bottom feeders. If you're dead set on it, take some CLEs on avoiding malpractice prior to graduating law school. They're usually free for law students.

Also, read up on trust accounting and how to manage an IOLTA.

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nealric
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby nealric » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:08 am

I think there are a few things to consider:

1. You are going to need startup capital. Even if you are running your practice out of mom's basement (which is a far from ideal place to meet clients), you are at least going to need something to live on for several months before you bring in revenue. Most people straight out of law school are flat broke. You are up to your eyeballs in law school debt, THEN you have to pay for bar prep and bar expenses. Bar expenses can take you buy surprise. Barbri is around 3k, then bar fees can be up to a grand, then you may have to several out of town trips (to take the bar and to get sworn in). I think my total bar-related expenses were around 5k. To make matters worse, you can't start your practice for months after graduating from law school. All in, this make it very difficult to get enough working capital unless you have family to give you seed money and pay such expenses.

2. You are going to need a mentor. You will need an experienced attorney to help guide you at the beginning or you are in serious risk of committing malpractice. It's also hard to grow professionally in certain ways without an experienced guide. This is why most people don't start their own practice right away. However, it may be possible to get such a mentor without being their employee. I know people whose parents are solos, and I've heard of arrangements where a newly admitted attorney rents office space from more experienced attorneys who are willing to answer questions and serve as mentors.

If you plan on going solo, lay the groundwork as soon as possible.

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A'nold
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby A'nold » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:40 am

"Flying Solo" is a worthless book btw.

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2Serious4Numbers
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby 2Serious4Numbers » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:42 am

Do it. Be a risk taker (not that you weren't automatically considered one by attending LS)

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ggocat
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby ggocat » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:09 am

A'nold wrote:"Flying Solo" is a worthless book btw.

tl;dr version please?

BeautifulSW
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby BeautifulSW » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:12 pm

I think it also depends on where you decide to hang your shingle. Make sure you are really committed to living there for the duration of your career because it takes time to build a really solid client base and reputation in the community.

Down in Southern New Mexico where I live, everyone that isn't woorking for the government is in solo or very small firm practice (or so it seems). These guys and gals seem to be doing alright. We have a hard time convincing the best of them to take government jobs or contracts. I don't think anyone is getting rich from law practice, those days expired with the real estate collapse and subsequent bankruptcies of major developers, but no one seems to be starving, either. Their practices aren't closing their doors, I mean.

So from what I see, a rural or small city practice can be made to work. I don't know whether these lawyers would survive in a larger city or more desireable place. Santa Fe, for example, is stiff with small firms and I hear horror stories from time to time. Those little firms do seem to flicker in and out of existence. If it is just a question of competition, I'd be leery of trying to open an office in areas that are already badly over-lawyered.

I'd also be doubtful about trying to be a generalist. Common wisdom is that you take whatever comes in to keep the lights on. I think that's dangerous and unnecessary. The trick I think would be to choose an area of practice that you are interested in and for which your research suggests there might be a market, say, domestic relations or small business startup or DUI defense and let it be known that you are taking that sort of case. When something not in your area shows up, you refer it out to someone who does that kind of work. It won't be long before others are sending you your type of cases.

Oh, and carry malpractice insurance. It will help you sleep at night.

Just some ruminations from America's Outback so take it for what it's worth.

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A'nold
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby A'nold » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:09 pm

ggocat wrote:
A'nold wrote:"Flying Solo" is a worthless book btw.

tl;dr version please?


"How to become emotionally ready to start a law firm."

"How to avoid stress as a solo."

"You need to get financing...make sure you can afford it; you don't need to rent the most luxurious property, etc."


The ONLY good piece of advice I read in the entire book was that it is worthless to advertise in the Yellow Pages if you are not at least in the first 1/3 of the attorneys section.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Start my own law firm?

Postby BeautifulSW » Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:22 am

On a strictly personal note, I am a little bit envious of successful small firm/solo lawyers. Most of my twenty-five years as a lawyer have been spent working for state government. No complaints; the pay was always adequate (given no serious debt) and the benefits are very nice. I didn't get rich during the last boom time but I'm financially secure even after the 2008 Crash.

But still. I am not my own master in any sense and my life keeps me just a little too comfortable to strike out and do something really interesting. If you think you might like solo practice, I'd say go for it with your whole heart!




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