Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

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kalvano
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby kalvano » Sat May 21, 2011 11:53 pm

Gideon Strumpet wrote:
kalvano wrote:But if you have 7 years of experience with a firm or doing something in the legal field, then hanging out your shingle probably isn't near as big a risk.

True. There are plenty of people who do this and have good outcomes. The article OP posted is about a lawyer who went from solo to running a 40-person firm in seven years; so the reference is to outcomes seven years out from starting up as a solo, not starting a firm with seven years experience in practice.


And is that impossible? Obviously not. Is it difficult? Sure. But like a lot of things on TLS, it's not near as impossible or difficult as it's made out to be.

Ironically, T3/T4 grads are probably better equipped for this right out of school because they are taught more practical skills in law school.

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A'nold
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby A'nold » Mon May 23, 2011 11:48 am

Just as any FYI: My professor says that the majority of his former students have told him they make at least six figures 5 years out. Purely anecdotal of course, but this is a pretty large sample size since he's been doing this for a long time.

By the way, he says that an extremely large percentage of his former students that actually go solo are very friendly w/ giving him earnings data.

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beachbum
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby beachbum » Mon May 23, 2011 12:14 pm

FWIW, one of my cousins recently (about two years ago) started a practice with one of his old law school buddies. He has pretty solid credentials (top law school, high-profile gov experience, boutique firm experience), and he says starting this firm from scratch has been the most difficult and most rewarding challenge of his career. He put in A LOT of hours (particularly when the firm was in its infancy) and was CONSTANTLY networking, but his firm is now in the black and he's enjoying the freedom of being his own boss.

It helped him a lot to go solo after he had already gained useful experience in a particular practice area, made lots of contacts (also in that practice area), and seen first-hand how a firm was operated. He's also very outgoing and personable, and this has helped him tremendously with networking and bringing in clients (both through meeting them personally and through outside recommendations). I doubt he (or most other lawyers) would have been able to achieve success in a solo practice fresh out of law school.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flexityflex86 » Mon May 23, 2011 12:21 pm

I built a successful small business, and I'm going to law school.

It is not impossible to build a successful small business. This is all it takes:

Self Discipline + Making others feel valued + Letting others talk about themselves + Selling a better product for less $ + Taking Responsibility for Every Problem = You Won't Starve.

I do want to practice law, and think the same values/skills will enable me to succeed in law, but starting your own practice is very diff from starting a small business for the reasons others noted.

If you are starting from scratch, I'd imagine it's a lot more important to go to a top school or getting lucky, and getting that 1 huge case. As there are predetermined #'s I believe (or am I wrong), it is harder to start a firm than an average business. If the rate in personal injury is normally 35% of the verdict, I'd charge 25%, and after a few nice wins, you should have more of a reputation. Additionally, being small with only a few clients at a time would enable your services to be more personalized which certain people might prefer.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flexityflex86 » Mon May 23, 2011 12:31 pm

A'nold wrote:Just as any FYI: My professor says that the majority of his former students have told him they make at least six figures 5 years out. Purely anecdotal of course, but this is a pretty large sample size since he's been doing this for a long time.

By the way, he says that an extremely large percentage of his former students that actually go solo are very friendly w/ giving him earnings data.

Right but does this data include expenses as earnings?

For example, earning a 100k is nice, but less nice when you're paying 30k in office space, 30k for a secretary and 10k in communications/printing/tech.

BeenDidThat
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon May 23, 2011 12:58 pm

flexityflex86 wrote:
A'nold wrote:Just as any FYI: My professor says that the majority of his former students have told him they make at least six figures 5 years out. Purely anecdotal of course, but this is a pretty large sample size since he's been doing this for a long time.

By the way, he says that an extremely large percentage of his former students that actually go solo are very friendly w/ giving him earnings data.

Right but does this data include expenses as earnings?

For example, earning a 100k is nice, but less nice when you're paying 30k in office space, 30k for a secretary and 10k in communications/printing/tech.


If they are saying "they make at least six figures" and they mean that their business's revenue exceeds six figures, they are being extraordinarily disingenuous at best. The CEO of GM can't rightfully say that he "made $1.7 billion" in Q1 of 2011.

I don't think your concern is really a legit one, given his example and how people usually use language.

flexityflex86
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flexityflex86 » Mon May 23, 2011 1:12 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
flexityflex86 wrote:
A'nold wrote:Just as any FYI: My professor says that the majority of his former students have told him they make at least six figures 5 years out. Purely anecdotal of course, but this is a pretty large sample size since he's been doing this for a long time.

By the way, he says that an extremely large percentage of his former students that actually go solo are very friendly w/ giving him earnings data.

Right but does this data include expenses as earnings?

For example, earning a 100k is nice, but less nice when you're paying 30k in office space, 30k for a secretary and 10k in communications/printing/tech.


If they are saying "they make at least six figures" and they mean that their business's revenue exceeds six figures, they are being extraordinarily disingenuous at best. The CEO of GM can't rightfully say that he "made $1.7 billion" in Q1 of 2011.

I don't think your concern is really a legit one, given his example and how people usually use language.

I'd say it's just as legitimate as being concerned Pace's 96% employment #'s include McDonalds and Burger King managers.

flcath
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 1:16 pm

Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.

BeenDidThat
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon May 23, 2011 1:16 pm

flexityflex86 wrote:
BeenDidThat wrote:
flexityflex86 wrote:
A'nold wrote:Just as any FYI: My professor says that the majority of his former students have told him they make at least six figures 5 years out. Purely anecdotal of course, but this is a pretty large sample size since he's been doing this for a long time.

By the way, he says that an extremely large percentage of his former students that actually go solo are very friendly w/ giving him earnings data.

Right but does this data include expenses as earnings?

For example, earning a 100k is nice, but less nice when you're paying 30k in office space, 30k for a secretary and 10k in communications/printing/tech.


If they are saying "they make at least six figures" and they mean that their business's revenue exceeds six figures, they are being extraordinarily disingenuous at best. The CEO of GM can't rightfully say that he "made $1.7 billion" in Q1 of 2011.

I don't think your concern is really a legit one, given his example and how people usually use language.

I'd say it's just as legitimate as being concerned Pace's 96% employment #'s include McDonalds and Burger King managers.


You're right. We can't trust anything anyone says and should therefore assume that everyone is always conning us.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon May 23, 2011 1:18 pm

flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


It depends on the assumptions. Are we trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers, or are we trying to figure out options for people who want to make money?

I think it's fair to assume, given the context of where this is posted, and for whom it seems to have been posted, that we are trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 1:24 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


It depends on the assumptions. Are we trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers, or are we trying to figure out options for people who want to make money?

I think it's fair to assume, given the context of where this is posted, and for whom it seems to have been posted, that we are trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers.

Yeah, that was my impression of this thread as well, which I think is flawed way of thinking of it. To that end, Gideon Strumpet is probably exactly right that kids who are only resorting to solo work as a fallback are doomed to fail.

ATL had a good article on this a while back; the synopsis was that solo work should only be sought by the type of individual who relishes being a small business owner, not the type who relishes being a lawyer or even the mix of lawyer / small business owner.

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gwuorbust
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby gwuorbust » Mon May 23, 2011 1:27 pm

flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


comparing starting a legal practice to starting a cupcake business is worthless. Consumer products is a highly variable area. You could make 300k selling cupcake at Georgetown 2 Cupcakes and then the next year go bk because Georgetown cupcakes 3 came along.

A lot of new businesses fail. But most business idea are, lets be honest here, dumb as shit. For every snuggie product that makes it there are 99 that flopped. But legal services are never different. There is no risk that consumers won't need and pay for bankruptcy filings or real estate closing. The real risk is, can you get clients?

So I think a study of what % of solos fail would be valuable. But comparing starting a solo legal practice to other areas of business is, for the most part, valueless.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 23, 2011 1:34 pm

Gideon Strumpet wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Ideally I could dominate the Mexican client base before any competitors get in.

You realize that you're not the first Spanish-speaking person to attend law school, right? You may be able to do well with the right plan, and the right skills and resources to back it up. But you're not going to find any virgin legal markets anywhere in the U.S.



I think you're speaking a little too broadly. New niche markets open up all the time, it's a matter of being one of the first people to move in on them.

Plus, I should have included more information in my original post. The Mexican population of my home county has been growing significantly in the past 20-25 years, driven primarily by first generation immigrants and their children. Most of these people come here with very little, and are generallly not well educated. Thus, even though the population of the county is large, from what I can tell based on my research, there are no Mexican lawyers in the community, and very few Latino lawyers. While the neigboring counties have large Latino communities and large numbers of Latino lawyers, their offices are far away(1 hr+) from where I live. Therefore, I think there is a real opening where I live.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 1:35 pm

gwuorbust wrote:
flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


comparing starting a legal practice to starting a cupcake business is worthless. Consumer products is a highly variable area. You could make 300k selling cupcake at Georgetown 2 Cupcakes and then the next year go bk because Georgetown cupcakes 3 came along.

A lot of new businesses fail. But most business idea are, lets be honest here, dumb as shit. For every snuggie product that makes it there are 99 that flopped. But legal services are never different. There is no risk that consumers won't need and pay for bankruptcy filings or real estate closing. The real risk is, can you get clients?

So I think a study of what % of solos fail would be valuable. But comparing starting a solo legal practice to other areas of business is, for the most part, valueless.

I completely disagree. If it could be proven that you--a freshly minted JD--would be better off investing your capital into a plumbing business (we'll pick something less fickle than a cupcake stand), then, rationally, you should do so.

But I'd suspect (and this can be proven or disproven) that a solo law office has a higher return than most other businesses (especially if we don't factor in the cost of the JD, which is fair if the decision is being made post-LS). It *may* even have a higher return than working for an established firm, but obviously the solo route would be high-risk, high-reward, which is a lifestyle that doesn't appeal to many people who enter professional school.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flexityflex86 » Mon May 23, 2011 1:47 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


It depends on the assumptions. Are we trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers, or are we trying to figure out options for people who want to make money?

I think it's fair to assume, given the context of where this is posted, and for whom it seems to have been posted, that we are trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers.

I think a lot of it depends on start up costs. It is very risky to go 200k in the hole in student loans, and then take out another 200k in loans to open a firm. You are just putting so much pressure on yourself to make a return right away, and this pressure could prevent you from being a great lawyer or considering long term interests.

If you can do it low cost - not having an office and meeting clients for lunch (which could be more enjoyable for them anyway), and being your own secretary, then it is certainly much easier.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby BeenDidThat » Mon May 23, 2011 2:00 pm

flexityflex86 wrote:
BeenDidThat wrote:
flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


It depends on the assumptions. Are we trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers, or are we trying to figure out options for people who want to make money?

I think it's fair to assume, given the context of where this is posted, and for whom it seems to have been posted, that we are trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers.

I think a lot of it depends on start up costs. It is very risky to go 200k in the hole in student loans, and then take out another 200k in loans to open a firm. You are just putting so much pressure on yourself to make a return right away, and this pressure could prevent you from being a great lawyer or considering long term interests.

If you can do it low cost - not having an office and meeting clients for lunch (which could be more enjoyable for them anyway), and being your own secretary, then it is certainly much easier.


It shouldn't be anything close to 200k to start your own firm. Even if you get very modest office space, which probably isn't even necessary.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 2:05 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
flexityflex86 wrote:
BeenDidThat wrote:
flcath wrote:Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the likelihood of success of a solo practice against the backdrop of "all entrepreneurial ventures" vice the backdrop of "all legal employment?" It's certainly the case that the requisite skills are more common to the former camp more than the latter camp.

Of course you're more likely to be still operating 5 years in when you work for Jones Day than when you work for The Law Offices of flcath. With Jones Day someone else has already taken the risky earlier steps. The relevant comparison is whether you're more likely to succeed with a solo law firm or a solo cupcake business.


It depends on the assumptions. Are we trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers, or are we trying to figure out options for people who want to make money?

I think it's fair to assume, given the context of where this is posted, and for whom it seems to have been posted, that we are trying to figure out options for people who want to be lawyers.

I think a lot of it depends on start up costs. It is very risky to go 200k in the hole in student loans, and then take out another 200k in loans to open a firm. You are just putting so much pressure on yourself to make a return right away, and this pressure could prevent you from being a great lawyer or considering long term interests.

If you can do it low cost - not having an office and meeting clients for lunch (which could be more enjoyable for them anyway), and being your own secretary, then it is certainly much easier.


It shouldn't be anything close to 200k to start your own firm. Even if you get very modest office space, which probably isn't even necessary.

I have more of a bone with the other figure: it'd be really stupid to spend $200K on law school if you know in advance that you want to go solo.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby gwuorbust » Mon May 23, 2011 2:27 pm

yeah there is absolutely no reason to put 200k into starting a law firm. I have documented in another thread how you can buy a law firm for 200k or less. the good thing about starting a law practice is that there are very few things you need buy to get started. insurance. business cards. an office(debatable). westlaw access (debatable). billing software (debatable. you could use excel.). total probably comes to less than 3k.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flexityflex86 » Mon May 23, 2011 2:46 pm

@flcath: well, if you're starting from scratch, don't people care what school you go to? even the really sketchy personal injury people you see on tv, when you research them, a lot of the time you'll see "UVA, etc." I think if you have no experience you need to sell yourself on something, and because there is generally a link b/w school name and perceived intelligence, you can at least have the rep of a smart inexperienced lawyer rather than just an inexperienced lawyer.

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A'nold
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby A'nold » Mon May 23, 2011 3:16 pm

Still more misinformation you guys.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom you see on here, it is less expensive AND less risky to start a law firm if you do it right. You can make the overhead almost non-existent. Basically, if you start out lean, almost everything you make puts you "in the black." As GWU said, you can start a firm for less than 10k. Over and over again, it has been proven that the biggest obstacle to starting a successful solo practice is when the attorney goes out and borrows money to buy a bunch of fancy furniture/equipment, hires employees, and or leases an expensive space. You can do an office share in a nice building for like $500 a month.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 3:21 pm

flexityflex86 wrote:@flcath: well, if you're starting from scratch, don't people care what school you go to? even the really sketchy personal injury people you see on tv, when you research them, a lot of the time you'll see "UVA, etc." I think if you have no experience you need to sell yourself on something, and because there is generally a link b/w school name and perceived intelligence, you can at least have the rep of a smart inexperienced lawyer rather than just an inexperienced lawyer.

Yeah, I'm not saying degree prestige is worth nothing, but I am saying that it's worth maybe a tenth of what it'd be worth if you were looking to work at a firm.

If you've got to choose between sticker price @ a non-lay prestigious T13 (like UVA/UChi) or a full scholarship from the local state school, I think the aspiring solo practitioner opts for the latter. You can use the capital to do so much more.

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A'nold
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby A'nold » Mon May 23, 2011 3:25 pm

flcath wrote:
flexityflex86 wrote:@flcath: well, if you're starting from scratch, don't people care what school you go to? even the really sketchy personal injury people you see on tv, when you research them, a lot of the time you'll see "UVA, etc." I think if you have no experience you need to sell yourself on something, and because there is generally a link b/w school name and perceived intelligence, you can at least have the rep of a smart inexperienced lawyer rather than just an inexperienced lawyer.

Yeah, I'm not saying degree prestige is worth nothing, but I am saying that it's worth maybe a tenth of what it'd be worth if you were looking to work at a firm.

If you've got to choose between sticker price @ a non-lay prestigious T13 (like UVA/UChi) or a full scholarship from the local state school, I think the aspiring solo practitioner opts for the latter. You can use the capital to do so much more.

I'll one up this even: Sticker at Harvard vs. full ride at a t2 if you KNEW, no matter what, 100%, you'd rather die than work for anyone else, and so on.....take the t2.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby A'nold » Mon May 23, 2011 3:34 pm

One thing that does bother me though:

I am a Westlaw addict. It would cost WAY too much to have Westlaw as a fledgling solo.....I'd feel like I was missing something if I did all my research at the library.

This one girl in my class told me about an advanced research class that she took that made it to where she wouldn't even want Westlaw even if it was cheaper. I guess somebody planning on doing this should take such a class before graduation.

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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby flcath » Mon May 23, 2011 3:42 pm

A'nold wrote:One thing that does bother me though:

I am a Westlaw addict. It would cost WAY too much to have Westlaw as a fledgling solo.....I'd feel like I was missing something if I did all my research at the library.

Not necessarily true. Westlaw practices hardcore price discrimination.

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A'nold
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Re: Hanging Out Your Shingle - 7 Years Later

Postby A'nold » Mon May 23, 2011 4:26 pm

flcath wrote:
A'nold wrote:One thing that does bother me though:

I am a Westlaw addict. It would cost WAY too much to have Westlaw as a fledgling solo.....I'd feel like I was missing something if I did all my research at the library.

Not necessarily true. Westlaw practices hardcore price discrimination.

Someone in class said it'd be like over a grand a month? B.s. or truth?




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