Going Solo

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mmribail
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Going Solo

Postby mmribail » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:02 pm

How much cash on hand would you need to start up in west Texas? What should your billing rate be as a freshly new graduate? What type of ads would be a good idea? Phone book ads I hear are typically useless...however, you have to get your name out there somehow.

I am preparing for this possibility if I don't end up selected to JAG, or end up with a ding everywhere.

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vexion
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Re: Going Solo

Postby vexion » Sat Dec 10, 2011 12:02 am

Tough question, varies completely by how much you're willing to spend. You can get a practice off the ground for as little as $3,000. Peg your billing rate to other solos in the area doing what you do, maybe discount 10-20% for lack of experience. Make very effort to create and maintain networking and mentoring connections with local established attorneys; city and specialty bar associations exist for exactly this reason. Consider reading a book like Carolyn Elefant's Solo By Choice. Elefant is a sort of self-made expert on solo practices who keeps a pretty strong social media presence (her blog is great). Also, talk to your law school's career services office. I'm sure they'll have resources for aspiring solos.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:25 pm

Where in West Texas? Far West, like near where I live? Or sorta-west, like Midland/Odessa?

Do you happen to speak Spanish?

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Veyron
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Veyron » Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:12 pm

This thread is relevant to my interests.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:52 pm

That sounds like a spambot post. :wink:

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:58 pm

Depending one where in West Texas, the kind of law you want to practice, and your second language skills, you can just about start your practice from the back seat of your 1987 Oldsmobile.

If you are willing to locate in, say, Seminole or Pecos (yes, THAT Pecos), or Fort Stockton I think you will find small firms willing to exchange office space and maybe even clerical support for research and drafting. El Paso would be harder but still not impossible.

I happen to LOVE Far West Texas but it is definitely an acquired taste. Huge, dry, empty, lonely and altogether grand. The Panhandle not so much.

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Julio_El_Chavo
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Julio_El_Chavo » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:32 pm

How good are you at dealing with these kinds of people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIxmrvbMeKc ?

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Veyron
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Veyron » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:45 pm

BeautifulSW wrote:That sounds like a spambot post. :wink:


Hey, I know where the real money and action is in this profession.

005618502
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Re: Going Solo

Postby 005618502 » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:55 pm

BeautifulSW wrote:Depending one where in West Texas, the kind of law you want to practice, and your second language skills, you can just about start your practice from the back seat of your 1987 Oldsmobile.

If you are willing to locate in, say, Seminole or Pecos (yes, THAT Pecos), or Fort Stockton I think you will find small firms willing to exchange office space and maybe even clerical support for research and drafting. El Paso would be harder but still not impossible.

I happen to LOVE Far West Texas but it is definitely an acquired taste. Huge, dry, empty, lonely and altogether grand. The Panhandle not so much.


If you can create a successful solo practice, wouldnt this end up being much more lucrative 5-7 years down the road than biglaw?

The key is becoming successful doing it.

03121202698008
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Re: Going Solo

Postby 03121202698008 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:08 am

AssumptionRequired wrote:
BeautifulSW wrote:Depending one where in West Texas, the kind of law you want to practice, and your second language skills, you can just about start your practice from the back seat of your 1987 Oldsmobile.

If you are willing to locate in, say, Seminole or Pecos (yes, THAT Pecos), or Fort Stockton I think you will find small firms willing to exchange office space and maybe even clerical support for research and drafting. El Paso would be harder but still not impossible.

I happen to LOVE Far West Texas but it is definitely an acquired taste. Huge, dry, empty, lonely and altogether grand. The Panhandle not so much.


If you can create a successful solo practice, wouldnt this end up being much more lucrative 5-7 years down the road than biglaw?

The key is becoming successful doing it.


My step-dad has had a successful solo practice for 40 years. He was an elected DA, is in a low cost market, and had tons of contacts. His average gross is around $50K. Some years it was way less than that. A small few years, it was above it. And he's alway busy. Being solo cuts you out of many of the large lucrative cases people think about. Sometimes what he can charge and be competitive averages out to minimum wage. And you've got overhead...his insurance alone is ridiculous and hes never had a claim. He has many solo friends who earn similar amounts.

I only mention the DA thing to demonstrate he was, and is, well connected. (Think President of Rotary...) He doesn't do criminal work as he couldn't afford his overhead doing it. He does mainly bankruptcy/real estate which are the two highest grossing practice areas in my hometown. This isn't a small town either, think central PA, 100K+ in the county, a few Fortune 500 companies with local assets, strong local economy, etc.

A very select few are very successful in solo practice. Many many more live beyond their means and only appear to be so (like realtors). I read somewhere the success rate of a start-up law practice is comparable to that of a restaurant.

FWIW OP, I asked him this once about start-up costs...he said every $ you'd need to live and pay overhead (including insurance/office) for at least 3 years. The small transactional stuff he does pays his overhead but it's not uncommon to have his fees tied up for 6-12 months before he can transfer them from escrow. He's got some judgements against former clients from 10 years ago that still owe for when their case topped the retainer, they couldn't pay more, and the judge wouldn't let him withdraw.

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NinerFan
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Re: Going Solo

Postby NinerFan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:06 am

The solo practice is definitely not typically envied. To add my story, this summer I SA'd at a firm in my hometown that was representing a fairly large corporation that was being sued by a plaintiff that was also suing a few local businesses along with the corporation. The local businesses were represented either by solo practitioners or really small firms (1-5 people). During depositions, they'd sometimes have to leave in the middle of it (not their client being deposed) after asking their questions to hustle to a court appearance or arrive late due to a different court appearance.

Yeah, I may never see a jury in big law, but give me that instead of running around in the summer heat in a suit making it from point A to point B for a couple of bucks.

Oh, and with ads.... the only ones I ever remember are the big obnoxious ones on busses and billboards.... but I don't think I'd ever call them. Definitely notice/remember them, though. Also, fridge magnets. I'm always short on fridge magnets, and the little Personal Injury firms that give out little magnets always end up on my fridge.

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Veyron
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Veyron » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:10 am

Yeah, I may never see a jury in big law, but give me that instead of running around in the summer heat in a suit making it from point A to point B for a couple of bucks.


Give me the thrill and agony of being a real lawyer anyday over the drudgery of being a highly paid filing clerk.

Anonymous User
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:15 am

Just to provide a counterpoint, my dad has been a solo (or with a friend or two) for the past 30+ years, he loves it, he's never not busy, and routinely makes at least $250,000 a year, with some years close to $800,000.

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Veyron
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Veyron » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:19 am

Anonymous User wrote:Just to provide a counterpoint, my dad has been a solo (or with a friend or two) for the past 30+ years, he loves it, he's never not busy, and routinely makes at least $250,000 a year, with some years close to $800,000.


Yah, the solos I know and those who have small firms all earn in the 250-700 range. Given, they have decades of experience but thats straight up partner money with more control over their lives and work that's more fun.

To put a twist on the topic. Anyone know what it takes to go solo after spending some time at a larger firm?

Anonymous User
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:35 am

Veyron wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Just to provide a counterpoint, my dad has been a solo (or with a friend or two) for the past 30+ years, he loves it, he's never not busy, and routinely makes at least $250,000 a year, with some years close to $800,000.


Yah, the solos I know and those who have small firms all earn in the 250-700 range. Given, they have decades of experience but thats straight up partner money with more control over their lives and work that's more fun.

To put a twist on the topic. Anyone know what it takes to go solo after spending some time at a larger firm?


Quoted poster. I asked my dad and he said if your plan is to go solo, make a lo of aquatint aces. He gets a lot of work from guys who don't do what he does, and he sends stuff like criminal work to them.

Alternatively, he suggested a small firm with friends from school who have different interests so you cover all the bases.

From a bigger firm, it probably won't make much difference, depending on what you want to do. Most people aren't going to know SullCrom from a local firm. What's important is confidence in yourself and being able to make clients believe in you.

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Veyron
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Veyron » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Veyron wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Just to provide a counterpoint, my dad has been a solo (or with a friend or two) for the past 30+ years, he loves it, he's never not busy, and routinely makes at least $250,000 a year, with some years close to $800,000.


Yah, the solos I know and those who have small firms all earn in the 250-700 range. Given, they have decades of experience but thats straight up partner money with more control over their lives and work that's more fun.

To put a twist on the topic. Anyone know what it takes to go solo after spending some time at a larger firm?


Quoted poster. I asked my dad and he said if your plan is to go solo, make a lo of aquatint aces. He gets a lot of work from guys who don't do what he does, and he sends stuff like criminal work to them.

Alternatively, he suggested a small firm with friends from school who have different interests so you cover all the bases.

From a bigger firm, it probably won't make much difference, depending on what you want to do. Most people aren't going to know SullCrom from a local firm. What's important is confidence in yourself and being able to make clients believe in you.


TYVM. I guess my problem is this. My firm's clients are as blue-chip as they come. Even though I'm not going into a typical "biglaw" field like M&A that doesn't translate onto the small-firm level, my clients won't be companies that are going to sign with some 3-man firm. So how do I go about setting myself up to open up shop with a book of business already in place?

Anonymous User
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:43 am

See Boies, David.

I can't help you there. Most solo work, including my dad's is pretty basic stuff like contracts, probate, PI, used to be some med mal.

mmribail
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Re: Going Solo

Postby mmribail » Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:46 am

I am not a spam bot. Some people actually do want to avoid biglaw if possible. The only reason I wanted biglaw was to pay off student loans. In the long run, I really want to just focus on probate and guardianship law. Maybe a little family law, because it is naturally related to those areas. I very much want somewhat of a life. 50 hours a week rather then the over 60 hours that some biglaw firms have a reputation for putting their new associates through. Thanks for the advice though. I am from El Paso; therefore, ideally I want to practice there. But if I can practice in a place about two hours away that will be fine too. I heard Court appointments are key to survival if you're fresh out of law school. Any thoughts there?

03121202698008
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Re: Going Solo

Postby 03121202698008 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:56 am

mmribail wrote:I am not a spam bot. Some people actually do want to avoid biglaw if possible. The only reason I wanted biglaw was to pay off student loans. In the long run, I really want to just focus on probate and guardianship law. Maybe a little family law, because it is naturally related to those areas. I very much want somewhat of a life. 50 hours a week rather then the over 60 hours that some biglaw firms have a reputation for putting their new associates through. Thanks for the advice though. I am from El Paso; therefore, ideally I want to practice there. But if I can practice in a place about two hours away that will be fine too. I heard Court appointments are key to survival if you're fresh out of law school. Any thoughts there?


I don't know any solos that work less than BigLaw hours. Some work more. Also, look at the age of most successful solos. Unless you have a full ride, you're sitting on nearly double the overhead they had starting out due to the significantly higher cost of tuition. My hometown won't give you court appointments until you've been practicing a few years.

As a solo, I doubt you can specialize that much. Most solos do primarily transactional or litigation but handle nearly everything in those realms. E.g. Criminal law, family law hearings, civil suits, etc.

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Cupidity
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Cupidity » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:37 am

Most of the solos I know work maaaaaaaaybe 50 hours per week, and more realistically, its like 30hrs/80hrs/30hrs. Then again, most of the solos I know are well established and don't need to hustle to establish themselves.

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Mr. Pancakes
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Re: Going Solo

Postby Mr. Pancakes » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:28 am

Julio_El_Chavo wrote:How good are you at dealing with these kinds of people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIxmrvbMeKc ?


Thank you for this.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:08 am

I think blowhard is more accurate regarding new solos. But around here, 200,000 population more or less, solos can specialize and can, in a good year, net over $100K. In a bad year, they might easily lose money.

The Southwest is a pretty good place to do estate and probate work due to the influx of well-heeled retirees. There is also a continuous demand for insurance defense firms. Hourly rate stinks but the insurance companies do pay promptly.

It can be done. But a year in a firm or government job might be time well spent first.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:15 am

Oh, and regarding court appointments...the trend is to let contracts for most of this kind of appointment work. You have to time your office opening to bid. But the contract price may go quite a ways toward keeping the lights on so it is worth doing, at least, at first.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Going Solo

Postby BeautifulSW » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:20 am

And you should at least look at southern New Mexico.

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NinerFan
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Re: Going Solo

Postby NinerFan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:57 pm

Veyron wrote:
Yeah, I may never see a jury in big law, but give me that instead of running around in the summer heat in a suit making it from point A to point B for a couple of bucks.


Give me the thrill and agony of being a real lawyer anyday over the drudgery of being a highly paid filing clerk.


There's going to be a lot of thrills for people going solo right out of law school with no idea how to practice law, no experience, no connections, etc....

This thread makes it seem a bit too easy. If it was so easy, more people would be doing it.




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