Solo practice right out of law school?

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LOLyer
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Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby LOLyer » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:59 pm

Has anyone heard of someone doing this successfully? What's it like?

Granted, I would be terrified I would mess something up and would never do it. However, I do want to start my own practice some day, and the thought of going solo right out of law school intrigues me. Do people ever get together with fellow classmates and start a venture right out of law school?

CyLaw
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby CyLaw » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:07 pm

Generally it is not considered a good idea right out of school because new graduates often lack the lawyering experience clients deserve.

But, a new blog has surfaced that chronicles someone soloing right out of law school.

--LinkRemoved--

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Br3v
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Br3v » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:08 pm

Use the forum search with the words "hang a shingle"

General thought is law school in no way teaches you how to do this, it is hard to get clients, big financial risk, but sometimes it is ppls only option if they want to practice. Also though hard, it leaves plenty of room to grow $wise

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kalvano
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby kalvano » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:09 pm

How has no one taken OP's username until now?

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DCDuck
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby DCDuck » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:15 pm

Make sure you have top-of-the-line malpractice insurance.

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Maven
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Maven » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:33 pm

What you need to do is to talk to those who are doing it-which you're not going to find from law students on TLS.
It won't be too difficult to track down solos. Go to the courthouse or check with the local bar association. Most local bar associations also have formal programs to address concerns regarding solo practice.
If you're a hustler you can make a living and with time and patience actually develop a good practice. But remember-besides being a lawyer you'll also be an operator of a small business, which can be daunting.

run26.2
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby run26.2 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:12 pm

There's a pretty good set of resources here:

http://myshingle.com/resources/startalawfirm/

The blog is also decent.

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gwuorbust
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby gwuorbust » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:47 pm

DCDuck wrote:Make sure you have top-of-the-line malpractice insurance.


The risks of malpractice for new solos is not nearly as high as people on here allege. The typical causes of action against a solo attorney are going to be missing deadlines, failing to preserve objections for appeal, incorrect filings and conflicts of interest. A solo with time to dedicate to a case can avoid most of these issues because he/she can look into the case in-depth. Obviously you need to be on top of your shit, but if you can't do that then you don't deserve to practice law in any capacity.

edit: and overpromising. If you overpromise a client and don't deliver the client is going to be pissed and possibly sue. Managing expectations is key.

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Lawquacious
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Lawquacious » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:17 pm

.
Last edited by Lawquacious on Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

timbs4339
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby timbs4339 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:33 pm

I think the toughest things for a solo aren't necessarily doing the work. The toughest hurdles would be 1) getting clients in a super-saturated market with no advertising budget, 2) surviving and making loan payments until you can get a steady source of income (clients who will actually pay).

Check out JDUnderground for a lot of good threads on this topic. A lot of the attorneys there run solo shops.

Also do a forum search for areyouinsane. He was a poster here who has some good stories about doc review/shitlaw/solo practice. He has a bunch of monikers.

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cantaboot
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby cantaboot » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:43 pm

I wonder why anyone would do this if they have other options, even if those are 'shitlaw' jobs.
I know only one person who is doing this. 2 years out of law school. All the best to him.

If you have 3+ years of experience and are getting tired of biglaw/midlaw, you may consider setting up a small shop with 3+ of your colleagues/friends.
(I know a few upperclassmen who are doing this. Still, I wonder if this is a wise option. My SO's former colleagues tried to persuade him to join them but being very risk-averse, he turned it down.)

ruski
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby ruski » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:44 am

i know a few people who have done this and have been moderately successful. they all graduated from TTT and pretty much had the intention of hanging a shingle from the start. most interned for a solo so im sure that helped them. they started out doing really basic stuff, like writing wills, real estate closings, estate planning, etc. one i know has been doing it for about 5 years and is moderately successful (makes high five/low six figures). he doesn't even have a lexis/westlaw account. obv these guys aren't handling the most sophisticated work but they are certainly making a living.

Geon
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Geon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:42 am

cantaboot wrote:I wonder why anyone would do this if they have other options, even if those are 'shitlaw' jobs.
I know only one person who is doing this. 2 years out of law school. All the best to him.

If you have 3+ years of experience and are getting tired of biglaw/midlaw, you may consider setting up a small shop with 3+ of your colleagues/friends.
(I know a few upperclassmen who are doing this. Still, I wonder if this is a wise option. My SO's former colleagues tried to persuade him to join them but being very risk-averse, he turned it down.)


Meh, I asked a similar question, weighed the pros and cons. And the fact of the matter is unless you are rich (have 100k in the bank at graduation) then you want to work for at least 2-3 years so you can be confident in what you are doing in terms of representing clients. You need to be to pull in clients and it helps to learn from someone already doing it successfully. and getting clients cost $.

The lure of solo practice from my perspective is the ability, like most small businesses, for the owner to defer a huge amount of cost and taxes through transfer pricing. That is if you have a good accountant or a good background in accounting, you can get away with paying virtually no taxes legally. A solo earning 150-200k, where I am, is earning much more (after taxes) than any non partner in big law. Plus there is also the chance you land those few million dollar cases. To be quiet honest it seems that is all lawyers in my city do. If you are injured in an auto accident you will have lawyers banging down your ambulance door. But if some one rips you off, you can`t find a lawyer, even if the amount you will recover is larger because the lawyers want to just copy and paste and not do anything new.

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boredatwork
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby boredatwork » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:01 am

isn't Malpractice hard to prove since you have to prove that the attorney made a mistake that no attorney would reasonably make?

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cantaboot
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby cantaboot » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:05 am

I can assure you that some 'kids' out there who just finished law school and have 100K in their bank accounts. (upper-middle class parents... scholarships .... savings)

100K savings is very little. My friends who've been in biglaw and finance and have >100K in their bank accounts are just too content to start their own businesses.

people I know do not have entrepreneurial families and are generally very risk-averse. I know some finance people who quit biglaw years ago are still active members of the bar. One of them still works as part-time an attorney and charge $250 per hour. This is not the same as running a solo practice, though.

Anonymous User
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:17 am

I've always thought that "hanging a shingle" would be most viable in a place where you already have a large social circle of people your age, whether its the town you went to high school in, or perhaps your undergrad college town. Seems like I have tons of "friends of friends" who are having run ins with the law, like DUIs, misdemeanor possession, etc. Also tons of friends in mid to late 20s buying property, dealing with landlord disputes, contractor disputes etc. I've definitely also had a bunch of friends who thought they might have tort claims for auto accidents and wrongful termination of employment type matters.

As a law student, I already have tons of people in my social circle who ask me for legal advice when issues like these arise, and if I was practicing solo, I think I could convert some of these folks into paying clients.

Wouldn't entail any marketing expenses, just being social, involved in your community.

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2014
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby 2014 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:01 am

CyLaw wrote:Generally it is not considered a good idea right out of school because new graduates often lack the lawyering experience clients deserve.

But, a new blog has surfaced that chronicles someone soloing right out of law school.

--LinkRemoved--

Thanks for that link, missed it on ATL. Interested to read how he does!

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Dale
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Dale » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:17 am

Out of curiosity, didn’t some of today’s Big Law firms start out solo or small? Although a bit unlikely, is it conceivable that several Big Law firms began with lawyers straight out of law school, or else with only modest experience?

The couple law firms I checked on under their “about us” tab were established in the early 1900’s, so not much help there. I wonder if how many new law firms (starting solo or close to it) over the past decade are now super successful.

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nealric
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby nealric » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:52 am

cantaboot wrote:
The lure of solo practice from my perspective is the ability, like most small businesses, for the owner to defer a huge amount of cost and taxes through transfer pricing. That is if you have a good accountant or a good background in accounting, you can get away with paying virtually no taxes legally. A solo earning 150-200k, where I am, is earning much more (after taxes) than any non partner in big law.


Tax lawyer here.

Regarding transfer pricing:

Image

If anything, most solos are going to pay more tax because of self-employment tax. Barring fraud and/or some really "creative" return positions, very few are paying "virtually no taxes"- and it's not because they aren't accounting mastermen.

Flanker1067
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Flanker1067 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:43 am

I'm no expert, but I'm under the impression that pretty much all small business owners pay a low tax rate because they expense pretty much everything they do or have, including cars, many meals, some travel etc. Some of it is probably not strictly expensable, but it's impossible and not worth proving it for the IRS.

Add: I guess I should have said micro-business. Small business is too broad, clearly if you have a company with 50 employees our situation may be a lot different.
Second Add: Also, I know some business owners who operate in businesses that get paid in cash a lot, like restaurants, and they all seem to "make" the same amount of money. I'm always surprised to see people who earned "40K" last year driving a 100K land rover.

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gwuorbust
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby gwuorbust » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:58 am

Dale wrote:Out of curiosity, didn’t some of today’s Big Law firms start out solo or small? Although a bit unlikely, is it conceivable that several Big Law firms began with lawyers straight out of law school, or else with only modest experience?

The couple law firms I checked on under their “about us” tab were established in the early 1900’s, so not much help there. I wonder if how many new law firms (starting solo or close to it) over the past decade are now super successful.


you have to understand the inherent difference between biglaw firms and solos. They are serving totally different markets. It is like comparing apples and chicken-pot-pies.

Solos generally serve individuals and small businesses. The number of practice areas is huge and include everything from family law to suing contractors.

biglaw firms focus on big companies and high wealth individuals. IPOs, mergers, transactional work, etc. Midlaw firms do some of these areas as well (generally for mid-sized companies) but a lot of them also get involved in plaintiff-side work. A lot of the complex plaintiff side work is also very expensive. Think of things like the BP litigation, Chinese drywall, etc. A solo practitioner could probably transform her practice into a midlaw firm. But she will not be able to break into biglaw.

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Aberzombie1892
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Aberzombie1892 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:06 pm

Dale wrote:Out of curiosity, didn’t some of today’s Big Law firms start out solo or small? Although a bit unlikely, is it conceivable that several Big Law firms began with lawyers straight out of law school, or else with only modest experience?

The couple law firms I checked on under their “about us” tab were established in the early 1900’s, so not much help there. I wonder if how many new law firms (starting solo or close to it) over the past decade are now super successful.


Yes. This was especially the case when a lot of the American white shoe firms didn't want to allow Jews into their firms, and this forced most Jewish individuals to start their own firms. Now look at Skadden and Wachtel (among others): Wachtel has the highest profits per partner ($4M+), and Skadden is the most recognizable law firm brand on the international level. It clearly seems like the white shoe firms missed out on incredible talent due to their low brow hiring practices, and they probably continue to miss out on talent due to relatively strict adherence to the legendary Cravath System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cravath_System).

A large problem with starting modern solo practices right out of school is that law school doesn't really prepare students for an endeavor of that nature. This is in sharp contrast to how law school used to be, as professors used to have a lot of experience and could effectively teach students how to practice. However, over the last few of decades, law school has evolved into something that is more academic than practical in nature (due to the minimal real world experience of modern law school professors, the fact that the ABA used to not require law schools to have so many full time academic professors, and the natural feelings of inferiority of scholarship that legal professors experience).

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nealric
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby nealric » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:57 pm

Flanker1067 wrote:I'm no expert, but I'm under the impression that pretty much all small business owners pay a low tax rate because they expense pretty much everything they do or have, including cars, many meals, some travel etc. Some of it is probably not strictly expensable, but it's impossible and not worth proving it for the IRS.

Add: I guess I should have said micro-business. Small business is too broad, clearly if you have a company with 50 employees our situation may be a lot different.
Second Add: Also, I know some business owners who operate in businesses that get paid in cash a lot, like restaurants, and they all seem to "make" the same amount of money. I'm always surprised to see people who earned "40K" last year driving a 100K land rover.



It's true that tax fraud is fairly common with smaller businesses. It's easier to get away with when you aren't getting W-2s or 1099s. That doesn't make it legitimate or legal. Those guys can also get pwned pretty hard by uncle sam when they get caught.

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Dale
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby Dale » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:07 pm

Aberzombie1892 wrote:
Dale wrote:Out of curiosity, didn’t some of today’s Big Law firms start out solo or small? Although a bit unlikely, is it conceivable that several Big Law firms began with lawyers straight out of law school, or else with only modest experience?

The couple law firms I checked on under their “about us” tab were established in the early 1900’s, so not much help there. I wonder if how many new law firms (starting solo or close to it) over the past decade are now super successful.


A large problem with starting modern solo practices right out of school is that law school doesn't really prepare students for an endeavor of that nature. This is in sharp contrast to how law school used to be, as professors used to have a lot of experience and could effectively teach students how to practice. However, over the last few of decades, law school has evolved into something that is more academic than practical in nature (due to the minimal real world experience of modern law school professors, the fact that the ABA used to not require law schools to have so many full time academic professors, and the natural feelings of inferiority of scholarship that legal professors experience).

I (and probably everyone else reading this) totally agree. So why hasn’t this been corrected? Are there not any schools that have adequately addressed this issue? As much as I would like to consider a solo practice, I (1L) do not believe law school has (even in the smallest way) prepared me for this undertaking.

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nealric
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Re: Solo practice right out of law school?

Postby nealric » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:28 pm

Dale wrote:
Aberzombie1892 wrote:
Dale wrote:Out of curiosity, didn’t some of today’s Big Law firms start out solo or small? Although a bit unlikely, is it conceivable that several Big Law firms began with lawyers straight out of law school, or else with only modest experience?

The couple law firms I checked on under their “about us” tab were established in the early 1900’s, so not much help there. I wonder if how many new law firms (starting solo or close to it) over the past decade are now super successful.


A large problem with starting modern solo practices right out of school is that law school doesn't really prepare students for an endeavor of that nature. This is in sharp contrast to how law school used to be, as professors used to have a lot of experience and could effectively teach students how to practice. However, over the last few of decades, law school has evolved into something that is more academic than practical in nature (due to the minimal real world experience of modern law school professors, the fact that the ABA used to not require law schools to have so many full time academic professors, and the natural feelings of inferiority of scholarship that legal professors experience).

I (and probably everyone else reading this) totally agree. So why hasn’t this been corrected? Are there not any schools that have adequately addressed this issue? As much as I would like to consider a solo practice, I (1L) do not believe law school has (even in the smallest way) prepared me for this undertaking.


My .02, as someone who has been practicing for about a year and a half:

The issue is that law school really can't fully prepare you for practice. There are a lot of things you learn in practice that just can't be taught in a classroom. I'm sure I could have fumbled through a solo practice right out of law school, but I wouldn't have been terribly good at it. Moreover, I couldn't have faced potential clients with a straight face and told them that I was the best person to handle their matter. No amount of classroom instruction could have fixed that.

Clinical instruction can help, but clinics don't work well for all practice areas. Even most new M.D.s, who spend half their medical school career doing clinical rotations, will often tell you they had no idea WTF they were doing when they started residency.

I also think many law school students have themselves to blame for being unprepared for practice. Many students spend 2L and 3L year taking classes like "Law and Social Change" and then wonder why they aren't prepared to practice.




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