Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

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Anonymous User
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Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:18 am

I already know how almost everyone on TLS thinks this is a terrible idea with a 99% failure rate, but if someone plans ahead for several years, can it be done? I'm a 0L, starting Fall 2013 and ideally I'd like to work for myself or maybe start a small practice with whatever future colleagues I'll meet in law school.

I know there's lots of resources online stating approximate costs, requirements (insurance, fax lines, Westlaw/Nexis,etc), risks, success rates, and so on...but nothing really targeted towards 0L's.

Just wondering, what I can do since it'll be around 4 years til I have a J.D.

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thesealocust
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:29 am

It absolutely can. It's a great goal.

There are many paths. Getting some experience working for/with/under another attorney is probably smart for a lot of reasons, but people can and do go solo straight out as well. There are lots of resources available from state bar associations - I'd look into those, you can probably learn a LOT about what's involved long before you need to make any decisions.

If it's your goal from the start, you can also actually get a lot of experience via clinics and internships during your three years of schooling.

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2014
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby 2014 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:16 pm

From what I gather you should probably accept that you are going to have to learn law on the fly so know that. If I had your goals I would build or expand my working knowledge of business practices now while you have time. Figure out rough logistics so you can have tangible goals. Think about things like networking, marketing, or community involvement stuff you will have to do to attract clients. Focus on all the non law things a small business owner should know so you can do whatever you can to build competence during law school.

I would also pick the brains of every small firm I could get my hands on to see what works and doesn't for them. Finally I would get used to living on a tight budget now, it will be expensive getting started and funds will be slow to trickle in so tick money away now and minimize the debt hanging over your head.

005618502
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby 005618502 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:23 pm

I would also go to a school in the market that I wanted to practice in and start networking right away. I dont know if the caliber of school will matter as much with this goal, I would try to limit my debt as much as possible

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francesfarmer
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby francesfarmer » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:26 pm

thesealocust wrote:It absolutely can. It's a great goal.

There are many paths. Getting some experience working for/with/under another attorney is probably smart for a lot of reasons, but people can and do go solo straight out as well. There are lots of resources available from state bar associations - I'd look into those, you can probably learn a LOT about what's involved long before you need to make any decisions.

If it's your goal from the start, you can also actually get a lot of experience via clinics and internships during your three years of schooling.

Getting experience from a more seasoned attorney is an excellent idea, I think. I worked for an incredibly successful one man shop (he was a multi millionaire with famous clients) and he now has an associate who has been trained in everything from divorces to multi-national employment contract issues/trusts/wills etc. and a million other things I can't think of that are way more interesting. He also taught everyone a lot about how to run a successful business, including multiple people who were former associates of his who rent office space from him, get his help on cases and vice versa, etc.

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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:40 pm

Graduating 3L here. I plan on doing it eventually. You'll probably get some weird looks from folks because most lawyers and law students are risk averse and would take a guaranteed paycheck at a firm over a much riskier chance of starting a firm. That said, I think it's crucial to get some real experience and build up a network of contacts first. You also need some money first.

My plan is to stay at the biglaw firm I'm heading to for 3-4 years, lateral to a smaller firm for 1-2 years, then go out on my own. Hopefully by then I'll have the experience, network, and ability to properly capitalize the firm when I start it. I think it's a very good career option for someone with entrepreneurial goals and the willingness to embrace the administrative aspects of running a business in addition to practicing law. However, I do think it's nearly impossible to do it successfully right out of school.

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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Graduating 3L here. I plan on doing it eventually. You'll probably get some weird looks from folks because most lawyers and law students are risk averse and would take a guaranteed paycheck at a firm over a much riskier chance of starting a firm. That said, I think it's crucial to get some real experience and build up a network of contacts first. You also need some money first.

My plan is to stay at the biglaw firm I'm heading to for 3-4 years, lateral to a smaller firm for 1-2 years, then go out on my own. Hopefully by then I'll have the experience, network, and ability to properly capitalize the firm when I start it. I think it's a very good career option for someone with entrepreneurial goals and the willingness to embrace the administrative aspects of running a business in addition to practicing law. However, I do think it's nearly impossible to do it successfully right out of school.


Thanks, would pursuing a JD/MBA give someone an advantage?

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby holdencaulfield » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:37 pm

AssumptionRequired wrote:I would also go to a school in the market that I wanted to practice in and start networking right away. I dont know if the caliber of school will matter as much with this goal, I would try to limit my debt as much as possible



This. Focus on other young professionals (accountants, financial planners, bankers, insurance reps, etc.), and alert them to issues that may affect their clients. Example: I alerted all of my contacts about the estate/gift tax changes that might occur 1/1/13, and I've gotten a ton of referrals. I'm now swamped until year end with estate/tax planning work.

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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby timbs4339 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:44 pm

It's not totally crazy, but you have to plan ahead. You need to spend all of law school volunteering, working, and networking in order to build a client or referral base. You can't afford to waste three years schlepping to class and buried in casebooks learning about ancient doctrine. You need to keep debt low because you need a large sum of money to front expenses, and you need to expect that you will pull in very little profit for the first few years. The good thing is that law school "prestige" is not as important, so you can take a full ride with low stips.

TLS may not be the best place for you. Go to JDUnderground and read some of the solo threads there. This is also a great post.

http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/2012 ... -practice/

I'd seriously consider working for a few years though.

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spleenworship
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby spleenworship » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:05 pm

A lot of solos in my market work in a big building that is rented by multiple (3-15) other solos together. They all chip in for a receptionist and rent. They all have their own practices, but they tell me it is great working in that environment for the first several years because when you get something you haven't dealt with before you can just go down the hall and be like "Hey, Bob! I hear you did a PI case involving constriction or asphixia or something like that involving a car rollover? Can I see the complaint you used so I don't get summary judgement granted against my new, ignorant ass?"

Maybe look for something like that?

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Veyron
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby Veyron » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:24 pm

Sure. A few thoughts:

*You probably won't make much money your first year so its imperative you graduate debt free even if this means you have to go to a TTT. The rank of your school simply doesn't matter for what you want to do (and neither do your grades). And for the love of all that is holy, don't do a JD/MBA, there are so many better ways to spend your time and money if you want to start a firm.

*Try to create good relationships with people who know how court appointed work is assigned. It will only pay enough to keep the lights on but it will give you a set of clients that, if they like you, can help spread the word.

* Many small law firms have contract work for new attorneys. You can find these opportunities thru simplicity. This can nicely augment your court appointed work at first. This might be the one area where school and grades matter but not enough to justify debt.

*Work as many externships for solos as your schedule allows both to build contacts and get experience.

*Try to do a couple semesters as a certified legal intern practicing in court and counselling clients.

*WestlawNext is mad cheap for solos.

*You will probably have to be ok with doing some criminal work and being either crim only or crim, family law, lower end general practice to start.

*Most major markets are over-saturated. Other cities an be fine but there is the most demand for new general practice solos in rural areas. These places also tend to lack large DA and PD offices and (tend to) rely more on private attys to do court appointed work for these roles. Cost of living and overhead is also lower.

Interested in hearing what the other fine folks on here have to say.

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SaintsTheMetal
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby SaintsTheMetal » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:57 am

Tag, future dream of mine, along the lines of this guy:

Anonymous User wrote:Graduating 3L here. I plan on doing it eventually. You'll probably get some weird looks from folks because most lawyers and law students are risk averse and would take a guaranteed paycheck at a firm over a much riskier chance of starting a firm. That said, I think it's crucial to get some real experience and build up a network of contacts first. You also need some money first.

My plan is to stay at the biglaw firm I'm heading to for 3-4 years, lateral to a smaller firm for 1-2 years, then go out on my own. Hopefully by then I'll have the experience, network, and ability to properly capitalize the firm when I start it. I think it's a very good career option for someone with entrepreneurial goals and the willingness to embrace the administrative aspects of running a business in addition to practicing law. However, I do think it's nearly impossible to do it successfully right out of school.

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Lwoods
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby Lwoods » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:00 am

Lots of great advice in this thread already. Once you have your school list narrowed down, it may be worth looking into incubator programs by the local and/or state bar(s).

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gwuorbust
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby gwuorbust » Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:05 pm

Thoughts:

1. As other posters have said, try to avoid debt. You should aim to graduate without any debt.

2. Acquire capital. Not having debt is a necessary but not sufficient condition. A "simple" civil case can cost 5-40k. A medium complexity case can easily cost 200k. The sky is the limit for complex, MDL, and class-action work. Point being, if you want to do any kind of civil work (which is where the big money is) you will need to be well capitalized.

3. Network. Do not stop networking. Get to know practitioners, firms, judges, etc. The more people you know the better. Also do not limit yourself to lawyers. Often the best leads will come from people outside of the law.

4. Do a clinic. Learn how to practice.

5. Join your moot court trial team. Again, learn how to practice.

Going solo from the start is possible, but difficult. If you develop a well thought out plan it can work. But like all things, you should spend a large amount of time planning and figuring out to be successful.

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typ3
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Re: Going to law school with the goal of starting a practice?

Postby typ3 » Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:53 pm

OP or anyone else interested in starting a practice send me a PM. I can send you some forum templates for different client letters and discuss with CRM programs / marketing work best. Family shitlaw practice has been going steady for 56 years so I can tell you what models / do and don't work.




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