I have a job, I need advice

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I have a job, I need advice

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:44 pm

I had made a post about this job before when I was in the interviewing process. However, you'll have to forgive me because I can't seem to find the original thread. It was an anonymous thread and I can't remember the title. Since then, I have received the job offer and accepted it.

The job is a part-time associate position in a law firm that just opened in NJ. The pay is $50 per hour. The reason why the work is only part-time is because the firm just opened, there are only four cases, and the owner doesn't know how fast work will come through the door. The owner has his own firm down in Florida, from which he has practiced law for many years. He has established this new firm in NJ in response to Hurricane Sandy. The work is going to consist of suing insurance companies in NJ on behalf of clients that are Hurricane Sandy Victims.

As the associate, I will be handling and managing all litigation matters that come through the NJ office effectively by myself. I will receive administrative support from the office in Florida. The owner, along with another senior attorney from Florida, will be supervising me. The owner will also be taking the NJ bar in July in order to play a more active role. For those of you that remember the older post, the concerns I had previously had when I was considering the job have been addressed. The concerns I have now consist of mapping out a long term game-plan. They are as follows:

1) I asked the owner about when he would start to consider the job full-time and how the payment arrangement would change. He stated that once I was consistently logging 40 hours or more, week after week, the job would be considered full-time and we would negotiate a new agreement with regard to the payment arrangement. Not that anyone on this forum is terrible at math, but $50 per hour comes out to $104,000 per year if I work at least 40 hours a week. Another attorney, that I knew from years back, said that the owner will probably offer me $70,000-$80,000 per year if I'm consistently working at or over 40 hours per week. Does this sound realistic? From my perspective I wouldn't want to take a step down from the six figure mark, but at the same time all of the research I've done shows that $75,000 for a small firm associate fresh out of law school is a good salary. Maybe that's a highball mark? Should I expect an offer in the $50,000 range or even less?

2) The owner also said that he will be doing paid advertising in the near future. However, I have some ideas about using social networking, such as a Hurricane Sandy Support Group on meetup.com for example, that I believe might help attract clients. At what point in my work would it be wise to suggest and employ this if at all? Should I wait a while, or at least until I've won a few cases, before I offer my own plans to attract clients for the firm?

3) Assuming I have the opportunity to develop business for the firm, and thus my own experience, how should I do it? Should I think about other areas of law that I might wanna practice down the road, and see if I can get support from the firm to attract those kinds of cases to work on? If so, and since my mind is wide open at this point, what practice areas do you guys think I should take a look at?

4) What steps should I be taking long term for career development? Someone mentioned in the older post that it sounds like I might be able to carve out a niche as a "Natural Disaster Lawyer". I've been thinking about that comment for a while and I really like the sound of it. Can you imagine someone that basically "chases disasters"? A disaster happens somewhere in the country, and you immediately sign up to take the bar exam in that State, or waive in via reciprocity, and then build a practice in the heart of the disaster. You rent a small office (assuming a building exists) in the hardest hit area, setup a "support group" on various social media platforms, and then get to work. It sounds like a real adventurous practice where you can help a lot of people, and maybe make a decent living. It also sounds like a bit of a stretch. I don't know for sure. Is this something you would consider if you were in my position?


Sorry for the long post, but I've had a lot on my mind. The best remedy is to talk to people.

Thank you for your time and feedback,


Anonymous

Heat
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Heat » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:11 pm

I don't know anywhere near enough about the legal market to begin answering any of your questions.

I do have a suggestion for you regarding bringing in more business. Since your a part time employee and not salary it doesn't seem like you have any obligation to bring your clients to his firm. If your able to attract clients using social networking and such it seems like you might be able to make more money by treating them as your clients rather than his. This, of course, comes with trade offs. For one it might be hard to legitimize yourself without using his firms name. Another is that you wouldn't want to work from his office or anything like that so you would have to increase your overhead costs.

That being said there is potentially an alternative arrangement. You could say that you have some marketing ideas that you would like to utilize. Ask him for a higher billing rate when working for clients that you specifically bring in. As in, don't inform him of what your marketing ideas are just say that you believe you can bring in additional business which doesn't conflict with his own through certain types of marketing campaigns. Then say that when you work on client matters that are brought specifically by your marketing campaign (this should be easy to find by simply asking clients when they come in how they heard about you) you would like a higher hourly rate assigned. Assuming your increase in pay is ultimately higher then your marketing costs its a win for you because you're making more money and proving your value. It's also a win for your boss because he can still profit off the hours you are billing and since they are clients he wouldn't have obtained with his own marketing campaigns anyway it is new business.

Anyway, my two cents on that issue.

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fruitoftheloom
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby fruitoftheloom » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:24 pm

Heat wrote:I don't know anywhere near enough about the legal market to begin answering any of your questions.

I do have a suggestion for you regarding bringing in more business. Since your a part time employee and not salary it doesn't seem like you have any obligation to bring your clients to his firm. If your able to attract clients using social networking and such it seems like you might be able to make more money by treating them as your clients rather than his. This, of course, comes with trade offs. For one it might be hard to legitimize yourself without using his firms name. Another is that you wouldn't want to work from his office or anything like that so you would have to increase your overhead costs.

That being said there is potentially an alternative arrangement. You could say that you have some marketing ideas that you would like to utilize. Ask him for a higher billing rate when working for clients that you specifically bring in. As in, don't inform him of what your marketing ideas are just say that you believe you can bring in additional business which doesn't conflict with his own through certain types of marketing campaigns. Then say that when you work on client matters that are brought specifically by your marketing campaign (this should be easy to find by simply asking clients when they come in how they heard about you) you would like a higher hourly rate assigned. Assuming your increase in pay is ultimately higher then your marketing costs its a win for you because you're making more money and proving your value. It's also a win for your boss because he can still profit off the hours you are billing and since they are clients he wouldn't have obtained with his own marketing campaigns anyway it is new business.

Anyway, my two cents on that issue.


The issue with the second part is that he almost certainly is working on a contingency basis, not an hourly billing basis. This means he probably takes 33-50% (depending on whether the case is resolved prior to trial/litigation) regardless of settlement amount. I think that $50 / hr actually may work out better for him than taking 50% or so of the contingency fee he collects.

Just my 2 cents. 0L, but a lot of insurance experience from defense side.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:48 pm

What is this guy's plan beyond Hurricane Sandy? It seems to me that it is going to be very tough for you to get to billing a solid 40 hours each week if you only have four cases now. The demand for Hurricane Sandy related services is not going to go up over time.

I see no reason why you shouldn't start your marketing right off the bat. I would try to negotiate an arrangement where you get an extra percentage of fees or something similar for bringing in a viable case.

The "disaster chasing" model is interesting. I think it would be tough to do that because so much of building a successful practice depends on referrals. It's more about your network in the community and less about advertising.

Renzo
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Renzo » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:33 am

Anonymous User wrote:
4) Someone mentioned in the older post that it sounds like I might be able to carve out a niche as a "Natural Disaster Lawyer". I've been thinking about that comment for a while and I really like the sound of it. Can you imagine someone that basically "chases disasters"? A disaster happens somewhere in the country, and you immediately sign up to take the bar exam in that State, or waive in via reciprocity, and then build a practice in the heart of the disaster. You rent a small office (assuming a building exists) in the hardest hit area, setup a "support group" on various social media platforms, and then get to work.



This sounds dangerously close to the type of "ambulance chasing" solicitation that is prohibited by ethics rules.

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gwuorbust
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby gwuorbust » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:41 am

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
4) Someone mentioned in the older post that it sounds like I might be able to carve out a niche as a "Natural Disaster Lawyer". I've been thinking about that comment for a while and I really like the sound of it. Can you imagine someone that basically "chases disasters"? A disaster happens somewhere in the country, and you immediately sign up to take the bar exam in that State, or waive in via reciprocity, and then build a practice in the heart of the disaster. You rent a small office (assuming a building exists) in the hardest hit area, setup a "support group" on various social media platforms, and then get to work.



This sounds dangerously close to the type of "ambulance chasing" solicitation that is prohibited by ethics rules.


First, they are not ethical rules. They are model rules of professional conduct. While this may seem like a minor difference, the distinction between ethical rules and model rules is very profound.

Second, this does not sound like ambulance chasing. Ambulance chasing is related to in-person solicitation of clients, not how quickly one sets up an office.

exitoptions
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby exitoptions » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:56 am

gwuorbust wrote:First, they are not ethical rules. They are model rules of professional conduct. While this may seem like a minor difference, the distinction between ethical rules and model rules is very profound


Is this a joke? Almost every state has adopted the MRPC as their own rules... HTH --LinkRemoved--

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:28 pm

Hello, OP here. Thanks for the input guys. A couple of points.

I think it is an interesting idea that I should offer to do some of the marketing but not necessarily let on my exact plans. The owner will want to know what my plans are, I might be able to just say that I plan on using social media outlets. The meetup group that inspired this idea is http://www.meetup.com/The-Separated-Mens-Meetup-Group/. I'm thinking of making one just for Hurricane Sandy victims. Even if it doesn't produce that much in terms of client acquisition, I figure it is still a worth-wild activity just to get the experience of networking, attempting to acquire clients, and utilizing social media to achieve those goals in ways I have yet to try. It will be an experience that will come in handy down the road when I want to build my own law firm.

On another note, I don't think setting up a meetup group for this, or running other social media groups, runs afoul of the solicitation rules. I am not attempting to directly contact clients to solicit business in the same way I would be if I were to send mail out to peoples' homes or send out emails. People would need to find the website, sign up, search for meetup groups, find my group, voluntarily join my group, and then voluntarily appear at a designated meetup before I would even introduce myself as an attorney and offer services. There is a lot more direct action that the client has to take, seeking out my potential services, as compared to me sending someone a letter telling them they need my services and making an offer (solicitation under the rules). It is good to talk this out though. I welcome a differing interpretation that might shed light on any ambiguities.

As for long term practice, that is what I need to also talk to you guys about. The owner said that the hurricane sandy litigation will last for years. However, he also said that he will be building the traditional practice areas for the firm that bring in good money for his firm in Florida. Those practice areas are business formations, contracts, wills, trusts & estates, tax work...etc. So I can expect a lot of transactional work. Personally, I have no interest in doing that kind of work. So long term I see myself as having two options: (1) I attempt to use my influence in the NJ firm and bring in cases in practice areas that interest me and try and angle the firm's long term practice toward those (criminal, product's liability, civil rights, maybe personal injury), or (2) start to take cases on the side in a practice area that I enjoy with the long term goal of leaving the firm after the hurricane sandy litigation business dies down to open up my own firm.

That leads me to the next big question. What are the more lucrative contingency fee based litigation practices to solos and small firms take on? And what are some of the more reliable and lucrative flat fee/retainer fee based practice that solos and small firms take on?


EDIT:

As far as the National Natural Disaster practice idea is concerned, I'm attracted to it because conceptually it might be an amazing adventurous and fun way to make a legal career. But as you rightfully point out there are logistical issues. Just being admitted to practice in a state is a difficult process. Attracting clients is another issue. The legal profession traditionally attracts work through referrals and the overall reputation that a given firm has in the community. The hope that I would hinge my idea upon would be the idea of the growing role of the internet, and in particular social media, in attracting clients. Could an effective use of social media, combined with traditional advertising, get a large quantity of work in the door where there is heavy demand for it in a natural disaster situation, when the given law firm is bran new to the target market? That is the run-on question I have been pondering.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby nevdash » Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:21 pm

exitoptions wrote:
gwuorbust wrote:First, they are not ethical rules. They are model rules of professional conduct. While this may seem like a minor difference, the distinction between ethical rules and model rules is very profound


Is this a joke? Almost every state has adopted the MRPC as their own rules... HTH --LinkRemoved--

What he probably meant is that there's no necessary connection between the rules of professional conduct and ethics. That's usually a platitude that you hear in your first day of a professional responsibility class. So calling them "ethical rules," while not wildly incorrect, can still be misleading.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:23 pm

Re: the ethics of solicitation. SOLICITATION under the model rules is in person or telephone solicitation. Direct mail advertising (as long as it conforms with other state rules re attorney advertising) is constitutionally protected commercial speech and is TOTALLY FINE! (google it) It is a communication, not a solicitation.

And in fact, direct mail advertising is probably a good idea for the kind of business you are looking at running. I don't know the exact rule in New Jersey, but California, for example has said that it's not even prohibited to obtain potential client names from public records (e.g. arrest records) and then send them targeted mailings.

See e.g. --LinkRemoved--.).pdf

OP, the only concern I would have with the meetup group is that you CYA that by providing general information, etc. you are not forming an attorney client relationship with any of the attendees.

And further on the meet up groups. By all means explore it, but fwiw I know someone who's trying this route as a solo practitioner and he has his friends fake RSVP for the meet up groups so that it looks like people are actually going to attend. I think he has only had a few "real people" show up.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:30 pm

anattorney wrote:Re: the ethics of solicitation. SOLICITATION under the model rules is in person or telephone solicitation. Direct mail advertising (as long as it conforms with other state rules re attorney advertising) is constitutionally protected commercial speech and is TOTALLY FINE! (google it) It is a communication, not a solicitation.

And in fact, direct mail advertising is probably a good idea for the kind of business you are looking at running. I don't know the exact rule in New Jersey, but California, for example has said that it's not even prohibited to obtain potential client names from public records (e.g. arrest records) and then send them targeted mailings.

See e.g. --LinkRemoved--.).pdf

OP, the only concern I would have with the meetup group is that you CYA that by providing general information, etc. you are not forming an attorney client relationship with any of the attendees.

And further on the meet up groups. By all means explore it, but fwiw I know someone who's trying this route as a solo practitioner and he has his friends fake RSVP for the meet up groups so that it looks like people are actually going to attend. I think he has only had a few "real people" show up.


OP here. You make a very important point. There will have to be a disclaimer about not establishing the attorney client relationship in the group's sign up feature, as well as in the information generally available about the group for redundancy.

When you say direct advertising would be an effective way at getting clients for my kind of business, are you referring to the work I'm going to do at this firm, or the idea of setting up a mobile national disaster litigation firm?

anattorney
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:37 pm

And on the business model OP... As you said, it's not particularly fast/easy to gain bar admission in a different state even with reciprocity. Also, when a disaster hits you are still going to have your bread and butter clients that you will be taking care of at your firm in New Jersey. I think, rather than "disaster chasing" yourself you would have to look at forming some kind of association/fee sharing arrangement with attorneys that already practiced in whatever state the disaster was affected by, and possibly appear pro hac vice in those cases. Of course, you'd have to have some angle that would make it to those lawyers benefit to associate with you. Perhaps you could always go for fresh law grads :)

The main issue I see with the practice areas you are interested in (personal injury, civil rights etc), is that while there is big potential upside, they are all contingent fee litigation and not only is it possible you could go months without getting any fees, you also may have to outlay significant money on the cases (e.g. forensic experts). This may not be an issue if you have the support of your existing firm. On one hand, it would be good to supplement this kind of work with stuff where you will bill hourly and get a retainer fee; on the other hand, I think it's good not to spread yourself too thin if you are trying to develop expertise and a reputation in a certain area.

anattorney
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
anattorney wrote:Re: the ethics of solicitation. SOLICITATION under the model rules is in person or telephone solicitation. Direct mail advertising (as long as it conforms with other state rules re attorney advertising) is constitutionally protected commercial speech and is TOTALLY FINE! (google it) It is a communication, not a solicitation.

And in fact, direct mail advertising is probably a good idea for the kind of business you are looking at running. I don't know the exact rule in New Jersey, but California, for example has said that it's not even prohibited to obtain potential client names from public records (e.g. arrest records) and then send them targeted mailings.

See e.g. --LinkRemoved--.).pdf

OP, the only concern I would have with the meetup group is that you CYA that by providing general information, etc. you are not forming an attorney client relationship with any of the attendees.

And further on the meet up groups. By all means explore it, but fwiw I know someone who's trying this route as a solo practitioner and he has his friends fake RSVP for the meet up groups so that it looks like people are actually going to attend. I think he has only had a few "real people" show up.


OP here. You make a very important point. There will have to be a disclaimer about not establishing the attorney client relationship in the group's sign up feature, as well as in the information generally available about the group for redundancy.

When you say direct advertising would be an effective way at getting clients for my kind of business, are you referring to the work I'm going to do at this firm, or the idea of setting up a mobile national disaster litigation firm?


I was thinking in terms of the disaster litigation, either for Hurricane Sandy or whatever you end up doing. It's pretty easy to identify the most affected areas and send mail to them.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:43 pm

anattorney wrote:And on the business model OP... As you said, it's not particularly fast/easy to gain bar admission in a different state even with reciprocity. Also, when a disaster hits you are still going to have your bread and butter clients that you will be taking care of at your firm in New Jersey. I think, rather than "disaster chasing" yourself you would have to look at forming some kind of association/fee sharing arrangement with attorneys that already practiced in whatever state the disaster was affected by, and possibly appear pro hac vice in those cases. Of course, you'd have to have some angle that would make it to those lawyers benefit to associate with you. Perhaps you could always go for fresh law grads :)

The main issue I see with the practice areas you are interested in (personal injury, civil rights etc), is that while there is big potential upside, they are all contingent fee litigation and not only is it possible you could go months without getting any fees, you also may have to outlay significant money on the cases (e.g. forensic experts). This may not be an issue if you have the support of your existing firm. On one hand, it would be good to supplement this kind of work with stuff where you will bill hourly and get a retainer fee; on the other hand, I think it's good not to spread yourself too thin if you are trying to develop expertise and a reputation in a certain area.


OP here. On the first paragraph, what you describe seems to be exactly what has happened with me in this firm. On the second paragraph, that is what I want to discuss. Products liability, personal injury, civil rights are all contingency fee based. The kind of practice that I want is basically to start out in two (maybe three) areas of law. One will be contingency fee (PL, PI, CRs...etc), and maybe something like criminal defense that is flat fee based. The thing is I'm open minded, and while I find criminal law very interesting, I do have some moral reservations about it from the defense side (not judging anyone else). So lets say I picked up one of the contingency fee areas. What would you recommend on the flat fee/retainer side of the coin?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bobnoxious
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Bobnoxious » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:46 pm

I'm toying with the same idea of disaster litigation and insurance recovery and will be starting law school next year. For the past 20 years I've been a bit of a storm chaser doing water damage mitigation and mold remediation work. The conversations I've had with insurance adjusters over the years are a part of why I've decided to go to law school.

Re: Marketing...another good avenue is television advertising on the weather channel (local cable markets are cheap) immediately prior to, during, and immediately after a severe weather event.

Good luck!

anattorney
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
anattorney wrote:And on the business model OP... As you said, it's not particularly fast/easy to gain bar admission in a different state even with reciprocity. Also, when a disaster hits you are still going to have your bread and butter clients that you will be taking care of at your firm in New Jersey. I think, rather than "disaster chasing" yourself you would have to look at forming some kind of association/fee sharing arrangement with attorneys that already practiced in whatever state the disaster was affected by, and possibly appear pro hac vice in those cases. Of course, you'd have to have some angle that would make it to those lawyers benefit to associate with you. Perhaps you could always go for fresh law grads :)

The main issue I see with the practice areas you are interested in (personal injury, civil rights etc), is that while there is big potential upside, they are all contingent fee litigation and not only is it possible you could go months without getting any fees, you also may have to outlay significant money on the cases (e.g. forensic experts). This may not be an issue if you have the support of your existing firm. On one hand, it would be good to supplement this kind of work with stuff where you will bill hourly and get a retainer fee; on the other hand, I think it's good not to spread yourself too thin if you are trying to develop expertise and a reputation in a certain area.


OP here. On the first paragraph, what you describe seems to be exactly what has happened with me in this firm. On the second paragraph, that is what I want to discuss. Products liability, personal injury, civil rights are all contingency fee based. The kind of practice that I want is basically to start out in two (maybe three) areas of law. One will be contingency fee (PL, PI, CRs...etc), and maybe something like criminal defense that is flat fee based. The thing is I'm open minded, and while I find criminal law very interesting, I do have some moral reservations about it from the defense side (not judging anyone else). So lets say I picked up one of the contingency fee areas. What would you recommend on the flat fee/retainer side of the coin?


I'm just brainstorming here too as I don't have experience in any of these practice areas. If your local bar association has some kind of solo or small firm networking group/listserve, that would be a good place to look for ideas. I do think that with criminal you'd get courtroom experience which is good for the other areas you're interested in. I'd look into maybe focusing on DUI's. The clients are pretty much as "normal" as you get in criminal law and they are more likely to have the money to pay you.

You could look at doing defense side employment law, but not sure how that would fit with your other plaintiff-side plans. This could include advising on/ writing employee manuals, etc. for smaller businesses rather than strictly litigation.

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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:20 pm

anattorney wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
anattorney wrote:And on the business model OP... As you said, it's not particularly fast/easy to gain bar admission in a different state even with reciprocity. Also, when a disaster hits you are still going to have your bread and butter clients that you will be taking care of at your firm in New Jersey. I think, rather than "disaster chasing" yourself you would have to look at forming some kind of association/fee sharing arrangement with attorneys that already practiced in whatever state the disaster was affected by, and possibly appear pro hac vice in those cases. Of course, you'd have to have some angle that would make it to those lawyers benefit to associate with you. Perhaps you could always go for fresh law grads :)

The main issue I see with the practice areas you are interested in (personal injury, civil rights etc), is that while there is big potential upside, they are all contingent fee litigation and not only is it possible you could go months without getting any fees, you also may have to outlay significant money on the cases (e.g. forensic experts). This may not be an issue if you have the support of your existing firm. On one hand, it would be good to supplement this kind of work with stuff where you will bill hourly and get a retainer fee; on the other hand, I think it's good not to spread yourself too thin if you are trying to develop expertise and a reputation in a certain area.


OP here. On the first paragraph, what you describe seems to be exactly what has happened with me in this firm. On the second paragraph, that is what I want to discuss. Products liability, personal injury, civil rights are all contingency fee based. The kind of practice that I want is basically to start out in two (maybe three) areas of law. One will be contingency fee (PL, PI, CRs...etc), and maybe something like criminal defense that is flat fee based. The thing is I'm open minded, and while I find criminal law very interesting, I do have some moral reservations about it from the defense side (not judging anyone else). So lets say I picked up one of the contingency fee areas. What would you recommend on the flat fee/retainer side of the coin?


I'm just brainstorming here too as I don't have experience in any of these practice areas. If your local bar association has some kind of solo or small firm networking group/listserve, that would be a good place to look for ideas. I do think that with criminal you'd get courtroom experience which is good for the other areas you're interested in. I'd look into maybe focusing on DUI's. The clients are pretty much as "normal" as you get in criminal law and they are more likely to have the money to pay you.

You could look at doing defense side employment law, but not sure how that would fit with your other plaintiff-side plans. This could include advising on/ writing employee manuals, etc. for smaller businesses rather than strictly litigation.


Ya, talking to other lawyers in the area is definitely something that I need to get done. Would you happen to know how much money there is in DUIs? The though had also crossed my mind that I could do criminal defense and tax work and try to work my way into White-Collar defense. But I hear that having a background in the DOJ or a more prestigious biglaw firm is the way people typically get into that practice area.

Renzo
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby Renzo » Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:49 pm

gwuorbust wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
4) Someone mentioned in the older post that it sounds like I might be able to carve out a niche as a "Natural Disaster Lawyer". I've been thinking about that comment for a while and I really like the sound of it. Can you imagine someone that basically "chases disasters"? A disaster happens somewhere in the country, and you immediately sign up to take the bar exam in that State, or waive in via reciprocity, and then build a practice in the heart of the disaster. You rent a small office (assuming a building exists) in the hardest hit area, setup a "support group" on various social media platforms, and then get to work.



This sounds dangerously close to the type of "ambulance chasing" solicitation that is prohibited by ethics rules.


First, they are not ethical rules. They are model rules of professional conduct. While this may seem like a minor difference, the distinction between ethical rules and model rules is very profound.

Second, this does not sound like ambulance chasing. Ambulance chasing is related to in-person solicitation of clients, not how quickly one sets up an office.


1) The model rules are not rules. They are a "model" most states have used to form their own "ethics rules." You don't have to obey the model, you have have to obey the rules of your state.

2) Many states have prohibitions on solicitation that extend beyond the model rules prohibition on in-person or real-time solicitation. For example, some states prohibit solicitation by any means for a period of time following a personal injury.

3) The solicitation issue isn't about setting up an office; it's about the steps that OP will take after that to bring in clients. For many of the things OP has suggested, there may not be clear ethical determinations, and being on the bleeding edge of legal ethics is a scary way to start a career.

anattorney
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby anattorney » Mon Jan 21, 2013 7:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
anattorney wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
anattorney wrote:And on the business model OP... As you said, it's not particularly fast/easy to gain bar admission in a different state even with reciprocity. Also, when a disaster hits you are still going to have your bread and butter clients that you will be taking care of at your firm in New Jersey. I think, rather than "disaster chasing" yourself you would have to look at forming some kind of association/fee sharing arrangement with attorneys that already practiced in whatever state the disaster was affected by, and possibly appear pro hac vice in those cases. Of course, you'd have to have some angle that would make it to those lawyers benefit to associate with you. Perhaps you could always go for fresh law grads :)

The main issue I see with the practice areas you are interested in (personal injury, civil rights etc), is that while there is big potential upside, they are all contingent fee litigation and not only is it possible you could go months without getting any fees, you also may have to outlay significant money on the cases (e.g. forensic experts). This may not be an issue if you have the support of your existing firm. On one hand, it would be good to supplement this kind of work with stuff where you will bill hourly and get a retainer fee; on the other hand, I think it's good not to spread yourself too thin if you are trying to develop expertise and a reputation in a certain area.


OP here. On the first paragraph, what you describe seems to be exactly what has happened with me in this firm. On the second paragraph, that is what I want to discuss. Products liability, personal injury, civil rights are all contingency fee based. The kind of practice that I want is basically to start out in two (maybe three) areas of law. One will be contingency fee (PL, PI, CRs...etc), and maybe something like criminal defense that is flat fee based. The thing is I'm open minded, and while I find criminal law very interesting, I do have some moral reservations about it from the defense side (not judging anyone else). So lets say I picked up one of the contingency fee areas. What would you recommend on the flat fee/retainer side of the coin?


I'm just brainstorming here too as I don't have experience in any of these practice areas. If your local bar association has some kind of solo or small firm networking group/listserve, that would be a good place to look for ideas. I do think that with criminal you'd get courtroom experience which is good for the other areas you're interested in. I'd look into maybe focusing on DUI's. The clients are pretty much as "normal" as you get in criminal law and they are more likely to have the money to pay you.

You could look at doing defense side employment law, but not sure how that would fit with your other plaintiff-side plans. This could include advising on/ writing employee manuals, etc. for smaller businesses rather than strictly litigation.


Ya, talking to other lawyers in the area is definitely something that I need to get done. Would you happen to know how much money there is in DUIs? The though had also crossed my mind that I could do criminal defense and tax work and try to work my way into White-Collar defense. But I hear that having a background in the DOJ or a more prestigious biglaw firm is the way people typically get into that practice area.


Just anecdotally, I know a couple of people who have built DUI-centered practices and seem to be doing pretty well with them. I think the practice lends itself more to flat fee representation (keeps clients happier and your collections higher) because there is a fairly limited set of issues and possible outcomes. But like I said I don't have much knowledge in this area.

I agree that it would probably be difficult to get into white collar defense (if you are talking about complex litigation anyway, not just defending people who commit "white collar" crimes) without some exposure to higher level corporate practice.

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gwuorbust
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby gwuorbust » Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:39 pm

nevdash wrote:
exitoptions wrote:
gwuorbust wrote:First, they are not ethical rules. They are model rules of professional conduct. While this may seem like a minor difference, the distinction between ethical rules and model rules is very profound


Is this a joke? Almost every state has adopted the MRPC as their own rules... HTH --LinkRemoved--

What he probably meant is that there's no necessary connection between the rules of professional conduct and ethics. That's usually a platitude that you hear in your first day of a professional responsibility class. So calling them "ethical rules," while not wildly incorrect, can still be misleading.


This. There is little connection between the rules of professional conduct and ethics. Anyone can follow their state's rules to a T and still be incredibly unethical.

exitoptions
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby exitoptions » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:50 am

gwuorbust wrote:This. There is little connection between the rules of professional conduct and ethics. Anyone can follow their state's rules to a T and still be incredibly unethical.


Yeah, my PR professor said this too. And in practice it means absolutely nothing.

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gwuorbust
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Re: I have a job, I need advice

Postby gwuorbust » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:06 pm

exitoptions wrote:
gwuorbust wrote:This. There is little connection between the rules of professional conduct and ethics. Anyone can follow their state's rules to a T and still be incredibly unethical.


Yeah, my PR professor said this too. And in practice it means absolutely nothing.


If you have a slash-and-burn method, you are going to burn bridges and other lawyers will be skeptical of your ethics. In my opinion, lawyers who are ethical will develop a reputation as a straight shooter. And reputation is immensely important in this profession.




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