Plaintiffs lawyers

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utlaw2007
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Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:10 pm

I am a plaintiffs lawyer. I've posted a somewhat related topic to this, but it was still quite different. As I gain more experience, I learn more. So feel free to ask any questions about the plaintiff's side to litigation. I'm currently bored right now as I've recently had time to exhale. But it won't last long...

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:02 pm

I wanted to add that I have gone up against biglaw attorneys on occasion. So I can be able to shed some light as to what that is like.

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contrapositive1
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby contrapositive1 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:42 pm

how much do they earn?

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:05 pm

contrapositive1 wrote:how much do they earn?


It varies wildly depending on practice area and the quality/quantity of cases. Many struggle and probably barely make any money because they spend their time on cases that aren't valuable. Others make quite good money because they have a steady stream of quality cases. And then there are a few that make a ridiculous amount of money because they have cases that are extremely valuable. These lawyers can make tens of thousands of dollars off of one case alone. And sometimes they can make hundreds of thousands of dollars off of one case alone. And a very small few can make millions off of one case. But it really depends on the ability of the lawyer, the quality of the cases, the practice area, and the business acumen of the lawyer.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:18 pm

Certain boutique plaintiffs firms make tens of millions of dollars off of one case routinely. Of course, they have to split this money. I don't know what the high end number of lawyers that work for a boutique is. I know of two IP boutiques, my friend and former law school classmate works at one outside of Austin, that routinely make tens of millions of dollars off of one case. It may not be that routine. But it is far from rare. There is an IP boutique here in Houston that won a 390 million dollar judgment last year. They only have 12-15 attorneys.

Catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, and employment discrimination that happens to middle to high earners oftentimes result in judgments or settlements in the low millions to hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Any business litigation oftentimes results in the same amount of money depending on the size of the business transactions.

In the cases of products liability, catastrophic personal injury, and wrongful death, the downside is that these cases can cost a small fortune to try.

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SaintsTheMetal
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby SaintsTheMetal » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:05 pm

Tag, my main concern would be how to get started? How did you find your first few paying clients, did you just take any shit you could find, or did you have some kind of inside connection? (Reasonably) Possible for someone with no family/friend connections to break into?

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:53 am

SaintsTheMetal wrote:Tag, my main concern would be how to get started? How did you find your first few paying clients, did you just take any shit you could find, or did you have some kind of inside connection? (Reasonably) Possible for someone with no family/friend connections to break into?



You are right. It is incredibly hard to start. I was rather fortunate because my best friend's step dad was a lawyer and he helped me get started. It wasn't a huge boost, but it was a boost nonetheless. The main thing is that you have to know a more experienced attorney before you embark on something like this. The more you know, the better. I knew quite a few. And they all helped a ton. I give God credit for placing people in my path that knew a little something about what I was trying to do. That helps tremendously.

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:56 am

It is possible for someone to break into this with no family or hookups for cases. But I think it is essential for a young lawyer to know a more experienced lawyer to get advice from and answer 20,000 questions. Because you will have tons of questions relating to the practice of law that will need to be answered.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:06 am

Even if you work at a small firm for a bit doing a certain practice area, you still won't know how to take a case from beginning to end. You'll just become an expert at what you have been doing for that firm. That's why it's so important to know someone because there will always be questions about things you haven't seen.

But yes, you have to take what you can get in the beginning. You have no time to be selective. And you'll get incredibly hard cases because many will have little merit. Your clients come to you because they have already gone to the guys with the reps and have already been turned down by them. So you get the left overs. You have little choice but to take them. But it eventually gets better. Your brand gets better. More people learn who you are.

It's very important to just be out and about and very vocal. Not obnoxiously so, but vocal enough that people take notice. Potential clients aren't really drawn to the guy/girl who is quiet. Be kind and friendly, always. People have to like you if they go to you in the beginning.

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby Pokemon » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:30 am

Tell us a little about your backgroud... school? Grades? Geographic region? Date of graduation? Any other experiences?
Is this what you wanted before/during law school? Do you have an area you are specializing in?

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:44 pm

Pokemon wrote:Tell us a little about your backgroud... school? Grades? Geographic region? Date of graduation? Any other experiences?
Is this what you wanted before/during law school? Do you have an area you are specializing in?


Good question. I went to the University of Texas School of Law. I graduated in 2007. I was subsequently very ill for three years after I graduated. I was temporarily incapacitated. I temporarily lost all of my coordination. I couldn't talk because my tongue was not coordinated. I could barely walk. I couldn't even knock on a door. God allowed me to make a full recovery eventually. But it was an incredibly long process.

Once I was well enough to practice, the economy was different. It's different, not a lot different for us Texas residents (I've lived here my whole life except for undergrad) but still different. Texas is still great because that is our backyard. No other school in the country carries with it the prestige and opportunities that UT Law has in the state of Texas. Before the economy went south, you could be slightly below median and be eligible for biglaw coming out of Texas. I had a classmate/friend who got biglaw out in Orange County in Cali. She was just median. And I knew several like her that had the same opportunity to work biglaw and took those offers. Some went all over the country, primarily to New York and California. But most stayed in Texas since 80% of us were Texas residents as mandated by law at that time. And most prefer to be in Texas because the cost of living is so cheap. And many of them regret taking those biglaw jobs...

I wanted to do biglaw before I enrolled in law school. I wanted to do biglaw after that first semester even. I was at median after 1L year, but I finished below median by the time I graduated because of a horrible third year in which I had checked out of school from the beginning of that final year. I hardly ever went to class. I was on vacation for that entire year. I don't even think my teachers knew I was a student of theirs. I thought I wanted biglaw when I began law school. Many of the biglaw firms had 1L receptions for UT Law 1L's during that 1st semester. I went to a few. I liked attending. But the beginning of that 2nd semester, first year, my legal research and writing prof told me about his experiences at one of the most prestigious biglaw firms in Texas. He absolutely hated it. He explained about how they work you like a slave. He acknowledged that the money was really good. But just couldn't tolerate the "slave" labor. So he put in his resignation after two years. He went to Cornell Law School.

He told this to me and another classmate of mine after classes had ended for the day. I had already heard a few horror stories about biglaw hours. But they were just stories to me. Hearing this from one of my favorite professors really resonated with me. At that point, I did not want to do biglaw. I was already a slightly older student. I didn't have to come back to school to go to law school. So I just wasn't on board with that kind of lifestyle. However, I still didn't know what kind of law I wanted to practice, but I knew it wasn't going to be in a biglaw environment.

I'll continue this story when I get back...

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 11:30 am

Will be back shortly. I just have a lot of things to tend to on the business side of running a law firm. I should be able to respond tomorrow since I will be unavailable all day today.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:12 am

I'm back...

So when I went to law school, I had no interest in becoming a trial attorney. I felt that was for the movies and tv. I wanted to be a "real" attorney since most attorneys never see the inside of a courtroom.

Once I discovered I didn't want biglaw, I had no idea what I would do. The funny thing is, even though I said I would never become a trial attorney, I still took evidence just in case. During my 2L year, I had different classmates suggest that I should give mock trial a try. They said I made excellent points in classroom discussion and they said that I sounded eloquent but to the point. I also had a mentor who was a partner at a biglaw international firm based in Texas. She, too, felt I should become a trial lawyer. So I reasoned that it must be a sign and tried out for one of UT Law's interscholastic mock trial teams.

We practiced about 3 days a week until we were two months out from the competition. Then we practiced every night during the week. Practices lasted about two hours. I learned so much about trial advocacy. And I was really drawn to it. I wasn't good at first because I did not know what I was doing. I certainly didn't waltz in there and set the mock trial world on fire. But practice makes perfect. During our last week of practice I was performing extremely well. We went to the multi state competition. My team didn't win, but I won runner up for best advocate. I was so nervous at first. But once I got going, the real me came out and it showed.

Fast forward to right after graduation. I was looking to get on with a very small firm so that I could see trial action immediately. Biglaw doesn't give you the opportunity to become a trial lawyer much less a good one. But I became very ill for three years. I couldn't take care of myself let alone practice law.

By the time I had recovered well enough to practice, the economy was in complete disarray. All of the small firms I had looked at were not hiring unless you had 5+ years of experience. I had to make money. So I started doing my own thing because I knew I could dance with the best of them. Very early on, I won a case against a guy who had 30 years of trial experience. I had zero. The facts of the case were what and what. They focused on something I thought they shouldn't have focused on. And I made them pay for it.

The rest is history. To me, trial law, more specifically, being a plaintiffs lawyer, allows you to do all of those corny things you here people cite as to why they want to be a lawyer. "I want to right wrongs." It's not that simple, but sometimes it is.

I never take a case if I feel somebody was not wronged in some way. Liability is not always clear in my cases. To most observers, including other lawyers, it's not present at all. But if I feel someone was mistreated because of someone's intentional misconduct or recklessness, then I find a way to make it happen for my client. As a lawyer, that's what you do. I am always honest. God wants me to be so I am. But I use the law as a weapon. Because frankly, it is.

I absolutely LOVE what I do! It's super intense. But there is time for down time so you never get burned out.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:22 am

But answering discovery requests suck as badly as everyone says.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:26 am

I practice construction litigation, contracts/business litigation, general commercial litigation, non compete agreement litigation, employment discrimination, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, and intentional torts which include tortious interference with a contract to tortious acts to fiduciary relationships.

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TTH
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby TTH » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:03 am

Hey Dood,

Thanks for posting here and taking questions. We don't get to hear from the Plaintiffs' bar much on TLS. If I can make a suggestion, you may want to ask the mods to move this thread to the Legal Employment forum as it will get a lot more interest and participation there.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:28 am

TTH wrote:Hey Dood,

Thanks for posting here and taking questions. We don't get to hear from the Plaintiffs' bar much on TLS. If I can make a suggestion, you may want to ask the mods to move this thread to the Legal Employment forum as it will get a lot more interest and participation there.


Thanks. How do I do that? Do I just ask them?

If a mod sees this, please move it to the section previously specified.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:28 pm

Just bumping the thread since it is in a new forum.

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TTH
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby TTH » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:36 pm

It sounds like you went solo "right out of law school" (i.e., once you had recovered from your illness).


If that's the case, were you looking for or accepting any other cases other than plaintiff's tort/contract litigation? Did you do any criminal defense/estate planning/mental health/family law, or have you only held yourself out in the fields you mentioned? How much were your startup costs and how did you fund them? How did you keep yourself afloat until you started getting settlements? Are there any products you recommend (i.e., research, docketing, etc.) for a solo who doesn't have a secretary? Do you have any staff? If not, do you contract with a private investigator or accident reconstructionist? How do you find clients?

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:24 pm

Thanks a lot for posting. I'm going to a biglaw firm next year, but I worked for a national plaintiffs firm before law school and have always maintained an interest in going back.

I'm pretty knowledgeable about patents now, too, so I'm thinking getting into patent trolling might be a cool move at some point, too. It sounds like you're pretty much running the show - are you solo or are you at a small firm?

Would you recommend that I go to my biglaw firm, try to work on the few plaintiffs' cases they have, and stay in touch with the plaintiffs' bar, if I want to transition at some point? How many years do you think I would want to wait before doing so? What does the plaintiffs bar look like in patent law?

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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:53 pm

Do you think people can replicate your sort of work in major metropolitan areas. It seems to me like places like North East have tons of law schools and unemployed attorneys, but Texas has only one truly national law school and a huge state as a market.

Also, I knew someone who went from a "not-so prestigious" firm to a v-50 after gaining litigation experience at that firm. There are also people on this forum talking about being able to leverage their solo practices into larger firm places. You seem happy and that you would not want that, but do you think it is feasible?

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:27 pm

If that's the case, were you looking for or accepting any other cases other than plaintiff's tort/contract litigation?
Did you do any criminal defense/estate planning/mental health/family law, or have you only held yourself out in the fields you mentioned? How much were your startup costs and how did you fund them? How did you keep yourself afloat until you started getting settlements? Are there any products you recommend (i.e., research, docketing, etc.) for a solo who doesn't have a secretary? Do you have any staff? If not, do you contract with a private investigator or accident reconstructionist? How do you find clients?[/quote]

I'll try to take these one at a time.

If that's the case, were you looking for or accepting any other cases other than plaintiff's tort/contract litigation?


In the beginning. I did not know I wanted to do plaintiffs work. I was actually more open to defense work because it is less risky. However, it is much harder to get clients if you are small. The main thing that eventually attracted me to plaintiffs work is that the reward is much higher than any form of law that a lawyer can practice including being a partner at a corporate law firm. It is not likely for most to become that successful as a plaintiffs attorney, but it is possible and that's what attracted me to it.

Did you do any criminal defense/estate planning/mental health/family law, or have you only held yourself out in the fields you mentioned?


In the beginning, I had planned to do some criminal work since I was in the criminal defense clinic at UT. So I knew how to do misdemeanors. But I took one case and I said never again. So I don't touch criminal. I do dabble in guardianship. But that is the only practice area I deal with that is not one of the above.

How much were your startup costs and how did you fund them?


My start up costs for the bare minimum were not much. They were under a 1000 dollars. They involved getting a laser printer. Some decent paper to print on. Toner. I worked from home. And get resources on typical forms that are used in your state. And then get some guide books on how to use those forms. A lot of research has to go into finding and choosing these books. And you have to also research and read much of your respective state's civil procedure and much of the relevant codes under which you may sue. Just bite the bullet and read that stuff. You have to have some idea of what laws under which you are suing.

I funded these things by doing temp doc review work. It sucks. Most attorneys there are failures at being attorneys. That's why they are still doing doc review after they have been licensed for several years.

I made the mistake of asking them for advice since they were more "experienced" then I was, at least on paper. The advice I got was absolutely appalling. NEVER get advice from an attorney who is a failure. If you need advice, get it from an attorney who has demonstrated an ability to be successful. They know what they are doing. Just because someone is licensed by his/her state bar does NOT mean that they are an expert on the law. I have heard all kinds of backwards explanations on legal matters from attorneys. And I'm always thinking "are you sure you went to law school? Did your professor just hand out free passing grades?"

Doc review is a must. It sucks, but you have to pay the bills.

Are there any products you recommend (i.e., research, docketing, etc.) for a solo who doesn't have a secretary?


Get resources on typical forms that are used in your state. And then get some guide books on how to use those forms. A lot of research has to go into finding and choosing these books.

It varies by state. Texas has the OcConnor's series.

Do you have any staff? If not, do you contract with a private investigator or accident reconstructionist?


I don't have any staff, sort of. But I am partnered with two law firms. I have cases together with each of them and I have my own cases. On the cases that I share, their staff is my staff. One firm is far more experienced than I am. They have taken me under their wing. They mentor me. I still craft the primary theories of the case for the cases we share. They do all of the procedural stuff.

The other firm is run by a former law school classmate of mine. She has three attorneys who work for her. And she has a secretary. I am in charge of her big cases that go to litigation. I run the show as it pertains to directing every aspect of litigation. What I say, goes.

And then I have my own stuff. It's a great setup.

It does help to have a firm mentor you. But I understand that everyone is not in this position. That firm is mainly there to help me with insanely large cases (from a small firm perspective) that cost a ton of money to try because I have sued a large manufacturer.

Don't sue large corporations and then you won't have to worry about having enough money to try those cases. So you won't need to partner with a more experienced firm.

How do you find clients?


This is the hardest part to law practice for anyone who is not already established. This is a major reason why more lawyers don't work for themselves. In this regard, you have to be better at this then practicing law. Or at least, just as good.

You have to come up with a specific plan. It all depends on your practice area. And your practice area should depend on the regional demands in your area.

Then you have to get out and engage in targeted marketing. You have to get in front of potential clients and you have to get in front of people who can refer you to potential clients. That's about all I can say about that because it is a trade secret. I've spent a lot of time devising marketing strategy. But follow those concepts, and you have a fighting chance. It is not easy to come up with ways, that's why you have to think through it thoroughly and intelligently.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks a lot for posting. I'm going to a biglaw firm next year, but I worked for a national plaintiffs firm before law school and have always maintained an interest in going back.

I'm pretty knowledgeable about patents now, too, so I'm thinking getting into patent trolling might be a cool move at some point, too. It sounds like you're pretty much running the show - are you solo or are you at a small firm?

Would you recommend that I go to my biglaw firm, try to work on the few plaintiffs' cases they have, and stay in touch with the plaintiffs' bar, if I want to transition at some point? How many years do you think I would want to wait before doing so? What does the plaintiffs bar look like in patent law?



The patent bar for plaintiffs work is probably the single most lucrative area in all of law. The largest judgment for a plaintiffs firm last year in Houston was 370 something million dollars from JUST ONE CASE! That means the firm made over 100 million. And that firm only has 12-15 attorneys! What biglaw law firm makes that kind of money with that kind of ratio?!

Plaintiffs work is no joke. And patent plaintiffs work is really no joke.

If I were you, I'd work five years. The reason for the long stay is that you are going biglaw. It's going to take a long time before you get to work on anything with enough frequency and consistency that develops your substantive legal knowledge concerning an area. If you were going to work for a smaller firm, you'd learn what you need to know much, much quicker. Based on what attorneys have done, you'd have to be at a small firm for two years. Biglaw pays the bills the easiest, but you learn to practice law the slowest.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you think people can replicate your sort of work in major metropolitan areas. It seems to me like places like North East have tons of law schools and unemployed attorneys, but Texas has only one truly national law school and a huge state as a market.

Also, I knew someone who went from a "not-so prestigious" firm to a v-50 after gaining litigation experience at that firm. There are also people on this forum talking about being able to leverage their solo practices into larger firm places. You seem happy and that you would not want that, but do you think it is feasible?


I think you mean replicating my work in the northeast. Houston and Dallas are very large metropolitan areas. The difference is that they don't have the population density that east coast cities have. And with that population density comes with it a ridiculous amount of law schools. Thus, there really is little to no demand for legal services to meet. You would have to find an incredibly small niche. So there is a huge problem with the execution of my plan in the northeast.

That being said, you would need to spend more time trying to figure out what type of unmet demand, if any, is in the northeast.

As to using your gained litigation experience for bigger firm jobs, that makes sense. However, I don't really know much about that. As to my understanding, bigger firms care so much about law school prestige and your grades even 10 years out. The importance given to these things is not as much as it is when you first graduate, but it is still there.

My brother's best friend went to a tier two school but was only able to land a job with the DA's office. He gained all kinds of trial experience, however. He was able to use the trial experience to get a trial court clerkship. That trial court clerkship led to him getting a midlaw job. Midlaw jobs are pretty much biglaw jobs for the most part. They are usually every bit as selective.

My mentor used experienced gained from a trial court clerkship to land a biglaw job that was not available to her coming out of law school. And then she went on to become partner at this international law firm. So I guess it is possible. But I would also guess that it is unlikely.

As much as you hate to hear it, I would move to a less dense location. That kind of location is going to have more unmet demand for certain types legal services as long as the area is not too sparse.

You would have to take the bar again for that location, but it will probably be easier. Or you could wait about five to seven years until you have reciprocity bar admission for that state.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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manofjustice
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Re: Plaintiffs lawyers

Postby manofjustice » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:17 pm

What is the best way to make massive amounts of money in the legal profession?




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