Is this a bad idea?

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ScurryRay

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Is this a bad idea?

Postby ScurryRay » Thu May 03, 2018 6:49 pm

So, I'll try and make a long story short. I went to a Tier 3 law school and did very well. I graduated from an accelerated program (2.5 years) first in my class (3.95 GPA), won various awards, competitions, scholarships, blah, blah. I worked in the corporate world for quite awhile before law school so my resume looks really good. However, I simply cannot find a job. Over the last 6+ months, I've applied to about 90 places since I graduated (clerkships, prosecutor's offices, non-profits, etc.) and have found nothing or been offered nothing. I've had interviews with probably 5 places during that time. Made it to the final 2 in my desired field twice but both times lost out. Right now, my only realistic propositions on the table are a lower level state court clerkship in another state that I have a first interview for and a Assistant District Attorney position that I have had 2 interviews for and am "in consideration" still for the 3rd and final interview. I did not go to law school to work for a firm (not that one would hire me at this rate), I went for non-profit/public interested purposes, just for context.

The clerkship would be fine, as it buys me a year to keep looking and gives good experience. The ADA position worries me as the salary is horrendous ($46k/year in a very expensive large city) and it is a three year commitment doing something I didn't really set out to do.

So, right now I am kicking around just staying in my home state and opening a solo practice doing criminal defense (appointments, maybe), low level personal injury, expungements, rights restorations, that sort of stuff. I was thinking I could supplement income with document review work while I am finding clients and building up the business. I have some money saved up, enough to probably live on for 6+ months and get the business started if I really want to burn through it.

Does that sound like a terrible idea? Any input or knee jerk thoughts are appreciated. I really didn't think it would be so hard to find work so am sort of scratching my head asking "What now?"

Thanks for any input.

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bruinfan10

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Re: Is this a bad idea?

Postby bruinfan10 » Thu May 03, 2018 7:47 pm

T3 law school duder, that's rough. I would go with the clerkship. Maybe the judge can use connections to get you in the door somewhere. Doesn't sound look a bad move at all to me.

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deadpanic

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Re: Is this a bad idea?

Postby deadpanic » Thu May 03, 2018 8:55 pm

I always caution against opening your own practice straight out of law school. Practicing law is not generally taught in law school. That would worry me, but I am also risk-averse.

Clerking for a state judge sounds better than opening up a solo practice. You'll get to witness actual lawyering, get to know attorneys, get connections through the judge, etc. And also not have to worry about all that overhead, bringing in clients--the business aspect. If you want to open up a solo shop, you can do so after the clerkship and saving some $.

LockBox

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Re: Is this a bad idea?

Postby LockBox » Fri May 04, 2018 12:56 pm

I have and have had a number of friends who were in your position - great credentials but couldn't find a job out of law school. My advice to them is the same i'll give to you - why aren't you volunteering right now? You should be strengthening your resume with law-related experience. I had extensive work history prior to law school and, get this, no one cares. If you're going to be hired in a legal capacity with no legal experience, they understand they will be training you from scratch. Having some experience will help. This is along the same lines of the recommendations above on the clerkship. Get some experience under your belt and go from there.

A few friends opened their own criminal practice (which I also do not recommend) only to parlay that experience into getting a job with a firm.

tbaker757

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Re: Is this a bad idea?

Postby tbaker757 » Tue May 15, 2018 3:25 pm

I have a partial dissent view. I actually went solo out of law school. I am happy with my choices. Be forewarned that this is not the easiest road but it can be done if that is what you want to do.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Is this a bad idea?

Postby AVBucks4239 » Tue May 15, 2018 4:10 pm

Like the above poster, I am also a solo practitioner. I had about four years of experience before going out on my own, but I had several friends who opened their practices straight out of law school and they are doing well. So I don't think it's ideal, but I do think you can do it.

You're obviously smart, and you prepared for law school, so I would recommend the following books to prepare yourself:
1. How to Start and Build a Law Practice
2. Solo By Choice
3. The Lawyer's Ultimate Guide to Online Leads

In terms of finances, I would recommend the following:
1. Keep fixed costs as low as possible. My practice is in its second month and my average total monthly expense is about $650/month (this may not be possible in your market, but shoot for something cheap)
2. Find an office share arrangement. My costs are so low because I had good relationships with lawyers and they charge me $400/month. This includes access to two conference rooms, fax, internet, phone (including receptionist), copier, scanner, etc. My biggest expenses are basically nil because of this.
2. Excluding rent, keep startup costs below $1,500. Get a Lenovo thinkpad, use Google Suites, build your website on Wix, buy business cards from Vistaprint, and beyond that everything else is extra.
3. Don't do anything vastly expensive (hiring staff, having your own office, buying new furniture for your entire office, etc.) until you are bringing in $10,000 per month

In terms of practice areas:
1. Definitely get on the criminal appointment list -- trial court and appellate court
2. Take a guardian ad litem CLE and do that work as well
3. Market whatever interests you, but practice as a generalist -- you should only start turning away cases when you don't have time to figure new ones out

In terms of marketing:
1. Definitely have a website, and do it on your own
2. Start (right now) making a list of every contact you know so you can send them a letter about opening your own practice
3. Join local bar associations, let attorneys know you are starting your own practice, and let them know you can cover hearings for them or help co-counsel. Other solos are better for this than other attorneys in firms (they keep as much as possible in house)
4. Check your local dockets for credit card companies and foreclosure mills. Identify their counsel, and if they are far away, send them a letter advising them that you can cover hearings for $100. I cover about three hearings a week, $300 per week x 4 weeks per month = $1,200, which means I've more than covered my expenses just by breathing and being able to show up at a courthouse.


There's a ton to learn, and I'm eventually probably going to write my own 3,000 word post on here (like my personal finance thread) with more detail. But if you do the above, you'll make it. You won't be rich off the bat, but you'll make it. And then you'll start getting referrals. And then you'll be fine.

Let me know if you have any questions.



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