Solo Practice Q&A

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JCougar

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby JCougar » Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:Incredibly helpful! Why are you not soloing anymore? What tips/recommendations do you have that you didn’t already discuss? Thanks for this!!


I have a ton of school debt, and I parlayed my success into my PSLF dream job. Instead of taking last years profits and tossing them all at my student debt black hole, now I only pay the monthly minimum, invested the rest in an index fund, and in 10 years, my debt will be gone and my investment will hopefully have doubled.

I definitely had second thoughts at one point, as I was starting to make Biglaw associate-type money all the while being my own boss (coming in to work whenever I wanted, wearing shorts on non-client/court days, talking whatever smack I wanted to the Biglaw partners opposing my cases, etc.). But I also knew that my success may not have been sustainable, and working on contingency when you're so otherwise poor and inexperienced takes a lot out of you. Working for two years on a case never knowing for sure that you're going to get paid takes a lot out of you, especially if you have no nest egg to fall back on. I traded in upside for a decent salary and good benefits.

It is a bit bizzare. Once you start to make well into six figures on your own, you would think you would fall into the "made it" category. But my laughable mountain of school debt made even this a risky and almost untenable endeavor. Also, when you work on contingency, you have no idea when you're going to get paid, so it's not like you can refinance with SoFi for a lower rate--only to miss 12 months of payments until you settle that big case. School loan debt payment plans are not set up to work with contingency lawyers.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:57 am

JCougar wrote:It is a bit bizzare. Once you start to make well into six figures on your own, you would think you would fall into the "made it" category. But my laughable mountain of school debt made even this a risky and almost untenable endeavor. Also, when you work on contingency, you have no idea when you're going to get paid, so it's not like you can refinance with SoFi for a lower rate--only to miss 12 months of payments until you settle that big case. School loan debt payment plans are not set up to work with contingency lawyers.

First and most importantly, not turning this into an argument -- there is no right or wrong, and I'm sure you made a reasonable choice. I'm just just sharing how my experience has differed.

***

I graduated with almost $160,000 in loans, and because I was on income based repayment, that's basically what they were when I started my own practice last year. Now that my income is a very steady $8k minimum a month (averaging about $14k/month so far), I'm throwing a ton of extra money toward my debt (currently at $120,000). I expect to have this paid off within about 12-15 months.

Thus, I've basically used my current success to invest in my future and pay down my debt. That lack of debt will allow me to be really flexible moving forward.

More specifically, I do plan on scaling back once my student loans are paid off. I'm still pondering this pretty often, but I imagine I will hire someone to help out full time. This will reduce my profitability, but that cost will pale in comparison to the pressure I'm currently putting myself under to pay my loans.

***

That said, I totally understand what you mean about contingency fee cases. I absolutely hate them. I have a products liability case I probably shouldn't have taken. It's going to take an absolute ton of work (including 3-5 hours this week). There are a bunch of issues that we should theoretically overcome, but those issues are there. In the end, best case is my guy gets about a $100,000 settlement, but I honestly don't think a $33k fee would be worth all the time this is going to take.

I usually defend against these cases, one of which is a 2015 case that *still* has not gone to trial. Plaintiff's counsel has to have spent $30,000 on experts.

I could not and would not do a solo business with the majority of my work being contingency. It is a very small part of my practice (maybe 10-15%), and I even hate most of those.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby JCougar » Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:42 pm

Interesting perspective.

My school loans are almost double yours, so that sort of changes my calculus.

I didn't get a lot of billable work because I literally had only volunteer experience previously. I didn't have the resume for defense work really. The attorney whose office I used gave me some stuff though.

At this point, if I went back at it, though, I now have the confidence and experience to bring some of that in.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:43 pm

JCougar wrote:Interesting perspective.

My school loans are almost double yours, so that sort of changes my calculus.

I didn't get a lot of billable work because I literally had only volunteer experience previously. I didn't have the resume for defense work really. The attorney whose office I used gave me some stuff though.

At this point, if I went back at it, though, I now have the confidence and experience to bring some of that in.


Do you think you could of gotten it if you had biglaw experience and clerkship experience? I specialize in products cases at the big law level, which would be great as a solo on the defense side. Just wondering how feasible it would be to pitch this work?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby JCougar » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
JCougar wrote:Interesting perspective.

My school loans are almost double yours, so that sort of changes my calculus.

I didn't get a lot of billable work because I literally had only volunteer experience previously. I didn't have the resume for defense work really. The attorney whose office I used gave me some stuff though.

At this point, if I went back at it, though, I now have the confidence and experience to bring some of that in.


Do you think you could of gotten it if you had biglaw experience and clerkship experience? I specialize in products cases at the big law level, which would be great as a solo on the defense side. Just wondering how feasible it would be to pitch this work?


It's possible, but that's an entirely different type of networking than I did, so I probably can't give you great tips. Outside of the big cities, I know some older solos would join local Chambers of Commerce to get contacts with small businesses. It helps to be involved in a lot of civic and other organizations. Getting business as a lawyer is all about knowing people locally. As for other strategies, maybe go on LinkedIn and see if any alumni from your school are in-house counsel? Tell them to try you out if you they have smaller matters they need done for a discount.

Thing is, with products liability cases, isn't the insurance company usually the one that hires defense counsel? It's hard to network with them--they will almost always go with the established players.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:25 pm

JCougar wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
JCougar wrote:Interesting perspective.

My school loans are almost double yours, so that sort of changes my calculus.

I didn't get a lot of billable work because I literally had only volunteer experience previously. I didn't have the resume for defense work really. The attorney whose office I used gave me some stuff though.

At this point, if I went back at it, though, I now have the confidence and experience to bring some of that in.


Do you think you could of gotten it if you had biglaw experience and clerkship experience? I specialize in products cases at the big law level, which would be great as a solo on the defense side. Just wondering how feasible it would be to pitch this work?


It's possible, but that's an entirely different type of networking than I did, so I probably can't give you great tips. Outside of the big cities, I know some older solos would join local Chambers of Commerce to get contacts with small businesses. It helps to be involved in a lot of civic and other organizations. Getting business as a lawyer is all about knowing people locally. As for other strategies, maybe go on LinkedIn and see if any alumni from your school are in-house counsel? Tell them to try you out if you they have smaller matters they need done for a discount.

Thing is, with products liability cases, isn't the insurance company usually the one that hires defense counsel? It's hard to network with them--they will almost always go with the established players.


Good point, forgot that fact given that my cases are not insurance cases.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonesq » Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:36 pm

Couple more questions:

1). Have you ever had a close friend know you practice in a certain area and use someone else’s services instead? How do you get over it?

2). Not sure if this has been asked yet, but how are you marketing? I already did LinkedIn and Facebook. Should I do county bar referral? Place business cards in restaurants? What else should I be doing to get more clients?

Thanks.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:31 am

Anonesq wrote:Couple more questions:

1). Have you ever had a close friend know you practice in a certain area and use someone else’s services instead? How do you get over it?

2). Not sure if this has been asked yet, but how are you marketing? I already did LinkedIn and Facebook. Should I do county bar referral? Place business cards in restaurants? What else should I be doing to get more clients?

Thanks.


1. It's not a big deal at all and happens all the time. Friends and family don't want to mix business with your relationship -- if you lose the case, then what? I refer good friends to other lawyers all the time. Then those lawyers refer stuff back to me.

2. Website, business cards, and just meeting other lawyers. You want to target very specialized attorneys because he or she will always refer everything else out. You also want to target other professionals -- think about what you are looking for as a client base and think about whether that clientele will intersect. If you are doing family law, getting to know marriage counselors is great. Business law, talk to a bunch of accountants. Etc.

Also send a letter to everyone you know about starting your practice.

Also make sure you have a life. Go out with friends and family. A lot. Mention your practice one time in almost every interaction.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:34 am

AVBucks4239 wrote:
JCougar wrote:It is a bit bizzare. Once you start to make well into six figures on your own, you would think you would fall into the "made it" category. But my laughable mountain of school debt made even this a risky and almost untenable endeavor. Also, when you work on contingency, you have no idea when you're going to get paid, so it's not like you can refinance with SoFi for a lower rate--only to miss 12 months of payments until you settle that big case. School loan debt payment plans are not set up to work with contingency lawyers.

First and most importantly, not turning this into an argument -- there is no right or wrong, and I'm sure you made a reasonable choice. I'm just just sharing how my experience has differed.

***

I graduated with almost $160,000 in loans, and because I was on income based repayment, that's basically what they were when I started my own practice last year. Now that my income is a very steady $8k minimum a month (averaging about $14k/month so far), I'm throwing a ton of extra money toward my debt (currently at $120,000). I expect to have this paid off within about 12-15 months.

Thus, I've basically used my current success to invest in my future and pay down my debt. That lack of debt will allow me to be really flexible moving forward.

More specifically, I do plan on scaling back once my student loans are paid off. I'm still pondering this pretty often, but I imagine I will hire someone to help out full time. This will reduce my profitability, but that cost will pale in comparison to the pressure I'm currently putting myself under to pay my loans.

***

That said, I totally understand what you mean about contingency fee cases. I absolutely hate them. I have a products liability case I probably shouldn't have taken. It's going to take an absolute ton of work (including 3-5 hours this week). There are a bunch of issues that we should theoretically overcome, but those issues are there. In the end, best case is my guy gets about a $100,000 settlement, but I honestly don't think a $33k fee would be worth all the time this is going to take.

I usually defend against these cases, one of which is a 2015 case that *still* has not gone to trial. Plaintiff's counsel has to have spent $30,000 on experts.

I could not and would not do a solo business with the majority of my work being contingency. It is a very small part of my practice (maybe 10-15%), and I even hate most of those.


14k a month! You don’t have to deal with big law issues but have better than big law pay. I am doing this wrong.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:16 am

Anonymous User wrote:14k a month! You don’t have to deal with big law issues but have better than big law pay. I am doing this wrong.


That's so far this year, which I meant to clarify. Overall it's been about $11,000/month.

Granted, this does not include that I have to pay all my own expenses. Last year was about $700/month, and now it's about $1,100 per month after moving to a bigger office. Self employment tax also blows, but there are a lot of other tax breaks that likely even it out.

Also, have to remember that, right now, I am a one-man show. When I need to send a letter to a client, I get the letterhead ready in the printer, print it, print the envelope, lick the envelope, put the stamp on, and take it to the USPS box. If I need to file something at a state court that does not have e-filing, I drive it there myself.

Yes, I would much prefer this over big law, and it's not close. But there are a ton of variables and personality characteristics that you likely need to make this work early on.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonesq » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:19 pm

Not sure if this question has been asked yet, but what did you gross your first year in solo practice.

Right now I have a client basically giving me a flat fee every week and I have 5-6 other clients on smaller contingency cases.

How long will it take to really start seeing some good income generation? I am trying to put my all into it and network/ advertise as much as possible. Right now all my advertising is free (facebook/linkedin).

Thanks.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:59 pm

Anonesq wrote:Not sure if this question has been asked yet, but what did you gross your first year in solo practice.

Right now I have a client basically giving me a flat fee every week and I have 5-6 other clients on smaller contingency cases.

How long will it take to really start seeing some good income generation? I am trying to put my all into it and network/ advertise as much as possible. Right now all my advertising is free (facebook/linkedin).

Thanks.


I grossed $102,000 in my first twelve months practicing. I would say it took about three months to have consistent $5,000/month in revenue, and it's built from there.

Important caveat -- it is hard for me to project contingency fee revenues. I think someone else is better qualified for that.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:26 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote:
Anonesq wrote:Not sure if this question has been asked yet, but what did you gross your first year in solo practice.

Right now I have a client basically giving me a flat fee every week and I have 5-6 other clients on smaller contingency cases.

How long will it take to really start seeing some good income generation? I am trying to put my all into it and network/ advertise as much as possible. Right now all my advertising is free (facebook/linkedin).

Thanks.


I grossed $102,000 in my first twelve months practicing. I would say it took about three months to have consistent $5,000/month in revenue, and it's built from there.

Important caveat -- it is hard for me to project contingency fee revenues. I think someone else is better qualified for that.



Wow nice! Great job. I’m trying to figure out what else I should be doing. Is it worth doing google adwords? How did you get to that level so quickly?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:34 pm

Have you considered hiring a paralegal or other associate? What would that look like for you?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:Wow nice! Great job. I’m trying to figure out what else I should be doing. Is it worth doing google adwords? How did you get to that level so quickly?


Google Adwords is way too expensive when you are just starting out. It balloons on you very quick, and the cost can become like a firehose.

As I said, I had about 3-4 corporate clients that all had pretty consistent work going on. And then I got a couple referrals, I did my local counsel work, did my PD work, and I was pretty easily making a good profit every month.

Here I am to this day, and I am leaving to go cover a hearing for $46. Smart? I don't know. But it is June 14th and I have made $2,194 just in covering hearings this month. If I had ZERO other business I would be making a $1k profit this month.

Anonymous User wrote:Have you considered hiring a paralegal or other associate? What would that look like for you?

My brother has been coming in once a week to help out for about 2-3 hours a week. He does all the stuff I hate doing -- printing envelopes, scanning and organizing, filing, calendaring from hearing orders, cleaning up, etc. I do not need much more help than 2-3 hours a week until stuff is more automated.

On that note, I'm also using him as a trial run so I know what needs to go into a policies and procedures manual, as well as a form bank, so a paralegal actually saves me time.

***

Not being critical at all, but just these two questions illustrate why a lot of solos do not make money. Again, my first year revenues were $102,000 over 12 months, which is about $8.5k/month.

My costs last year were about $20k, which includes taxes. So that's $1.7k a month, leaving me with $6.8k month in profit.

Google AdWords and other traditional advertising can EASILY cost you thousands a month. A paralegal at the absolute bare minimum will cost you $2k a month.

Other things attorneys get bullied into thinking they need (expensive legal research software, case management software, etc.) is another $500 a month.

And boom, you are now operating at a $3k/month profit instead of almost $7k. And that can happen very quickly and as the result of only a few small decisions.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby wwwcol » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:49 am

AdWords is too expensive because it doesn’t produce results? Or something else? Because if it’s just the trial spend that bothers you, can’t you just limit your budget / CPC / pay for less expensive keywords?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:43 pm

wwwcol wrote:AdWords is too expensive because it doesn’t produce results? Or something else? Because if it’s just the trial spend that bothers you, can’t you just limit your budget / CPC / pay for less expensive keywords?

I talked about this a lot with other practitioners, and also did a ton of research about Google AdWords (including reading a couple eBooks), so I don't have any direct experience, but I think I know enough to talk about it.

As a threshold matter, I think the general rule of thumb is to spend somewhere around five percent of revenues on marketing. When you are just starting out, that is a very, very small amount of money.

You simply cannot make an imprint on Google AdWords with a $250 or $500 budget. The amount of leads this will generate will be minimal.

Now, when you are up and running, and your office is making serious money, then yes, now it's time to leverage Google AdWords.

***

Another thing -- it is very hard to spend $500 a month on Google when there is so much free advertising via social media.

***

You do not need Google AdWords to come up on Google. You need a good website that's written well.

***

My opinions are strongly based on my experience that referrals are almost always better than online leads. A referral will come to your office with a blank check. You've already won if they were referred to you. This is why you are better off using $500 to buy 20 lawyers or other professionals lunch two times each than paying for AdWords.

Conversely, most people who find me online call asking for free advice. They come for a free consult and balk at the idea of paying a nominal retainer ($500).

***

Bottom line, early on, there is a lot better way to spend your time and money than Google AdWords.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby jfadamson » Tue Jun 18, 2019 5:31 pm

0L here.

Are you charging a traditional hourly fee to these corporate accounts?

Do you use any of the following practices or have any thoughts to share on any of the following topics - remote legal work through virtual offices, "unbundled services" or "limited scope representation", and automation.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 8:25 am

jfadamson wrote:0L here.

Are you charging a traditional hourly fee to these corporate accounts?

Do you use any of the following practices or have any thoughts to share on any of the following topics - remote legal work through virtual offices, "unbundled services" or "limited scope representation", and automation.

To be honest, when I originally left my firm to work with another solo, I lacked confidence and told her I only wanted to charge $150 an hour. After a few assignments she called me into her office and said I was well worth $200/hour, and I've stuck to that rate since. Note that this was about the only good thing to come out of working with this solo. I will probably go up to $225 an hour in a couple years.

I'm not sure what you mean by remote work through virtual offices. I have a physical office because I think it's personally necessary for me. There is a book called "Law Office on a Laptop" that covers running a completely remote law practice. I read it but always thought I needed an office.

I actually do a lot of limited scope representation, but only if it does not involve litigation. Litigation is basically impossible to unbundle because, once you enter an appearance, you are obligated to represent the client unless the court grants your motion to withdraw as counsel. So if your client does not want to pay you to defend the MSJ, and the court will not let you off the case because it's in the middle of motions, then you could get stuck. In my experience, getting a retainer is the 100% correct decision 100% of the time.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonesq » Thu Jun 20, 2019 8:29 pm

I’m on track to make around $4k in legal fees my first month as a solo. Is this decent? I’m also about to settle some contingency cases. Also trying to network and bring contacts out to lunch to develop more business.

Any other thoughts/ advice on how I’m doing and anything else I should be doing to progress is appreciated...

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:05 pm

Anonesq wrote:I’m on track to make around $4k in legal fees my first month as a solo. Is this decent? I’m also about to settle some contingency cases. Also trying to network and bring contacts out to lunch to develop more business.

Any other thoughts/ advice on how I’m doing and anything else I should be doing to progress is appreciated...


I did $5,200 my first month, you're doing great. Keep finding work and keep your expenses low.

Make sure you are doing local counsel work and appointment work. It's free, low-mental-energy money. Yes, about 20% of your appointment cases will be contested, but a vast majority of the misdemeanor cases are cut and dry just getting a plea.

Importantly, and regarding your contingency cases, do NOT accept bad cases. Bad cases lead to bad results, which leads to disgruntled clients, which leads to them talking shit about you. I learned this the hard way this month by taking on a referral from a good friend that I knew sucked, and now the settlement sucks, and now my client is absolutely pissed.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonesq » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:39 pm

Thanks for your response AV Bucks.

What do you mean by local counsel work? You mean signing up for appearance sites such as Docketly?

Can you advise what other appearance sites you are using?

I seem to only be getting local counsel requests from Docketly.

I have not been getting any other appearance requests from the other sites.

Also, I have not actually accepted any requests yet. Is this appearance work generally very easy? Can you advise how these generally go?

Thanks.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:05 pm

Anonesq wrote:Thanks for your response AV Bucks.

What do you mean by local counsel work? You mean signing up for appearance sites such as Docketly?

Can you advise what other appearance sites you are using?

I seem to only be getting local counsel requests from Docketly.

I have not been getting any other appearance requests from the other sites.

Also, I have not actually accepted any requests yet. Is this appearance work generally very easy? Can you advise how these generally go?

Thanks.

I'm biased but appearance work is the best thing to ever happen to young solo practitioners that are willing to hustle. It is the most low energy, low mental work ever.

Depending on the company you get anywhere from $50-100 per appearance. The best thing is that when you work for multiple appearance places, you will get multiple hearings at the same place. All of a sudden showing up at court for 10 minutes will pay you $250.

Next Tuesday is a great example -- I have 11 of these damn hearings at 4 courts from 10:00 AM to about 2:15. I will make $503 in 5+ hours. My time spent at court will be about 30 minutes. The other three hours will be driving around either making calls (for my practice) or listening to podcasts. Putting in the reports will be a pain but that will take about 15 minutes.

Backing up, my goal is always to make $400/day -- that puts you on target for $100k revenue in a year. And if you can have two of these hearings a day for $150, now you only need $250 a day. And that's easy.

The hearings are all extremely basic -- default hearings (no answer filed), case management conferences (setting dates), pre-trials (advising court of the nature of the case and setting dates), summary judgments, etc. Know your civil rules. You download the materials prior to the hearing and then fill out a report after the hearing through each company's portal.

Best companies are Docketly, My Motion Calendar (defense work, so be careful not to do take the plaintiff and defendant on the same case), Court Appearance Professionals, and Attorneys in Motion. DO NOT -- ABSOLUTELY DO NOT -- use Attorneys on Demand. They do not give you any materials and you walk into court naked, and the judge will hate you.

They are comically easy. It's the easiest money around. $2,911 in June just from covering these stupid things.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:59 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote:
Anonesq wrote:I’m on track to make around $4k in legal fees my first month as a solo. Is this decent? I’m also about to settle some contingency cases. Also trying to network and bring contacts out to lunch to develop more business.

Any other thoughts/ advice on how I’m doing and anything else I should be doing to progress is appreciated...


I did $5,200 my first month, you're doing great. Keep finding work and keep your expenses low.

Make sure you are doing local counsel work and appointment work. It's free, low-mental-energy money. Yes, about 20% of your appointment cases will be contested, but a vast majority of the misdemeanor cases are cut and dry just getting a plea.

Importantly, and regarding your contingency cases, do NOT accept bad cases. Bad cases lead to bad results, which leads to disgruntled clients, which leads to them talking shit about you. I learned this the hard way this month by taking on a referral from a good friend that I knew sucked, and now the settlement sucks, and now my client is absolutely pissed.


Is there a point where you sacrifice profit to scale? I may be in a slight different position that other potential solos, but my wife will be in biglaw when I make the jump. I will also have significant cash reserves. My goal is to hire staff and eventually a associate. Do you have any opinions on that? How long that would take? Basically, my goal is to own a small firm, not remain solo.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is there a point where you sacrifice profit to scale? I may be in a slight different position that other potential solos, but my wife will be in biglaw when I make the jump. I will also have significant cash reserves. My goal is to hire staff and eventually a associate. Do you have any opinions on that? How long that would take? Basically, my goal is to own a small firm, not remain solo.

I typed this out and realized it's kind of a rant, so my conclusion is this -- certainly you can have a higher ceiling by scaling your practice, and maybe you can sacrifice profit to work less by hiring support; but early on, you are much better off running a lean and mean, profit first practice before you make any big hires that cost significant overhead.

Personally, I may be guilty of short-termism and being too conservative, but I am staying as a true solo until I pay off my loans. I would then hire one assistant, and then maybe years from now an associate when I'm semi-retired.

I've really surveyed the landscape, and it's just such a mixed bag to make any sort of conclusion regarding profitability. Certainly there is a higher ceiling when you scale, but that carries great risk if you do it too soon.

I know true solos (i.e., no employees, like me) who make $250,000 a year. I know solos with one assistant who make more (this seems to be the dream scenario, although I don't have enough non-legal work to actually delegate right now). I know guys who have built firms that make a killing; but I know a three-partner firm that makes a ton (more than a million in revenues a year), but each partner's profit isn't *that* much higher than mine.

The rule of thumb I was taught was to not hire anyone until you are profiting $8-10,000 a month consistently. This means that, no doubt, you will always be able to pay your staff AND yourself. And the practice of law is too hard not to pay yourself.

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I've conducted a little experiment with this by hiring my brother to come in once per week for about four hours. He can obviously do all the manual things (print and mail stuff, copy stuff, scan stuff, drop something off at the post office, etc.). I'm going to teach him how to do billing this month.

But what's really eye-opening is how much he is dependent on me for anything legal or substantive. Granted, he's not a trained paralegal obviously, but even every paralegal I've had needs a close eye. And then you find yourself worried not only about stuff you're doing, but stuff you've delegated.

And this leads to probably my biggest hesitation -- I need to spend probably years building up systems and procedures, as well as a form bank, until anyone can come in and efficiently do this stuff that makes my expense worth it. Just think of your average criminal misdemeanor court appointment:

1) Review notice of hearing
2) Calendar pre-trial hearing
3) Print docket and notate statutes of offenses
4) Send letter to defendant regarding hearing (form)
5) File discovery request, bill of particulars, and maybe other forms (forms)
6) Copy, organize, review discovery materials
7) Schedule meeting with defendant (if they call)
8 ) Attend pre-trial hearing, maybe get plea
9) Send closing letter to Defendant explaining plea (form)
10) Complete fee application
11) Turn in fee application to county court for judge's signature
12) Take fee application to auditor
13) Receive and deposit check (make sure it's deposited into the right account!)

I'm missing stuff, but that is JUST a simple run of the mill criminal misdemeanor that involves no complications. It will probably take me a couple hours to put together the forms for someone else to be able to handle all of that run of the mill stuff.

Now imagine a trade secrets case. There would be a TON. Think about letters and billing and on and on and on -- it's hard to delegate, and building up systems and processes and forms for you to efficiently delegate that is going to take time.

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There are pros and cons to it. I will certainly get an assistant here, hopefully within a year or two. I would be happy to advise of my profitability and productivity then.

But it's a very difficult decision, and all this said -- I'm very confident that early on, it is absolutely necessary to run a lean and mean practice and get your feet off the ground before you start with a "firm."



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