Sole Practitioner

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OFFMason
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Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:38 am

Hello there folks:

A. Do any of you graduates have any experience with going out into the legal world alone, working for yourself, your own practice? If so, was it a good choice? When did you actually go solo (from the time that you graduated)? Is there a lot of success to be had, and by success, I mean financially... or is it almost always a steep slide to failure from which it is difficult to recover?

B. Are there any articles, support materials or blogs that are favorable towards the idea of building a practice from the ground up?

***
I just entered my 2nd full-time year at school. I believe it is important to start creating a long-term strategy. I was thinking of going into either criminal defense or personal injury. Criminal defense because the work seems to interest me or personal injury because the financial rewards are potentially great. Please let me know if I am incorrect --- looking for your guidance. Thanks!

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dextermorgan
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby dextermorgan » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:54 am

I stumbled across this site, seems to have a ton of info:http://www.myshingle.com/

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:58 am

Interesting site, will check it out. Thank you for your quick response. Are you a sole practitioner or know of any? I'd really like to hear some positive news for once.

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dextermorgan
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby dextermorgan » Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:00 am

Nope, not in LS yet. I do know a couple of practitioners, but they aren't there by choice. :(

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:09 am

Anybody else have any advice?

06072010
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby 06072010 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:30 pm

I think taking as many clinical classes as you can take would be prudent. I'd also join local bar associations' student divisions.

Anonymous User
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:58 pm

I was also considering this option until I interviewed a few sole practitioners that graduated fromf Duke and USC. My overall impression was, expect to work your ass off and starve the 1st few years. It's only after you establish a good reputation and a strong client base that you start seeing results for your work.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby reasonable_man » Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:24 am

Going Solo out of law school is a fucking death sentence. You need 2 to 3 years of good solid experience in a firm before you are anywhere near ready. Especially in personal injury and/or criminal defense.. Law school has taught you nothing that will help you at all..

-EDIT-

I posted this in another thread.. seemed applicable here:

Im exactly one year post bar exam... I worked at a bigger firm (175 lawyers) for 2 years before LS while in college, I worked at a small firm in General practice part time for 2 years of law school and I worked as an SA and then part time during my 3rd year for my current firm of about 75 lawyers.. In short, my expereince base is pretty solid. Even so, I know that I'm years away from being able to actually consider "hanging a shingle." The financial commitment is huge and risk of failure is substantial. Moreover, this is a profession built on learning from the previous generation. The idea of LS in this country is only about 100 years old.. Trust me, you learn very little about actual practice in LS.. The real actual points of practice that you MUST know is generally shown to you at a firm.. This takes more than "a year or two." I've been supervising three SAs this summer and it has served as a reminder of just how little LS teaches you.. They are good students, smart and capable, but they simply don't know what they are doing yet... It takes time..

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MTal
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby MTal » Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:46 am

Dude, everyone here was telling you that law school was a bad idea back in 08'. Your best bet is to drop out now and join the army, not that you'll listen, of course.

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:01 pm

Thanks reasonable man. Well I'm still considering my options. I may try to find a small firm after law school and learn the tricks of the trade, or I may just make an attempt to go at it alone and learn by way of trial and error.

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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:17 pm

I want to go solo and eventually build it in to a small practice as well. That's a dream of mine. But I concur that you need a couple years of experience first. Working at small firm may give you more directly applicable experience than doing doc review at a large firm. Regardless, attempting to go it alone right away, learning by "trial and error" as you suggested, is reckless and would be at the expense of your clients. Wait til you're confident that you know what you're doing.

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GATORTIM
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby GATORTIM » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:20 pm

I work with PI atty's all day long and for-the-most-part they all seem like nice people; however, I would really not enjoy taking the majority of the cases they handle, especially after 3 hard years of LS.

What exactly is that thing fixed to your noggin? Some sort of laser-beam?

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reasonable_man
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:22 pm

OFFMason wrote:Thanks reasonable man. Well I'm still considering my options. I may try to find a small firm after law school and learn the tricks of the trade, or I may just make an attempt to go at it alone and learn by way of trial and error.



Learning by way of trial and error usually ends in malpractice of some sort... There is no 'reset' button in litigation and judges do not allow a 'do over' for lack of experience. When you take on a case, you are expected to be able to handle that case as if you are a seasoned practicioner.

An example I always note is NY'S deadline for filing a Motion for Summary Judgment. The Civil Practice Laws and Rules permit a party to file a motion for summary judgment at any time, but not after 120 days subsequent to the filing of the note of issue, placing the case on the trial docket. It says nothing else. However, by way of the NY Court Rules, which are HUGE and difficult to navigate, any Court may restrict this time period further, for any reason at all, so long as the time is not expanded past 180 days or shortened to less than 30 days. Judges can do that in a PC or CC order, they can do it in their individual part rules, or the specific court itself can do it by local rule... What do you suppose happens when you blow that deadline? It ain't good and Courts have little discretion to entertain a meritorious motion even if its a few days late..

This is one of about 186,567,303 potential pitfalls you face as a litigator with no safety net (Experienced partners) when you choose to "hang a shingle" right after law school. Shit, Canada won't even let attorneys practice without a manditory 1-year internship.. Its simply not a good idea. Find a firm to teach you some stuff for a year or two and then strike out on your own if you feel so inclined. You'll be happy you did.

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Matthies
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby Matthies » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:54 pm

I’ve had three friends/classmates hang up shingles right after law school and be successful, and a few others that were not. The ones that were successful (in criminal law, immigration law and environmental law) all had one thing in common: mentors and lots of them. They all had seasoned attorneys willing to feed them cases, mentor them on cases and generally advise them on a daily basis. Not one or two people, but at least five or more lawyers with 20+ year experience at their sides. That’s the only way I can see it working out right out of law school is have other solo’s willing to “train” you as you go.

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Grond
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby Grond » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:07 pm

OFFMason wrote:Thanks reasonable man. Well I'm still considering my options. I may try to find a small firm after law school and learn the tricks of the trade, or I may just make an attempt to go at it alone and learn by way of trial and error.



A good starting point:
http://www.amazon.com/Start-Practice-Ca ... 135&sr=8-1

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:11 pm

I have heard of that book. Is it superior to "Solo by Choice" by Carolyn Elefant?

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Grond
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby Grond » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:21 pm

OFFMason wrote:I have heard of that book. Is it superior to "Solo by Choice" by Carolyn Elefant?


Not familiar with that one. Foonberg's is the default starting point, but I'd recommend that if you read one you should read several of them to get differing viewpoints. For example, I don't necessarily agree with Foonberg's position that the best time to go solo is the day you get licensed. :shock:

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pjo
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby pjo » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:58 pm

Why not work in a firm for at least a little bit? Just do it in the field where you plan to go solo in. I intern at a PI firm and most of the other PI firms in the area were started by our former attorneys that branched off on their own (our firm is the biggest and oldest). It will give you the experience and reputation in the field (which in PI the more ppl that know you the better, when ppl get hurt they go to the “memorable face” not necessarily the “best” lawyer). Also it could give you an income to raise the capital needed to go out solo.

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:35 pm

My little avatar is not a picture of me. I merely wanted to blend in with the other folks on the forum who had head-bands on their avatar (I am merely a sheep I suppose).

I am worried that if I join a firm, I will lack the motivation to leave and hang up my own shingle. I am sure it is sometimes difficult to take your life off of cruise control. Of course, this is me speaking of uncertainties, but you are surely giving some valid advice.

pjo, I was curious as to whether there is there still money to be made in PI. As of late, has your firm seen any multi-million dollar cases come its way?

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pjo
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby pjo » Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:49 pm

we haven't done much litigation this summer...mostly dealt with settlements but they've been bigger than normal (i.e usually 15K-50K, now 75K-120K average). We've been taking on a lot of smaller cases than normal too (probably like 1500-7500K settlements, but they're easier work than the big settlement cases and basically its easy money. I think we won one case this summer and were awarded 3 million which was appealed but we won the motion. Last summer we won a case for 14 million and that was a pretty big deal. IMO I think we were doing worse last summer (cutbacks in staff and major cutback in advertising budget) but were still the #1 PI firm in the area and have been for quite some time.

--FWIW the attorney that owns and started the firm went to a T2 along with our "#2" guy. Both worked BIGLAW for a few years before deciding to do personal injury. We also have T25 grad who had a similiar path. IMO, or atleast at our firm, the best PI attorneys are the ones that could be doing BIGLAW but aren't bc they hated it. Most of our attorneys average 45/wk and only do 50+ right before we go to court..which really isnt often. Its also not nearly as stressful an environment as Biglaw. I have to warn you though, the T3 and T4 grads seem to be the ones who are really hurting for work in this field right now. like I said, the attorneys that are doing the best are the ones who COULD be doing BIGLAW if they wanted to. Keep in mind, thats who you're going to be going against should you get to court.

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:03 pm

Sounds interesting. As you have said, people will probably go for a memorable face over a "better" attorney, so I may just have to concentrate on having a "memorable" face. At this point, I think it would be imprudent to guess whether or not I will be big-law material, so time will tell.

Now how are these attorneys doing financially? Is anyone taking home 6 digit salaries? I really like the notion that your firm is relatively comfortable in comparison to a big law atmosphere. I never really had the urge to shoot for big law.

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GATORTIM
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby GATORTIM » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:05 pm

OFFMason wrote:My little avatar is not a picture of me.


Oh...I was just going to say that you look like the coal-mining brother of James Cameron.

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pjo
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby pjo » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:16 pm

I have NO clue what salaries are. Although I am interested in finding out what starting salary is for the firm I just don't know how to go about asking. All I know is that it must be decent for the senior attorneys (the owner told me he does not and will never offer partnership which is why a few attorneys left a while back to start their own firm). Im guessing they get paid decent because three of them have been with our firm for 10+ years. Like I said though, if I had to guess its more about quality of life for these guys than the money. From what I've seen, the most stressful day here would be simply an average day at BIGLAW. Also, the attorney here seem to really love their work (although I can't say the same for the legal assistants and paralegals who really have menial work). And of course...the owner is raking in the money (huge house, car collection, the works), and starting this summer hes only coming in about 20 hrs/wk. But to his credit he deserves it, he really did bust his butt to get to this position.
If I were you I would work at a PI firm for a few years (or whatever field you want to start your own company in). SAVE like crazy! Use that time to hone your skills in that field and build a network with those lawyers and ESPECIALLY the judges in your county court! I can't stress how important this is. Also, I would try to get my face out, do a ton of extracurricular volunteer work in your county..so much that everyone knows your name and face AND THINKS GOOD THINGS ABOUT YOU. Then when you start, spend very little on everything except for advertising---go all out on advertising and a top notch legal assistant who is committed to be with you for as long as you have a firm. This is basically how my boss started his PI firm.

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OFFMason
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Re: Sole Practitioner

Postby OFFMason » Wed Aug 19, 2009 1:26 am

Great advice PJO. Thank you!




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