Hell, the higher you are on the pyramid scheme that is legal employment the less you work in shitlaw. The partners might work 30 a week..
Very true! My hours are not much at all. Again, this is not the norm and I'm making no representation that "if it has happened to me, it can happen to you" kind of thing. I'm only stating what MIGHT be possible.
One last example, I have a former high school classmate who went to a regional tier 4 school here in Texas. He just made half a million dollars off of a wrongful death case. He made 733 grand off of a case he had years ago. He is partnered with two other law school classmates of his. I have another high school classmate who went to a regional tier two who is part of the one million dollar verdict club. He works by himself. If you get a 1 million dollar verdict, that's $333,333 or $400,000 depending on whether you practice contracts on a contingency fee basis or personal injury which is all contingency fee at 40%. This is far from the norm, but I seem to know a lot of attorneys who do very well for themselves outside of biglaw, myself included.
It was interesting reading some of your posts on this thread (which I'm still working through, btw).
You've made the case in numerous posts that non-big law (I personally refuse to use the term "s**t law," as I finding it a demeaning term/label) jobs can sometimes be quite lucrative - even more so than big law. To follow-up and clarify a bit, are these mostly trial lawyers in non-big law that you are referring to who have these lucrative careers? Or, are there non-trial lawyers doing non-big law
, who you've seen have lucrative careers as well?
I'm curious to know more about the career trajectories, personal skills, and background of those whom you referenced as building lucrative careers in non-big law work. What differentiated them from other non-big law attorneys? And how rare do you find it to have these lucrative non-big law legal careers?
And, finally, I'm curious as to whether or not there is a path into big law
from non-big law for one who has made a name and/or lucrative career outside of it? I often get the impression if one does not enter into big law out of law school that it is next to impossible to get in later in life. But would attorneys building highly successful/lucrative practices or making a "name" for themselves outside of big law have a chance to then move into big law (based on their success outside of it)?
Thanks very much for your time and insights! Greatly appreciate it!!!
The champ is back. I'm totally being silly. You have to remain stress free and you have to keep it light when you are a lawyer.
Thank you very much for the kind words. I'm glad that you got something out of what I said.
Like others pointed out to me quite a while back, I'm not making any representations that what I see and experience are the norm. However, I am saying that if you work very hard and even more importantly, work very smartly, you stand a much better chance at success at opening your own law firm.
But there are several hurdles. I'm not a business guru, but from what I've observed, the key to generating much revenue with ANY business is volume. Whether you sell products or services you have to have volume. Even if you are trying large cases like I am, you still have to have a few cases. That means, your marketing has to be very effective.
The only exception that I have seen to needing volume is a plaintiff lawyer's trial practice. It depends on the type of cases that you get. But a plaintiff's lawyer can make a huge amount of money off of one case. Sure, there are those lawyers that make 50 million dollars off of one case. I'm not referencing those guys. I'm referring to the ones like my colleague who routinely makes 100k to 500k of one one case. I don't know how routine it is, but I do know that he lives in one of the richest neighborhoods in Houston.
And it's very rough getting started. You have to be willing to work those suck a$$ jobs to fund your practice and to put food on the table while you grow your business. You do NOT want to work at a law firm while you grow your business unless they contractually let you keep all the spoils from your cases. That's how a former law school classmate of mine made lots of money. He worked at a small firm and the owner let him take on his own cases on the side. He had tons of volume and then hit the jackpot with a large personal injury case.
Forgive me if I'm repeating myself. It's been a long time.
The easiest way to generate a very lucrative career working for yourself outside of any law firm is to become a plaintiff's lawyer. The payouts from contingency fee cases are just too large. In the beginning. It's best to find a more experienced law firm that will aid you in a big case because trying that big case is going to cost you money that you just don't have starting out. My suggestion would be to develop a FEW of these arrangements. When you try those big cases, unless your client got run over by a bus and it was clear that the bus driver was doing a headstand in the driver's seat at the time of the accident, it's going to cost you a some money to try the case. Why would a more experienced lawyer aid your case in that way, you say? Because you brought that case to them. Lawyers are pretty bad marketers compared to other business owners. That's where you want to excel. That increases your value to those more experienced smaller firms who have the money to help you try your products liability case.
Also, you want to get to know lawyers that have a practice, but aren't necessarily trial lawyers. That way, you offer a reason why that lawyer should team up with you. This is especially helpful if they have had their practice longer. The longer they've been around, even for a couple of years before you, the more likely they are to get cases more effectively than you. I have a partner who's a former law school classmate who hates litigation. She also just can't do it effectively. Mind you, many lawyers can't, but they bluff. While this is better than nothing, there's nothing like having more leverage for settlement negotiations because you are not afraid to go to trial.
I don't personally know that many lawyers who have lucrative transactional practices. I do know a few. However, these practices aren't as lucrative as Big Law associate positions. My partner that I just referred to earlier has a transactional practice. Her practice is pretty lucrative. She probably makes over a 150 grand. However, I don't think she can compete with Big Law salaries. My best friend's step dad makes about the same with a transactional practice. But he's been in business forever. I've met some other transactional attorneys with their own practices, some do ok and some struggle and have been for a number of years. You just have to have that volume to make that kind of practice go if you want it to be a lucrative practice that approaches that of a Big Law associate salary.
Contrast that transactional practice to a plaintiff's practice. It's like night and day. Or it can be like night and day.
People on this board sleep on criminal lawyers. I don't know any criminal lawyers that struggle. Some make quite a bit more than Big Law associates and some make right below Big Law associates. But the criminal lawyer who is not trying murder cases or other high level felonies that require scientific evidence has the cushest job of any attorney from what I've seen. Those guys get paid their $5000 for a case. And then they plea to a deal that takes all but 10 minutes. And they're done. Low level felonies and misdemeanors of any kind can be pretty lucrative. Again, you aren't going to out do Big law, but in terms of effort expended per every dollar you make, it's no comparison. And if you want to step up to the plate and try those murder cases or rape cases, the money really starts raining in. Those guys do make more money than big law associates. The problem with criminal law though, is that you have to have a little volume if you want to have a lucrative practice. And it's kinda hard to be a very successful criminal lawyer without a reputation. And that takes some time to build. Reputation is not really important in civil matters. It helps, but it is not necessary because your money earned from those cases is larger.
As to your question about whether one can move into big law later down the road from non big law out of school, that just won't happen unless you become mayor of a major metropolitan area and the firm makes you a partner because you can bring in tons of business. I don't know if this rule is absolute, but I've never seen it happen any other way. That's not to say it doesn't happen. That is to say that I, myself, have never seen it happen. From what I've seen with big law here in Texas, a few firms even look at your law school grades 10 years removed from law school. That's what we were told while I was in school from actual big law firm reps. It's a very insulated area. I would guess this is true nationwide, but I definitely know it's true here in Texas. You might have an outside shot if you went to a t-14 plus Texas or Vanderbilt but just chose not to go big law. But if you tried big law from any school and just did not make the cut when you were coming out of school, it's likely not going to be different if you try for a move down the road into big law.
And lastly, those trial lawyers that I have referenced are better business men/women than everyone else. That is why they succeed so well. I would say it's somewhat rare to have so much success that you are making a mil a year. But it's not "lottery chance in hell" rare. But all the trial lawyers I referenced make about 2-3+ million a year. If you approach the business and marketing aspects of firm practice with much more importance than anything, than you stand a very good chance to become that successful, especially if you are able to take risks. I would say that is one of the most important factors. But you have to be smart about it and you have to operate your marketing to precision. Otherwise, the cases won't be there.
But adhering to those principles allows you to easily make six figures. But you have to really work hard at getting out there and marketing your firm.