making sh&%$ law pay you well

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utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:57 am

I want to make clear that I am attempting to answer questions causing for me to speculate. There are several successful criminal and civil attorneys making over half a million dollars. And many, especially civil litigation lawyers, particularly personal injury, because it's easier and the demand is super high, make this really quickly. I helped to talk a former law school classmate, he originally asked if I could hire him, into opening up his own practice. He made at least 333k off of one case in his first year.

But I also know of several personal injury lawyers that are struggling to make 50k a year. The biggest difference I see is connections with lawyers and regular people. They don't know many of either, especially other lawyers and to me, that is prolonged professional death. My advice is tailored to forging those connections. And if you want to pursue commercial litigation (lots of lawyers do, but most of them have absolutely no clients and mislead the public when they say they do commercial litigation, whether accidentally or purposefully, I don't know) and actually make connections with successful businesses entering 6 figure contracts, you ought to do really well as to generating tons of revenue off of litigation. But making money off of civil litigation takes time. It takes about three years and that is dependent on how well you've marketed yourself. And how well you've marketed to the right people/businesses. If you haven't marketed effectively enough and to the right people, it will never happen for you and you will struggle and ultimately get bounced out of your own practice.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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navykev
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby navykev » Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:07 am

Great thread - thanks for the info.

wannabee
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby wannabee » Sun Jul 03, 2016 3:57 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:I want to make clear that I am attempting to answer questions causing for me to speculate. There are several successful criminal and civil attorneys making over half a million dollars. And many, especially civil litigation lawyers, particularly personal injury, because it's easier and the demand is super high, make this really quickly. I helped to talk a former law school classmate, he originally asked if I could hire him, into opening up his own practice. He made at least 333k off of one case in his first year.

But I also know of several personal injury lawyers that are struggling to make 50k a year. The biggest difference I see is connections with lawyers and regular people. They don't know many of either, especially other lawyers and to me, that is prolonged professional death. My advice is tailored to forging those connections. And if you want to pursue commercial litigation (lots of lawyers do, but most of them have absolutely no clients and mislead the public when they say they do commercial litigation, whether accidentally or purposefully, I don't know) and actually make connections with successful businesses entering 6 figure contracts, you ought to do really well as to generating tons of revenue off of litigation. But making money off of civil litigation takes time. It takes about three years and that is dependent on how well you've marketed yourself. And how well you've marketed to the right people/businesses. If you haven't marketed effectively enough and to the right people, it will never happen for you and you will struggle and ultimately get bounced out of your own practice.


On that note... just in an effort to pin down some possible projections based on your experience, how would you fill out the below table for projections of income with the below assumptions? Clearly the minimum is actually $0, but wondering about a "worse reasonable case". Also, would be interesting to hear your take on the budgeted amount below. Thanks again for this thread.

Assumptions:
T14+/smart/driven person/generally likable/biglaw experience
Criminal law and commercial litigation (plaintiff side) concentration
Strong marketing
A budget of $80k
Dallas or Houston area

Base Net Income Prediction:
Year 1: $[*]
Year 2: $[*]
Year 3: $[*]
Year 4: $[*]
Year 5: $[*]

Minimum Net Income Prediction:
Year 1: $[*]
Year 2: $[*]
Year 3: $[*]
Year 4: $[*]
Year 5: $[*]

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jingosaur
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby jingosaur » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:19 pm

How do you learn how to do all these different kinds of cases? I'm a rising 3L and I feel like I would have not idea where to even start.

lawman84
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby lawman84 » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:21 pm

jingosaur wrote:How do you learn how to do all these different kinds of cases? I'm a rising 3L and I feel like I would have not idea where to even start.


Practice and experience

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:28 pm

lawman84 wrote:
jingosaur wrote:How do you learn how to do all these different kinds of cases? I'm a rising 3L and I feel like I would have not idea where to even start.


Practice and experience


Basically this. Now of course, you can't tackle a case unless you have a basic idea of what legal issues are involved. For that, you should keep your bar study materials until you can get your hands on some real practice guides. There are practice guides than can help give you a basic understanding of the big picture concerning the legal issues involved in your case. But you are going to have to find some experienced practitioner to ask questions about what guides are the best to get for what you want to do.

You also need to ask the court personal in the intake department about how to do really basic things, like filing a lawsuit, filing a subpoena, etc. Tell them you are a brand new attorney, and they will gladly help you.

You also want to ask questions to experienced practitioners on basic stuff so you can initiate something. The guides are usually for state stuff. There is nothing on Federal stuff. For that, you'll just have to look for stuff online. I would also go to the courts to get some pro se forms to get an idea of the things you need to do to plead jurisdiction and legal authority of some laws correctly.

The rest you learn from experience like the above poster said. You will learn a lot of stuff from quality opposing pleadings.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:52 pm

On that note... just in an effort to pin down some possible projections based on your experience, how would you fill out the below table for projections of income with the below assumptions? Clearly the minimum is actually $0, but wondering about a "worse reasonable case". Also, would be interesting to hear your take on the budgeted amount below. Thanks again for this thread.

Assumptions:
T14+/smart/driven person/generally likable/biglaw experience
Criminal law and commercial litigation (plaintiff side) concentration
Strong marketing
A budget of $80k
Dallas or Houston area

Base Net Income Prediction:
Year 1: $[*]
Year 2: $[*]
Year 3: $[*]
Year 4: $[*]
Year 5: $[*]

Minimum Net Income Prediction:
Year 1: $[*]
Year 2: $[*]
Year 3: $[*]
Year 4: $[*]
Year 5: $[*]


Base Net Income Prediction: These were the averages in Texas when I was in school from 04 to 07. They should be about the same. Of course, the averages are skewed upwards because high awards. So I'm going to try to adjust downward based on your assumptions requested.

Year 1: $20,000 to $40,000 If you do contingency fee litigation, you will be closer to $20,000. Cases take a long time to resolve.
Year 2: $$30,000 to $50,000 Because you are supplementing your practice with a flat fee practice area, that will help a lot.
Year 3: $$60,000 to $80,000 The number could easily be $80k to 100k because the longer you're in business, the more cases you get.
Year 4: $$150,000 to 200,000 or this number could be $500,000 to $3,000,000 just depending on practice area. The variance of what you can make increases as you practice more because you get more case inquiries. This increases your chances of getting a large case or cases.
Year 5: $250,000+ or 10,000,000+ Again,variance is in play and increasing.

The actual averages in Texas at the time I was in school were

50k year one
100k year 2
300k year 3

Most decent solos, with no ability whatsoever are making between 100k and 200k as a ceiling. Guys who are pretty good are making possibly over $3,000,000 a year. If you truly are smart, can't pin it down to a school because that has no predictive value whatsoever as to lawyers. Basically, you have to have tier one ability because the primary difference between t14 ability and tier one ability is processing speed. And processing speed is not a factor in plaintiff's litigation, as long as you own your own firm and are in charge of what you work on. Your ceiling is going to possibly be 20,000,000+ a year.

If you have that ability, continue expanding your practice areas to lucrative areas. Shoot for 50,000,000 to $100,000,000+. Some guys with true ability are doing it. Of course, all of this depends on the types of cases you have. But you want to do everything you can do to get those valuable cases.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 10, 2016 9:04 pm

Just please remember, you have to hustle like mad. Getting business is the most difficult part of law practice in the beginning. Not only do you have to hustle like mad, but you have to be smart about it. You have to market yourself to all kinds of different people, from solo practitioners to other business professionals to business owners (be careful, though, marketing to really small business owners or a thoughtless business owner can be a complete waste of time), to regular people.

If you do that, you stand a good chance. No matter how smart you are, if you don't get cases or decent cases, cases you can work with, you won't do well and will have to find a job.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:43 am

I could not in good conscience not add clarification to my very speculative numbers that were requested.

The numbers I gave are solid possibilities. But they are possibilities. The numbers I gave from year one to year three are extremely conservative reasonable estimates. However, after that, it just really depends on so many things. The possibilities I gave are reasonable. But they may never happen. My observations are skewed because I do know a lot of a lawyers that are doing very well.

So at the end of the day, the most likely reasonable estimate I can give is that a solo can expect to reach a ceiling of between $60,000 to $120,000.

I did misspeak when I said most decent solos make between 100k and 200k. I should change that to most decent solos that I KNOW make that.

Also, just as I mentioned earlier in this thread, if you want to have a chance at achieving those really high numbers, you have to have a 100% contingency fee practice. In the beginning, it is impossible to have this kind of practice. You have to supplement your income from some other source or utilize another fee structure.

But as you gain more experience and get more business, you have to make the switch. So my numbers assume a 100 percent contingency fee practice involving more than just a car accident personal injury practice.

wannabee
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby wannabee » Fri Jul 22, 2016 3:22 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:So at the end of the day, the most likely reasonable estimate I can give is that a solo can expect to reach a ceiling of between $60,000 to $120,000.


In light of this thread's title and to put your view in context, do you consider $60 - $120k getting "paid well"?

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:21 pm

wannabee wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:So at the end of the day, the most likely reasonable estimate I can give is that a solo can expect to reach a ceiling of between $60,000 to $120,000.


In light of this thread's title and to put your view in context, do you consider $60 - $120k getting "paid well"?


That particular estimate was made for a solo that does not implement my marketing plan discussed in this thread. I've already explained at length what someone can make, potentially by implementing my marketing plan.

But I'm not going to sit here and suggest that the large majority of solos or lawyers in general, can implement my marketing plan with success. But if you do, your ceiling is a lot higher than this amount, as I've previously explained.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:25 pm

.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:36 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
wannabee wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:So at the end of the day, the most likely reasonable estimate I can give is that a solo can expect to reach a ceiling of between $60,000 to $120,000.


In light of this thread's title and to put your view in context, do you consider $60 - $120k getting "paid well"?


My estimate was made for a solo that does not implement my marketing plan discussed in this thread. I've already explained at length what someone can make, potentially by implementing my marketing plan.

But I'm not going to sit here and suggest that the large majority of solos or lawyers in general, can implement my marketing plan with success. But if you do, your ceiling is a lot higher than this amount, as I've previously explained. Apparently, you didn't read the thread.


I already began this thread with explanations that plaintiff lawyers I know very well routinely make more than twice 120k+ ROUTINELY off of one case. So read something before you say something that makes you look silly.


If someone is able to SUCCESSFULLY implement my marketing plan and they have proven ability to become a good litigator and trial lawyer (can't assume this just because you went to a t14 school, that tends to help as it tends to show possible ability, but I've seen too many examples of that not meaning anything), you will likely make well over a million a year in 5 years.

But successfully implementing my marketing and business plan is easier said than done. It's not exceedingly difficult, you just have to expend a lot of intelligent effort to make it happen.

I do not like making predictions because I don't want people to think that they will automatically be rich because I said so. If you follow my plan to success, you will be, it's almost a forgone conclusion. But I don't think you guys have any idea of the level of hustle involved.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 3:47 pm

Hit the wrong button as I was trying to make an edit.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 4:01 pm

That being said, give it a go. The ceiling is waaaaaaay too high for you not to give it a shot if you think you may be cut out for owning your own law firm and being a litigator and trial lawyer.

I just don't want to mislead anyone by making it seem as though all they have to do is open up their own firm, develop a false sense of how great a lawyer they are, believe they will hustle like mad (when in actuality they won't), and be on their way to becoming really rich.

HonestAdvice
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby HonestAdvice » Sun Jul 24, 2016 5:02 pm

Do you run into issues collecting payment? Personally, I'm cut from the same cloth as you. As much as I try to fit into the cocktail parties, it's only a matter of time until the jig is up, and everyone figures out I'm the sketchy 3 A.M. phone a lawyer with a slightly higher IQ and slightly more prestige. In my pre-law career, collecting money was always a hassle, mostly because it sucks to call people and ask about money. My guess is shit law has a lot more people with no money, or a lot more people trying to dodge payment than 99% of other occupations (law or otherwise). How do you tackle this?

To the people confused as to how OP finds business and runs cases, "shit law" is comprised of law most people study in law school. It's also unlikely that experience in anything other than a solo/shit law shop would be helpful. In a lot of civil disputes, most of the time all the plaintiff cares about is (1) feeling giving them a chance to be heard and listening to them, and (2) that you can win. This is just a mixture of confidence and social skills, but mostly the latter, which doesn't require a ton of experience. The skillset could overlap with other legal careers, but it's conceivable you could be someone clients love and lawyers hate and vice versa, because the anal retentiveness needed to be a good associate is probably counterproductive working with OP's clients.

On this note, my next question to OP is - how do you balance making the client feel heard against hourly rates? Laypeople tend to focus on their feelings, and will go on and on about irrelevant information to the point their lawyers are quasi-psychologists, which is obviously a waste of money. Do you try to force them on topic, tell them what matters/what doesn't or do you just let them run up the clock? Unless you're giving your clients a happy ending, your friendship isn't worth $300/hour or whatever you charge.

wannabee
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby wannabee » Sun Jul 24, 2016 10:05 pm

Thanks a lot for your input.

On an unrelated note, how do you deal with clients/cases that come in where the dispute is based on a contract providing that the losing party pays the legal fees? Do you find that clients are hesitant to litigate those claims?

r6_philly
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby r6_philly » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:50 am

utlaw2007 wrote:I could not in good conscience not add clarification to my very speculative numbers that were requested.

The numbers I gave are solid possibilities. But they are possibilities. The numbers I gave from year one to year three are extremely conservative reasonable estimates. However, after that, it just really depends on so many things. The possibilities I gave are reasonable. But they may never happen. My observations are skewed because I do know a lot of a lawyers that are doing very well.

So at the end of the day, the most likely reasonable estimate I can give is that a solo can expect to reach a ceiling of between $60,000 to $120,000.

I did misspeak when I said most decent solos make between 100k and 200k. I should change that to most decent solos that I KNOW make that.

Also, just as I mentioned earlier in this thread, if you want to have a chance at achieving those really high numbers, you have to have a 100% contingency fee practice. In the beginning, it is impossible to have this kind of practice. You have to supplement your income from some other source or utilize another fee structure.

But as you gain more experience and get more business, you have to make the switch. So my numbers assume a 100 percent contingency fee practice involving more than just a car accident personal injury practice.


I started a AMA thread in legal employment, but I would also chime in here.

I project to make 100-200k in my first year of solo (started 4 months ago). a few caveats: I went to an ivy, I worked in biglaw, I know tech/IP, and I have some other unique qualities. But for the right person it would not be too difficult. I charge $400/hour. $350 discounted. so to make $100k I only need to bill 300 hours. It is harder starting off, but my utilization rate has gone up. I expect to be on a $100-200k pace by years end. I may even bring on an associate.

Additionally, to add to your point, the road to riches is through contingency. I take hourly matters to pay bills, but I take contingency (selectively) to swing for the fences. I have several cases on contingency at this only a few months in, and if I get paid on all of them I would make substantially more than I did as a biglaw associate.Not saying it will all happen, but since I am selective, I already got paid out on 2 smaller matters (settled).

I will never be able to do 100% contingency because I have a tech/IP/commercial practice. But I can when I know I have a decent shot of winning. I also do quite a bit of hybrid agreements so bills are paid but I still get a pay out. And corporate/GC type work pays the bills.

I know a lot of solos struggle. But I also know with the right marketing plan, branding, and fee structure you can do very well. And the best part is my clients are starting to come back with new matters and referrals.

r6_philly
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby r6_philly » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:54 am

wannabee wrote:Thanks a lot for your input.

On an unrelated note, how do you deal with clients/cases that come in where the dispute is based on a contract providing that the losing party pays the legal fees? Do you find that clients are hesitant to litigate those claims?


In my experience, contracts with legal fee provisions are usually generally bad for the client (it's a provision that I would suggest striking out in most contracts I review, so if they kept it they probably didn't have to reviewed before signing). In that case the contracts frequently favor the other side too much for me to advise going forward with lit. But you go through the best/worst case scenario with your client and determine the range of exposure. Frequently they choose to settle for a reasonable amount, because litigation is truly unpredictable.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:31 pm

r6_philly wrote:
wannabee wrote:Thanks a lot for your input.

On an unrelated note, how do you deal with clients/cases that come in where the dispute is based on a contract providing that the losing party pays the legal fees? Do you find that clients are hesitant to litigate those claims?


In my experience, contracts with legal fee provisions are usually generally bad for the client (it's a provision that I would suggest striking out in most contracts I review, so if they kept it they probably didn't have to reviewed before signing). In that case the contracts frequently favor the other side too much for me to advise going forward with lit. But you go through the best/worst case scenario with your client and determine the range of exposure. Frequently they choose to settle for a reasonable amount, because litigation is truly unpredictable.


I think I may have missed this question.

I have had a few contracts that have these clauses in them. The clients I have had aren't hesitant at all to proceed forward because they feel they've been screwed out of so much other money. Judges are pretty reasonable when awarding attorney's fees. From my experience, they rarely award all of the fee that's been earned. That being said, you had better argue like mad against a high fee to help increase your chances that the judge won't award the whole fee. Usually, I think judges incorporate a sense of equity in their decision to award attorneys fees. If a judge feels the suit had merit and the loser had a legitimate reason to bring the suit in the first place, the judge is not going to award the full amount of attorney's fees unless the contract spells that out.

And just so you know, I practice contract litigation, as well. Also, contract interpretive issues seem to always make their way into commercial litigation or litigation against a large commercial entity. And I have never seen a contract that I liked.

Just make sure you warn you clients of the risks beforehand. It sucks because you feel they may bale on you, but ethically, you have no choice, and if you want to avoid a board complaint, you better make sure all of your clients are aware of the risks, no matter how negligible.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:07 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:
r6_philly wrote:
wannabee wrote:Thanks a lot for your input.

On an unrelated note, how do you deal with clients/cases that come in where the dispute is based on a contract providing that the losing party pays the legal fees? Do you find that clients are hesitant to litigate those claims?


In my experience, contracts with legal fee provisions are usually generally bad for the client (it's a provision that I would suggest striking out in most contracts I review, so if they kept it they probably didn't have to reviewed before signing). In that case the contracts frequently favor the other side too much for me to advise going forward with lit. But you go through the best/worst case scenario with your client and determine the range of exposure. Frequently they choose to settle for a reasonable amount, because litigation is truly unpredictable.


I think I may have missed this question.

I have had a few contracts that have these clauses in them. The clients I have had aren't hesitant at all to proceed forward because they feel they've been screwed out of so much other money. Judges are pretty reasonable when awarding attorney's fees. From my experience, they rarely award all of the fee that's been earned. That being said, you had better argue like mad against a high fee to help increase your chances that the judge won't award the whole fee. Usually, I think judges incorporate a sense of equity in their decision to award attorneys fees. If a judge feels the suit had merit and the loser had a legitimate reason to bring the suit in the first place, the judge is not going to award the full amount of attorney's fees unless the contract spells that out.

And just so you know, I practice contract litigation, as well. Also, contract interpretive issues seem to always make their way into commercial litigation or litigation against a large commercial entity. And I have never seen a contract that I liked.

Just make sure you warn you clients of the risks beforehand. It sucks because you feel they may bale on you, but ethically, you have no choice, and if you want to avoid a board complaint, you better make sure all of your clients are aware of the risks, no matter how negligible.



I take that back. I've seen one that did a pretty good job against me in court. It was still defective, though, in that it did not quantify the value of damages sufficiently enough. So I was able to argue them down immensely.

utlaw2007
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:23 pm

Just a reminder, I wrote a lot here. If you want to use this as a reference, you need to read the entire thread. I'm not usually uptight about repeating myself, but you make yourself look awfully silly when you remark about something, not having read what I wrote. Please do not comment if you haven't read this thread fully. Just as many will tell you to use the search function, I will tell you to read the entire thread. I know that may troublesome, but it is what it is. I don't mind answering questions, but I I'd rather not answer questions I have previously answered before.

Thank you.




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