making sh&%$ law pay you well

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

Postby Jimbo_Jones » Mon May 27, 2013 2:12 pm

Thanks for doing this. Lots of good info.

1. Did you have loans coming out of law school and, if so, how did you handle them starting up solo?

2. Do you think geographic location has played a big role in your success? I feel like it would be a lot harder for one to open a solo shop in, say, New England where people people aren't as friendly and there are a lot more law schools per capita, than in Texas where it seems people are more insular.

3. Sort of a follow-up to #2: When it comes to solo practice, do the same rules of "ties to the market" and "go to law school in your geographic target market" still apply? Is it easier moving from, say again, New England where you are from and went to law school, to Omaha to start a solo than it is to get a job at a law firm that way?

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

Postby WWAD » Mon May 27, 2013 2:20 pm

This is a fantastic topic. Thank you. I just graduated and have thought about going solo the whole time. This really helps me understand what it requires and will help me focus on what is important. Did you observe trials when you started, in addition to reading up on the requirements?

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon May 27, 2013 8:34 pm

Jimbo_Jones wrote:Thanks for doing this. Lots of good info.

1. Did you have loans coming out of law school and, if so, how did you handle them starting up solo?

2. Do you think geographic location has played a big role in your success? I feel like it would be a lot harder for one to open a solo shop in, say, New England where people people aren't as friendly and there are a lot more law schools per capita, than in Texas where it seems people are more insular.

3. Sort of a follow-up to #2: When it comes to solo practice, do the same rules of "ties to the market" and "go to law school in your geographic target market" still apply? Is it easier moving from, say again, New England where you are from and went to law school, to Omaha to start a solo than it is to get a job at a law firm that way?


These are interesting questions.

1. I had loans coming out of law school. They are still in deferment. I'm actually paying them down while in deferment.

2. I think geographic region is HUGE. Cost of living issues determine what is financially feasible to live on and what your overhead is going to be. Yes, being in a city that has a ton of money exchanging hands at all levels helps a ton. This dynamic creates demand for different types of legal services. But that is why when choosing practice areas, one needs to ascertain what types of demand there are for legal services. Ultimately, you need to find those areas of unmet demand and meet that demand.

But I agree, I would assume there are not as many opportunities for what I do in the northeast as there are in Texas. And yes, the heavy concentration of law schools makes for stiffer competition. I'd suggest you move if you can.

From a marketing standpoint, the same rules of going to a school with "ties to the market" still apply. They just apply more loosely. The prestige component is not non existent, but it matters a LOT less. It still applies to some degree. In general, I'm going to be valued more by business clients having gone to UT instead of St. Mary's. But actually going to HYS is not going to be as big of a help as going to UT because they are not in the region. Actually, Harvard might be the only school outside of Texas that is going to have as much marketing pull as UT for a solo. But Stanford and Yale aren't going to enjoy such an advantage in Texas. Local schools like Houston also have lots of pull in Houston. SMU is equally going to have that pull in Dallas. Remember, your clients aren't going to know or care about law school prestige too much. Now if a school has a bad rep even in its own region, than that can hurt significantly. I see a lot of lawyers in Houston who hide the fact that they went to St. Mary's or TSU's Thurgood Marshall. South Texas enjoys a solid reputation in Houston for solo's. They enjoy this rep because there are so many older solo's from South Texas.

While going to a law school in the northeast wouldn't be a big help if you moved to Texas, prospective clients feel better about you if they have heard of your law school, it's not that big of a deal. Moving to Omaha coming from a northeast law school shouldn't matter. It's Omaha. I'm sure not many people other than a few midwestern law schools are doing that. I'm sure the area has hardly any lawyers. So you shouldn't see a problem. It's densely populated areas where regional reputation is going to come into play.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon May 27, 2013 8:43 pm

WWAD wrote:This is a fantastic topic. Thank you. I just graduated and have thought about going solo the whole time. This really helps me understand what it requires and will help me focus on what is important. Did you observe trials when you started, in addition to reading up on the requirements?


Did not observe trials. I refused to do so. If you feel totally lost in the courtroom, I suppose it wouldn't hurt. Trial performance is like an art. Lawyers do it differently, but they may still both be good. The problem is you might happen upon some trial lawyers that will be poor examples of what to do in the courtroom. How are you going to know that they suck? You aren't. Or you may feel that because you don't do those things, there may be something wrong with you. But those thoughts would be inaccurate if you have had a good trial advocacy foundation in law school. It's much better to get yourself a mentor and ask them questions. Observing someone isn't going to really help you too much in my opinion. I could be wrong. But that is my opinion. Nobody is going learn how to throw a football just by watching Payton Manning.

The good thing is that most lawyers who set foot in a courtroom suck. So even if you suck, you can still beat someone else who sucks more.

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

Postby Jimbo_Jones » Tue May 28, 2013 3:43 pm

A couple more questions since I'm really interested in this:

1. Start-up costs: You don't have to go into great detail about dollar amounts and whatnot, but did it require a lot of start-up capital to get going? I suppose there is some judgment that goes into keeping costs low and being too cheap.

2. Was it difficult getting your first client? I feel like most people just wouldn't have the stomach to trust their one chance at winning a lawsuit to someone who has never had a client before. Did they even ask how much experience you had?

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue May 28, 2013 8:08 pm

Jimbo_Jones wrote:A couple more questions since I'm really interested in this:

1. Start-up costs: You don't have to go into great detail about dollar amounts and whatnot, but did it require a lot of start-up capital to get going? I suppose there is some judgment that goes into keeping costs low and being too cheap.

2. Was it difficult getting your first client? I feel like most people just wouldn't have the stomach to trust their one chance at winning a lawsuit to someone who has never had a client before. Did they even ask how much experience you had?


1. It did not require a lot of capitol. Of course, I was officing out of my house. I'd meet clients at Starbucks and at their houses. This does somewhat limit who you can get as a client. But this was all I could afford.

2. It really wasn't that difficult. I always told them I was new. I just never told them how new since they never asked. But when you start out, the clients you are probably going to get are the clients who have been turned down by other law firms or cannot afford other law firms. So they come to you because they have no choice. So, the case you receive either is really difficult, or it just isn't worth much. Either way, these cases provide you with excellent experience win or lose.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Tue May 28, 2013 9:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby buddyt » Tue May 28, 2013 8:53 pm

tag

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

Postby jwinaz » Tue May 28, 2013 10:58 pm

Very helpful posts, utlaw!

Thank you for this! I actually had a follow-up question to some things you've been discussing and it's been an issue that's always bothered me. I actually have never asked about it until thinking of doing so now.

When it comes to small law and a person who is fresh out of ls setting up shop, how does a person get around the lack of experience factor? In other words, why would anyone choose YOU over the person will, say, 5 or 10+ years of experience?

We can take a DUI case, for example. If my daughter/son were unfortunate enough to have gotten a DUI and I was seeking a lawyer to represent him or her, my first thought would be to seek out the best credentialed person I could find - meaning successful case wins and experience. How does a newbie in DUI practice overcome this issue?

Can networking and marketing as you describe somehow offset that problem? When marketing and networking, what if people ask you about your years of experience? I would be thinking in my mind that that's an uncomfortable situation to be in and have to say, "I just graduated from law school six months ago."

A second question, if you don't mind sharing/answering, is how do you pay the bills if you utilize a contingency fee structure when you're first starting off in law? You mentioned that the flat and hourly fee structures are less efficient, but when you're first starting out isn't survival very important and having at least some kind of stable income to pay the bills?

I really find this thread fascinating and thankn you very much!

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

Postby Bobnoxious » Tue May 28, 2013 11:21 pm

My *guesses* to the first and second questions would be...

1) you're hungrier
2) the other guy runs a PI mill and gives just enough attention to make an *acceptable* profit for himself and stay out of trouble with client and the Bar.
3) you're better than those who are doing #2, because of #1.
4) finding lawyers who aren't running the PI mills with experience will cost more and may or may not actually be better than you with the case
5) you WILL care more about this person and their case when they're a client of yours, than either the PI mill guy (for sure) and anyone else because of #1.

Guess to #3 & #4

1) of course marketing and networking can serve to mitigate that problem, and to address the prospect's suspected questions...see response to questions 1 & 2 above.

I got nothing about how UTLaw did it...good questions, and I think they revolve around client/case selection per his reply to my question on knowing when to take on a contingency case.

He'll correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm sure he'll add a LOT more than what I wrote.

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

Postby scifiguy » Tue May 28, 2013 11:45 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:
SaintsTheMetal wrote:Tagging. BigLaw to solo is exactly what I want to do, at least as a 0L.

Question.. is there any real money in criminal defense? Is it even realistic to think you might find clients charged with murder or rape or whatever that would also be able to pay the big bucks?


There is HUGE money in criminal defense.


What about any issues of having to work with people who you may believe to be guilty. The one thing that makes crim. law unattractive to me is the people I could be dealing with. Being around potential rapists, child molesters, gang bangers, wife beaters, business fraudsters, etc. would possible make me very uncomfortable.

And do you end up having to socialize with tehse people after the trial at all?

If you're trying to attract these clientele and you know that there are some drug dealers or gang bangers who can pay top dollar (from profits of their illicit activities!), then do you end up socializing with them? And what about white collar criminals? Do you have to socialize with these shady people outside of your cases?

I always imagined that these million-dollar criminal defense attorneys probably have had a few clients they knew or highly suspected were guilty. And I wonder how they deal with having to be around these people psychologically? I would feel dirty, let say, if I successfully defended a rapist, who I thought was guilty and made lots of money off of it.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed May 29, 2013 12:02 am

scifiguy wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
SaintsTheMetal wrote:Tagging. BigLaw to solo is exactly what I want to do, at least as a 0L.

Question.. is there any real money in criminal defense? Is it even realistic to think you might find clients charged with murder or rape or whatever that would also be able to pay the big bucks?


There is HUGE money in criminal defense.


What about any issues of having to work with people who you may believe to be guilty. The one thing that makes crim. law unattractive to me is the people I could be dealing with. Being around potential rapists, child molesters, gang bangers, wife beaters, business fraudsters, etc. would possible make me very uncomfortable.

And do you end up having to socialize with tehse people after the trial at all?

If you're trying to attract these clientele and you know that there are some drug dealers or gang bangers who can pay top dollar (from profits of their illicit activities!), then do you end up socializing with them? And what about white collar criminals? Do you have to socialize with these shady people outside of your cases?

I always imagined that these million-dollar criminal defense attorneys probably have had a few clients they knew or highly suspected were guilty. And I wonder how they deal with having to be around these people psychologically? I would feel dirty, let say, if I successfully defended a rapist, who I thought was guilty and made lots of money off of it.

The whole point of criminal defense is that even the scum of the earth who definitely did it deserve a competent criminal defense. The point is not to "get your client off," but to require the government to prove their case. The defendant doesn't have to prove anything; the entire burden of proof is on the government. The government has so much more power in criminal prosecutions, that criminal defense attorneys are necessary to ensure that the government is held to its burden of proof, and doesn't cut corners or engage in shady behavior to get convictions. So yes, I'm sure it's tough to successfully defend someone you thought was guilty of a heinous crime, but the point then is not that you got someone off; you prevented the government from convicting someone without proof or without following the rules. You made sure that the system worked.

(I mean, I'm sure in practice it's more emotionally complicated than that, which is one reason I'm not doing criminal defense, and some criminal defense attorneys draw a line at certain cases - I know one who won't take any cases involving crimes against children. [Obviously that's not an option for PDs as opposed to private attorneys.] But generally defense attorneys' dedication to the system, to the need to provide a check on government power and ensure that the rules are followed, outweighs their personal opinions about their clients.)

As for socializing - I don't think most people want to hang out with their criminal defense attorneys once the case is over (assuming that they're at liberty to hang out with anyone!). I mean, if you're on retainer to a cartel boss or something, sure. But otherwise I don't think there's the same kind of schmoozing clients as in biglaw. (And in a lot of cases it won't be "after trial" because cases plead so frequently.)

El Principe
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby El Principe » Wed May 29, 2013 12:15 am

Great thread utlaw!

It's good to see something different from the normal BigLaw-mentality here. I'm sure I'll have a question or two after I read through all of this.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 29, 2013 12:49 am

jwinaz wrote:Very helpful posts, utlaw!

Thank you for this! I actually had a follow-up question to some things you've been discussing and it's been an issue that's always bothered me. I actually have never asked about it until thinking of doing so now.

When it comes to small law and a person who is fresh out of ls setting up shop, how does a person get around the lack of experience factor? In other words, why would anyone choose YOU over the person will, say, 5 or 10+ years of experience?

We can take a DUI case, for example. If my daughter/son were unfortunate enough to have gotten a DUI and I was seeking a lawyer to represent him or her, my first thought would be to seek out the best credentialed person I could find - meaning successful case wins and experience. How does a newbie in DUI practice overcome this issue?

Can networking and marketing as you describe somehow offset that problem? When marketing and networking, what if people ask you about your years of experience? I would be thinking in my mind that that's an uncomfortable situation to be in and have to say, "I just graduated from law school six months ago."

A second question, if you don't mind sharing/answering, is how do you pay the bills if you utilize a contingency fee structure when you're first starting off in law? You mentioned that the flat and hourly fee structures are less efficient, but when you're first starting out isn't survival very important and having at least some kind of stable income to pay the bills?

I really find this thread fascinating and thankn you very much!


I'm very glad you like the thread. I want to help law students and prospective ones be informed about the not so known aspects about law practice.

I'll try to number your questions so that you can follow easier.

1. There is no way you can get around the experience factor. And much of the cases you get at the beginning, like all of them from my experience, are totally random. I had just one case where the client could have gone with someone more experienced. But he took a liking to me. He felt I was very smart and that I had his back. That's actually one way you can get around it. Sound confident and competent. Never be afraid to share your opinion about a case, even if it's wrong. From my experience, clients want a lawyer who appears competent. You don't have to have all the answers, but they like it when you express preliminary opinions about a legal issue. Always inform them that those opinions are not the final word, but they are the gist of what you may feel off of the top of your head. You should give them a brief legal explanation as to why. But show the client that you care and that you are willing to go to battle for the client. They like that. Don't talk about the details too much. You never want to reveal to a client that you don't know something at all. Always give an opinion on an issue that the client is asking about. But qualify the info by saying that you don't know for sure, you would have to look it up. I suppose this sounds competent. I don't know, but I do it all the time. And it works for me. And I didn't know what I was doing at the beginning. But I didn't let the client know that.

For me, I had two go to lawyers to which I'd ask basic questions.

But basically, you need to be prepared to handle difficult cases or cases that aren't worth much. The main reason why a client would choose you over an experienced attorney is because they have no choice. They have been turned down by every attorney and law firm. So they run into you. Or, they can't afford those attorneys and law firms. Affordability won't be a big issue for most clients if they are contingency fee cases because most lawyers front those expenses for clients that are individuals. I got cases that were difficult that nobody else wanted.

And bobnoxious is right. Clients can sense that you are hungrier as a new attorney if you are hungry. And they like this. They like this a lot. So your confidence in yourself has to be high. Clients see this and want it.

2. With DUI's or any other run of the mill cases, it would be hard for a newbie to overcome. But the best and only way you could overcome as a new attorney is to charge much cheaper fees. You really have no choice with flat fee cases. But this does work.

You can't really market to sophisticated clients as a new attorney for the reasons you just specified. Simply because they will ask those questions. But clients that aren't that sophisticated aren't going to pin you for exact years of experience. That's why, your first few cases should be very simple. It doesn't have to be many, but you want to have some experience so you won't mislead clients who eventually ask.

The marketing that I speak of for the purposes of this thread is after you get a few difficult cases under your belt. Once you get to this point, you will have more sophistication since you can talk with confidence about what you do. In the very beginning, you have to keep it simple, like justice of the peace court simple. But only for a a handful of cases. I only did one. And in the beginning, you have to be prepared to take on all comers, both criminal and civil and of all case types. As a result, you are going to be marketing to everyone. Just get out and get to know as many people as you can. I even joined a few dating sites to meet people. That even led to a case I had.

I forgot to number your questions. Sorry.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed May 29, 2013 1:29 am, edited 3 times in total.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 29, 2013 1:08 am

A second question, if you don't mind sharing/answering, is how do you pay the bills if you utilize a contingency fee structure when you're first starting off in law? You mentioned that the flat and hourly fee structures are less efficient, but when you're first starting out isn't survival very important and having at least some kind of stable income to pay the bills?


I wanted to give a separate answer to your last question because of its importance...

This is the single most important part to this whole thing in the beginning. You just don't have enough experience to engage in target marketing unless you are doing it for individuals and not businesses. Individuals will accept simple answers. Businesses won't. So you can't expose yourself to them in the beginning. And most of your individual clients will have been turned down by other lawyers, so they have no choice but to come to you. But they come to you through referrals because of all those people you meet. You show them hunger. You show them confidence. They know you are new because you told them. And if they ask how new, you have to tell them. You charge heavily reduced rates or no rates other than upfront court costs, and they will retain you. They can't go anywhere else.

It's these difficult cases that will allow you to learn a whole lot at the beginning of your career. Hit the library. Find out how to access your state's codes and statutes online. Bath in that stuff. Ask every experienced attorney, even ones in passing, ask them your pressing questions. I have even called up attorneys who I do not know but just looked up online due to practice area and have called them to ask questions. And every single attorney I have called has answered my questions and has been glad to talk to me. There was only one who was rather impatient. All the rest seemed to enjoy the idea of helping me out. Tell them you have only been practicing for 6 months. Ask the court clerks a million questions. They are usually nice and willing to help you out about court procedures and fees. Tell all of the people you ask questions to that you are new. And when you have to walk into the courthouse, ask some more questions to the clerks. You are a baby lawyer to them. But you are still a lawyer and they respect you for that. Just be kind and smile. They will tell you everything. All of the court clerks I have asked questions to have been very sweet and so nice to me.

I got carried away but back to the money issue. In the beginning, money is going to come so infrequently. Contingency fee cases take a long time to resolve. And in the beginning, you just can't charge retainers. Your clients can't afford it. So you have to do document review to make ends meet. That's what I did. It sucks. I hate it. They hated me because of my attitude towards the projects. But there is no other way to pay your bills.

If I could do it over again, I would have provided consultation services at an hourly rate to small business. Your hourly rate would be heavily discounted. But there really is not much risk to the company to obtain these services from you so they shouldn't care if you are new. Otherwise, it's a straight diet of doc review to generate income. But that is why it is important to also take misdemeanor criminal cases at a discount. This will also pay the bills. And providing these services at a heavily discounted flat fee will allow you to get clients. And the upfront payments will allow you to generate revenue quickly during these lean times.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 29, 2013 1:23 am

But I cannot stress how important it is to get out and meet as many people as possible. Like I said, I even joined two dating sites. And I received a case from one. In the beginning, you're marketing indiscriminately. Learn how to do all of the simple areas of law practice. Those areas aren't experience intensive. You just need to know the steps how to do it. Guardianships are one. Ask any probate court clerk about the court procedure and length of time and payment procedure. They will tell you. You can find out the rest of the steps online. Law firms like to explain the gist or detailed steps involved in several different areas of practice. I have learned a lot from this. Google is your friend. Beware, though. Do not ask lawyers who are not successful anything. They have no clue what they are talking about. They will likely lead you astray. I've learned the hard way. And I always trust your own substantive legal knowledge. If a lawyer tells you about a common law principle that you have never heard of in law school, chances are that he/she is wrong. Those that are successful are going to have offices or websites. But always get second opinions on things.

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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 29, 2013 1:35 am

I want to go into creating a lawyer referral network for getting business tomorrow and choosing practice areas on the basis of that lawyer referral network. In essence, you use lawyers marketing for themselves to help you.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 29, 2013 3:02 pm

I thought would be able to get to this issue today, but I just won't have time today. I'll try to get to it tomorrow.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri May 31, 2013 6:26 pm

So today I wanted to discuss more about picking practice areas on the basis of your lawyer referral network.

One key to getting business as a solo/small firm is to get to know lots of attorneys. Obviously, you want to know lawyers who are running their own shop. I'm not saying it is pointless, but based on my experiences, it does you absolutely no good to get to know lawyers who work at law firms. They can't refer you cases because their firm probably accepts those cases. And if they don't, there is no reason to believe these lawyers are in any better a position to refer you cases off the street than your grandmother can. These lawyers do not market for themselves. So they do not attract business for the most part. Lawyers that work for themselves do.

And if they do refer out, they are going to refer out to an experienced lawyer/law firm who they have been going to for years. As a result, when getting to know other attorneys, it's much better to get to know ones who have their own shop and have not been running their own shop for too long. These guys are not going to have a robust go to list of lawyers to refer cases out to.

As far as picking practice areas are concerned, this should be pretty self explanatory. You want to pick practice areas that many lawyers are not practicing. However, there is one caveat, if you do decide to practice criminal law like everyone and their grandmother, get to know as many somewhat new civil attorneys as possible. Some will have go to criminal lawyers to refer cases to because they cannot practice them. Some won't. And the reverse will be true if you practice civil law. If you are a civil litigator, get to know civil transactional attorneys if you handle business litigation. The main thing is that you want to practice areas that not many lawyers are practicing if you want to get lawyer referrals. For example, if you practice business litigation, get to know as many young personal injury attorneys as you can. That way when they get a business litigation case, or just a complex or difficult case, they will call you.

But you should be getting to know more experienced attorneys, as well. The have their go to lawyers who they are going to refer cases to. But those go to lawyers are experienced, too. That means that the value of certain cases have to be worth a certain value for the case to be worth their while. Get to know these lawyers so that you can get their left over cases, their scraps so to speak. What may not be worth anything of value to an experienced lawyer is definitely going to have value for a young lawyer.

The most common areas of practice for solos appear to be criminal defense, personal injury, and family law. If you do want to open up your own shop, I'd advise against personal injury and family law being your main practice areas. At least with criminal defense, there are SO MANY cases, it is possible that you can do well even just starting out. It's going to be very hard, but it is possible. With family law and personal injury, it's going to be incredibly difficult to do well practicing these areas as your main area of practice starting out unless you are well connected.

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

Postby usuaggie » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:04 am

Thanks a lot for this thread

I am considering going solo out of law school and focusing on criminal defense. I worked 10-15 hours a week in a prosecutors office all of law school and 14 hours a week doing defense in my 3L year. Just graduated.

The modt important thing for me is to be in my home town, or at least near it. It has around 100k people and low crime, which makes it hard for defense attorneys. However, there are only 7-8 lawyers who call themselves defense attorneys. 2 or 3 are 60+ so I see a huge opportunity coming up in a few years.


Do you have any insight into small town marketing? Getting my first client? Then five more?

Honestly, I just want to make 60k by year 4. Maybe top out at 85k in mid 30s. I'd be thrilled with that. I'd also love to make a lot more if i can, obviously. But time with my family, time for football and friends, those are way more important to me than a BMW.

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

Postby rouser » Sun Jun 02, 2013 5:55 am

you say you do know some small-law and solo guys doing transactional stuff. how would you compare your lifestyle to friends of yours doing transactional? i feel that hourly billing for small companies is not going to provide the kind of rush that you get from litigation and taking risks, but do you ever feel that your friends doing deals have more regular schedules? is there a middle ground somewhere?

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:30 pm

I've been pretty busy. I'll try to get to these questions tomorrow. If not tomorrow, hopefully Wednesday. Thanks for being patient.

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KD35
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby KD35 » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:41 pm

usuaggie wrote:Thanks a lot for this thread

I am considering going solo out of law school and focusing on criminal defense. I worked 10-15 hours a week in a prosecutors office all of law school and 14 hours a week doing defense in my 3L year. Just graduated.

The modt important thing for me is to be in my home town, or at least near it. It has around 100k people and low crime, which makes it hard for defense attorneys. However, there are only 7-8 lawyers who call themselves defense attorneys. 2 or 3 are 60+ so I see a huge opportunity coming up in a few years.


Do you have any insight into small town marketing? Getting my first client? Then five more?

Honestly, I just want to make 60k by year 4. Maybe top out at 85k in mid 30s. I'd be thrilled with that. I'd also love to make a lot more if i can, obviously. But time with my family, time for football and friends, those are way more important to me than a BMW.



My (uneducated on this subject) guess from what he has been saying is being involved in your town's local associations that affluent/potential clients would be involved in. Additionally, depending on where your town in, you could guess that there could be some business from nearby towns as well.
But what he has been saying is market market market. Primarily through the main community organizations that would give you contact with your future clientele.

BlueLawyer
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:31 pm

Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby BlueLawyer » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:01 pm

Very glad I found this thread. Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this. It is very interesting to read about your practice.

I've been reading this post over the last day or two, so sorry if you already posted it and I missed it, but how long have you been practicing solo?

Looking forward to reading your new posts.

utlaw2007
Posts: 783
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:49 pm

Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:02 pm

KD35 wrote:
usuaggie wrote:Thanks a lot for this thread

I am considering going solo out of law school and focusing on criminal defense. I worked 10-15 hours a week in a prosecutors office all of law school and 14 hours a week doing defense in my 3L year. Just graduated.

The modt important thing for me is to be in my home town, or at least near it. It has around 100k people and low crime, which makes it hard for defense attorneys. However, there are only 7-8 lawyers who call themselves defense attorneys. 2 or 3 are 60+ so I see a huge opportunity coming up in a few years.


Do you have any insight into small town marketing? Getting my first client? Then five more?

Honestly, I just want to make 60k by year 4. Maybe top out at 85k in mid 30s. I'd be thrilled with that. I'd also love to make a lot more if i can, obviously. But time with my family, time for football and friends, those are way more important to me than a BMW.


My (uneducated on this subject) guess from what he has been saying is being involved in your town's local associations that affluent/potential clients would be involved in. Additionally, depending on where your town in, you could guess that there could be some business from nearby towns as well.
But what he has been saying is market market market. Primarily through the main community organizations that would give you contact with your future clientele.


I'm back. Sorry for the wait. Things have been pretty busy and the stakes are rising.

This post is on the money. Market your butt off and try to get business in the same way from nearby towns.

You won't necessarily need affluent clientele since you should be able to get volume. Your town may be small. But there are so few attorneys that if you get out in front of people's faces, you should get some volume. Where else are they going to go?

utlaw2007
Posts: 783
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:49 pm

Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:57 pm

rouser wrote:you say you do know some small-law and solo guys doing transactional stuff. how would you compare your lifestyle to friends of yours doing transactional? i feel that hourly billing for small companies is not going to provide the kind of rush that you get from litigation and taking risks, but do you ever feel that your friends doing deals have more regular schedules? is there a middle ground somewhere?


A transactional practice definitely provides for more stability and predictability. The problem is that you need to have volume even to live comfortably. Sure, you can have one or two companies paying you 3k a month for a retainer, but even that is a big if. It is realistically obtainable. My classmate who I am partnered with has a very successful transactional practice. There are more events that require the rendering of legal services for a transactional practice. And there is no law that says you can't do both litigation and transactional. But to make really good money with your own transactional practice requires volume. Whatever marketing is needed for litigation is needed in even greater amounts for a transactional practice. The goal is to shoot for being on retainer so that you will get monthly checks. Of course, you have to find businesses that can afford to pay you monthly and are willing to pay you monthly. I'm sure that can be done. I just don't know the ins and outs of doing so because I don't market with a transactional practice in mind.

This is based purely on just my experiences, but some of the transactional lawyers that I know who have their own firms are making six figures. But many aren't. I have come across even more poor trial lawyers so I'm not bashing a transactional practice. Remember that a transactional practice at this level does not call for the rendering of complex legal services. The business transactions are too simple. You organize a business into a corporation/partnership here and there. You may draft some partnership agreements. You draft a contract. You might routinely advise a company on legal matters, thus leading to being put on retainer for that company. But there is no really big money stuff. That's why you need volume just to get to 6 figures.

The beauty of litigation is that there are large lump sums that will last you for a while. These lump sum amounts could be in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions. If you do defense litigation, which is harder to market for without a rep, you can get more steady pay, kind of, but that pay does not include lump sum payments unless you charge flat fees for representation. But the amounts of money you can make pales in comparison to that of plaintiff's attorneys. But more importantly, it is much harder to secure steady business as a civil defense trial lawyer at this level.

One way to bridge the gap is to provide consultation services in addition to litigation if you practice business litigation. If you practice business litigation, there are all sorts of things you can consult about pertaining to contracts alone. You can draft them. You can look them over. You can add contractual language to better protect your client's interest. You can do this in addition to charging retainer fees for your business litigation cases, win or lose. These are nice offsets to the risks associated with being a trial lawyer who works primarily on the plaintiff's side.

To answer your question, most solos that I have run into are struggling whether they are trial lawyers or transactional lawyers. But be aggressive and smart so that you can, at least, be in the right circles of lawyers and clients who are successful. It's all about being associated with the right people. Fratenize with unsuccessful attorneys and broke clients, you will be unsuccessful as an attorney. And yuo will be able to share the same stories as those unsuccessful attorneys about how bleak it is and how insanely difficult it is to make money.

If you hang with successful attorneys and clients who aren't broke (they don't have to be rich, just not broke, clients that is) you greatly increase your chances of being successful. Your associations will teach you, in part, how to attract business in successful ways in your area. And you will be around people who have a much better mindset and are well connected. And it always helps to know attorneys who are well connected. It makes you well connected. Being around these people may spark ideas to hep make your business more successful.

The main thing is to stay away from lawyers who represent those depressing stats about solos. There is a lot you can do to not become one of those stats contrary to what many people on this site say. Nothing is guaranteed, but you can greatly increase your chances for success by taking the appropriate actions suggested.

To answer your question after my long winded response, all of the transactional attorneys I know on an intimate level are making 6 figures. They are living very comfortably.

Most of the trial lawyers that I know on an intimate level (not that many) are making bank. And many more that I just know about are doing the same. They are putting the money made by every transactional lawyer, even the partners in biglaw, to shame. That's what initially attracted me to this. And the trial lawyers have more off time. There are those times where you are working around the clock intent on making it happen. But there are other times when you do get that big pay day and as a result, you can coast for long, long periods at a time. You get the best of both worlds. At this level, litigation is far more difficult than transactional stuff. There are easy cases. They are average cases. And there are difficult cases. All of my cases are of the difficult kind. That is NOT by design. That's just how it happens.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.




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