making sh&%$ law pay you well

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:59 pm

BlueLawyer wrote: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.


For almost three years.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:08 pm

.

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bizzybone1313
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby bizzybone1313 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:23 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:
BlueLawyer wrote: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.


For almost three years.


Do you mind telling us how much you made your first and second years? After expenses?

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

Postby thelawdoctor » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:33 pm

I think of 5 backup choices..................

hint: the same ones that recruit mostly in low income neighborhoods

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bizzybone1313
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby bizzybone1313 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:37 am

What is the average number of hours you work every week including marketing and everything else? How much vacation do you take more or less every year? Are you completely solo or do you have a legal assistant or anyone else helping you?

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

Postby scifiguy » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:25 am

utlaw2007 wrote:
1. I had loans coming out of law school. They are still in deferment. I'm actually paying them down while in deferment.




UT, why do you have loans still if you've been successful in small law for a number of years? I'm asking genuinely and really hgope that didn't sound offensive in any way. I've enjoyed your thread as well!! Extremely informative!!

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:27 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
BlueLawyer wrote: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.


For almost three years.


Do you mind telling us how much you made your first and second years? After expenses?


Although a fair question, I am not comfortable with disclosing that level of detail.

All I can say is that the first year was a struggle. I think I could have made it easier on myself if I wasn't so hell bent on trying to snag the homerun cases. I had very narrow blinders on. That coupled with the ignorance of not knowing how long a contingency fee case can take to pay out led needless struggle for me. But that struggle allowed for me to gain tremendous insight. And it exposed me to a larger variety of lawyers, mostly unsuccessful ones. That was important because when you are trying to do this and you don't really know what you are doing, you need to see, firsthand, many of the bad business ways that many solos have so you can avoid those things and reason better strategies for being successful. Come up with a plan initially. But your plan is always evolving based on your abilities as a lawyer (this dictates the kind of cases you can take, not just based on practice area but degree of difficulty within a practice area), the marketing opportunities based on your area, and your financial obligations, whether personal or business related.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:54 pm

scifiguy wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
1. I had loans coming out of law school. They are still in deferment. I'm actually paying them down while in deferment.




UT, why do you have loans still if you've been successful in small law for a number of years? I'm asking genuinely and really hgope that didn't sound offensive in any way. I've enjoyed your thread as well!! Extremely informative!!



This is a fair question.

It's a lifestyle choice. I was an older student when I went to law school. This site seems to prioritize paying down debt as quickly as possible. That is a feasible solution if one is really young. Being older and basically having nothing since I was already in a horrible position before starting law school, that never entered my mind. I want to experience life while I'm still relatively young. If things continue to go as successful as they have been for me, I'll go ahead and pay off my debt entirely. But there is one thing to remember when you make this kind of money...

Taxes are a bitch.

I also have a very rare medical condition that I am not insured for. My medication is incredibly expensive. My first and foremost priority, and one of the main reasons why I chose to do what I do, was to be in position to pay for my medication. Obviously, health comes first.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:22 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:What is the average number of hours you work every week including marketing and everything else? How much vacation do you take more or less every year? Are you completely solo or do you have a legal assistant or anyone else helping you?


This is a great question.

Being in litigation, you just can't take that many days of vacation. Officially, to take vacation as a trial lawyer, you have to petition the court for vacation time if you have cases pending before that court. Apparently, that is easier said than done. I say that because I have been to docket calls where the judge calls for both counsel to approach the bench to inform him/her of the progress of that case. I have seen lawyers say that opposing counsel is in Hawaii or visiting some other exotic island. In the beginning, I had to cover for a mentor who was vacationing out of town when the judge just called him and said, we are going to trial tomorrow. I want to get this thing finished. He called me to cover for him. They could have just asked for vacation time from the court. I assumed they didn't because it's hard to get. So they just take their own vacations.

If a lawyer knows the judges because they have been doing this for a number of years, they can probably slide by doing this. I sure as hell can't because I'm relatively new. So I have to appear at every hearing and docket call. You just can't plan your way around those things if you are new. If you can, I haven't yet figured it out. I think that is the best way to piss off a judge if you are new. You better be accommodating. So I never leave town unless it's almost spur of the moment and for a weekend. Now if the cases I have pending are in the very beginning stages, then I could be more aggressive about vacation time. But whatever vacation time you could spend should be marketing instead. You have to keep the cases coming in. I have my goals set awfully high. I'm not content to make a million dollars in revenue every two to three years. I want to generate that kind of revenue every year. What good does it do you if you made a million dollars off of one case four years ago but you only generate about 150k in revenue since then because you sat on your a$$ and took it easy after winning the case? I want corporations to fear me. I want small businesses and individual clients to greatly desire my services when they have a legal problem. I'm building a reputation. And in doing so, you can't take vacation time this early in the game in my opinion. You have to always market.

As for how many hours I work a week? That is a business decision that is mandated by pending deadlines. If a deadline is pending, I will work 15 hours on Sunday to pump out a motion response. If it is very complicated issue, than I will spend about 20 hours a week on that one issue alone.

Client communication takes time. Every time I talk to a client on the phone, that conversation is at least an hour. If they come to my office, the conversation is at least 3 hours. It may not be the most efficient use of my time, but you are creating a bond. You want the client to know that you are willing to fight for them and that you believe in their cause. It's much easier to work for a client who likes you and believes that everything you do is in their best interest and is the best course of strategy to take because you said so. And the best way to get to that point is to spend a LOT of time talking to clients about their cases. You are a lawyer, but you are a counselor. Clients are upset. They want somebody to listen and totally understand their anger. You can't guarantee outcomes, but you can guarantee that you will put up a great fight because you have their back and will do your best. And more talking demonstrates a higher level of competence. You want to talk to them about case strategy in general and legal issues that may arise in simple terms that they can understand. Most lawyers at this level don't do that. Doing this creates client trust. And that is what you want.

But the bulk of your working time as a solo is marketing. You have to drive hear and there. You have to meet people for lunch. You have to sit through seminars just to get to the business owners.

As far as work is concerned, you are working even when you are running personal errands. You're on the internet on your phone doing research as you are driving to the store for ice cream. You are doing that research while you are out eating lunch or dinner by yourself.

Heck, I would do phone internet research while I was doing document review at times.

You wake up before day in the morning all the time thinking about case strategy and arguments. You're pretty much always working and that doesn't always include being at your desk.

When you are up against it, you might be spending 30 or 40 hours in a week on one case alone. And then you have to spend the same amount of time on another case the following week. The hours you work on cases are never 9 to 5. They are more like 10 to 12 or 1 am. And you can easily spend 15 hours working on the weekend alone.

And if you are preparing for trial?! You sleep for 4 or 5 hours and the rest of that time is spent working. It is unavoidable. And it is a struggle to sleep for that many hours, but you have to get your rest.

You are always talking to your trusted friends or family about case issues.

That's why it is so important to like what you do. I love this stuff. What I don't love is discovery. I hate it. It's tedious and a big pain in the a$$. Answering ONE discovery request can easily take 30 hours for one case.

But then there are those times when you can just chill a bit, but you always have to market. That's a 24/7 job pretty much. It's just that sometimes you can market in a very relaxed way which would be to just talk to people as you handle your personal business. Then there is aggressive marketing when you have to wear a suit and go to an event that takes up half your day. Then you have to follow up with the people you made key connections with, key connections meaning they can either use your services or refer you to someone who can use your services.

But there is plenty of down time. You will find yourself playing on the internet and going to car dealerships a lot, or whatever it is that you like to do. But even going to those car dealerships is marketing. You have to tell those people what you do. I've never had a case come through those meetings, but that still should not stop you. I have had some prospective clients call because they were referred to me through some local business employee who referred them to me. I just never took any of those cases.

After a while, you'll get a call from someone who you're like, "I don't remember ever talking to this person." And they will say they got your name from someone else who you spoke to and gave a card to.

In the beginning, you just never know where business is going to appear. So you have to market yourself to everyone. Just be cool and friendly about it.

I am completely solo. I am partnered with two different law firms to expand my resources, but my firm is just me. I just don't see any value in a legal assistant for what I do. What can they do for me? Answer my phone? That's not enough to justify the expense. If I routinely requested medical records and dealt with insurance companies, an assistant would be appropriate. But I don't do those things. My case load is not ridiculous.

And more and more courts are moving to electronic filing. So there is no need to pay someone to staple and file your papers with the court.

Furthermore, I don't believe in using templates without any significant modification. I create lots of things from scratch. The templates I do use, need to be modified by me and only me. So an assistance can't help me there either. I will began hiring associates when my case load dictates. That is about a year away.

I see lawyers using legal assistants in areas where they shouldn't have legal assistants doing things. The only reason why anyone should have a legal assistant is to assist with volume. And even then, I'm not sure what they would do that would be meaningful. Much of this depends on what kind of law you practice. But if you do what I do, you and only you can talk to clients. You and only you can draft motion responses/motions even with a template. I make changes to every template I have every time. A legal assistant can't do that.

I refuse to pay someone to answer my phones. Lawyers aren't kings. They called me because they want to talk to me. I'm not going to pay someone to answer my phone so they can simply pass the call to me. If I am unavailable, they can leave a voicemail.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:51 pm

That is not to say that every successful solo works these kinds of hours. I doubt they do. Criminal defense lawyers have it the easiest when it comes to work. They are at the courthouse every morning. But usually end their days at 3 or 4. And I have heard of some who get big flat fees for a couple of cases and then take the rest of the month off. And that is like 2 weeks, usually.

It is customary for civil trial lawyers to take about a week off after a trial. I usually take time off after a significant settlement. But it's not much. Most of how many hours you work as a solo depends on what you want to accomplish. I want to accomplish a lot. Remember, I'm teaching myself a lot of this stuff, including the law, as I go along. And that just takes a lot more time. If you don't want to get beaten, you better know what you are doing, especially when you sue the people I sue. And I hate to lose...

But I do love to compete when it counts. For me, law school didn't count because grades didn't count. Good grades lead to good jobs if you go to a good school, but that wasn't enough to motivate me. Doing what I do now, making companies pay because I said they need to pay, that motivates me. Obviously, helping clients motivates me. But doing the highly unlikely, motivates me the most. Getting the job done, fantastically, when there is a lot of money at stake, motivates me the most.

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

Postby FineGentleman » Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:41 pm

I am a college student aspiring to be a lawyer. What can you tell me about the current status of the law industry? How hard would it be for me to find a job?

I currently reside in New York. Would the only chance of me becoming an attorney is if I got into the HYC or CNN law schools? Can you describe how hard would it be?

It's just that law has my passion since middle school and I cannot imagine me being anything other than a lawyer, but I am getting extremely discouraged from news and horror stories of being unemployed after the law school debt.

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bizzybone1313
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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby bizzybone1313 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:11 pm

What happened during 2L OCI for you? Or did you not even do it because you knew you wanted to go solo? The most impressive part of you successfully going solo is that you did it right when the economy was crashing. It sounds like you started in 2009 or 2010.

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

Postby thelawdoctor » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:25 pm

FineGentleman wrote:I am a college student aspiring to be a lawyer. What can you tell me about the current status of the law industry? How hard would it be for me to find a job?

I currently reside in New York. Would the only chance of me becoming an attorney is if I got into the HYC or CNN law schools? Can you describe how hard would it be?

It's just that law has my passion since middle school and I cannot imagine me being anything other than a lawyer, but I am getting extremely discouraged from news and horror stories of being unemployed after the law school debt.


It is growing, just not as fast as the number of graduates is growing.

It is the same for most other popular college level jobs. The more supply, the less you can take advantage of demand.

Doctors and Nurses are saying the same things.

I listened to talk radio and watched the news a few times where politicians cry about the need "to end college prep and encourage non college trades instead" due to a lack of people wanting to be construction workers and the like. (not even a joke, our elected leaders looking out for the little man..........google it)

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

Postby Kafkaesquire » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:27 am

I have heard, more than once, of suing a big company when starting off solo simply for the experience. Yet, obviously, not every new solo lawyer does this. And lawyers are motivated people, are they not? This is why I am led to believe that there must be some negative consequence that keeps new solo-ers from partaking in this vast learning experience. Or, am I wrong, and are there simply lazy lawyers who are not willing to do this starting out?

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:10 pm

Kafkaesquire wrote:I have heard, more than once, of suing a big company when starting off solo simply for the experience. Yet, obviously, not every new solo lawyer does this. And lawyers are motivated people, are they not? This is why I am led to believe that there must be some negative consequence that keeps new solo-ers from partaking in this vast learning experience. Or, am I wrong, and are there simply lazy lawyers who are not willing to do this starting out?


More solos sue companies than you realize. The question of laziness is true for many.

For one, many lawyers don't want to sue large companies because they know the odds of losing and getting nothing are great. And that would be true to a certain extent. This is primarily true because new solos don't have the funds to afford to sue a large corporation. The areas of law where one could sue a large entity with little funds are usually more complex areas of law. People aren't in law school anymore. Not everyone is interested in challenge. And when you think about, who cares when you can try to make money doing something much easier? Second, many lawyers sue large companies anyway, contrary to what you have heard. But they get their cases dismissed pretty early on before any meaningful experience can be learned.

But most importantly, law practice, even for solos, is not a one size fits all for the lawyers. Stop lumping all solos into the same category. Not every solo would benefit or even care to sue a large corporation. The experience you could get may not suit them for what they need to conduct their own practice.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:15 pm

In any lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. Many times, especially when suing large corporation, acquiring that burden of proof costs money that the solos don't have. It's pretty simple, actually. Most solos don't sue large corporations because they can't afford to.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:26 pm

FineGentleman wrote:I am a college student aspiring to be a lawyer. What can you tell me about the current status of the law industry? How hard would it be for me to find a job?

I currently reside in New York. Would the only chance of me becoming an attorney is if I got into the HYC or CNN law schools? Can you describe how hard would it be?

It's just that law has my passion since middle school and I cannot imagine me being anything other than a lawyer, but I am getting extremely discouraged from news and horror stories of being unemployed after the law school debt.


I can tell you absolutely nothing about the legal industry in New York. The only thing I can tell you about Houston is that our economy is strong relative to the rest of the country. And with money exchanging hands, there's got to be a need for lawyers. That's all I can say.

I have no idea about how hard it would be for you to find a job. I don't care about such things nor do I even know about such things. This thread is about how to run your own law practice, not how to earn steady revenue for someone else.

I wanted to play in the NFL when I was in middle school. Football was my passion. I was really good, too. But that dream didn't pan out. Life goes on. If you are getting discouraged, pick another profession to enter that does not look so discouraging.

I'm not trying to be mean. But I do mean to sound harsh simply because life is full of harsh circumstances that you can't help but encounter. The best way to overcome them is to man/woman up and deal with them.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:47 pm

bizzybone1313 wrote:What happened during 2L OCI for you? Or did you not even do it because you knew you wanted to go solo? The most impressive part of you successfully going solo is that you did it right when the economy was crashing. It sounds like you started in 2009 or 2010.


I began my practice in 2010. Going solo as a lawyer is not all that hard as people make it out to be. It's hard, don't get me wrong. But it's no more difficult than starting another kind of successful business. Those are hard to start but not impossible. There is struggle. There is sacrifice. But many business owners encounter these same things. I've heard some people experience really bad struggles. Most businesses that are started fail. So it is very difficult. But this is the US. Every business you see, large or small, was started by somebody at some point. Times change and challenges get greater. But new businesses are still being created. The difference between the ones that fail and the ones that succeed is the the successful ones work smarter. It's not like every successful business owner is a genius. Law firms are no different. Every business has it's own unique challenges. So every business should have a plan of overcoming those challenges. It's about putting yourself in the best position to succeed.

I did 2L OCI. By that time, I pretty much knew I wasn't doing biglaw. I primarily interviewed with small firms in and around Houston, although there were ones in Dallas and in Austin that I interviewed with. They were both medium sized firms or really big small firms.

The Dallas firm rejected me because I didn't have ties to Dallas. All the guy talked about during the entire interview was how much I would hate Dallas being from Houston.

I don't know why the Austin firm rejected me. They went out of business over a scandal several years later so it's all a moot point.

For the most part, I didn't have that many interviews because I was only interested in working in Houston, my home town. Most of the small Houston firms don't even come to Texas OCI. They assume that UT kids don't want to work at those firms. And they would be right. And that is why I could not stand many of my classmates. They thought they were above it all and too good to work at a small firm. I did interview with a few biglaw firms because I needed the summer money. The interesting thing is that I did not like any of the people who interviewed me. I felt like working at all of those places would just be the most awful thing in the world. I think the seed was planted for me to have my own firm at that point.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:54 pm

If I was going to work for an arrogant a$$, I was going to be the closest thing to the arrogant a$$ that I was going to work for.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:42 am

I have yet to touch upon this aspect of solo practice, but it is hugely important. If one is going to generate incredible amounts of revenue, one must practice an area where there is demand for those services, but more importantly if one hopes to generate fantastic amounts of revenue, one must not only pick an appropriate practice area, commercial litigation for instance, but one must pick the right kind of cases for that practice area.

The second prong to that equation is dependent on where you practice litigation. What are those industries in your area that have sizeable contracts yet one party is not too big? If a company is too big, they can just afford to pay you by the hour and hourly fees won't get it done as I explained at the beginning of this thread. Usually, vendors that provide services to large companies or entities enter into large contracts relative to their size. Therefore, you want to get to know those vendors. This is something I have figured out myself. There are little to know small firms employing this strategy. At least, I have never heard of anyone doing so. What I'm tellig

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:45 am

I'm typing this on my phone so please excuse the typos and other unusual things.

I was saying that what I'm telling you is better than gold.

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

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:59 am

The main reason why so many solos practice personal injury is because it can be so lucrative. Clearly, those that practice car wrecks built a certain way to not go insane from boredom. Car accidents pay little. If you are new and handling these types of cases, the key is to never go to trial. A car accident case should NEVER go to trial. I don't practice these types of cases. But the business strategy for all cases that don't pay a lot is to spend as little time as possible getting them resolved. This is no different for criminal cases not taking into account high level felonies which, often times, have to go to trial.

You can't conduct target marketing for catastrophic personal injury or products liability. But those cases pay an insane amount of money off of just one case. You just have to be very aggressive about getting to know as many people as you can and hope you can snag a case like that. Those cases usually go to the guys with the reps. And car accident guys with reps get a tremendous amount of volume. And as a result, they make multiple millions in one year. But I would imagine that the work sucks. And being new, its not worth it to work for years trying to get to a point that will likely never arrive.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: making sh&%$ law pay you well

Postby utlaw2007 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:11 am

IP litigation is by far the most lucrative. I've seen small IP firms of like 12 guys make around 100 million off of one case. The verdict was close to 300 million. The judge reduced it to 274 million. That was the largest verdict in Houston in the past few years. Obviously, verdicts aren't routinely THAT large. But multi million dollar cases are routine in this area and catastrophic personal injury and products liability. Contract based commercial litigation cases are a little lower.

There's huge financial range in all of these cases. That's why your marketing is so important. Great marketing will greatly increase your chances at snagging high quality cases.

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

Postby scifiguy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:24 pm

New Question:

You mentioned finding an area of specialty that is in demand in your geographical location. Can you explain how one can go about doing this?

But, secondly, how much weight did you give to how much you liked or disliked a particular area? For example, suppose you found that asbestos law is underserved in your area and could potentially offer a lucrative specialization. But, on the other hand, suppose you find it boring or otherwise just not very interesting to you ... How much do other factors play in your decision of what type of practice to pursue?

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

Postby Kafkaesquire » Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:28 pm

I would like to ask a follow-up question to the one above.

Consider you have started your own firm in an area with its own demands for legal services, but you don't really want to continue practicing to meet those demands, i.e., you want to practice in another city/area of law. What would you weigh when considering whether to pack up your bags and move to meet these desires? How picky is too picky (in a practical/financial sense)?

For the sake of this discussion, just assume the attorney has no personal obligations (family, e.g.) outside of his career.




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