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.