Solo Practice Q&A

(Advantages vs Disadvantages, Hours and Compensation, Career Growth Potential, Company Culture, Getting Hired, Types of Practices- general vs specialty vs complementary, Small & Midsized Firm reviews & experiences)
Anonesq

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Mon Jun 24, 2019 2:03 pm

How are you getting that many hearing requests that you are able to get up to 3k a month? Do you travel hours away to attend these hearings or do you select counties near you?

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:05 am

Anonesq wrote:How are you getting that many hearing requests that you are able to get up to 3k a month? Do you travel hours away to attend these hearings or do you select counties near you?
I've signed up with basically every hearing company, which leads to multiple hearings in the same court.

I limit my geographic footprint to my tri-county area (max of 25 minute drive). I will go further if I have nothing going on and the price is right ($100+).

I also make an effort to submit reports incredibly promptly and be detailed. For some of the sites, this increases your "score" and you get leads before other attorneys. In fact, for one site, I automatically get first dibs on any hearing in the tri-county area.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:18 am

What do you use for legal research?

Tried using fast case the other day and it’s not the greatest in my opinion...

Thinking about going to a law library... I heard they may allow me to do free legal research...

Would my law school help me out here?

Let me know your thoughts...

Thanks.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:17 pm

Anonesq wrote:What do you use for legal research?

Tried using fast case the other day and it’s not the greatest in my opinion...

Thinking about going to a law library... I heard they may allow me to do free legal research...

Would my law school help me out here?

Let me know your thoughts...

Thanks.
I used my county law library for free my first year. I signed up for Case Text my second year and love it.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:05 am

Thanks for your responses AV Bucks.

Curious if you have clients give you a retainer for contingency matters? I’m thinking I may do that next time so I’m not chasing clients around for filing fees and postage...

Thoughts?

Thanks.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for your responses AV Bucks.

Curious if you have clients give you a retainer for contingency matters? I’m thinking I may do that next time so I’m not chasing clients around for filing fees and postage...

Thoughts?

Thanks.
Nothing pisses off clients more than charging them for copies, postage, mileage, and other miscellaneous costs. Just make your fee enough to cover these costs so you don't even have to keep track of them. The exception here is anything more than $50 (deposition transcripts, filing fees, large copy jobs that need to be outsourced, etc.).

In terms of fees, I always tell the client that the rules of professional conduct require them to ultimately be responsible for costs of litigation. They can either pay me now or have it come directly out of their settlement. Probably 2/3 just want it out of the settlement.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:55 am

Several people have PMd me or posted here stating I should start a blog, so I did just that. I'm not sure if I want this account directly connected to my blog, but I could sure use some feedback. If you want to provide some constructive criticism I'd greatly appreciate if you'd PM me. Cheers.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by cisscum » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:24 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote:
Anonesq wrote:Thanks for your response AV Bucks.

What do you mean by local counsel work? You mean signing up for appearance sites such as Docketly?

Can you advise what other appearance sites you are using?

I seem to only be getting local counsel requests from Docketly.

I have not been getting any other appearance requests from the other sites.

Also, I have not actually accepted any requests yet. Is this appearance work generally very easy? Can you advise how these generally go?

Thanks.
I'm biased but appearance work is the best thing to ever happen to young solo practitioners that are willing to hustle. It is the most low energy, low mental work ever.

Depending on the company you get anywhere from $50-100 per appearance. The best thing is that when you work for multiple appearance places, you will get multiple hearings at the same place. All of a sudden showing up at court for 10 minutes will pay you $250.

Next Tuesday is a great example -- I have 11 of these damn hearings at 4 courts from 10:00 AM to about 2:15. I will make $503 in 5+ hours. My time spent at court will be about 30 minutes. The other three hours will be driving around either making calls (for my practice) or listening to podcasts. Putting in the reports will be a pain but that will take about 15 minutes.

Backing up, my goal is always to make $400/day -- that puts you on target for $100k revenue in a year. And if you can have two of these hearings a day for $150, now you only need $250 a day. And that's easy.

The hearings are all extremely basic -- default hearings (no answer filed), case management conferences (setting dates), pre-trials (advising court of the nature of the case and setting dates), summary judgments, etc. Know your civil rules. You download the materials prior to the hearing and then fill out a report after the hearing through each company's portal.

Best companies are Docketly, My Motion Calendar (defense work, so be careful not to do take the plaintiff and defendant on the same case), Court Appearance Professionals, and Attorneys in Motion. DO NOT -- ABSOLUTELY DO NOT -- use Attorneys on Demand. They do not give you any materials and you walk into court naked, and the judge will hate you.

They are comically easy. It's the easiest money around. $2,911 in June just from covering these stupid things.
How much experience do you need to get appearances from those agencies?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Halp » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:50 pm

What was your contingency plan if you failed? Soloing seems so risky to me because if you fail, the path back to employment as an attorney is unclear to me. No biglaw, probably no PI since it’s so competitive, can’t count on government job or midlaw/shitlaw. I feel like I’m missing something.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:17 pm

cisscum wrote:
AVBucks4239 wrote:
Anonesq wrote:Thanks for your response AV Bucks.

What do you mean by local counsel work? You mean signing up for appearance sites such as Docketly?

Can you advise what other appearance sites you are using?

I seem to only be getting local counsel requests from Docketly.

I have not been getting any other appearance requests from the other sites.

Also, I have not actually accepted any requests yet. Is this appearance work generally very easy? Can you advise how these generally go?

Thanks.
I'm biased but appearance work is the best thing to ever happen to young solo practitioners that are willing to hustle. It is the most low energy, low mental work ever.

Depending on the company you get anywhere from $50-100 per appearance. The best thing is that when you work for multiple appearance places, you will get multiple hearings at the same place. All of a sudden showing up at court for 10 minutes will pay you $250.

Next Tuesday is a great example -- I have 11 of these damn hearings at 4 courts from 10:00 AM to about 2:15. I will make $503 in 5+ hours. My time spent at court will be about 30 minutes. The other three hours will be driving around either making calls (for my practice) or listening to podcasts. Putting in the reports will be a pain but that will take about 15 minutes.

Backing up, my goal is always to make $400/day -- that puts you on target for $100k revenue in a year. And if you can have two of these hearings a day for $150, now you only need $250 a day. And that's easy.

The hearings are all extremely basic -- default hearings (no answer filed), case management conferences (setting dates), pre-trials (advising court of the nature of the case and setting dates), summary judgments, etc. Know your civil rules. You download the materials prior to the hearing and then fill out a report after the hearing through each company's portal.

Best companies are Docketly, My Motion Calendar (defense work, so be careful not to do take the plaintiff and defendant on the same case), Court Appearance Professionals, and Attorneys in Motion. DO NOT -- ABSOLUTELY DO NOT -- use Attorneys on Demand. They do not give you any materials and you walk into court naked, and the judge will hate you.

They are comically easy. It's the easiest money around. $2,911 in June just from covering these stupid things.
How much experience do you need to get appearances from those agencies?
None.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:23 pm

Halp wrote:What was your contingency plan if you failed? Soloing seems so risky to me because if you fail, the path back to employment as an attorney is unclear to me. No biglaw, probably no PI since it’s so competitive, can’t count on government job or midlaw/shitlaw. I feel like I’m missing something.
In all honesty, I probably would have done anything to make my practice work. I would have worked at a huge FedEx distribution center near me (which is always hiring) or drove for Uber or whatever to make ends meet until my practice got going.

I tend to disagree with your assertion that it would be harder to get back on the job market. My experience and opinion is obviously anecdotal, but I think most lawyers have a lot of respect for someone willing to go out on their own. I've had more job discussions in the 1.5 years or so I've been on my own than the other 3.5 years combined.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Halp » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:56 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote:
Halp wrote:What was your contingency plan if you failed? Soloing seems so risky to me because if you fail, the path back to employment as an attorney is unclear to me. No biglaw, probably no PI since it’s so competitive, can’t count on government job or midlaw/shitlaw. I feel like I’m missing something.
In all honesty, I probably would have done anything to make my practice work. I would have worked at a huge FedEx distribution center near me (which is always hiring) or drove for Uber or whatever to make ends meet until my practice got going.

I tend to disagree with your assertion that it would be harder to get back on the job market. My experience and opinion is obviously anecdotal, but I think most lawyers have a lot of respect for someone willing to go out on their own. I've had more job discussions in the 1.5 years or so I've been on my own than the other 3.5 years combined.
Interesting. Thanks so much for the insight!

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:46 pm

Does anyone have any idea on how to become a solo practicing entrepreneurial law and/or corporate law?

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone have any idea on how to become a solo practicing entrepreneurial law and/or corporate law?
A friend in Cleveland did this. Get in touch with your local business incubators and universities and offer fairly low cost legal services in exchange for your right to work there and use the space.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:48 am

Hi AVBucks-

I believe you said you use quickbooks to send invoices? Looks like there are some small fees with ACH transfer. Does this still work best for you or is there another platform that doesn't charge any fees that may be a better option?

Also, if I need to send money to my trust account I should not use quickbooks to transfer money since there will be fees. For money going into my trust account should I just ask for a check?

Thanks.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:03 pm

Anonesq wrote:Hi AVBucks-

I believe you said you use quickbooks to send invoices? Looks like there are some small fees with ACH transfer. Does this still work best for you or is there another platform that doesn't charge any fees that may be a better option?

Also, if I need to send money to my trust account I should not use quickbooks to transfer money since there will be fees. For money going into my trust account should I just ask for a check?

Thanks.
My version of Quickbooks (Simple Start) does not charge any fees for ACH transfer. Maybe yours does?

And if it's something that needs to go into trust, I require payment by check because (a) I want the paperwork and (b) I don't trust technology. Messing up your IOLTA is probably the biggest cardinal sin there is, and I'd much rather do it manually than risk getting all these other services involved.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:59 pm

AvBucks- I believe you said you do appointment work, correct?How do you join the court’s appointment system? Do I just call my local courthouse? What kind of work do you get from this... criminal? Family law? Has it been a good experience?

Thanks.

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AVBucks4239

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:11 am

Anonesq wrote:AvBucks- I believe you said you do appointment work, correct?How do you join the court’s appointment system? Do I just call my local courthouse? What kind of work do you get from this... criminal? Family law? Has it been a good experience?

Thanks.
Depends on your local jurisdiction. I would call your county bar association and they would be able to let you know.

Overall I think it is good experience. The pay isn't great but it should cover your overhead, meaning everything else you're doing is profit. You get to meet all the prosecutors and judges, as well as court staff (bailiffs, clerks, etc.). This ultimately becomes quite handy when one of your own clients gets an OVI, speeding ticket, etc.

I will probably stay on the appointment list for 4-5 years absent my practice getting to $200k revenues on just business clients alone.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:07 am

AV - I know you're not big on internet leads, but do you SEO your website? Has that lead to any cases that you can at least refer out? If a lawyer is going to do this in a competitive market, do you that that lawyer could generate at least some leads just off a well SEO'd website with great content?

Thanks,

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:AV - I know you're not big on internet leads, but do you SEO your website? Has that lead to any cases that you can at least refer out? If a lawyer is going to do this in a competitive market, do you that that lawyer could generate at least some leads just off a well SEO'd website with great content?

Thanks,
The extent of my SEO is to make sure my law firm website comes up first when someone Googles my name. This is the first goal of your website. Not your Facebook, not your LinkedIn, but your law firm website. This establishes credibility to people referred to you.

ETA: I think the biggest SEO tip here is to make sure your domain has at least your last name, your tagline mentions your name, and you write your website content in the third person.

I frankly don't really care about internet leads because those leads normally suck. You may have heard the expression that a good lawyer turns down 9 out of every 10 cases. That is emphatically true with regard to online leads, at least in my experience. These people are clueless and just googling for lawyers to bitch to. They are a time suck that interrupt your day.

The best clients always come by way of referral. I have yet to have a client referred to me that I didn't retain as a client. Another lawyer knows not to waste my time with a shitty case, so it's already gone through somewhat of a screening process.

I am sure I am losing out on consumer-oriented cases (PI, plaintiff's employment, etc.). But I don't really care for those cases. Good business clients are not going to find you by way of a Google search. It's going to come from a referral from someone who knows and trusts you.

I may start blogging about business law. Maybe that would generate some good leads. But my practice is busy enough, and I know from starting a solo practice blog that blogging is a ton of work. I'm looking at like a month just to get that blog up and running.

Lastly, I should add that my opinion is heavily influenced by my desire not to grow too big. I don't want a huge practice. I have 50-60 active matters right now, I'm on pace to make about $140-160k (revenue) this year, and that's plenty for me. I really don't have a desire for more. If I did, maybe I'd pay for some SEO.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by LockBox » Wed Jul 17, 2019 1:01 pm

How about conflicts checks? How do you deal with those and what would you recommend for new attorneys starting their practice regarding screening for conflicts for income clients?

.law vs .com - is your site a .com site? Did you give any thoughts to a .law domain? Have you heard about any benefits or drawbacks to either/or?

mac vs. pc - any thoughts on this? Are you a mac user? I have been using macs in my personal life and pc's for work and i'm wondering if any attorneys use macs in their solo practice.

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:13 pm

LockBox wrote:How about conflicts checks? How do you deal with those and what would you recommend for new attorneys starting their practice regarding screening for conflicts for income clients?

.law vs .com - is your site a .com site? Did you give any thoughts to a .law domain? Have you heard about any benefits or drawbacks to either/or?

mac vs. pc - any thoughts on this? Are you a mac user? I have been using macs in my personal life and pc's for work and i'm wondering if any attorneys use macs in their solo practice.

Thanks in advance.
I use my Google Suite as a conflicts check. Search the relevant name and any document/email you've drafted will come up. Honestly, though, you will spot 99% of conflicts without needing to do anything, as a conflict is incredibly obvious when you are on your own ("Oh ya, I represented that person before"). I'm sure this won't be the case after 10+ years or so (i.e., some tangential conflict might slip through), but the real world consequence of having a conflict is the other side filing a motion to disqualify counsel. It's not some 911 ordeal.

My website is .com. I didn't even know there was .law. Plus my website is "lastnamelaw.com" so it would have been weird with a .law.

I have the best of all worlds (I think) -- iphone, ipad, Chromebook, and PC (Lenovo). A nice Mac is a complete vanity purchase for a law practice. A Chromebook is a great purchase if you use G-Suite. Lenovos are the best business laptops and last forever.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:47 am

AVBucks4239 wrote:
LockBox wrote:How about conflicts checks? How do you deal with those and what would you recommend for new attorneys starting their practice regarding screening for conflicts for income clients?

.law vs .com - is your site a .com site? Did you give any thoughts to a .law domain? Have you heard about any benefits or drawbacks to either/or?

mac vs. pc - any thoughts on this? Are you a mac user? I have been using macs in my personal life and pc's for work and i'm wondering if any attorneys use macs in their solo practice.

Thanks in advance.
I use my Google Suite as a conflicts check. Search the relevant name and any document/email you've drafted will come up. Honestly, though, you will spot 99% of conflicts without needing to do anything, as a conflict is incredibly obvious when you are on your own ("Oh ya, I represented that person before"). I'm sure this won't be the case after 10+ years or so (i.e., some tangential conflict might slip through), but the real world consequence of having a conflict is the other side filing a motion to disqualify counsel. It's not some 911 ordeal.

My website is .com. I didn't even know there was .law. Plus my website is "lastnamelaw.com" so it would have been weird with a .law.

I have the best of all worlds (I think) -- iphone, ipad, Chromebook, and PC (Lenovo). A nice Mac is a complete vanity purchase for a law practice. A Chromebook is a great purchase if you use G-Suite. Lenovos are the best business laptops and last forever.
This is good since I have a new Lenovo laptop. Lol. Found a great deal at Costco.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by Anonesq » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:02 pm

AvBucks- Few more questions:

1) How do you handle the stress of solo practice? Sometimes I feel like the stress of pleasing everyone can become overwhelming. How do you handle it?

2) How do you handle clients who try to take advantage of your time (as in going outside of your engagement agreement). Has this ever happened to you? I had to send a client a firm email recently that we need a separate engagement letter for additional matters re: xyz.

3) Trying to get more clients....still seems like a difficult task. My goal is to try to get 1 new client a month. I had a few people express interest and some potential referrals but it is difficult converting to a signed engagement agreement. Anything else I should be doing to get more clients? I guess I just need to try to remain patient?

Thanks.

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Re: Solo Practice Q&A

Post by AVBucks4239 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:24 am

Anonesq wrote:AvBucks- Few more questions:

1) How do you handle the stress of solo practice? Sometimes I feel like the stress of pleasing everyone can become overwhelming. How do you handle it?

2) How do you handle clients who try to take advantage of your time (as in going outside of your engagement agreement). Has this ever happened to you? I had to send a client a firm email recently that we need a separate engagement letter for additional matters re: xyz.

3) Trying to get more clients....still seems like a difficult task. My goal is to try to get 1 new client a month. I had a few people express interest and some potential referrals but it is difficult converting to a signed engagement agreement. Anything else I should be doing to get more clients? I guess I just need to try to remain patient?

Thanks.
(1) In a firm, you cannot please all your bosses. As a solo, you cannot please all your clients. You obviously need to do your best, but there's a line you need to draw in the sand.

Best practices are to always take your client's calls (unless you are in a meeting/court/depos); even if you can't talk, take it and tell them you will call them tomorrow morning. Second, send them everything you file. They like seeing that progress. Third, make your invoices super detailed, and always, always, always put an "update on your file" memo in their invoice. It lets them know the train is moving forward. Bottom line, just be available and communicate well.

That said, I personally end every consultation with a "here's how I do things" speech. I tell them I will respond to emails within 24 hours; I will not take phone calls before 9:00, after 5:00, or on weekends; and I tell them that any project requiring more than an hour needs a week's notice. This eases the pressure.

In terms of productivity, I only do administrative tasks on Saturday mornings. Go to the bank, run my mileage, organize Quickbooks, etc. I call it my Saturday morning bullshit routine. But it allows me to focus on clients during the week, which means I'm getting more work done.

Lastly, the best advice I ever got was to fire your worst five clients every year. I'm up to six already this year. As soon as they piss me off for being an ungrateful ass, they're out. These people will suck your time and mental energy. Tell them to find another lawyer.

***

(2) This is not a problem -- it's the dream! It means they trust you with their first matter and want more advice. Handle it with gratitude.

I do not think you need a new fee agreement. Check your local rules, but if you already have a fee agreement that says X rate, you can charge X rate for other matters as a continuing business relationship.

I personally just ask, politely, "Do you want me to open a new matter or just put all of this on one invoice?" They know your advice isn't free.

If they are contingency fee clients, maybe do it on a discount. Charge 60% of your rate or something. Put your full rate on the invoice and show the discount.

***

(3) Hard for me to guess what this is, but if you are bringing them in for consultations and not executing, that's on you. You need to do TONS of research for these. I've spent 2-3 hours preparing for consultations. The client knows if you don't know what you're talking about -- you can't let that happen.

Just recently I had a big commercial real estate client whose partner screwed up the 1031 exchange deadline. What's a 1031 exchange? I don't even remember, but I knew it damn well when I was in that meeting.

If you are not getting them into your office, that's a different story. From the time you get the lead to the time they are in your office should not be more than 24 hours. 48 hours max.

Think about them as you would an online shopper. I spent 2-3 hours looking at golf clubs last night. I might go today. But if someone told the local golf pro, "Hey, AVB is looking for golf clubs, give him a call," then I got a call, then I was in doing a custom fitting the next day ... I'd be buying clubs. Instead I'm sitting here typing on an internet forum.

Legal clients are no different. You need to strike when the iron is hot.

In terms of sealing the deal, I always end consultations with something like this -- "Last thing: just remember that your legal fee is not about me writing boring paperwork or filing papers; you are paying me to inherit your problem entirely. You do not need to worry about this anymore. This is my problem now." Clients will get out their checkbooks.

Lastly, if you are struggling for leads, yes, be patient. I would meet up with 2-3 lawyers a week until you don't have the time to do that anymore.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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