« on: June 18, 2012, 06:59:40 PM »
Thanks to Roald and GlenRPierre for your comments.
I'm not planning to start a jack-of-all-trades practice. I plan to add to my expertise in a specialized area of real estate law. I worked as a paralegal in this type of practice before attending law school. In fact, I did most of the work (preparing and filing the complaints, motions, etc.) and the attorneys just signed my work product and attended the rare hearing, if need be. I was personally billing well over $30,000 a month for the firm. I, of course, only received a small portion of that sum for my salary. To top it off, I only worked about 30-32 hours a week.
The business model is low-cost, high-volume. Most attorneys kind of fall into this practice rather than pursuing it while in law school. Thus, they tend to already have a cumbersome and expensive infrastructure and payrolls when they finally realize the fullness of the opportunity. To compete with these established firms, I plan to keep my overhead bare bones, so I can undercut the pricing of every firm in the city doing this type of work. Also, clients already know that the paralegals at these firms do the lion's share of the work, but are still paying hourly "attorney" rates for the work done. Many are bitter, of course. So my pitch will be, "yeah, I'm a freshly-minted attorney, but who would rather have working your case, a new attorney or a paralegal? And besides that, my fees are 1/3 of what you're paying now to have a paralegal work your case."
I knew I wanted to attend law school before working at this firm, but decided to work as a paralegal first to sort of "kick the tires." What is so particularly appealing about this type of law is that it doesn't require a lot of office overhead or an enormous advertising budget to get clients in the door. Because most clients seldom come to the office to meet with attorneys (daily business is generally handled by phone or email), I can get by with a small office or even a virtual office space at first. And I expect the advertising costs will be next to nothing.
I've been researching law management software and I really like Rocketmatter--especially with the addition of the new document assembly function. And it's dirt cheap. I think it's about $60 per month.
I also tested Clio. I didn't like it quite as much as Rocketmatter. It seemed less user-friendly, but I'm not all that "tech" savvy either.
I think one of my largest monthly costs will be malpractice insurance. Does anyone know the ballpark cost of malpractice insurance for solos? I think it largely depends on practice area. From what I've found it can range from $600-$1,500 a month.