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Author Topic: Starting your own solo practice after law school  (Read 5365 times)

mudcat

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2005, 02:42:41 PM »
EDIT: your negative to posting ratio is better than mine, so I AM worse than you... sorry.

EDIT: heres some constructive criticism.

I just helped a lawyer create a new solo practice.  Here are some things to consider.

1.  applying for a license as a corporation.  P.C.?  L.L.C.?  do you need a consultation to figure out which is better? ($$)

2.  do you have to carry malpractice insurance ($$$) in your state?  And god forbid you do muck up a case up with your ZERO experience- are you prepared to watch your premiums jump 10x?  and never go down?

3.  are you going to pay an accountant ($$), or do it yourself?  do you have an accountants license or background?

4.  taxes ($$)- have you ever run a business before?

5.  Rent- are you prepared to sign a 5 year lease?  15-75$/ square feet ($$$$)? do you have collateral, equity, own a home? 

6. do you have excellent credit, or are you going to purchase all infrastructure yourself up front ($$$)?   

7.  westlaw accounts can be 5,000/person, due up front ($).  or you have to buy books.  or you could walk to the library...

8.  do you have a mentor?  what happens if your ZERO experience in your field puts you in a malpractice/disciplinary situation?  who do you turn to?

9.  are you going to advertise, ($$$) or just rely on cases fed to you?  are you at lease going to pay for a martindale-hubble entry ($)?  What happens when clients look you up and realize that you dont even have a C- martindale grade? 

10.  bar fees, subscriptions, CLE classes, all of this adds up over time.  And you need to throw down for it too ($).


granted, this guy was probably the premiere med mal attorney in my state, but it was hard even for him.  Lots of planning, consultations, and OVERHEAD.  He had the cash to pay for it out of pocket.  Do you?  he ran a 1.3 million dollar bill before he opened his practice...granted, you dont need to purchase a 400,000$ medical library, or oil paintings... but you should still think about this before putting yourself into much more debt than law school ran you.

or maybe my boss just did things right, im sure you can cut every corner i just mentioned.  except the malpractice one, which is deadly for solos. And if this all fails, you think a firm/agency/judge will hire you after you tell them that you started off solo, got sued, and declared bankruptcy?

just a bit of reality.  Solos are running businesses, and the business world can be cruel.

though im sure they cover all of this in your solo practice seminar. 

lipper

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2005, 04:11:18 PM »
EDIT: your negative to posting ratio is better than mine, so I AM worse than you... sorry.

EDIT: heres some constructive criticism.

I just helped a lawyer create a new solo practice.  Here are some things to consider.

1.  applying for a license as a corporation.  P.C.?  L.L.C.?  do you need a consultation to figure out which is better? ($$)

2.  do you have to carry malpractice insurance ($$$) in your state?  And god forbid you do muck up a case up with your ZERO experience- are you prepared to watch your premiums jump 10x?  and never go down?

3.  are you going to pay an accountant ($$), or do it yourself?  do you have an accountants license or background?

4.  taxes ($$)- have you ever run a business before?

5.  Rent- are you prepared to sign a 5 year lease?  15-75$/ square feet ($$$$)? do you have collateral, equity, own a home? 

6. do you have excellent credit, or are you going to purchase all infrastructure yourself up front ($$$)?   

7.  westlaw accounts can be 5,000/person, due up front ($).  or you have to buy books.  or you could walk to the library...

8.  do you have a mentor?  what happens if your ZERO experience in your field puts you in a malpractice/disciplinary situation?  who do you turn to?

9.  are you going to advertise, ($$$) or just rely on cases fed to you?  are you at lease going to pay for a martindale-hubble entry ($)?  What happens when clients look you up and realize that you dont even have a C- martindale grade? 

10.  bar fees, subscriptions, CLE classes, all of this adds up over time.  And you need to throw down for it too ($).


granted, this guy was probably the premiere med mal attorney in my state, but it was hard even for him.  Lots of planning, consultations, and OVERHEAD.  He had the cash to pay for it out of pocket.  Do you?  he ran a 1.3 million dollar bill before he opened his practice...granted, you dont need to purchase a 400,000$ medical library, or oil paintings... but you should still think about this before putting yourself into much more debt than law school ran you.

or maybe my boss just did things right, im sure you can cut every corner i just mentioned.  except the malpractice one, which is deadly for solos. And if this all fails, you think a firm/agency/judge will hire you after you tell them that you started off solo, got sued, and declared bankruptcy?

just a bit of reality.  Solos are running businesses, and the business world can be cruel.

though im sure they cover all of this in your solo practice seminar. 


actually we did. go @ # ! * yaself
check the footnotes ya'll

mudcat

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2005, 04:44:42 PM »
LAW 312: Starting a Solo Practice

CORSE PREREQ: (1) please submit a bank account statement from the last three months reflecting a balance of $300,000+.  (2) familiarity with swear word formatting on internet message boards will be helpful.

good job lip!  pass/fail?

lipper

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2005, 05:50:58 PM »
aight kid, give it a rest.
check the footnotes ya'll

Pdukes

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2011, 10:17:45 PM »
I thought I would revisit this topic 6 yrs later.  Has the OP have any luck starting their own firm?  If not which route after school did you choose?

Thane Messinger

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2011, 04:52:50 PM »
I have a friend who went solo after 6 months at a firm. Honestly, I question his competence. I'd bet those people slaving away at those big firms and corp. in-house counsel offices are learning more than you'd think. Those "slaves" have the luxury of someone to continue teaching them after law school. They're being groomed to move up in the organization, and its a process that takes time. Theoretically, if all goes well, they'll end up in the position of the partner teaching them the practice. There are attorneys, and then there are good attorneys.

Incompetence aside, my friend makes ends meet by taking public defender cases on contract. That jurisdiction doesn't have an established P.D. office.  His practice is slowly growing, but its been tough for him. The hours are pretty good most of the time, and he is his own boss. That counts for alot. Other solo attorneys I know got their start in the prosecutor's office. They did that for a couple of years and then went solo. They made alot of connections that way.


This is a post worth re-reading for all, whether or not you're contemplating starting a firm.  Among other reasons, for those in a law office of any kind, there is and should be a greater awe in the value being GIVEN to you by being in that office and learning from experienced practitioners.  Why is this form used and not that one?  Do I confirm this or not worry about it?  Why shouldn't we notify x about y?  Oh, we need to worry about z?

It is stressful, thankless work?  Well, often, yes it is.  That is the nature of most professional service providers, and it's simply part of the reality of law practice.  Keep in mind too that someone is paying you for all this.  (This is something a solo practitioner becomes acutely aware of.)

Duplicating this early training in a solo practice is tenuous and difficult.  It can be done, but it often isn't . . . much to the harm of clients and bank account alike.

Thane.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2011, 10:49:29 AM »
This is a post worth re-reading for all, whether or not you're contemplating starting a firm.  Among other reasons, for those in a law office of any kind, there is and should be a greater awe in the value being GIVEN to you by being in that office and learning from experienced practitioners.  Why is this form used and not that one?  Do I confirm this or not worry about it?  Why shouldn't we notify x about y?  Oh, we need to worry about z?

Thane, there's great wisdom in what you say and I agree with you:  if you have the chance to learn under an experienced partner, you'd be a fool not to seize the opportunity.

However, keep in mind that grads from 4T schools might be looking at a 50% unemployment rate.  This may not be a choice of "well, do I work under somebody else learning the ropes for a while OR do I just wing it, solo?"

I'm also sure you're familiar with anectdotes like the following:

(A variation of this one was told to me by 2 different attorneys, one in Michigan and one in Texas, who didn't know each other)

"Well, family law attorneys are made because a junior associate joins a small firm, and none of the partners or senior associates want to handle family law.  So, they stick the new guy with the divorces and eventually, that person becomes the 'expert' on family law matters."

And conversely, from a guy who WAS the junior associate:

"Yeah, I joined my firm and nobody wanted to handle the divorces, so they threw them all to me.  I learned what to do, and eventually everybody realized I was pretty good at it."

Another one was a friend who got hooked up with some consumer credit agencies who asked if he wanted to do litigation on behalf of fair debt collections act issues.  He studied up on it for a couple of months and that's what his practice consists of, today.

I don't object at all to making people aware of:

1.  the financial realities of this path.  Old rule of thumb on small biz is that you don't start breaking even for 2 years and may not turn a net profit on the venture for 5.  You might very well end up sorting packages for UPS on the night shift to make rent for a while until your practice is started.

2.  The difficulty of this path in terms of the type of personality required.

3.  The dangers involved.

People should go into this with eyes wide-open.  Where I quibble is with the assertion that it can't be done or that trying to do this is a sure path to ruin.  The warnings have a good basis, but to be frank, we all know attorneys who hung out a shingle at graduation and did just fine.

Given the alternative prospects for many graduates of today's schools, I don't think a solo practice is an unreasonable aspiration.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #17 on: August 17, 2011, 05:54:01 PM »
I don't object at all to making people aware of:

1.  the financial realities of this path.  Old rule of thumb on small biz is that you don't start breaking even for 2 years and may not turn a net profit on the venture for 5.  You might very well end up sorting packages for UPS on the night shift to make rent for a while until your practice is started.

2.  The difficulty of this path in terms of the type of personality required.

3.  The dangers involved.

People should go into this with eyes wide-open.  Where I quibble is with the assertion that it can't be done or that trying to do this is a sure path to ruin.  The warnings have a good basis, but to be frank, we all know attorneys who hung out a shingle at graduation and did just fine.

Given the alternative prospects for many graduates of today's schools, I don't think a solo practice is an unreasonable aspiration.

FalconJ -

No argument from my side as well.  My points were aimed in a somewhat different direction, as I see sub-par lawyering far too often.  (Including from some "top" lawyers who darned well ought to know better.)  If the motivation is there, and large heaps of it, anything is possible.  If the motivation is not there, get it or get out.

And, as to jobs, I would encourage any graduate to widen the net massively.  I know this sounds a bit too easy, but I too dealt with this, many years ago.  It can be done.  Find a small office, law or non-law, and learn.  Central to this is the genuine desire of the individual.  Not just loan repayments (although that's clearly front-and-center too), but the real person.  For anyone with a burning desire to practice, that's the person who should be contacting every DA in every town (note, not just city) in the surrounding 12 counties.  For others, there might be corporate, government, or other opportunities with some connection to law (contracting, real estate management, regulation, etc.) that might be a decent or even better fit.

Good luck to all,

Thane.

Morten Lund

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2011, 03:49:11 AM »

Given the alternative prospects for many graduates of today's schools, I don't think a solo practice is an unreasonable aspiration.

This is an excellent observation, and there is more than a dash of reality there.

That said, I still shudder every time I hear of any fresh graduate putting up a shingle.  This is based perhaps mostly in my recollection of just how useless I was upon graduation (and for quite some time thereafter), but frankly I am hard pressed to think of more than a handful of fresh lawyers I have ever met who I would view as even marginally capable of operating unsupervised without committing wholesale malpractice. 

For this simple reason, and this reason alone, I generally oppose hanging shingles after graduation.  In fact, I would favor some type of post-doc internship requirement, MD-style, for bar admittance, but that is perhaps a different subject.

But, as you pointed out, this may be the only viable option open to many folks in today's situation, and you make do with what you can.  But for those who seek to open up shop right out of school, I would offer a suggestion/observation or two: 

- Chances are that you are far more incompetent than you think you are.  One of the features of incompetence is that it is often self-masking:  The incompetence keeps the incompetent from realizing his own incompetence. 

- So take a good hard at yourself and try to honestly evaluate what you do and do not understand.  Read and study - a lot.

- Try to limit your practice to relatively simple matters, and try to get repetition whenever possible, so that you may build expertise quickly (a tall order I know for a new solo, who will take any work available, but still).  Recognize your rookieness and try to mitigate the damage.  Marketing also becomes a lot easier if you can tout a particular skill or experience rather than general awesomeness.

- Get supervised.  Just because you are solo doesn't mean you are without resources.  "Consult" with other lawyers you know - relatives, friends, the guy in the next office suite, whatever (all within the bounds of the rules of ethics, of course).  Just find someone whose brains you can pick.  Heck, pay someone to shoulder-surf once in a while if you have to.  It is not uncommon in some professions to supervision requirements (which the bar mysteriously does not have) to simply hire more senior practitioners to supervise.  That could work for you too.

- Get involved in the local bar association.  The localler the better.  These groups are populated almost entirely with small firms and solos, and can be an invaluable source of information, education, supervision, client referrals, assistance, and perhaps even a job.  Good bar associations are the small firm support group.

- Beyond just the bar association, network.  A lot.  Firm lawyers have a huge networking advantage, as they can tag along with other lawyers in the firm, and benefit from those pre-existing networks.  Not so for the solo - you have to do it all yourself, and it is easy to put it off without a senior partner bugging you to go to the mixer.  But most law practices are ultimately a relationship game, so you should build as many relationships as you can.

(Ok, more than two)

EdinaRah

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Re: Starting your own solo practice after law school
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2011, 05:49:38 PM »
For this simple reason, and this reason alone, I generally oppose hanging shingles after graduation.  In fact, I would favor some type of post-doc internship requirement, MD-style, for bar admittance, but that is perhaps a different subject.

Have you heard about that proposal by two profs in an upcoming law review article that law schools establish affiliated law firms to provide opportunities for students to work in a sort of supervise residency model? (South Carolina Law Review but currently available for reading here)

Alternatively, I would think a future solo-practitioner could try to find a kind/amenable solo practitioner to be a mentor --though this may be much harder to achieve than it sounds --I've never tried.