Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Madness of Solo Practice

One of the oft-quoted career paths for the fifty percent of law graduates who aren’t lucky enough to find a paying job is solo practice or sharing an office.  For the twenty thousand pre-1Ls who will inevitably find themselves in this dismal position in three years, or who are still going to law school this coming September thinking that this is a fallback option, let’s take a look at the facts.

But not in the context of law school, because that message just hasn’t sunk in – if it had, low-ranked law schools would be empty.  So let’s think about burgers.

Picture this: your average intersection. On one corner, there’s a McDonalds.  On another, a Burger King. The third corner has a Wendy’s.  And the fourth corner is vacant. Each sells roughly the same product – burgers.  Each has a finely tuned business model, economies of scale, great reputation and experience, and together all three restaurants easily satisfy the burger needs of the passing customers. The lines in the drive-thru lanes are short, there’s not a huge amount of traffic in the area, and there is no need for any additional burger restaurants in the area. Not only that, but people are realizing that they don’t like burgers as much as they used to, and the customer base is shrinking.

And your business plan is to borrow $150,000 to $250,000 and start “LawBurger” on the fourth corner.  Your business model is selling more of exactly the same burgers in an already-saturated and shrinking market.  Not a different type of food. Exactly the same kind of food.  And you will be taught how to make burgers for three years by people who have never made burgers before, at a school headed up by someone who thinks that there is a vast unmet demand for burgers – except he fails to tell you that this demand is from hordes of hungry bums who can’t pay for your burgers.

Crazy, right? 

Yet that’s exactly what the suggested business model for many new law grads is.  Go into a saturated, shrinking market and start selling exactly the same product as everyone else.

That’s not being entrepreneurial.  That’s the kind of business stupidity shown only by lottery winners - the ones who end up bankrupt three years after winning the MegaMillions.

And therein lies the danger of solo practice or hanging out a shingle.  There is no entrepreneurial common sense.  For many new businesses outside law, the plan is to either tap an existing client base or demand that is not being met (e.g. a new entrant into a market that is underserved, such as manufacturing low-cost, reliable electric vehicles), or the business is set up with the goal of generating demand for something new (e.g. the latest fad in the restaurant world.)  But for new entrants into the practice of law who believe they can make their own jobs, there is no base of clients that can be tapped.  The law market is tapped out.  There are already dozens of similar (even identical) businesses in the marketplace, and there’s nothing new you can offer.  You’re not able to set a trend or alter people’s tastes and desires.  Literally all you’re doing is adding one more person providing same-old legal services to the entire legal services marketplace, where it’s already saturated and there’s just no room for anyone else.

There is still time to decide to do something other than going to law school this coming September.  Surely you can think of something better to do than throw money away on a business plan that is set up to fail?

Charles Cooper is the author, along with Thane Messinger, of “Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession)”, in addition to being the moderator at Nontradlaw.net and the author of “Later in Life Lawyers”.  He can be contacted at charlescooperauthor@gmail.com.

119 comments:

  1. I agree with this. People have told me to open a solo practice. They dont understand that with a heavy debt load its difficult just to get the basics of a office. And if you do not have a significant other to help with living expenses its close to impossible. And even when I was with a small firm getting clients to pay could be a problem.

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    1. 3:31, you don't get it. Even if you had the money to open an office and get set up, you would be entering a saturated market offering the same services as anyone else. Why????

      It has nothing to do with how little you earn while getting set up and started because you are a fool for thinking that there is even a viable business if you work hard enough. Setting up a solo practice is special snowflake 2.0. Sand thought process - you think you can succeed where thousand failed because you're special.

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  2. This is an important point. People in the legal field, whether they are out-of-touch elder lawyers or law professors, often say that if all else fails "hang up your own shingle."

    A few weeks ago I was told by a boomer lawyer at court that the bad news about the legal job market is overrated so newspapers can be sold, and that I could easily make six figures doing one DUI case a week for $1500.

    They say lawyers are bad at math, but that one was all kinds of stupid.

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    1. "A few weeks ago I was told by a boomer ... that I could easily make six figures doing one DUI case a week for $1500. "

      LOL on the boomer-fail-arithmetic (i.e., even his fantasmagorical rate of 1500 a week doesn't get you to 80K let alone 6 figs).

      But you should print out your local ads for the next time you see that boomer to show him that the going rate for DUI defense in your saturated market is closer to $200 than 1500.

      Ooops, now you gotta find and handle around 12* DUIs per week.

      But I'm sure Cletus J. Clueless Boomer III could find (and handle) that with ease.

      *It's 10 by the numbers, but you'll need 12 to cover the 2 each week who will never pay you.

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    2. How is this? If the bottom rate is 200/hr, and it takes several hours for a case...

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  3. Anyone thinking of going solo should open up the local phone book. Doesn't matter where you are, there will be page after page after page of attorney listings. And for what? How often does the average person (who has the money to pay an attorney) actually need a lawyer? And even if they do, they will get an attorney by a referral from someone they trust, not the phone book. But still, the attorneys keep listing their names in the phone book. Its called desperation.

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    1. And drive down the highway and you will see billboard after billboard after billboard and turn on the TV and you will see ad after ad after ad. Our local flea market even had an attorney with a booth next to the tattoo artist so even that is taken! How many law students think they will end up in a flea market trying to pick up clients?

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    2. RAB,
      NFW! I'm sorry, that's just insane.
      That's about as far from the Chippendale furniture and wood paneled offices of big law as I can imagine. Man, you gotta be desperate to recruit clients from a flea market.
      And I thought the shysters in bankruptcy court in Chicago were sleazy looking.
      By the way, I looked through some of the threads on TLS yesterday and I think the general tone of the threads has become somewhat more informed. I'm comparing that with 2-3 years ago when everything was unicorns and cotton candy.

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    3. Ya, but you end up doing what you have to do. I doubt this guy got rich but he was able to pick up some common folk who were intimidated by going to see a fancy attorney. They could walk up to him and ask about getting hurt at work or whatever. He was even featured in the local newspaper and ran ads "The Flea Market Attorney." These young pre-laws wouldn't be so hopped up for the prestige if they knew they would end up in a flea market. Incidentally, by flea market I don't mean some upscale farmer's market. I mean used crap.

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  4. Has everyone seen this interview from last year with Brian Tamanaha already? There is only one comment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oyEQOcTgow

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  5. And Campos from June of last year:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1NDrtV9e6w

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  6. Actually, if you look on youtube, there are lots of Tamanaha and Campos Interviews. Mostly from 2012.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjx3JwR1F4s

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  7. Those who have not tried to open up a law practice really have no right to even enter this discussion.

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    1. I did it and the discussion is hitting the nail on the head. The world of even twenty years ago is like a picture on a blackboard that was suddenly erased. Where I am the fees on staples of solo practice like real estate closings and wills haven't budged much in two decades, and everybody is moving into areas they never touched before, poaching other lawyers' business by undercutting them on fees. There just isn't enough work out there to keep up with the supply of lawyers and until the supply of lawyers is drastically cut there never will be.

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    2. Well, I guess the Emperor has spoken. If you haven't tried to open one yourself, you can't even give an opinion whether your common sense tells you it's a bad idea or not. Can't offer your own stories about how your professors, neighbors, family all think "gee, you can just hang a shingle".

      Nope. Don't want to hear from y'all peasants.

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    3. I tried with a solo practice and it is shit. The only thing I can say is that it is not a living but rather a dying. I know many, many others who will agree.

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  8. Excellent point and good example.

    I hate to say it, but the example is insufficiently realistic to convey the impossibility of the situtation. The situation was 'bleak' several years ago; it's now impossible.

    The scanario as written is unfortunately pro-Law School. Here's one that more closely tracks reality.

    It's an average intersection: On one corner, there’s a McDonalds. On another, a Burger King. The third corner has a Wendy’s. And the fourth corner sure isn't vacant; there's a White Castle on the front section, and a Whataburger on the back section. Two blocks away, there's a mom-and-pop Burger Heaven that's situated across from the Dairy Queen, which is next to another mom-and-pop establishment cleverly called Alice's Restaurant that, while not specializing in burgers, per se, nevertheless has them on the menu. On many Saturday mornings, troop 689 of the Scouts operates a Burger-for-a-Dollar to raise money to help send the boys to Camp Madison this August. The Scouts use the now-vacant storefront which was where the Burger-rama used to be located, until it went out of business last March.

    And due to the personality and publicity of the Mayor and council, the town has recently put its name on the map as a Vegan haven.

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    1. I agree, but the situation is worse than even that. It's as if in every strip mall, office building, all over town, there's a McDonalds. Thousands of them. All the same. And nobody likes McDonalds that much and they eat it only when they have to and they only pay half of the menu price. And a new solo is like starting up yet another McDonalds.

      What is the definition of madness? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Well law is like collective madness. Thousands of new solos each year all doing the same thing and expecting different results (that is, success instead of failure.)

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    2. There are more attorneys in a town than fast food joints and people have less use for them.

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  9. It's also important to realize that connections are everything, and solos often have very little in the way of connections to get their practice going. LEMMINGS: you can't just set up a website and expect clients to come rolling in your door. A website doth not a practice make. I have seen this half a dozen times. God knows what happens to these people when they fail.

    The shills can talk all they want about the importance of going to CLEs, attending civic and business meetings and hobnobbing with potential clients. I'm sure that works for a select few, but most people are not good at that sort of thing, and that all takes time. It takes many years to build a solo practice, assuming you have the tools to do it, and it takes hours away from your day to day life. Honestly, if you're the type of person who enjoys that sort of thing and has reasonably decent personal grooming habits, just sell stuff like real estate or cars. You'll do a lot better.

    LEMMINGS: True life example. The people at Big Corporations often outsource a lot of work to law firms. As a solo, you might offer cheaper work product and even better work product, but you're not going to get it. You know why? Because in-house attorneys are almost always ex-biglaw and are going to send all their work to friends in Biglaw, not to rinky-dink inexperienced solos. Connections matter.

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    1. And consider this. If the matter turns out badly, no matter who handled it, where do you think Mr./Ms. In-House wants to be, having the CEO screaming "you gave it to WHO?" or saying to the CEO "I gave it to biglaw, what the hell else was I supposed to do?"

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    2. Law is sales. Never forget that. Successful lawyers are nothing more than used car salesmen.

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    3. "The people at Big Corporations often outsource a lot of work [but they] are going to send [it] to Biglaw, not to rinky-dink inexperienced solos."

      This is a very good point. And companies have big firms doing beauty pageants for them all the time. They also require that any law firm have a "deep bench" so that if something suddenly comes up while partner-A is in an all day deposition or in court, any of partners-B-C-D-E-F can field the urgent question.

      The only circumstance where I've ever seen a solo doing work for a corp is where that solo is a semi-retired patent attorney who used to be in-house at that company.

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    4. 7:16, do you remember the Joe Isuzu commercial where the Toyota salesman is holding onto the customer's leg, getting dragged across the street screaming "Noooooo!" as the customer walks over to check out the Isuzu line? It's like that nowadays. There are too many salesmen for the sales. And at least the used car salesman has friction as his ally. Most folks need a car and cars wear out.

      It's more like selling wedding dresses. Only so many women will get married in a certain geographic area in any year. Once there are one too many bridal shops everyone will suffer until somebody goes under. And OBTW, fewer people are getting married these days and there is no way to force them to get married. Will the better salespeople win? Maybe, but that doesn't mean that those who fail were bad salespeople, or that there might not been some luck involved, or some advantages of having deeper pockets.

      In the legal profession, where a P.C. and printer, a cell phone and a box of paper are the minimum requirements there is a steady inflow of new competition and a steady outflow of those who don't survive. And the bridal shop owner can always start selling prom dresses or doing tuxedo rentals on the side, while ethical rules keep attorneys from mixing other businesses with their law practices.

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    5. I'm anon @ 5:43 AM. Yes, the only time I've seen a
      Solo take work from a big corporation is the example you just described of an ex in-house patent attorney.

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    6. ive seen it where the kid of the in house and the kid of the solo both played on the same little league team.

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    7. Another point to be made about solos is that most business people and middle age people do NOT want a young attorney. They want grey hair. They don't respect a young person because they know there is no experience there. Plus, you can't fool them with "I'll have to do some research and get back to you" kind of advise. So, tough to compete with an experienced attorney for good clients because they view your product as being inferior.

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    8. Re: the point about in-house being former biglaw and sending the work to their biglaw friends - 100% true. Also, in-house lawyers have an incentive to send the work to biglaw. What would your GC boss say to you if you sent some patent work to a solo who then screwed up the company's cutting edge invention that would bring the company untold billion$? That's right, you as the attorney that referred the work to you solo buddy will soon be joining that solo practitioner since you will be out of a job right quick. And that is why, boys and girls, the big work is done at the big firms. Plus big firms have higher malpractice limits so if they do screw up, you can go after a wad of cash on a malpractice claim.

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    9. RAB at 10:28. Not quite. If I was taking a matter to an attorney who did not say he or she would be doing some research, I would not hire that attorney. Research is not necessary for brainless, repetitive tasks, like powers of attorney, but for most things, it is.

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    10. JeffM - Certainly I expect all of my outside counsel to be able to give me an answer off the cuff without putting me off by saying "Uh, I'll have to do some research". That's what they're paid for and that's why I call them - to know the law in their area of expertise. That isn't to say that I don't expect them to confirm or correct their counsel on further research.

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    11. "That isn't to say that I don't expect them to confirm or correct their counsel on further research."

      That's right. Or, on occasion, to tell you, "That's an interesting question or one that does not come up a lot. Let me research it."

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    12. What I am saying is that even if a good middle age businessman walks into a 25 year fresh out of law school just hung my shingle shop, the middle age businessman is going to walk out. He won't feel comfortable with a young attorney. He wants someone with gray hair that looks like he golfs plus he probably knows more about law than the newly minted attorney does and "let me research this" isn't going to cut it. A new solo can't compete for GOOD CLIENTS.

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    13. To some extent, you are correct. But don't get bogged down in that too much. The real deal is a young attorney can get work and will get work if he/she wants. You will need to build experience just like everyone else did. Don't wish for gray hair. Once you get there, you can't go back.

      If you have a true intellectual curiosity and a desire to get clients with more intellectually-inspiring cases, you will get them. If you are waiting for the client to come before you decide it's time to become intellectually curious, that day will never come.

      I think this sort of "magnetism" is just built-in to some people. For example, some people do not want to learn how to use modern electronics, while others hop right in and learn quickly how to use them. It's a personality thing.

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  10. Remember the bottom line, kids. It's not that there aren't enough jobs. There aren't enough clients and you can't create clients and legal problems where none exist. As a lawyer, you serve a market, not create one.

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    1. I'm so magnetic that my neighbor Jack threw himself down the front steps of the local A&P so I could represent him in a personal-injury action, then his sister Jill transformed herself into a racial minority and unsuccessfully applied to a local school so I could bring a Title 7 claim for her, and finally, my 86-year-old aunt loaded up her trunk with pounds of smelly weed, and raced break-neck past the police station so she'd get busted for possession and I got her case. She'd always wanted to see me in action, and didn't want to die without seeing me try a case.

      I had to draw the line when this guy down the road liked me so much that he wanted me to defend him against the death penalty, and he was about to go out and do something really bad....

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  11. What is missing from the analogy is the part where the burger school counts graduates driving ice cream trucks part-time for a few months in the summer as being "employed in the fast food industry."

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  12. Also, what needs to be thrown into the mix is ClinicBurger. The very general civil and small business clients that a law grad would hope to capture are now being served free by law schools which are spending a lot of (tax payer supported student loan) money to ramp up their clinic programs in an effort to make their grads "practice ready." These law school clinics are especially devastating to young lawyers in the smaller urban areas.

    So Charles, in your scenario, you need to include a ClinicBurger on the next block, giving away burgers for free. ClinicBurger's free burgers means that even if you open LawBurger and try to compete with McD's, Wendy's and Burger King on price, potential customers will pass on your untested-but-half-priced burger for the freebie down the street.

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    1. Not only ClinicBurger, but also everyone now had InternetBurger in their homes for when they need just a basic burger and its free.

      And behind each burger restaurant is a non-publicized ProBonoBurger, where each attorney is giving good away for free in the hope it will lead to paying clients,

      But once somebody has found a place to eat free, they never pay for food ever again.

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  13. Coop, enjoyed the burger-joint example of law business.

    As for this -

    "One of the oft-quoted career paths for the fifty percent of law graduates who aren’t lucky enough to find a paying job is solo practice or sharing an office. "

    - One thing I don't think has been said enough is that a significant percentage of those students who are counted in the 50% who did supposedly get law jobs, are actually 2 or 3 newbie solos who have decided to share an office (aka huddle for warmth and companionship while they slowly starve together).

    But it's very hard to know how many of these there are each year because the ABA uses the "2-10" category and we don't know whether the newgrad is in a "firm" of 2 people (which may validly include someone taken on by an experience solo who decides s/he can afford to pay and train a new associate, but is probably the above-mentioned warmth-huddlers) or is the 10th person joining an established and strong boutique.

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    1. Good point. The difference between a 2 or 3 person firm and a 6 to 10 person firm is night and day. Anything under a 3 person firm should be classed as solo.

      Better yet, anything under 5 people in a firm is almost certainly eat what you kill or find kind of self employment office share, and should be treated as a solo.

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    2. "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" (Solo Clients)

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    3. 10 doesn't mean much of anything vs. 2. There are much larger firms than 10 that are crashing down as we speak.

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  14. Coop - I wonder, did you or will you post this over at nontradlaw.net?

    As of a year or so ago it really started becoming a bit of an echo chamber where negative views on potential outcomes are not very welcome, even when respectfully offered, and I wonder how a story like the one you posted here today - and coming from you - would be received by the frequent posters there?

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    1. it was an echo chamber long before, thanks to OP.
      But yes, this thread url should be posted there....

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    2. I had never visited that site before you mentioned it. Wow. Its even worse than toplawschool. Not as many posts as tls, but full of special snowflakes completely convinced that they will all be inhouse counsels or DAs soon as they graduate.

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  15. "The law market is tapped out. There are already dozens of similar (even identical) businesses in the marketplace, and there’s nothing new you can offer. You’re not able to set a trend or alter people’s tastes and desires. Literally all you’re doing is adding one more person providing same-old legal services to the entire legal services marketplace, where it’s already saturated and there’s just no room for anyone else."

    Exactly! Solo lawyers are expected to compete with well-established attorneys and law firms. Those firms can simply blow the desperate lawyer's ass out of the water, with their advertising alone. If you are an average Joe - and having a JD doesn't really change the fact that you are average, other than strapping you down with a bunch of non-dischargeable debt - then it doesn't matter if you have drive, motivation, a strong work ethic and "believes in yourself."

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  16. I've had a solo practice for over twenty years now. Every year I wonder if I am going to be in business the next year and yet every year I have done well, most years earning several hundred K net and some years significantly more. How? Because I learned early on how to try cases and I try them well. I also specialized in a particular area of the law and almost all of my cases are on contingency . . my fees paid by an insurance company. I will admit however that law has become a cesspool. There is little integrity or civility in the system. Its all about winning and the perception of truth. The actual truth is irrelevant. Some firms advertise day and night in all media from banner adds, to billboards to TV and Radio to tabs in phone books, day in and day out, getting maybe 50% of the business that solos used to get. Its definitely a tougher world out there than it used to be. But geeze, you guys make it seem like its absolute hell. I never would have even tried had I read blogs like this long ago.

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    1. ". . . for over twenty years now . . ."

      Do you get it? I know plenty of solos who have been around forever who are doing fine. You are doing fine because you got in when the market was far less saturated and thus had a chance to build up a reputation while not being burdened by massive student loan payments. In my city there are five times as many P.I. firms doing saturation advertising as there were ten years ago.

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    2. You are the established Burger King with which new burger vendors have to compete.

      The fact that you succeeded having started 20 years ago is no indication that there is room in the current market for any more competition, especially from inexperienced recent grads. In fact, it is evidence that any solo business available is already going to established solos like yourself.

      It's not your fault, but the law schools use examples like you to justify dumping tens of thousands of grads into the market to "go solo." It might have worked when there weren't so many law schools and lawyers, but it isn't likely to work now.

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    3. Yeah, because economic conditions now are the same as 20 years ago...

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    4. Some day tort "reform" may come to your State and you will have zero files.

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    5. Tort reform has already come to my State to some degree. We are constantly (we being the Florida Justice Association) fighting the same. But the truth is, I almost welcome reform for purely selfish reasons. The big guys. . the huge advertisers. . will be more hurt by reform than I. They are the ones with huge amounts of overhead, including 100 plus attorneys to feed. Tort Reform just might wipe them out. The big guys ask for contributions so we can fight the evil forces aligned against us and to fight for "Justice" for the individual. Of course, the real Justice they are looking for is looking to keep the spigots open so they can feed their fat faces (yes, the biggest culprits are FAT). I'm nimble enough so I will survive and I do significant amounts of Federal Work, which is exempt from State Action . . so I only have to worry about Congress :-)

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  17. I know someone who gamed the Avvo rankings to get a perfect 10 score. This person used a lot of time and financial resources to get the score. He also is a "SuperLawyer," which is more of marketing gimmick than any testament as to legal acumen. This person still struggles to compete in a saturated market and wonders why the hack attorney down the street (who has been disciplined numerous times) has 10x more clients.

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    1. ... because one knows how to get clients, and the other wishes he did.

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    2. Jeff, it is not about knowing how to get clients.

      The clients don't exist, even if you know how to get them. For you, maybe, but you're getting clients who you already know of who value your experience.

      For the new solo, who has neither relationships or experience, solo practice is a dumb move.

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    3. That depends. It's likely not a smart move to go to law school (and the opportunity to solo afterward does not help in the decision-making analysis). But if you have already graduated law school and cannot find a job, solo is a pretty smart thing to do. Better to get started than to do nothing. There are a number who have done that and appear to be doing okay. Adam is one, for example. Jordan at JDU is another. There are others.

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    4. agreed, Avvo and Super Lawyers and Martindale ratings are all B.S. Anybody who wants to play the game can get a high rating. Knew a guy who barely got through an unranked law school who is considered one of the "top" lawyers under forty (or is it thirty). Don't make me laugh. He is one of the "top" lawyers because his Dad is very politically astute.

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  18. The one and only person I know who succeeded as a solo out of law school had the following advantages: (1) a well-established mentor who provided him with overflow cases; (2) reliable and well-paying document review projects to keep the wolf from the door (this was pre-offshoring and pre-coding); (3) substantial family support that allowed him to keep his practice going for the first two years of near-zero net earnings; and (4) a minimal educational debt load (due to the much lower tuitions of only a decade ago).





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    1. ^This. There are very few, I've found, when strutting their peacock-feathers, care to admit to (1) significant family backing early on coupled with (2) low debt. To do otherwise would be to tarnish the myth of the self-made-man(tm), and we can't have that.

      It's still not a guarantee and you still have to work hard and score, but damn, it certainly helps.

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    2. ^ This times a thousand.

      People are very good at claiming their success is the result if their own hard work, but very good at hiding the hidden financial or family help, or just their good fortune. Hard work alone produces few results without that initial boost.

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    3. Nonsense, I had help from NOBODY. I do admit to having been somewhat lucky in getting some of the high paying cases I got.

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  19. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but this burger analogy is a bad one. I'd give setting up a no-name burger stand a better chance at success than setting up a solo law practice.

    You at least have a chance to differentiate yourself by doing something different from McD, BK, and Wendy's; you can create customer loyalty and brand recognition - for example, In-N-Out Burgers and Tommy Burgers in Southern California have become just as popular as the big names (moreso for In-N-Out).

    You can market yourself as "I'm not McDonald's. Try something different and check out my burger." As a solo practitioner, saying "I'm not Skadden" isn unlikely to get new clients.

    Burgers cost only a few dollars, so getting paying customers is not a big deal. As a solo lawyer, trying to get someone to pay you hundreds of dollars, or thousands of dollars, is going to be a lot harder.

    You can try new things with a burger stand and experiment - sell veggie burgers. Trying new things in legal practice (i.e., interpreting statutes in new ways) will probably get you in more trouble than it's worth.

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    1. You are a moron. The piece was using burgers as an example.

      One of the points is that IN LAW, you can't set up a veggie burger stand or differentiate yourself from the others, because YOU ARE SELLING THE SAME SERVICE AS EVERYONE ELSE. You can't go out and make up some new kind of law that people will love to pay you to practice. You follow existing law, just like everyone else.

      Do you not get that? That was the point of the post! You can't make a new market because you can only offer the same as everyone else is offering. You can't start a law firm practicing "cool law" where theft is not a crime, divorces are all no-fault, and the tax rate is 0.5% flat. You practice within the existing legal framework like everyone else.

      Prove you understand: give me an example of how you can practice law outside the box in a way that will attract new clients.

      Yeah, I figured you can't.

      Delete
    2. Um, that was my point - trying to practice a new way of law "will probably get you in more trouble than it's worth." Sorry if my writing style made the point I was trying to get across unclear. I'm no Ernest Hemingway.

      Unlike a law firm, a fast food joint has the flexibility to "think outside the bun". So, yes, I agree with you that it would be difficult to come up with some new legal service that no one else does. And in the off-chance you do, others will just copy you and eat away at your profit margin, because you can't brand your solo law firm as well as you can a burger place.

      If you prepare a burger in a different way, and people like it, you can get a loyal base with your brand, despite the imitators. Look at In-N-Out Burgers as an example. However, I wouldn't recommend starting your own business thinking you're creating the next In-N-Out.

      The bigger point, though, is that the Law Offices of John Smith is not going to compete in brand recognition with Skadden, much less the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker, who would not hesitate to copy any novel idea you may have.

      My point is that selling burgers is a bad comparison to selling legal services. They both may be over-saturated, but I think a burger place has a better shot at carving a niche and maintaining a loyal customer base.

      Delete
    3. BTW, a veggie burger is, by definition, also a burger.

      Delete
    4. Ok. My bad - misread your post!

      Delete
    5. LOL, no problem. The OP is about "burgers", so as far as I'm concerned, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, salmon burgers and even ostrich burgers are fair game. Tofu burgers, too. Man doesn't just live on hamburgers alone.

      Delete

  20. Florida Coastal is laying off:

    http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-07-02/story/florida-coastal-school-law-cuts-about-dozen-employees

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There will come a time where I have trouble keeping up with the news there will be so many layoffs!

      Delete
    2. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!

      Delete
  21. The obvious issue was missing from your burger analogy. That being, once you go $150,000 to learn the art of burger making, no bank is going to be follish enough to loan you another $150,000 to open up a mee-too burger joint. All you prospective law students need to realize that if you envision going into solo practice, then you actually need the money, above and beyond your living, housing, alimony, etc., etc, expenses, to open and grow a business. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do when you're paying $1,500 per month to meet the minimum on your student loans. Add a mortgage a couple kids, a wife that likes Gucci handbags, and you've got a problem. Ain't happenin', particularly for recent grads that have overpaid for their law degrees. I graduated in the early 2000's and still owe over $100,000. One day I plan to open my own sho, but it's ludicrous and irresponsible to think that I would be able to financially handle that presently. This is one of those things they don't teach you in law school. They purposely don't explain all the nuances of operating a "money pit" for 3 years in the "hope" that you might be profitable. Instead these law school pigs just say, "well, you can always open your own solo practice." What a bunch of B.S. If you're wealthy, that's a different story, but for the majority of us, it's not realistic.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Excellent analogy, Mr. Cooper. One thing I would add to your burger business analogy: That it takes about 3 years to go to burger business school plus another five years before you actually know how to run a burger business. You will not be prepared to make a profit (if you ever can, due to the saturated market) until you have put in at least 8 years of education.

    I have talked to many attorneys - solos and otherwise - and ALL have consistently indicated that one is not truly competent in practicing law for about five years after graduating, which is why so many emphasize that the new graduate should be actually supervised during those five years while he or she learns the law after graduating. Realistically, that means that it is eight years of investment before one is ready to really run a burger business.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. five years experience is ridiculous. You should know how to practice law well before than. Here is a hint though. I'm Board Certified in Trial Law and have tried or watched hundreds of cases being tried. The truth is though every time I try a case I learn something new. You never stop learning how to be a better lawyer on this job. You should be a competent lawyer well before five years of practice however. We are not doing brain surgery. You learn the Rules of Procedure, Evidence, and how things are done in well less than five years.

      Delete
  23. "then you actually need the money, above and beyond your living, housing, alimony, etc., etc, expenses, to open and grow a business. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do when you're paying $1,500 per month to meet the minimum on your student loans."

    IBR

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. IBR will help alleviate payments when you're not earning much, but it will not magically make money appear to start an office with.

      Plus since when has "I'll use IBR when it all falls to pieces" ever been part of a solid business plan?

      Delete
  24. true, where does IBR come in. No income, no payment, right?

    ReplyDelete
  25. If you are making little money, as many solos do, you will not have to worry about paying big loan payments. It is only once you start doing well with your business that the big payments come in. Furthermore, many people do solo with little down and do well at it. It's not easy, nor am I suggesting it is. But to say it's impossible or nearly so is another matter. Granted, I could not see some people do it (namely, those who like to whine on TTR), but it's not impossible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The interest is still accumulating on your loans and you still have business expenses to deal with. Try again.

      Delete
    2. So you're better off sitting around and doing nothing?

      Delete
    3. Well, eventually society will be absolutely FORCED to pay off my loans for me. So yes, I am better off waiting :-)

      Delete
    4. The point is you're better off not going to law school in the first place.

      Delete
    5. What you are better off doing is not going to law school in the first place, a point that has been made here many times, but alas seems to have eluded you.

      Delete
    6. Say you are better off not going to law school in the first place. Maybe you are, maybe you are not. The fact is we already went to law school. As such, a person either can do something with their lives or sit around and do nothing. The choice is yours.

      Delete
    7. The point of this article though is not about what you should or shouldn't do if you already went to law school. The point is that you should not go thinking you could always just go solo as a last resort.

      Pay attention to the last paragraph:
      "There is still time to decide to do something other than going to law school this coming September. Surely you can think of something better to do than throw money away on a business plan that is set up to fail?"

      Therefore you have completely missed the point of the OP.

      Delete
    8. Infinity really has missed the point big time, but his schtick is spinning everything positively, no matter what the truth. It's his way of coping with his impending failure as a new attorney.

      Delete
  26. Will Messinger and Cooper be interviewed to discuss their book, similar to how Campos and Tamanaha were interviewed?

    BTW here is Campos discussing so very much, and maybe in addition to the links to important blogs, there ought to be permanent links to important books by Campos and Tamanaha, Cooper and Messinger etc.

    Hell, if Leiter left a favorable review for the Tamanaha book on Amazon, the momentum seems to be in the favor of OLSS.

    It is a matter of site design.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why would you advertise the book that Campos wrote? You realize he milk'd the movement like a COW right?

      Respect:

      --- Regular People
      .
      .
      .
      --- Gnats, mosquitos and biting insects
      .
      .
      .
      --- This blog
      .
      .
      .
      --- Campos
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      --- Nando

      Delete
    2. Really now, how much money do you think he made off of that $5/copy book (of which maybe he gets half or so?). Maybe a couple grand AT MOST it that?

      If the whole point was for him to "profit" off of that book, then that is a lot of work in terms of writing almost daily blogs for 3 years (he is STILL writing BTW on his LGM blog about the law school scam, notwithstanding accusations that he completely quit the "movement"), doing interviews, writing on forums such as TLS, JDU, faculty blogs etc etc on this topic?

      And in the process making yourself a hated pariah amongst fellow lawprofs and deans, etc.

      Its hard to do all this unless you actually have an interest in this.

      Its just insane to think that Campos did all this out of some motive to profit off of it because there is no way it would be worth it for just an extra couple grand.

      Delete
    3. That book is one of Amazon's best sellers in the law section. You'd be surprised how much a man can make off writing a book.

      You have to ask: "what is motivating the man?" Notice how he never commented on other scamblogs, nor did he link them on his blog? He was in it for numero uno (number one) from day wahid (one). Notice how he never stops by to say "hello" as if he dropped off the face of the planet.

      Yet his book continues to reel in the sales. One man stated that he asked him (Campos) for a copy of his book and the geezer said something like, "go buy it off Amazon." If this is true, I am not surprised.

      I understand it is very hard for many of the scambloggers to agree that Campos was not in it for himself. Of course, most people are motivated to do things for themselves; but this is insidious, because the scambloggers think that Campos was still their "friend" and maybe a messiah. But, he did nothing new or novel. No, he just jumped on the bandwagon and milked it for as much money and fame as he could.

      Have you ever heard of the great Campos before he busted out into scambloggery? Neither had I. He wanted to stick out from the pack. The big boys play at Stanford and Yale. Campos was not at a school like that. He had to stand out. So, sin (without) further adeau (a french word) he BUSTED his way, wriggin' like a snake, into the scamblog universe, claimed by poo-slinger extraordinare Nando, and his friend to claim greatness.

      Now you can read about him in the news, in a magazine, and all over the internet. And scambloggers follow him as if he was their G-d! Hojabooja (a made up word).

      It is all so silly, and arseinine. Yet it all continues. He got you. Oh, he got you good! It's so apparent, even more than the law school being a scam thing, but you don't see it.

      What do I have to do to get into yer noggins!?!?!?!!!?!?!?!

      Let me put it like this: Campos got naked, covered his body with superglue, and rolled around in your wallets for all yer cash!

      That's all I have to say for the moment.

      Delete
    4. "Adeau" can be a French word like "adieu" I guess, if the French want to spell it wrong.

      You are such an idiot.

      Delete
    5. 4:25 is a dope. It's "sans", not "sin". Sounds like a post from you-know-who that slipped through the cracks.

      Delete
    6. @425,

      So Campos was TRYING TO MAKE MONEY FOR HIMSELF?!?!

      EEEEEEEEEK!!!!

      You on the other hand want to force the taxpayers to eat your big-ass debt - um, because it's good for them, somehow? Now THAT's selfishness.

      And while we're on the subject, now that you have apparently been welcomed back after being banned, why don't you tell us all what you have been doing with that $500K or so that you've earned by "painting houses" for the last 12 years?

      Why don't you use THAT money to pay off your loans, you thief? Or have you been sitting on your butt all this time and only pretending to work?

      Delete
    7. So Campos invested a huge amount of time and effort running that blog, writing other articles, doing interviews, all the while risking damage to his professional reputation...all to "line his pockets" with e-book sales revenue that likely amounts to less than 10% of his current law prof compensation? Man, he's practically a Bond villain!

      Delete
    8. I am sorry, but I find myself agreeing 100% with 4:25. He should be teaching and preparing for classes, not writing books that do nothing to help his students, his PAYING students get ready to practice law.

      Delete
    9. It sounds like 425 needs to get laid - by Campos himself. He's got some Campos issues, that much is clear.

      Delete
    10. I'd pay money to see that, 8:40. Sounds messy though. You might want to provide a towel.

      Delete
    11. Hey folks, law is all about "making money". That's why people become lawyers. If you had no interest in making money, why the heck did you even consider going to law school? Some of you have no idea how much "professors" make as expert witnesses in Court. An economist with a PHD can make hundreds of thousands a year on such a side job and still teach his students the required six hours a week required for the Job. A doctor willing to sell his soul to an insurance company and testify against injured tort victims can make over a million a year, and still keep his job teaching medical students how to be good, ethical doctors. Anybody who holds it against Campos for making a few bucks is a Loser, an anti-capitalist and quite frankly likely a failure because they resent somebodies while they are nobodies.

      Delete
    12. mmm... naked Campos. Where do I sign up?

      Delete
  27. ^^^ Sorry. Here is Campos in a five part youtube segment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2gvnPTHvH8

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. saw it around March. it was great. the sudden demise of ITLSS and that video cemented my decision not to attend LS. then the mass layoffs at LSs, the sporadic layoffs at Weil, etc, all pointed in the same direction.

      Delete
  28. Breaking news:

    Student Loan rate hikes unfair:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/07/02/student-loan-rate-hikes-column/2480445/

    Systemic Student Loan Debt Crisis:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/3/failure_to_stop_doubling_of_student

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Law schools are just the tip of the iceberg. Look at film schools for example. Law schools are mostly a scam, but film schools are 100% scam. I get the impression that within the film industry these degrees are just a complete joke (of course the poor rubes getting these degrees don't realize until after they graduate).

      But the government will loan anyone who can get into these schools tens of thousands of dollars practically without question. The student loan system is now mostly a giant scam, and its the government running the whole thing.

      Delete
  29. By the time a young gun has to "hang a shingle" it does not really matter. I knew only one man whose goal was to do so from day one and he had a good plan and he indeed succeeded.

    All the rest of grads, my peers and older went to law school to a JOB. I know it sounds foolish but it was not until last few years that law school become a bad fucking joke. And many of the kids I know who are hanging a shingle are just using as a "hide-your-face" technique. They can do this for few years while they find something better to do. Their parents are supporting them and actually quite aware of whats going on and where it's going. I am certain some of them will actual make it but most grads are not as fortunate to have well-off parents.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Can a law license be suspended due to student loan debt?

    I recall a story from a few years back about C&F not giving a pass to a JD that had 400K in debt and had passed the bar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it can not be suspended due to student loan debt. I think the C&F may have learned a lesson due to not letting that poor soul pass. First of all, a legal degree costs many $200K + to acquire. For the C&F to say that you can not be licensed because your parents were not rich enough to pay your way is just plain dumb.

      Delete
    2. Here's the original ATL article:

      http://abovethelaw.com/2009/07/400000-in-student-debt-character-fitness-fail/#disqus_thread

      This guy wasn't completely blameless here, but look at all the fees Sallie Mae hit him with when he was possibly unable to pay for legitimate reasons. Then they sold his debt to private collection agencies who added their own fees.

      Most governments treat higher education funding as a public good. The US government seems to treat it as an excuse to run a loan shark racket.

      Delete
  31. Mr. Infinity is a "yes man" and a carbon copy of the Dickens character Uriah Heep.

    Always with the self proclaimed false humility and cruel by nature.

    ReplyDelete
  32. There is no any Mr. Infinity. There is piece of shit and faggot named Christopher Knorps.

    ReplyDelete
  33. The small or solo law practice business-model no longer works. The bar associations, courts, and do-gooders have dismantled the practice of law which once thrived and was very lucrative for those who worked hard. No days, there simply isn't any business out there any longer for the solo practitioner to make more than a merely adequate living. Bar associations have allowed the majority of real estate work to be done by non-lawyers at the title companies. All but the most contentious divorces are now done for free by court "facilitators" at the courthouse. Unlike the old days, probates are non-money makers with most paying less than $2,500. Criminal law has been taken over by government public defenders. Personal injuries are becoming a specialty that only those lawyers with deep pockets can afford to fund. The practice of law is more and more becoming the province of large firms, government lawyers, and legal service types. The days of the small town lawyers are coming to an end. Law school graduates who do not end up in big firm, end up becoming lowly prosecutors, public defenders, or legal service lawyers. From there, they immediately seek to get on the dole as a judge or hearing examiner of some sort. This, of course, has not stopped the law school scam, which continues pumping out more lawyers than the economy can possible absorb.

    ReplyDelete
  34. So what do you suggest for a rural solo practitioner who has been practicing for 38 years, who is wanting to cut back now and retire within the next few years? My husband was one of very few to start his own practice in 1976 when most graduates' path was to be hired by law firms. He has built a successful solo practice in a small town which is the county seat. He is now able to pick and choose what type of cases he wants to handle having given up criminal, divorce, custody and other "gut-wrenching" cases over the years as his practice grew. He is constantly referring business that he neither has the time or interest in handling to other attorneys - with no referral fee wanted or expected. He is not in a position to pay anyone a handsome starting salary....nor is he seeking a partner. But he could mentor and provide a new attorney with an small stand-alone office adjacent to his, refer clients which would be the new attorney's clients, bring him/her in to help on cases for which he needs additional manpower....and if things worked out between the two, gradually transition out of his practice into retirement as the new solo transitioned in. I would think he is not unique - wouldn't there be quite a number baby boomer solo attorneys in the same position?

    It seems as if now, as in 1976, there aren't many law graduates willing to consider moving to rural areas. All we need is one - I keep thinking there must be someone to whom small town solo practice would appeal....but have no idea how to begin the search. My husband thinks even thinking about this possibility is a pipe dream. Maybe it is. But I hate to see 38 years of work building a practice fade away. Unfortunately, none of our three children wanted to become lawyers after seeing how hard their dad worked. Though one did marry a lawyer who works for a huge law firm in London, UK.

    I googled "law school grad wanting to start solo practice" to get ideas...which is how I found this website. Reading through this thread, it all sounds so bleak.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Late to the party, but I ran across this and have to say something. By and large, the notion that the solo practice model is falling to pieces is correct. The trick to making any money at all is to keep those expenses as low as possible. I have started a solo practice again, but I'm not fool enough to leave my full time job and have worked out a deal where I can keep doing that and see a few clients on the side. I've got a big office with no one but me in it, no overhead and the financial backing to handle around 10 cases a month. And all of this is in the town where I grew up and where I know a lot of people.

    That is an extremely unique (and fortunate) situation and I know it. I do know that people looking at starting a solo practice and paying a ton of overhead to get going have a tough row to hoe. Good luck to them, but at 45-years-old, I don't have the patience to try such a thing. I tried that in my 20s and learned something in a hurry -- I made out OK, but put in around 60 to 70 hours a week, took every junk case that came through the door to keep the lights on and hated every minute of it. Working 7 days a week for people who resent paying you means your quality of life sucks. I shut that mess down 15 years ago and there is no way in hell I would go back to that, particularly since I do suspect things are a lot worse than they used to be.

    Why do we see young lawyers attempt to get out of law school and conquer the world with their oh-so-essential solo practice? The answer is simple. Just try to tell a know-it-all lawyer anything and you will learn in a hurry that he or she won't listen. They have to learn from experience. What is sad is that law schools have managed to portray a legal career as a glamorous one (it isn't) and that is exactly what law students want to hear.

    By the way, one of the lawyers I know personally who makes a great living? The dean of students at my old alma mater. Go figure...

    ReplyDelete
  36. I went to an average law school and graduated in 1991. I opened up my own firm. It was the best thing I ever did, and I make a great living. It is not easy. However, you really learn the law while practicing.

    ReplyDelete
  37. The problem with the author's analogy is that law practice isn't burgers - lawyers are not all providing the same service. They may be doing the same things and drafting similar documents, but what they are really providing is counseling. The heart of law practice are your relationship with the person who is your client. In virtually any solo practice, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. You keep getting repeat business from those people because they trust you. Often you are as much their shrink as their legal representative. These relationships are not fungible. These relationships, and how you handle them, become your personal brand.

    I am not suggesting that solo practice is easy. It's not. Such relationships also can take years to build, and kids fresh out of law school are unlikely to have any of them. So they still have it tough. But it can absolutely be done. The first thing you have to have, though, is the belief that you can make it. If you go into it thinking the whole thing is a scam and the system is against you, you're willing yourself to fail from the outset.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I agree 100% with the last commenter. I am in my first year of solo practice right out of law school. I have no problem getting clients. The key is selling yourself and answering or returning calls. I grossed well over 30k in my first three months of practice. In fact I couldn't imagine working any other way. I am already to the point that I can pick and choose which cases to take on. If you hustle and are a good salesman you can make it.

    ReplyDelete
  39. A list of pathetic complaints, stop reading the negative and make your own opportunity. These commenters take too much time complaining about misery instead of making opportunity...

    ReplyDelete
  40. I started my solo practice mid-2011 after being unemployed for a year out of law school. The first two years sucked, but in hind-sight it's very clear that it was my own fault. I did very little to promote myself, and the little I did do I did wrong.

    It's also nonsense that you need to borrow $150k to hang a shingle. I started with $1,500, no second income from a spouse, $150k +/- in debt, and very limited connections. The one advantage I did have was being able to move back in at home, which was certainly helpful.

    However, that luxury really turned out to be more of a crutch that prevented me from working as hard as I should have to get new clients in the beginning. The biggest piece of advice I would give myself four years ago is one that is often repeated and nearly always ignored: get out there and build relationships. I would say I should have spent 90% of my day every single day reaching out to everyone I could, meeting other attorneys, CPAs, financial advisors, bankers, business owners--you name it. I should have been in a BNI group. I should have joined the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, etc. and gone to all of the meetings. The list goes on. And most importantly, I would tell myself that having coffee with someone one time is nothing. You have to build relationships, which takes a serious time investment with each person you want in your network. People send work to people they know well enough to risk their reputation on a referral. You don't get that from having coffee one time.

    Time and work are the keys. There is no substitute. You have to go out and meet people. The only time you should be physically present in your office is if you are actively working on a client matter. I guarantee most of the band-wagoners in these comments did what I did for two years, which is sit in an office all day wishing someone would come in the door, wishing the phone would ring.

    In my first two years I also believed the lie espoused by this article that there is nothing you can do to differentiate yourself from the rest. In fact, it goes deeper than that. I believed that I was supposed to imitate the rest. The reason most law firms seem to be the same is because they're all copying each other in some weird attempt to be (or appear) "lawyerly".

    News flash: the public hates just about everything about the typical, lawyerly law firm experience. Want to see your solo practice grow? Here's a freebie: never let a phone call go unreturned at the end of the day. I can't remember a time I referred a client to another attorney and didn't end up getting complaints that they get zero personal attention, only ever speak to a paralegal, and that their phone calls are not returned promptly (or at all). That's just one illustration of the broader issue, which is customer service. Focus on customer service to the same extent that you focus on the legal aspects of your clients' cases. Do more for your clients than they expect. Do more for them than the other attorneys do. Believe me, there are plenty of people out there who had terrible experiences with law firms, and if you start giving great experiences, word gets around very quickly. To carry the illustration from the article forward, forget burgers and build a Chik-fil-a. Better food, way better service, and, by the way, the customers are willing to pay more for it. Your drive-thru will have a long line, but your clients will still get their food faster than at the burger joints.

    ReplyDelete
  41. cont'd...

    Last year was my first full year applying these principles and my gross increased by $40k and my net by $50,000 (yes, I did this and cut $10k in expenses at the same time). Through four months, I'm on track to grow by another $60k this year. But the best part is my clients love me. They actually care about me and my family, and they know I care about them and theirs. As another commenter mentioned above, relationships are not fungible, and good relationships are the key to success. That goes for every small business, not just law practice.

    Just don't let yourself feel like you're entitled to a job or a living (any living, much less a good one). That's the real problem here. If you expect to make it without a ridiculous amount of hard work and sacrifice, you may as well quit now and go do document review. If you don't like that prospect, stop making excuses and get to work.

    ReplyDelete
  42. You're a bunch of losers. Compete and win.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Let me just take some time to sugest a things... individuals whom are equre to suceed, will do what is required of them rather then doing their best.. Its stange that would say that and it appears vague to many individuals.. however understanderble to the majerity. We're all awear that law is satuated with lawers and that many solos fail.. however failurw is a result of their own action. Solo practice requires a few factor for the explicit purpose of becoming sucessful at it. Those are; 1 comitment
    2 disipline
    3 hope
    4 patience.
    Over all of these factors i would say God is dominat over all and followed by hard work. Solo practice is viewed as a business on most occations and clients are considered as customers.. in other words we need client to bigin with not a fancy office or money just clients. How do we get clients? Most law school graduates abondon their class mates completly and they block out other individual so in other word that lack comunivation. Its never about you its always about others. Meet and interact with other individauls besides your parents and other family member i'm 100% sure that would land you at least three referal in the first four mounth of interaction. Hint, know whom to become aquainted with. Take into consideration salary, occupation and reputation. Once you cinsider the above then you proceed, in addition to this i most conclude that sucess becomes undainiably real when you enbrase the actual procesa instead of siting and waiting for some one to read your blog or read the sign that has your initials on it get up go out and interact.. forget about the money that will come. Let me explain. Money is a by product that is rewarded to those who are comited, disiplined, patient hard working and over all God fearing. Some of us give up too easily not sticking around long enough to see good results.

    ReplyDelete