Author Topic: The Law Practice Thread  (Read 2088 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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The Law Practice Thread
« on: March 16, 2017, 08:28:58 AM »
I know there are a lot of attorneys on this forum, including a few attorneys that work as solo practitioners, so I thought it may be a good idea to start a dedicated to starting a practice, getting clients, practice management, etc.

I myself am looking to start a practice by June or July and would welcome a discussion on doing so.  I'll post in more detail later but just wanted to get this thread up and running to see if we had any similar posters out there.

Cheers.
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VeggieGirl

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 02:03:08 PM »
Following this thread... I'm currently working on helping a client that's a solo practitioner with marketing. He's thinking of placing ads in the local area magazines that people read on the train. But do people even read print magazines anymore? Trying to figure out the best way to get clients when the practice is just starting out.

Res ipsa loquitur

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2017, 09:16:15 PM »
I'm interested in doing some side legal work, but I am a government lawyer who does not have malpractice insurance. I'm not sure what side hustles are viable in the legal field, so I've been doing some teaching on the side.

specialkayme

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2017, 08:59:40 AM »
I applaud the thought and attempt, but I don't think this thread is going to work quite as well as you think it will.

The legal profession is a little odd, and very different from most other businesses as it relates to marketing, practice management, client acquisition, and similar areas. First off, law firms and attorneys are governed by their state. What you can do in state A would be illegal in state B (advertising laws, solicitation laws, ect.). Aside from that, even within one state the methodologies will vary widely from practice area to practice area. Even within practice areas, there are subsets that have very different targets and goals.

I'll give you a few examples.

1. If your practice area is criminal law focusing on court appointed cases, your marketing strategy will be zero. Your goal is to operate as efficiently as possible, with few to no employees.
2. If your practice area is criminal law, focusing on traffic citations, your goal will be volume. The most tickets you can do per day, at the lowest cost you can get away with (to beat your competition), the higher your profit. You'll do mass mailings to everyone that received a ticket (if you can, per your state) and hope mass numbers makes you profit. You'll need low overhead, but need to keep everyone working very efficiently. Having one or two paralegals to keep track of all your phone calls will help, but low pay is a requirement (as there isn't much legal research or drafting involved).
3. If your practice area is personal injury, you'll need to advertise heavily. Billboards, newspaper adds, yellow pages, tv commercials, everything you can get away with. You'll need a staff on standby when you need to go to trial, but be able to keep them busy doing other things for the 98% of the cases that settle (where you really make your money). You typically have large overhead, and need the next big case to pay for the office for a while. Big, visible office space is premium.
4. If your practice area is real estate closings, you're going to operate on volume as well, only advertising generally won't work squat for you. You need to get in with several real estate agents, and have a good networking and referral base. That means shaking hands, going to networking events, handing out cards, ect. You'll need several paralegals to work cases as efficiently as possible, churning out HUD statements and paperwork quickly. If the attorney is spending time on the document preparation, you're loosing.

Even within those areas though, things will be very different in your local area. Personally, I work in the debt restructuring (mostly bankruptcy) and tax worlds. We have an office in NC's third largest city, and an office in a very rural location. Bankruptcy is all done on referral basis, so there is no need to advertise period. Tax is done mostly on passive advertisements, SEO search terms and website visibility for the larger city office, because the expected client is technologically savvy and is looking for you. In the small rural office, web marketing does nothing. They prefer paper advertisements in "free" papers (the local papers, auto traders, yellow pages, ect.).

So it all really matters on the geographic location (both state and mini market) and the practice area.

It might be better to do threads based on state, or practice area within the legal field.

GU

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2017, 12:18:37 PM »
I applaud the thought and attempt, but I don't think this thread is going to work quite as well as you think it will.

The legal profession is a little odd, and very different from most other businesses as it relates to marketing, practice management, client acquisition, and similar areas. First off, law firms and attorneys are governed by their state. What you can do in state A would be illegal in state B (advertising laws, solicitation laws, ect.). Aside from that, even within one state the methodologies will vary widely from practice area to practice area. Even within practice areas, there are subsets that have very different targets and goals.

I'll give you a few examples.

1. If your practice area is criminal law focusing on court appointed cases, your marketing strategy will be zero. Your goal is to operate as efficiently as possible, with few to no employees.
2. If your practice area is criminal law, focusing on traffic citations, your goal will be volume. The most tickets you can do per day, at the lowest cost you can get away with (to beat your competition), the higher your profit. You'll do mass mailings to everyone that received a ticket (if you can, per your state) and hope mass numbers makes you profit. You'll need low overhead, but need to keep everyone working very efficiently. Having one or two paralegals to keep track of all your phone calls will help, but low pay is a requirement (as there isn't much legal research or drafting involved).
3. If your practice area is personal injury, you'll need to advertise heavily. Billboards, newspaper adds, yellow pages, tv commercials, everything you can get away with. You'll need a staff on standby when you need to go to trial, but be able to keep them busy doing other things for the 98% of the cases that settle (where you really make your money). You typically have large overhead, and need the next big case to pay for the office for a while. Big, visible office space is premium.
4. If your practice area is real estate closings, you're going to operate on volume as well, only advertising generally won't work squat for you. You need to get in with several real estate agents, and have a good networking and referral base. That means shaking hands, going to networking events, handing out cards, ect. You'll need several paralegals to work cases as efficiently as possible, churning out HUD statements and paperwork quickly. If the attorney is spending time on the document preparation, you're loosing.

Even within those areas though, things will be very different in your local area. Personally, I work in the debt restructuring (mostly bankruptcy) and tax worlds. We have an office in NC's third largest city, and an office in a very rural location. Bankruptcy is all done on referral basis, so there is no need to advertise period. Tax is done mostly on passive advertisements, SEO search terms and website visibility for the larger city office, because the expected client is technologically savvy and is looking for you. In the small rural office, web marketing does nothing. They prefer paper advertisements in "free" papers (the local papers, auto traders, yellow pages, ect.).

So it all really matters on the geographic location (both state and mini market) and the practice area.

It might be better to do threads based on state, or practice area within the legal field.

Good points here, but I still think there's value in hearing others' experiences, even if they're in a different state or practice area.  Simply noting the type of practice and (roughly) where it's located should be a sufficient caveat. 

I wish I had substantive things to contribute to this thread, but I'm a Biglaw drone.

bwall

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2017, 12:22:13 PM »
I saw this show on TV about lawyers and I thought it had a few good ideas on starting a practice and side-hustles. I think the name was "Better Call Saul". Has anyone here seen it? Would anything they showed there actually work?

specialkayme

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 02:37:23 PM »
Good points here, but I still think there's value in hearing others' experiences, even if they're in a different state or practice area.  Simply noting the type of practice and (roughly) where it's located should be a sufficient caveat. 

As long as you keep in mind that what worked for the poster may actually HARM your practice. Depending on your practice and geographic area.

shawndoggy

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 03:29:27 PM »
Bottom line to build a practice, you need your phone to ring because someone wants to get to you.

As noted above, if you are doing purely consumer oriented work, advertising may help.  Think immigration, consumer bankruptcy, divorce, criminal defense, personal injury, etc.

That being said, I can't think of a single practice area that doesn't benefit from having trusted referral sources. Often times just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring from some random yahoo is going to be a huge waste of time.  On the other hand, if another lawyer, accountant, realtor (or whatever) is referring a case to you, the case has already been filtered once by someone you trust.  The best lawyers, even in those very consumer driven areas, usually don't advertise at all because they have plenty of work from word of mouth referral sources.

So my advice is to build a professional network.  What that network is going to look like is certainly going to be different from practice area to practice area, but the idea is the same.  Forge relationships with people who you'd like to refer you work.

How do you do this?

  • get involved in a local bar association
    get involved in a local professional organization (young professionals type group)
    get involved in a local service organization (lions/rotary/etc)
    get involved in industry associations (i.e. you wanna be a steel mill lawyer, join the steel mill association)
    get involved in other local organizations (Got a good bit of work from being involved in a father-daughter group when my daughter was little)
    teach a CLE in your area of expertise
    take your mentor to lunch
    take other area lawyers to lunch
    get involved with a national bar association / ABA section (for instance if your area of expertise is narrow, you may want to be the local expert but your referral sources will be biglaw types who need someone in your field in tinytown USA).

VeggieGirl

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2017, 08:53:31 AM »
Thanks to everyone who posted. I find the information useful and helpful even if it doesn't apply to all practices.

Junto Club Gardener

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2017, 05:29:56 PM »
I am licensed in Minnesota, and have recently started my own practice.  The three resources that I found to be the most beneficial are:  (a) Minnesota CLE courses and materials on the topic generally described as "how to start and build your own law practice"; (b) the Solo & Small Firm Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association; and (c) a terrific coach that I just happened to luck into finding. 


NorCal

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2017, 10:06:39 PM »
Posting as my wife works in Biglaw and has considered going solo.  She mostly does work related to venture financing and securities offerings.  We're currently in the Bay Area, but will likely relocate in the next few years.  Likely locations are heavily influenced by ease of passing the bar in different states.  We are hoping to negotiate a location transfer within her firm.

The current idea is to reach something close to FI before she starts a solo practice.  We would semi-retire, but she would try and keep 5-10 clients that she likes in order to stay mentally engaged.  This would generate enough income to avoid needing to draw down on the portfolio for a few years, and maybe add the ability to add additional travel in retirement.

Some of the biggest questions are simply logistical.  How much does liability insurance and CLE cost?  What IT services and software packages are needed?  Does she need a website, or just an email address?

totoro

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2017, 10:53:45 PM »
Some of the biggest questions are simply logistical.  How much does liability insurance and CLE cost?  What IT services and software packages are needed?  Does she need a website, or just an email address?

You can find out the costs of liability insurance by calling your bar association.  It is about 3.5k for PT practice where I am. 

CLE might or might not be needed as it is usually free at the law library, but a subscription for Quicklaw or Esilaw probably is needed at about $150 a month. 

I used Clio for billing.  I think about $120 per month for a single user but you can check online.  IT services were contracted at $30/hour. 

Software is the standard MS Office/Word for business and Adobe professional version that allows PDF conversion.   She probably needs a website, but wordpress is cheap and will do for a solo practice depending on her market - people like to google contact info these days.  She does need email but it comes with wordpress and the host server - ours is $10 a month I think.  Also still probably needs a fax service and does need a printer/scanner/copier.   

Professional development credits can be completed for free often.  Many options including study with a group of lawyers or teaching a course or writing a paper.

I'm in Canada so US prices might differ but it is pretty inexpensive to set up a solo practice, particularly if you work from home or keep your office costs low.  The cheapest out of house office costs might be renting an unused office in a firm that practices in a different area of law.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2017, 07:38:28 AM »
I applaud the thought and attempt, but I don't think this thread is going to work quite as well as you think it will.

The legal profession is a little odd, and very different from most other businesses as it relates to marketing, practice management, client acquisition, and similar areas. First off, law firms and attorneys are governed by their state. What you can do in state A would be illegal in state B (advertising laws, solicitation laws, ect.). Aside from that, even within one state the methodologies will vary widely from practice area to practice area. Even within practice areas, there are subsets that have very different targets and goals.

I'll give you a few examples.

1. If your practice area is criminal law focusing on court appointed cases, your marketing strategy will be zero. Your goal is to operate as efficiently as possible, with few to no employees.
2. If your practice area is criminal law, focusing on traffic citations, your goal will be volume. The most tickets you can do per day, at the lowest cost you can get away with (to beat your competition), the higher your profit. You'll do mass mailings to everyone that received a ticket (if you can, per your state) and hope mass numbers makes you profit. You'll need low overhead, but need to keep everyone working very efficiently. Having one or two paralegals to keep track of all your phone calls will help, but low pay is a requirement (as there isn't much legal research or drafting involved).
3. If your practice area is personal injury, you'll need to advertise heavily. Billboards, newspaper adds, yellow pages, tv commercials, everything you can get away with. You'll need a staff on standby when you need to go to trial, but be able to keep them busy doing other things for the 98% of the cases that settle (where you really make your money). You typically have large overhead, and need the next big case to pay for the office for a while. Big, visible office space is premium.
4. If your practice area is real estate closings, you're going to operate on volume as well, only advertising generally won't work squat for you. You need to get in with several real estate agents, and have a good networking and referral base. That means shaking hands, going to networking events, handing out cards, ect. You'll need several paralegals to work cases as efficiently as possible, churning out HUD statements and paperwork quickly. If the attorney is spending time on the document preparation, you're loosing.

Even within those areas though, things will be very different in your local area. Personally, I work in the debt restructuring (mostly bankruptcy) and tax worlds. We have an office in NC's third largest city, and an office in a very rural location. Bankruptcy is all done on referral basis, so there is no need to advertise period. Tax is done mostly on passive advertisements, SEO search terms and website visibility for the larger city office, because the expected client is technologically savvy and is looking for you. In the small rural office, web marketing does nothing. They prefer paper advertisements in "free" papers (the local papers, auto traders, yellow pages, ect.).

So it all really matters on the geographic location (both state and mini market) and the practice area.

It might be better to do threads based on state, or practice area within the legal field.

I certainly can appreciate the differences between different states and practice areas. However, I think sub-specializing to the degree you articulate is a bit ambitious on a personal finance/lifestyle website. It may be possible on my state bar's listserv, but I'm not joining that and posting about going solo while I'm still employed.

I do think there is a wide variety of information that can be applicable for us here. Look at Jay Foonberg's "How to Start and Build a Law Practice" and successful blogs like Lawyerist and MyShingle. All three of those authors are in different jurisdictions and vastly different practice areas, yet their advice resonates because there are some things that transfer well no matter what jurisdiction or practice area you're in.

No more zero days. Promise yourself that you will do one thing every day that takes you one step closer to your goal.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2017, 07:39:29 AM »
Where is Fireby35.  That's the guy to whom you need to speak.

FIREby35

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2017, 02:42:20 PM »
Ha! I'm right here. Actually, I'm going down a rabbit hole right now on legal marketing. I've been at it for the last six-ish months reading every damn thing I can find and I've probably talked with 10 different ad agencies.

Up to now my practice has been all about personal connections for the last six years and I've never paid for advertising. Being involved in the bar, on boards of directors, lots of community service targeting my demographic. That has been pretty successful. Actually, it has taken me 75% of the way to FIRE in those six years and just doing that will have me end up with way more money than I'll ever spend.

The key (in my opinion) is to actually pick a demographic and focus on it. If it is immigrants injured in accidents (my clients) then who are your clients, who are they calling when injured, what are their questions, recurring problems, etcetera. If you really know your client, you can start looking for them strategically in certain places. Even better than looking for them is looking for the other service providers for the client in the same situation and making relationships with those people. But, you have to have a focus. It is hard to get clients if you say, "Will someone, anyone, please hire me. Bueller?"

Now I'm trying to jump to that next level on the personal injury front (highly competitive) by coming up with a comprehensive strategy for all the various modes of communication. BUT I want all my stuff targeted to Spanish speakers. It has been surprisingly difficult to find a marketing firm that has all the qualities I want - legal marketing experience, Spanish marketing experience, local experience, digital and traditional experience, reasonable price (hahahaha). They want to sell me their English product with Spanish as an afterthought. They want to sell me a website for a bunch of money with no overall strategy. Whatever. I finally won the "big case," I've got the business systems, the money and the desire. Guess what? I can't find a good business partner to help with systematic marketing! Where is my Don Draper? I'm even calling marketing firms in Mexico to try and find someone. Donaldo Drapez? I'll crack this nut, but it has been harder than I ever imagined.

So, if anyone is on the other end of the tunnel and knows a proven, aggressive, bi-lingual marketing firm - I'm all ears.


crimwell

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2017, 11:14:12 PM »
. It has been surprisingly difficult to find a marketing firm that has all the qualities I want - legal marketing experience, Spanish marketing experience, local experience, digital and traditional experience, reasonable price (hahahaha). They want to sell me their English product with Spanish as an afterthought. They want to sell me a website for a bunch of money with no overall strategy. Whatever. I finally won the "big case," I've got the business systems, the money and the desire. Guess what? I can't find a good business partner to help with systematic marketing! Where is my Don Draper? I'm even calling marketing firms in Mexico to try and find someone. Donaldo Drapez? I'll crack this nut, but it has been harder than I ever imagined.

So, if anyone is on the other end of the tunnel and knows a proven, aggressive, bi-lingual marketing firm - I'm all ears.

I'm assuming this means you work in a region with many Spanish speakers. Have you tried looking in a different region that also has a lot of Spanish speakers? I.e., if you're in California, have you tried looking for firms in Miami (or vice versa)?

 Where I'm really going with this is: you might want to look for a firm in another jurisdiction (i.e. not a direct competitor) that has marketing material that looks like what you want. If you're in California or TX, call up the guys in Miami and see who their marketing firms are. You're not going  to directly take their business so they'll be more likely to want to help out, especially since it could lead to profitable referrals either way. I might be way off here but it seems like it would be worth a shot

FIREby35

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2017, 01:56:11 PM »
. It has been surprisingly difficult to find a marketing firm that has all the qualities I want - legal marketing experience, Spanish marketing experience, local experience, digital and traditional experience, reasonable price (hahahaha). They want to sell me their English product with Spanish as an afterthought. They want to sell me a website for a bunch of money with no overall strategy. Whatever. I finally won the "big case," I've got the business systems, the money and the desire. Guess what? I can't find a good business partner to help with systematic marketing! Where is my Don Draper? I'm even calling marketing firms in Mexico to try and find someone. Donaldo Drapez? I'll crack this nut, but it has been harder than I ever imagined.

So, if anyone is on the other end of the tunnel and knows a proven, aggressive, bi-lingual marketing firm - I'm all ears.

I'm assuming this means you work in a region with many Spanish speakers. Have you tried looking in a different region that also has a lot of Spanish speakers? I.e., if you're in California, have you tried looking for firms in Miami (or vice versa)?

 Where I'm really going with this is: you might want to look for a firm in another jurisdiction (i.e. not a direct competitor) that has marketing material that looks like what you want. If you're in California or TX, call up the guys in Miami and see who their marketing firms are. You're not going  to directly take their business so they'll be more likely to want to help out, especially since it could lead to profitable referrals either way. I might be way off here but it seems like it would be worth a shot

I'm in a region with way more Spanish speakers than Spanish speaking professionals. In the Midwest where people don't really think of it, but there happens to be a significant population. Anyway, I ultimately did what you suggested but with a twist. I found two companies to work with. The first in California where they were shocked to get a call from the Midwest. I also hired a digital marketing firm in Mexico City. With them I get the Spanish angle and I get to pay Mexican prices - which are approximately 20% the price of the American competitors. Now I'm just in the phase of waiting to see if the results from the selected strategies.

crimwell

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Re: The Law Practice Thread
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2017, 08:39:14 AM »
Awesome, good luck