Author Topic: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?  (Read 160402 times)

MiserlyMiser

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #650 on: June 09, 2017, 08:48:11 AM »
Update--the city did not make me an offer.  I'm considering reaching out and asking them to keep me in mind if additional opportunities arise . . . but I'm also thinking of just pushing through until the December bonus in my current job and then retiring.  It's only another 5 1/2 months at this point. 

Stone11

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #651 on: June 10, 2017, 09:21:04 AM »
I've been practicing in insurance defense for the past six years and am looking to make the jump from litigation to transaction work.  I am currently trying to put my resume together.  The only resume I've created was out of law school and I have no experience in putting together a resume with actual attorney experience. 

Does anyone know of any resources or resume examples to work from for lateral attorneys or litigation-to-transaction attorneys?

shawndoggy

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #652 on: June 10, 2017, 10:12:51 AM »
I've been practicing in insurance defense for the past six years and am looking to make the jump from litigation to transaction work.  I am currently trying to put my resume together.  The only resume I've created was out of law school and I have no experience in putting together a resume with actual attorney experience. 

Does anyone know of any resources or resume examples to work from for lateral attorneys or litigation-to-transaction attorneys?

A resume is going to list your actual experience.  The problem (I'm guessing) is that you don't actually have any transactional experience to put on your "I want to be a transactional lawyer" resume?

If you are looking for ways to get some experience when your day-to-day job doesn't afford it, I'd suggest getting involved with the ABA Buisness Law section (and especially attending the section's annual meeting, which usually has a "boot camp" for new lawyers), and also getting involved with your state bar's business law/corporate/real property section(s).

CloserToFree

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #653 on: June 10, 2017, 02:43:45 PM »
Does anyone know of any resources or resume examples to work from for lateral attorneys or litigation-to-transaction attorneys?

Try this Stanford Law School website:
https://law.stanford.edu/careers/alumni-career-resources/sample-lateral-application-materials/#slsnav-resumes

TVRodriguez

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #654 on: June 12, 2017, 12:26:40 PM »
I've been practicing in insurance defense for the past six years and am looking to make the jump from litigation to transaction work.  I am currently trying to put my resume together.  The only resume I've created was out of law school and I have no experience in putting together a resume with actual attorney experience. 

Does anyone know of any resources or resume examples to work from for lateral attorneys or litigation-to-transaction attorneys?

I don't have a resume example but can share my experience in switching practice areas.  I moved from commercial litigation to transactional work early in my career.  I definitely think it helped to list on my resume anything I could think of that related to the area I wanted to practice.  I had been going to many CLEs in my desired practice area for a year, so I listed all of them on my resume to show that I had been learning and studying.  I also listed the law school classes I took that related to the practice area.  I listed my work for a professor during law school who taught classes in that practice area.  I was only a couple of years out of school, so I felt that was relevant.  And I managed to get assigned to a couple of matters in my chosen area at the firm I was leaving, so I described those matters in my resume, too.  I don't still have that resume (it's been about 16 years since I made the switch and I did the Marie Kondo cleanout last year), so I can't share it.  Good luck.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #655 on: August 07, 2017, 04:33:38 PM »
Goodness gracious, I haven't posted here in almost 8 months and I'm so happy to see this thread is still chugging along.

RSM, take the new job.  It sounds like a solid opportunity and the compensation with % of revenue is outstanding if you get out there and hustle up some new clients.  Learn PI.  If you don't like it, you can always switch and learn something else.  It's not like it will be engraved on your tombstone.

I'm glad to see FIREby35 is still on here evangelizing on the badassity of well-run solo/ small firms.  FIRE, I just tried to call you but missed your closing time by about 10 minutes.  I'll try again tomorrow as I have a PI case to co-counsel with you on.

My firm is closing in on its second anniversary and holy shit it has been an awesome year.  My average monthly gross revenue is just under $10k.  I have one client on a monthly retainer of $3k and boy howdy is it nice to know that the check is showing up every month like clockwork.  My actual v. goal graph is attached. 

Next month, I go to trial in the fire case (plaintiff's attorney -- the Ds started an open burn of timber debris, lost control, burned 1/3 of my client's forest).   It is shaping up very nicely with depositions starting next week.  I have admissions from the Ds that cinch their liability for nuisance and trespass and some solid evidence in support of not only negligence but willful and wanton negligence that will help our punitive damage claim.  It's been super fun and I can't wait for trial (though settlement will be fine too but they have to pay me to go away at this point).

As I close out my second year, I am having a ball.  It's good to be back with you guys again.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #656 on: August 10, 2017, 11:54:25 AM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

TrulyStashin

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #657 on: August 10, 2017, 06:10:36 PM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

I waiting on an updated P&L from my bookkeeper, but as of May 31, 2017:

Total Income - $49,249
Total Expenses - $17,095

My monthly overhead runs around $1,200.00 (home office) so the $17,095 includes some travel (e.g. ABA conference) and business development stuff (e.g. local bar assn. dues/ events).

Not bad.  I'm starting to think about hiring.  Maybe Q1 or 2 or 2018.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #658 on: August 10, 2017, 07:00:00 PM »
For the record, I think TrulyStashin's story is pretty cool and I can't help but chuckle at the difference in tone from her original posts to her current ones. I'll always evangelize for a well run solo because I see myself and people like TS having a blast and making cash. The law can be fun.

Spiffsome

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #659 on: August 10, 2017, 07:35:30 PM »
Question for FIREby35, TrulyStashin  - what skill set is required for a 'well run solo'? I'm contemplating quitting a dead-end govt job and the idea that sole practice can be fun is pretty foreign to me. All of the sole practitioners that I've met have been high-strung and slightly insane.

I've already got the Mustachian grip on my budget, so what other skills would you say are critical? I'd appreciate any answers.

LeRainDrop

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #660 on: August 10, 2017, 08:32:39 PM »
For the record, I think TrulyStashin's story is pretty cool and I can't help but chuckle at the difference in tone from her original posts to her current ones.

I totally agree! It seems like just yesterday when she was contemplating leaving her firm, where they didn't really appreciate her how they should have, and now already she is totally thriving as a solo!

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #661 on: August 11, 2017, 07:32:32 AM »
Good to see some updates here, and especially glad to see TS doing well.  Also not surprised to see FIRE still preaching the solo life.

To add my two cents, I've actually had a very positive year at my firm. I just got a raise and a partner with a substantial ERISA/workers' comp trial practice is retiring 12/31/17 and is transitioning almost his entire practice to me. The firm has basically insisted that nobody else give me work unless it's an emergency, so I have had a very nice work-life balance here the last few months and have been really able to specialize in these two areas, which has been great professionally and for my peace of mind.

Onto the new job opportunity, it is still hanging out there, but I've run the numbers over and over and I really don't think I'd make as much. I also am incredibly nervous about hitching my practice to one attorney rather than a firm of 20 attorneys.

Right now, the bottom line for me is that I believe I am just now becoming comfortable in my practice. I'm continuing to learn and gain confidence. I can see myself growing here, and I've had a meeting with shareholders and learned that the most junior partner here is pulling in a salary of $90k plus bonuses.

I'm likely rationalizing my current situation, but I feel good professionally for the first time in a long time, and I'm not ready to rock that boat quite yet.

crimwell

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #662 on: August 11, 2017, 08:29:23 AM »
the most junior partner here is pulling in a salary of $90k plus bonuses.

that's not bad anywhere but the expensive coastal areas, but keep in mind that a 3rd-4th year federal government lawyer in Cleveland or Pittsburgh is making about $90K working 40-50 hour weeks (no bonus, or tiny bonus though). The big downside for a government employee is no ownership of the firm, limited ability to advance, etc. I know you said you were near Youngstown or somewhere around there, and cost of living is probably lower than even in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, but do keep in mind that there are other options if you don't see the possibility of a big payoff, or of joining the partnership in the next 3-5 years, etc.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #663 on: August 11, 2017, 06:31:10 PM »
Question for FIREby35, TrulyStashin  - what skill set is required for a 'well run solo'? I'm contemplating quitting a dead-end govt job and the idea that sole practice can be fun is pretty foreign to me. All of the sole practitioners that I've met have been high-strung and slightly insane.

I've already got the Mustachian grip on my budget, so what other skills would you say are critical? I'd appreciate any answers.

I think the biggest skillset needed is a sense of adventure. I know that sounds crazy but I mean it. You will be thrust into all kinds of new situations and you'll need to meet them head on. Even if you mess it up, you need to take the lesson, move on and do it all again. You don't have to know it all when you begin, you have to commit to getting better every day.

Check out this article I wrote for a blog which is written by one of the people on this thread:

http://www.biglawinvestor.com/personal-freedom-open-a-solo-law-practice/

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #664 on: August 12, 2017, 08:03:49 AM »
the most junior partner here is pulling in a salary of $90k plus bonuses.

that's not bad anywhere but the expensive coastal areas, but keep in mind that a 3rd-4th year federal government lawyer in Cleveland or Pittsburgh is making about $90K working 40-50 hour weeks (no bonus, or tiny bonus though). The big downside for a government employee is no ownership of the firm, limited ability to advance, etc. I know you said you were near Youngstown or somewhere around there, and cost of living is probably lower than even in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, but do keep in mind that there are other options if you don't see the possibility of a big payoff, or of joining the partnership in the next 3-5 years, etc.

Ya, I actually looked at a table made by the OSBA and found that, with my current raise, I'm making a hair below what the average attorney with my experience makes in Youngstown.  But, my wife and I still have debts to pay off, we plan to have kids soon, on and on...I really value the stability that my firm provides at this juncture in my life.

For what it's worth, you're right, my potential salary goes a long way here in Youngstown. If I keep improving and become partner (and hopefully earn $90k/year), my wife and I would have a joint income of approximately $160,000.  According to a COL calculator on bankrate, that's equivalent to earning $200k in Cleveland.

All in all, I'd still say things are fluid, but doing a good job here for now is providing stability that I value quite highly at this point in my life.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #665 on: August 12, 2017, 10:23:36 AM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

I waiting on an updated P&L from my bookkeeper, but as of May 31, 2017:

Total Income - $49,249
Total Expenses - $17,095

My monthly overhead runs around $1,200.00 (home office) so the $17,095 includes some travel (e.g. ABA conference) and business development stuff (e.g. local bar assn. dues/ events).

Not bad.  I'm starting to think about hiring.  Maybe Q1 or 2 or 2018.
  Wait.  48-17 = 32. That's for five months?  So your profit is $6400 a month before self employment taxes?  And you are thinking about hiring?  Why?

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #666 on: August 12, 2017, 10:25:41 AM »
Check out this article I wrote for a blog which is written by one of the people on this thread:

http://www.biglawinvestor.com/personal-freedom-open-a-solo-law-practice/
  I read his blog - I did not realize he was here in the thread.  What's his username?

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #667 on: August 12, 2017, 10:28:23 AM »
If I keep improving and become partner (and hopefully earn $90k/year),
  Inheriting a book of business is great, but you need to focus on growing it and developing your own.  That $90k is not even close to the potential of what you can develop.  Not even close.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #668 on: August 12, 2017, 02:59:37 PM »
Check out this article I wrote for a blog which is written by one of the people on this thread:

http://www.biglawinvestor.com/personal-freedom-open-a-solo-law-practice/
  I read his blog - I did not realize he was here in the thread.  What's his username?

His username is "biglawinvestor"! :)

MiserlyMiser

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #669 on: August 17, 2017, 10:03:50 AM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

I waiting on an updated P&L from my bookkeeper, but as of May 31, 2017:

Total Income - $49,249
Total Expenses - $17,095

My monthly overhead runs around $1,200.00 (home office) so the $17,095 includes some travel (e.g. ABA conference) and business development stuff (e.g. local bar assn. dues/ events).

Not bad.  I'm starting to think about hiring.  Maybe Q1 or 2 or 2018.
  Wait.  48-17 = 32. That's for five months?  So your profit is $6400 a month before self employment taxes?  And you are thinking about hiring?  Why?

I'm interested to TrulyStashin's response, but the tone of the question indicates you think it's a bad idea to hire on these numbers, and I don't think that's necessarily true, especially given TrulyStashin's pretty awesome entrepreneurial spirit.  TrulyStashin doesn't seem to have any trouble attracting business.  As long as the associate bills more than his/her salary & other expenses, it seems like a pretty good idea.  (But what do I know, I'm in BigLaw and solo life is a foreign country to me.)

taxedatty

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #670 on: August 17, 2017, 08:56:06 PM »
A little late to the party, I suppose, but after reading 2.5 years worth of people's ups and downs, I just wanted to say what a positive thread this turned out to be!!

I myself am somewhat "non-traditional" by all of your standards.  I worked as a data analyst before law school.  I had always wanted to go to law school and finally did three years after I started working.  Because of my analyst background, I'm also fairly good with numbers and ended up loving tax.  While you don't necessarily need to be good at numbers to do tax law, if you have good numbers skills it opens up your prospects a bit especially in tax since so many lawyers are numbers-averse.  So after my JD, I immediately did my LLM in tax.  I ended up in Big4, in a specialty group comprised of mostly lawyers and few CPAs.  While as a technical matter I'm not "practicing" (as I'm told because I don't work at a law firm), I do maintain my atty licenses.  The money is pretty good (I make in the 110's + bonus 2.5 years in), although sometimes I do wish I had that biglaw $180. 

The good news is I generally work around 50 per week on average, and outside of the occasional compliance (aka tax return prep), I do what any other tax lawyer would be doing, legal research, writing, controversy, tax opinions, due diligence, restructuring work etc.  I think I probably also get to do other things that are interesting to me that law firm lawyers may not, for example modeling tax scenarios to accompany our other deliverables (do lawyers in law firms do that?!?! Serious question.)  I am also a very practical person, so doing something that actually results in a recognizable result to the bottom line is neat for me.  So it's interesting how much overlap there may be in types of work, but I have exactly 0 idea what it's like to work in a law firm.

I'd be curious to hear about other Big4 lawyers if there are any here.  My impression is its easier to make partner in Big4, especially if you are technical (which helps you sell work early on as manager/director).  Curious if anyone with Big4 experience agrees/disagrees.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #671 on: August 18, 2017, 12:51:47 PM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

I waiting on an updated P&L from my bookkeeper, but as of May 31, 2017:

Total Income - $49,249
Total Expenses - $17,095

My monthly overhead runs around $1,200.00 (home office) so the $17,095 includes some travel (e.g. ABA conference) and business development stuff (e.g. local bar assn. dues/ events).

Not bad.  I'm starting to think about hiring.  Maybe Q1 or 2 or 2018.
  Wait.  48-17 = 32. That's for five months?  So your profit is $6400 a month before self employment taxes?  And you are thinking about hiring?  Why?

I'm interested to TrulyStashin's response, but the tone of the question indicates you think it's a bad idea to hire on these numbers, and I don't think that's necessarily true, especially given TrulyStashin's pretty awesome entrepreneurial spirit.  TrulyStashin doesn't seem to have any trouble attracting business.  As long as the associate bills more than his/her salary & other expenses, it seems like a pretty good idea.  (But what do I know, I'm in BigLaw and solo life is a foreign country to me.)

It's a legit question. The key is that solo/small civil litigation firms can have profits and cash come in in bursts. Last year TS won the big case where she got a 70k fee (or more, can't recall). I'd say that is normal. Our biggest month this year was over 200k. Smallest month was 14k. It just depends on the cases in the pipeline and how clearly you can forcast future payouts.

Also, it depends on what kind of staff. For a small solo one assistant making $15 an hour who is nice, answers the phone, can print letters, send mail, open mail, do your correspondence, schedule an appointment is a lifesaver. Even 20 hours a week of administrative time can be a huge lift. That's 20 hours a week at $15 and hours is only $1,200 per month.

Long story short, it's not as crazy as it might seem at first glance. Although, I do agree it's not something to be taken lightly. Payroll can easily get out of control and sink the ship.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2017, 12:53:52 PM by FIREby35 »

DCKatie09

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #672 on: August 18, 2017, 01:59:44 PM »
What a great update Truly Stachin! How are your expenses looking?

I waiting on an updated P&L from my bookkeeper, but as of May 31, 2017:

Total Income - $49,249
Total Expenses - $17,095

My monthly overhead runs around $1,200.00 (home office) so the $17,095 includes some travel (e.g. ABA conference) and business development stuff (e.g. local bar assn. dues/ events).

Not bad.  I'm starting to think about hiring.  Maybe Q1 or 2 or 2018.
  Wait.  48-17 = 32. That's for five months?  So your profit is $6400 a month before self employment taxes?  And you are thinking about hiring?  Why?

I'm interested to TrulyStashin's response, but the tone of the question indicates you think it's a bad idea to hire on these numbers, and I don't think that's necessarily true, especially given TrulyStashin's pretty awesome entrepreneurial spirit.  TrulyStashin doesn't seem to have any trouble attracting business.  As long as the associate bills more than his/her salary & other expenses, it seems like a pretty good idea.  (But what do I know, I'm in BigLaw and solo life is a foreign country to me.)

It's a legit question. The key is that solo/small civil litigation firms can have profits and cash come in in bursts. Last year TS won the big case where she got a 70k fee (or more, can't recall). I'd say that is normal. Our biggest month this year was over 200k. Smallest month was 14k. It just depends on the cases in the pipeline and how clearly you can forcast future payouts.

Also, it depends on what kind of staff. For a small solo one assistant making $15 an hour who is nice, answers the phone, can print letters, send mail, open mail, do your correspondence, schedule an appointment is a lifesaver. Even 20 hours a week of administrative time can be a huge lift. That's 20 hours a week at $15 and hours is only $1,200 per month.

Long story short, it's not as crazy as it might seem at first glance. Although, I do agree it's not something to be taken lightly. Payroll can easily get out of control and sink the ship.
One of my friends is a solo and he said hiring a legal assistant was the smartest and most profitable decision he made in his first two years.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #673 on: August 22, 2017, 12:31:06 PM »
Solo here with a part-time assistant.  I've found that a part-time college student assistant is a great asset to me.  I only need 20-30 hours a week, and since I have a paper-heavy practice (Wills & Trusts tends that way), having those extra non-lawyer hands is a great help.  I know I CAN do it all myself because I did it all myself for the first year and a half.  I prefer not to.  I like having someone else here.  I start paying them $12/hour, with raises along the way as skills increase.

I have been more profitable with an assistant than without one.  There is a learning curve for them and me each time, since I don't hire experienced people.  (I want them to learn to do things MY way, not someone else's way, and I don't want to have to un-teach them what someone else taught them to do badly.)  But it's worth it for me.  Just training someone new now, actually, since my last assistant started law school last week (despite working for a lawyer for 2 years!).  So far, so good.

Snowman99

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #674 on: August 22, 2017, 01:49:52 PM »
Lawyer working as an "associate" in small firm making about $130k/year gross.

Looking to go solo, and already have a small book of business, but not sure if it will be enough to have a steady stream of income starting out.  Don't really know what will come and what won't unless and until I make the leap.

I have 10 years experience in both litigation and transactional work.  Have been to trial many times.  Willing to do whatever pays the bills.  Would be entirely capable of having a "general practice," and would much rather hang a shingle in the community of 40k people that I live in (low overhead, more contacts) rather than commute daily to the big city.

I will have about 2 years of living expenses saved up by the end of this year.  This is a good cushion, but I know how fast money goes away when there is no steady income.  I support a wife and two young children, so I am nervous about taking the jump as the sole breadwinner.  I don't want to "throw good money after bad" by hanging a shingle in an already saturated legal market.  We would, however, be able to get by relatively comfortably on $50k/year (far less than salary), but the retirement accounts would not be funded as well as they should.  Would eventually like to be making the same if not more.

The reason I want to go solo is mainly for the personal freedom of running my own business together with cutting back on the commute.  This is just something I've always pictured myself doing, that I definitely want to do, but just haven't on account of saving up enough funds.  As Foonberg said, the major reason why businesses fail is because they are undercapitalized.  The Capitalization issue is not really that much of an issue anymore, but I am still nervous to take the plunge nonetheless.

Any tips/thoughts from those who have made the leap to solo practice here?  Any advice would be appreciated.   Thanks.

OneCoolCat

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #675 on: August 22, 2017, 08:27:39 PM »
I'm a third year lawyer.  I put in two years doing litigation work that's generally considered bottom of the barrel.  I made decent money out of law school, $70k with good benefits but was very unhappy with the work.  I made the move 10 months ago to a construction boutique and enjoy the work a lot but I took a big pay cut to get out of last area of law before getting pigeon-holed. 

I had a baby this year and my wife hasn't returned to work so we are all now on the family insurance plan through my job and its very expensive.  Over a third of my post-tax income goes into our insurance, its nuts.  It not encouraging living off my $65k salary but I'm up for a review soon.  From what I hear, a $15k bump is usual from where I'm at.  I'm fairly confident that's where I'll be I think I will still be underpaid.  Most of the cases I work on are pretty big and the otherside is either from a biglaw or midlaw boutique firm so I suspect they make quite a bit more than me.  I've recently been contacted by a recruiter who wants to know if I'm interested in a construction law job that pays $90-110k.  Who knows if it's legit or a bait and switch.  I'm interested but my problem is that I would feel really crappy actually leaving since I'm the trenches on a couple large cases that are going to trial in the next 6 months and I haven't even been here a year yet.  At the same time, I don't feel that I'll ever be paid here what I could make elsewhere.  I'm conflicted.  Should I look for another job?

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #676 on: August 23, 2017, 09:02:45 AM »
Lawyer working as an "associate" in small firm making about $130k/year gross.

Looking to go solo, and already have a small book of business, but not sure if it will be enough to have a steady stream of income starting out.  Don't really know what will come and what won't unless and until I make the leap.

I have 10 years experience in both litigation and transactional work.  Have been to trial many times.  Willing to do whatever pays the bills.  Would be entirely capable of having a "general practice," and would much rather hang a shingle in the community of 40k people that I live in (low overhead, more contacts) rather than commute daily to the big city.

I will have about 2 years of living expenses saved up by the end of this year.  This is a good cushion, but I know how fast money goes away when there is no steady income.  I support a wife and two young children, so I am nervous about taking the jump as the sole breadwinner.  I don't want to "throw good money after bad" by hanging a shingle in an already saturated legal market.  We would, however, be able to get by relatively comfortably on $50k/year (far less than salary), but the retirement accounts would not be funded as well as they should.  Would eventually like to be making the same if not more.

The reason I want to go solo is mainly for the personal freedom of running my own business together with cutting back on the commute.  This is just something I've always pictured myself doing, that I definitely want to do, but just haven't on account of saving up enough funds.  As Foonberg said, the major reason why businesses fail is because they are undercapitalized.  The Capitalization issue is not really that much of an issue anymore, but I am still nervous to take the plunge nonetheless.

Any tips/thoughts from those who have made the leap to solo practice here?  Any advice would be appreciated.   Thanks.

Hey Snowman. It sounds like you are in a great position with ten years of experience and some cash saved up. You didn't really say what kind of work you do. But, I would guess that with your level of experience you could get the local judges to give you appointment work at the beginning. I have one friend who bills over a 100k in just juvenile court proceedings. He's great at counting his billable because he is a former big law guy! That kind of initial opportunity is always there for new solos while you build your practice.

I think it takes some serious thought to create a business that is sustainable. How does each part of the practice fit together with the other parts? Here is what I mean, I do criminal work, immigration work and personal injury work. The criminal and immigration produce regular, up front cash. I'd never get rich off it, but it pays up front and I can do the work. I use them to keep the lights on while I go trolling for big civil litigation cases. Those get paid at the end, I have to front expenses but they can be BIG. Even within my PI/Civil work I look at the kind of cases. Some are $1,000 - $5,000 small fender bender type accident cases. Others are multi-million dollar business disputes. I have them classified as small, medium, large and try to see how many of each case I have at each level. I also look for ways to create passive income on cases that I can't personally handle by creating referral/co-counsel relationships. You know, when that giant civil lawsuit comes in and it is way beyond your means as a solo, you can call the person who is equipped, make a referral and co-counsel the case for a fee split.

Anyway, that is just my model. I know lots of people are doing probate work, or IP where they take percentages or any number of things. Seeing your cash flow opportunities, their differences and how they work together to create a harmonious unit is something I've gotten better and better at and that is what I mean by "taking serious thought to create a sustainable business." That is also why I mentioned appointments at the beginning. It doesn't have to be the endgame for your practice. It can just be a way to get some cash going, see where the opportunities are, see what comes in, how it all happens and then go constructing your practice. The opportunities will come if you just stick to treating people right and telling the truth. I know it sounds to easy, but really that is what it takes.

With your experience as a lawyer, you only need the experience as a business owner to seize a great opportunity. If you start with expectations of 50k a year and two years of cash to fall back on you will have lots time to figure it out. My instinct is you will be pleasantly surprised. There is a lot of money to be made for a well run solo.

PS Read the book the "E-Myth" by Michael Gerber. It's my favorite business book of all time.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2017, 09:05:23 AM by FIREby35 »

Nick_Miller

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #677 on: August 23, 2017, 11:08:49 AM »
It's awesome reading about everyone's experiences and situations.

I'm in my mid 40s and very bored with practicing law. I've done insurance defense and gov't work, and right now I'm in PI. I'm 2.5 years into working for a small firm. There are just two attorneys, so me, my boss, and four support staff. I don't have access to all the revenue/expense numbers but at this point I am nervous every month about the financial stability of the firm. Last week, the boss told the office manager to "only pay the essential bills." That doesn't sound good.

I did settle a case today that nets us a $20,000 fee, so I tell myself that does a lot to float our boat until next month, but then my worries start all over again. All this being said, I get paid a $80K salary and my check has never been late. I also get (sometimes sizable) bonuses, and again they have always been paid when due. I think my boss sacrifices when necessary.

But I have a feeling things are very tight in a "month to month" kind of way, and that makes me incredibly anxious. I am handling cases worth at least $250K in fees, so that's enough of a pipeline to keep going for a while longer, but incoming cases have really slowed down.

So it's my long way of saying I can't imagine how stressful it is to be a solo!  At least I have unemployment benefits due if I get laid off. And I don't owe any vendors anything.

Shade00

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #678 on: September 01, 2017, 01:26:46 PM »
So I've got an opportunity to move from my current firm (large southeastern regional firm) to a large national boutique firm for a substantial increase in pay and no loss of shareholder progression. The catch is that I'd have to move to a larger city; cost of living, surprisingly, would be about the same due to the recent insane increases in housing costs around me, but my wife is not crazy about moving or giving up her current job. Still, the salary increase for me would be about 35% the first year alone, and that more than covers her current salary. Practice area and workload would be about the same. Firm culture appears good. I like my current firm but my compensation is fairly low and I'm not sure about my prospects for advancement since the market is pretty tight where I am. I hate to pull my wife from a very good job but when she finds employment in the new city we'll be able to stash a whole lot more cash. Am I missing anything?

Laura33

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #679 on: September 01, 2017, 02:14:41 PM »
So I've got an opportunity to move from my current firm (large southeastern regional firm) to a large national boutique firm for a substantial increase in pay and no loss of shareholder progression. The catch is that I'd have to move to a larger city; cost of living, surprisingly, would be about the same due to the recent insane increases in housing costs around me, but my wife is not crazy about moving or giving up her current job. Still, the salary increase for me would be about 35% the first year alone, and that more than covers her current salary. Practice area and workload would be about the same. Firm culture appears good. I like my current firm but my compensation is fairly low and I'm not sure about my prospects for advancement since the market is pretty tight where I am. I hate to pull my wife from a very good job but when she finds employment in the new city we'll be able to stash a whole lot more cash. Am I missing anything?

Is your wife a lawyer as well, and if so, how senior?  What is the realistic chance that she will be able to find at least an equivalent job in your new area (both financially and on the personal side, as more money working for a bunch of douchebags is not a win)?  I was the trailing spouse as a 7th-year associate, had just been told I'd be a partner in a year at my firm, and no one in any other state even wanted to talk to me.  I would look very, very hard at what her real job options are.   

Also consider her expressed feelings about moving and how your decision may affect your relationship, because from what you've written, it doesn't seem like it's about the money for her.  In our case, DH's company had shut down, so we didn't really have a choice.  But I liked my job and had great opportunities where I was, and so if he had "pulled"* me from that just because he thought he had a better opportunity for himself, we might not be married today, regardless of how much money he made.  What she wants from her career and lifestyle has to matter just as much to you as what you want.

*Very bad word choice.  You can't, in fact, force her to leave her job; you can either ask nicely (which includes taking no for an answer), or you can take the job and let her decide whether she wants to come with you.

Shade00

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #680 on: September 01, 2017, 03:30:30 PM »
So I've got an opportunity to move from my current firm (large southeastern regional firm) to a large national boutique firm for a substantial increase in pay and no loss of shareholder progression. The catch is that I'd have to move to a larger city; cost of living, surprisingly, would be about the same due to the recent insane increases in housing costs around me, but my wife is not crazy about moving or giving up her current job. Still, the salary increase for me would be about 35% the first year alone, and that more than covers her current salary. Practice area and workload would be about the same. Firm culture appears good. I like my current firm but my compensation is fairly low and I'm not sure about my prospects for advancement since the market is pretty tight where I am. I hate to pull my wife from a very good job but when she finds employment in the new city we'll be able to stash a whole lot more cash. Am I missing anything?

Is your wife a lawyer as well, and if so, how senior?  What is the realistic chance that she will be able to find at least an equivalent job in your new area (both financially and on the personal side, as more money working for a bunch of douchebags is not a win)?  I was the trailing spouse as a 7th-year associate, had just been told I'd be a partner in a year at my firm, and no one in any other state even wanted to talk to me.  I would look very, very hard at what her real job options are.   

Also consider her expressed feelings about moving and how your decision may affect your relationship, because from what you've written, it doesn't seem like it's about the money for her.  In our case, DH's company had shut down, so we didn't really have a choice.  But I liked my job and had great opportunities where I was, and so if he had "pulled"* me from that just because he thought he had a better opportunity for himself, we might not be married today, regardless of how much money he made.  What she wants from her career and lifestyle has to matter just as much to you as what you want.

*Very bad word choice.  You can't, in fact, force her to leave her job; you can either ask nicely (which includes taking no for an answer), or you can take the job and let her decide whether she wants to come with you.

Very good questions. She is not an attorney. She's a high school teacher and has a backup career option as a graphic designer. Job prospects are very good for her in the new location but who knows if she would be able to find something right away that would be a perfect fit. I am very attuned to her needs on this one because we moved to where we are for her current job. My experience where I am has just been very unsatisfactory. Lack of advancement opportunities and other issues generally mean I am not happy coming in to work here.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #681 on: September 21, 2017, 06:59:32 AM »
It's awesome reading about everyone's experiences and situations.

I'm in my mid 40s and very bored with practicing law. I've done insurance defense and gov't work, and right now I'm in PI. I'm 2.5 years into working for a small firm. There are just two attorneys, so me, my boss, and four support staff. I don't have access to all the revenue/expense numbers but at this point I am nervous every month about the financial stability of the firm. Last week, the boss told the office manager to "only pay the essential bills." That doesn't sound good.

I did settle a case today that nets us a $20,000 fee, so I tell myself that does a lot to float our boat until next month, but then my worries start all over again. All this being said, I get paid a $80K salary and my check has never been late. I also get (sometimes sizable) bonuses, and again they have always been paid when due. I think my boss sacrifices when necessary.

But I have a feeling things are very tight in a "month to month" kind of way, and that makes me incredibly anxious. I am handling cases worth at least $250K in fees, so that's enough of a pipeline to keep going for a while longer, but incoming cases have really slowed down.

So it's my long way of saying I can't imagine how stressful it is to be a solo!  At least I have unemployment benefits due if I get laid off. And I don't owe any vendors anything.

Hey Nick -

It sounds like you work in a firm a lot like mine. Only you really know what the situation is but there is a major difference between cashflow management and real instability financially. Sometimes I do have cashflow issues where I would pay "only the essential bills" while waiting for a settlement. But, that doesn't change the fact that I've got a line of credit (which I've never used), I've got access to tens of thousands of dollars in cash in a tax savings accounts and I've got hundreds of thousands of dollars in index funds that have been tucked away over the years. If you working on cases with 250k fee in the pipeline then your firm is fine.

My point is to not confuse cashflow issues with actually profitability or stability of the firm. Managing cashflow is actually one of the more difficult parts of running a small PI firm but, after a few years, the owner of the firm should be accustomed to how it works. PI work is an uneven flow of revenue.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #682 on: September 22, 2017, 11:05:41 AM »
It's awesome reading about everyone's experiences and situations.

I'm in my mid 40s and very bored with practicing law. I've done insurance defense and gov't work, and right now I'm in PI. I'm 2.5 years into working for a small firm. There are just two attorneys, so me, my boss, and four support staff. I don't have access to all the revenue/expense numbers but at this point I am nervous every month about the financial stability of the firm. Last week, the boss told the office manager to "only pay the essential bills." That doesn't sound good.

I did settle a case today that nets us a $20,000 fee, so I tell myself that does a lot to float our boat until next month, but then my worries start all over again. All this being said, I get paid a $80K salary and my check has never been late. I also get (sometimes sizable) bonuses, and again they have always been paid when due. I think my boss sacrifices when necessary.

But I have a feeling things are very tight in a "month to month" kind of way, and that makes me incredibly anxious. I am handling cases worth at least $250K in fees, so that's enough of a pipeline to keep going for a while longer, but incoming cases have really slowed down.

So it's my long way of saying I can't imagine how stressful it is to be a solo!  At least I have unemployment benefits due if I get laid off. And I don't owe any vendors anything.

Hey Nick -

It sounds like you work in a firm a lot like mine. Only you really know what the situation is but there is a major difference between cashflow management and real instability financially. Sometimes I do have cashflow issues where I would pay "only the essential bills" while waiting for a settlement. But, that doesn't change the fact that I've got a line of credit (which I've never used), I've got access to tens of thousands of dollars in cash in a tax savings accounts and I've got hundreds of thousands of dollars in index funds that have been tucked away over the years. If you working on cases with 250k fee in the pipeline then your firm is fine.

My point is to not confuse cashflow issues with actually profitability or stability of the firm. Managing cashflow is actually one of the more difficult parts of running a small PI firm but, after a few years, the owner of the firm should be accustomed to how it works. PI work is an uneven flow of revenue.

Well, I certainly hope you are correct! Like I said, I don't have access to the books so I have go on what I see and hear. And I brought in over $60,000 in fees in Sept thus far, so that's a huge influx of cash for a small office with modest overhead. I don't know what my boss has "tucked away." He worked for firms for 20 years so I assume he has assets behind the firm, but again I'm just guessing. He's not the most organized person, and puts off the "management" tasks as much as he can (I know, not a good thing). But then he was looking at $500K houses the other day, which actually made me feel better. (That is a LOT for a house in these parts)

Thanks for the positive outlook!




Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #683 on: October 01, 2017, 02:10:35 PM »
Lawyer working as an "associate" in small firm making about $130k/year gross.

Looking to go solo, and already have a small book of business, but not sure if it will be enough to have a steady stream of income starting out.  Don't really know what will come and what won't unless and until I make the leap.

I have 10 years experience in both litigation and transactional work.  Have been to trial many times.  Willing to do whatever pays the bills.  Would be entirely capable of having a "general practice," and would much rather hang a shingle in the community of 40k people that I live in (low overhead, more contacts) rather than commute daily to the big city.

I will have about 2 years of living expenses saved up by the end of this year.  This is a good cushion, but I know how fast money goes away when there is no steady income.  I support a wife and two young children, so I am nervous about taking the jump as the sole breadwinner.  I don't want to "throw good money after bad" by hanging a shingle in an already saturated legal market.  We would, however, be able to get by relatively comfortably on $50k/year (far less than salary), but the retirement accounts would not be funded as well as they should.  Would eventually like to be making the same if not more.

The reason I want to go solo is mainly for the personal freedom of running my own business together with cutting back on the commute.  This is just something I've always pictured myself doing, that I definitely want to do, but just haven't on account of saving up enough funds.  As Foonberg said, the major reason why businesses fail is because they are undercapitalized.  The Capitalization issue is not really that much of an issue anymore, but I am still nervous to take the plunge nonetheless.

Any tips/thoughts from those who have made the leap to solo practice here?  Any advice would be appreciated.   Thanks.

Are your kids in school yet? If so, could your wife find a job so you at least have some steady pay while you are starting out.  There are some places (Starbucks, Home Depot, Petco) that are known for offering good health insurance plans for part time employees.  That would take the health insurance concern off your plate too.  Even if the kids aren't in school, maybe she could work weekends/evenings for awhile.  Just knowing that you are guaranteed X dollars/month would take a lot of the pressure off I would think.

It also depends on what type of law you intend to practice.  Hourly work is of course going to provide more consistent revenue but a lot more money can be had taking the risks of contingent fee cases.  Those can take years to actually pay out though.  Just my two cents!

norabird

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #684 on: June 28, 2018, 01:51:02 PM »
This thread seems to be rather format but I just (as in yesterday) got a bee in my bonnet around applying to law school and hopefully taking advantage of LRAP to go into public interest law if possible. I've sounded out my lawyer friends (my brother is also one, and I was a paralegal for a big NYC firm doing insurance litigation out of college) and gotten a sound 'tread carefully' response, so thought I'd see if there any public interest attorneys on here with specifics to offer. Thanks!

DCKatie09

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #685 on: June 28, 2018, 02:18:15 PM »
Tread carefully, norabird! I work with public interest law students as my job and would be more than happy to chat with you about law school, the market, finances, etc. Just shoot me a message.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #686 on: July 01, 2018, 08:21:23 AM »
Yeah, I bet plenty of people here will give you the "tread carefully" response. Law has worked for me but not because I piled on a bunch of debt to engage in public interest law with the idea of getting all that debt forgiven by a federal program. That idea, specifically, seems like a big-time "proceed with caution." In fact, I'd tell you it is an idea that might end up causing you a lot of suffering based on unfulfilled expectations.

I engaged in public interest work from an entrepreneurial angle by starting my own firm serving an underserved community (Spanish speaking Latino's) offering a service that literally doesn't exist (Spanish speaking accident representation, I'm the only one in the state), and doing with the intent of offering the highest level of service possible. That has been very profitable and allowed me to serve people who would otherwise have been abused - like, undocumented immigrants being told they can't make a injury claim in a car accident that wasn't their fault bc they don't have a drivers license or they can't make a work comp claim. They can do both.

The point is that law can work, but it doesn't always work. Tread carefully.

M0ntana

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #687 on: August 03, 2018, 02:19:43 PM »
Just thought I'd revive this thread as it has been a very good for me. Being a newish lawyer of 2 year post-call experience, I was sort of at a crossroad professionally, and the insight of some of you has really helped me sort it out.

I started my law career by articling in an elite boutique litigation firm in a large (Canadian) market. I was making 66k as an articling student which is more than BigLaw money in this market. I absolutely disliked the politics and saw myself as quite a bit of a cog in the firm's wheels due to my entrepreneurial spirit and issues with taking a Partner's words as if it was the gospel. Probably due to this "fit" issue, I was offered a renewable contractual position after passing the bar rather than a more typical permenanent associate position, and decided not to take it since I couldn't see myself hating my 60h+ work week any longer. This meant leaving an 85k+ job prospect but it simply did not matter at the time.

I found a job 2 weeks later at a very specialized medical malpractice defense boutique firm. They had a pretty lucrative contract with the largest med mal insurer in the country and also did disciplinary cases for professionals in general. It was very interesting work and the niche aspect of it made one learn the ropes very quickly. I was making 75K with a 5K bonus as a first year associate (by reference, BigLaw 1st years in my market make +-100k) working 8 to 5 with a very reasonable 1500h/year target. It was a cushy lifestyle and a great firm atmosphere, but the partners were absolute idiots when it came to managing their business and I did not adhere to their money-is-dirty-but-we-are-absolute-law-geeks ethos. I wanted to find a place where I could see myself develop my book of business to build solid revenue prospects for the future, and I knew very early on that this would not be the place I could build that kind of practice.

After about 15 months on the job, I decided to do something rather radical: I approached a very respected lawyer in a smaller suburban market who I knew would retire soon, and asked him whether he needed some help. Timing was perfect and after we got to know each other a bit he suggested we partner. He co-runs a 4-lawyer firm, but was the only civil litigator there (the other 3 do family law under the supervision of the firm's other partner). We are now finalizing his phasing out to retirement, with all his open matters having been transfered to me. We initially agreed to work under a 50/50 fee split arrangement, but I will end up a "true" partner as soon as he transfers me his shares in the firm, which is set to happen come September of this year. My own billing right now is approximately 15-20K a month, though I feel I could go up to 25K if I pushed a bit more. I am therefore making +-80-100K gross right now, though things might get substantially better after I get a say in the firm's expense. I understand typical law firm overhead is generally about 30-40%, so I think it would be fair to assume net revenues at around 100K for my share, which is not bad at all considering I am not even 2 year post call yet and am 100% free to make my own schedule. Firm expenses are now a little higher than I'd like them to be, but the other partner and I agree on the means to be taken to get them within the aforementioned average.

I am now at the stage where I will need to see how I can scale this biz forward and sufficiently develop my book of business to hire more staff. What I dislike the most about my job right now is that I am selling time for money, which I think is a bad deal for any efficient person and/or anybody with a desire to grow a business beyond making it a job. I am thinking I could probably convert some of my client base to a monthly retained fee deal, which would secure cash flow and allow me to hire with less risk. Do you guys have any experience with this model? Is it worth it?

Overall, I thought I'd share my story to show that to venture off the beaten path can often be the best thing you can do as a lawyer. I now enjoy the gravitas and goodwill of a firm that was founded the year I was born, all while getting to do basically what I want with the civil litgation side of it. The lower COL, shorter commute and absence of serious competition are just icing on the cake - and I get to make nearly just as much as I would slaving away for 80h+ a week in BigLaw!

Cheers for the fun read guys, and keep on keeping on,
-M

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #688 on: August 06, 2018, 07:35:17 AM »
M0ntana -

Law firm management is a skill that is learned just like litigating. The more effort you put into it, the better at it you will be. I would read general business management books. There are many, many good ones. The books that made the biggest impact for me while creating my firm were: The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber, Good to Great (Can't Remember the Author); Multipliers by Liz Wiseman; Give and Take by Adam Grant.

Obviously, there are many more.

But, to your general post, great job on thinking creatively to find/create a great situation for yourself in the legal industry. The biggest problem facing most unhappy attorneys (not all attorneys, just the unhappy ones) is an inability to imagine their dream job and then create it. Most are very stuck in the traditional models of Biglaw, Government, non-profit and struggling solo. As you are seeing, if you can simply conceive of something "outside the box" then your opportunities expand while your competition simultaneously shrinks (because others can't "see" what you are doing). Great job!
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 06:14:07 PM by FIREby35 »

M0ntana

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #689 on: August 06, 2018, 03:23:28 PM »
@FIREby35

Thank you so much for your kind words - you have actually been a great inspiration in this transition and I am always looking to read more from you.

I indeed see practice management as I skill I need to build on, and have already devoured the E-Myth. I will now keep a look out for the other two suggestions you made.

You are also 100% right about the typical unhappy lawyer. I really think most are just going through the motions without ever understanding their skills as a product to be sold. If they were to see what tremendous value they could bring to their clients, maybe they would dare making a business out of it!

Cheers,
-M

onlykelsey

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #690 on: August 08, 2018, 12:46:03 PM »
I don't think this merits a new thread, so I will ask here.

I am in my seventh year of practice and am in a transactional practice at a V10 firm.  I have an in-person interview next week, and hopefully/potentially one or two more to come.  For all three opportunities, I'm in at least the second round of interviews (all telephonic so far).  Without getting too specific, next week's interview is for the American branch of an international not-for-profit asset manager, and I was referred by a friend (whose friend used to be my firm's client).

I feel sort of off my game and want to spend some time this weekend preparing.  Can anyone in-house comment on what they're looking for?  In addition to reading as much as I can about the company and refreshing myself on resume and subject matter expertise, what else should I be doing? 

YTProphet

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #691 on: August 10, 2018, 07:41:10 AM »
I don't think this merits a new thread, so I will ask here.

I am in my seventh year of practice and am in a transactional practice at a V10 firm.  I have an in-person interview next week, and hopefully/potentially one or two more to come.  For all three opportunities, I'm in at least the second round of interviews (all telephonic so far).  Without getting too specific, next week's interview is for the American branch of an international not-for-profit asset manager, and I was referred by a friend (whose friend used to be my firm's client).

I feel sort of off my game and want to spend some time this weekend preparing.  Can anyone in-house comment on what they're looking for?  In addition to reading as much as I can about the company and refreshing myself on resume and subject matter expertise, what else should I be doing?

All business people will tell you this and the advice is repetitive, but it's true - don't be the department of "no". Most people in a company view the in-house legal department as the one that slows down a transaction or stops it entirely. The buzzkill. "You can't do that" is what people expect to hear when they talk to their in-house attorneys, which is not good.

Position yourself as the attorney who will come to other side of the table, sit next to their colleagues, understand the business issue, and work out a solution that's good for the business and good for the deal. You should give examples about how you've partnered with your clients and provided practical solutions. Granted, sometimes you will have to say "no", but most of the time there's another way to protect the business from a legal perspective but also get the deal done and make both sides satisfied.