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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 30, 2017, 08:20:01 AM

Title: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 30, 2017, 08:20:01 AM
I've posted quite here to vent about work. A lot has gone on, and some lawyers here have encouraged me to find a new job.  In summary, I might have just squared up a decent opportunity.

To summarize as briefly as possible, I am going on my fourth year at my current firm. I've posted here about it before, but it's given me a lot of stress and anxiety for various reasons, so I've kept my eyes and ears open for any and all possibilities.  That led to me being recommended to a reputable solo attorney in town, and we had dinner and drinks last night. We got along very well and she indicated that she would be sending me a compensation proposal by Friday.

Now, I'm really torn as to what to do, so I was hoping this forum (including its lawyers) could weigh in with its thoughts.

Current Firm
-Currently going on my 4th year at my current firm, which is located in a relatively small town but has 20-25 lawyers.
-Make approximately $50k with good benefits

Pros
-Very reputable firm
-Good partner track (5-6 years)
-Offers good benefits
-I just got a raise here this summer

Cons
-Corporate politics here bother the shit out of me
-The staff absolutely blows
-I'm 99% sure only 1-2 guys here actually rake in a decent salary, and the rest make somewhere between $80-90k despite working pretty damn hard
-Think I should be making more
-I'm being shoved into two areas of law (ERISA and workers' comp) that would be my entire practice, but I don't really want to do either of these long term
-I think I have a scarlet letter with some partners for various reasons (which I think are dumb), so I'm worried about partnership track

Possible New Job
-Would be hired by a very reputable solo attorney
-She has three offices, is very successful, and is looking to transition her practice

Pros
-If things worked out, I would probably make more money both short and long term
-Higher cieling
-Much more autonomy (completely fine with me working from home, or spending the day in the library to learn about how to try a particular case)
-Would do more civil litigation as opposed to the stuff I'm doing now
-By her indications, salary would be similar to what I currently make, and compensation would include a percentage of receipts

Cons
-Very, very nervous to hitch my career to one attorney, even despite her great reputation
-Would have to do some areas (domestic, bankruptcy) that I really don't want to do
-Reduced benefits (no health or 401k, but does offer SIMPLE IRA and other reimbursements)

I should note that I passed on a similar opportunity this summer, and the person who ended up with the job was a friend of mine. She is doing LIGHTYEARS better than me now. This is almost certainly some sort of bias in my head, but I can't help but think I should take this opportunity before becoming a lifer here.

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BeardedMustache on November 30, 2017, 09:34:18 AM
I've had a job like your current one, just good enough not to leave. These jobs ae a trap, and you may wake up in 10 years wondering what happened. I wasted 5 working years at mine with nothing to show for it.

Yes, you are underpaid but upside potential is even more important, especially in a young career. I say take the new gig if the offer is good, and prove your worth.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 30, 2017, 10:17:06 AM
Update: The practitioner called and gave me an official offer. She offered to match my current salary plus 10% of receipts. This is negotiable, so now I'm probably looking to raise the salary even more.

Should I take this back to my current firm, or should I just negotiate this offer as best I can and run with it?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: jwright on November 30, 2017, 10:19:35 AM
Based on what you have posted, I would do everything I could to make option 2 work. 

Good luck!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BeardedMustache on November 30, 2017, 10:23:00 AM
Is this 10% of everything the company bills or you bill?

How much revenue are we talking about?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 30, 2017, 10:53:24 AM
Is this 10% of everything the company bills or you bill?

How much revenue are we talking about?

I think 10% of what I bill, but this would also include 10% of settlements earned on files I am working on.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BeardedMustache on November 30, 2017, 11:05:48 AM
You'll need to clarify that with her, but that could be huge. Count me definitely in the option 2 camp.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on November 30, 2017, 11:23:28 AM
I'm in a somewhat similar situation in a completely different field, and I'm leaning more towards option #2 as well. Since it does seem like you are early in your career, worst case option 2 doesn't work out, but then you'll have another 1-3 years of experience under your belt, and (more importantly) experience doing more things you like doing, and less things you don't like doing.

I would definitely try to negotiate the salary a little bit higher if you can. Good luck either way!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on November 30, 2017, 12:43:40 PM
Take the new job.

Negotiate for a higher percentage of receipts, not initial salary.

It sounds like you are within a couple of years from a partnership decision at your current firm, which means that they will be taking a very critical look at your performance over the next year or two.  It also sounds like you've had some mixed reviews to date (whether they're accurate/fair or not is irrelevant).  This combination signals to me that your chances at partnership are slim. 

The fundamental problem is that partnership decisions generally aren't determined by who likes you -- they are determined by who doesn't like you.  I have yet to see a partner elected who had even one attorney very strongly opposed to a particular candidate, and several "meh" responses is usually enough to doom someone.  Basically, being elected partner requires pleasing all of the people all of the time, at least for a couple of years.  So unless you are willing to bust your ass, fix every possible problem, and do whatever it takes over the next few years to convince the people who don't like you that you're the best thing since sliced bread, your better choice is to get the hell out of Dodge.  Otherwise, the best that you can hope for is that they will slot you into an undercompensated Of Counsel/Staff Attorney role (if they don't have anyone else to do the specific work you do); the more likely response is that they just let you go at some point (if someone else can step into your shoes, preferably for less money).

I wouldn't necessarily say this if this were your first post, but this is just the latest in a long line of dissatisfactions with your current position.  At some point you need to start listening to yourself and just make the jump.

Also, you generally have to do shit you aren't interested in in any legal job.  Hell, that could be the definition of "lawyer" sometimes -- you need to fix whatever problem someone will pay you to fix, not the one you'd like someone to pay you to fix.  And it doesn't sound like you're supremely enthused about the work you are doing now, right?  Would bankruptcy be worse than ERISA?*

One other consideration:  running a solo/small practice requires a completely different set of skills than working in a firm.  If you go to work for this other lawyer, there is no guarantee that you will succeed or that her firm will stay in business until you are ready to take over.  But worst-case, you will be getting the experience and developing the skills you will need to run your own firm -- something that is not happening at your current job (how many people are going to walk into a lawyer's office off the street and say, "hey, I don't know you from Adam, but I have this really complex ERISA problem I need help with"?).  So even if everything crashes and burns, you can consider your time there a well-paid internship in "solo practice skills."

In short:  good luck!!

*Answer:  Fuck no.  ERISA sucks.  But that's just me.  :-)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on November 30, 2017, 12:50:03 PM
I'm a solo and I love it.  Others have left good comments.  I agree that you must clarify how the 10% is calculated and get that in writing, but I imagine it would be 10% on work you bring in.  That's how many small firms do it.  They're bringing in all the work and paying you a salary so they don't generally pay you an additional percentage on top of that just for doing your job.

Thoughts:
1. Discuss whether the 10% can be increased over time.  Perhaps year 1 = 10%, yr 2 = 15%, yr 3 = 20%, yr 4 = 25% or time to discuss partnership.  That's how it was at a boutique where I used to work.  The idea was to encourage you to focus more on work than on rainmaking in the early years.

2. Discuss all potential "benefits"--meaning everything that she would pay in addition to your salary.  Ask whether she would be amenable to other benefits that are easier for her to handle--ie, whether she'll pay for any particular annual conference that you attend or membership in a local or specialty bar association or networking group.  If you think this is included already, clarify that.  Clarify whether she will pay your bar dues and liability insurance and parking.  Make no assumptions--clarity is key.

3. What is your annual billable hour goal?  Is there one?  Or does she evaluate you on collections?  Or both?  Is there a guaranteed bonus if you exceed the goals by a certain amount or is that discretionary?  Who is responsible for billing--you or her?  You want to find this out now and be on the same page.

4.  Be polite when asking the questions above.  A solo hiring another attorney is taking a big risk, so you don't want to scare her away.

Overall, it sounds like you might be better off with the solo.  You'll definitely learn a lot that you can apply to running your own practice later if that's your goal.  Good luck. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 30, 2017, 02:22:44 PM
Take the new job.

Negotiate for a higher percentage of receipts, not initial salary.

It sounds like you are within a couple of years from a partnership decision at your current firm, which means that they will be taking a very critical look at your performance over the next year or two.  It also sounds like you've had some mixed reviews to date (whether they're accurate/fair or not is irrelevant).  This combination signals to me that your chances at partnership are slim. 

The fundamental problem is that partnership decisions generally aren't determined by who likes you -- they are determined by who doesn't like you.  I have yet to see a partner elected who had even one attorney very strongly opposed to a particular candidate, and several "meh" responses is usually enough to doom someone.  Basically, being elected partner requires pleasing all of the people all of the time, at least for a couple of years.  So unless you are willing to bust your ass, fix every possible problem, and do whatever it takes over the next few years to convince the people who don't like you that you're the best thing since sliced bread, your better choice is to get the hell out of Dodge.  Otherwise, the best that you can hope for is that they will slot you into an undercompensated Of Counsel/Staff Attorney role (if they don't have anyone else to do the specific work you do); the more likely response is that they just let you go at some point (if someone else can step into your shoes, preferably for less money).

I wouldn't necessarily say this if this were your first post, but this is just the latest in a long line of dissatisfactions with your current position.  At some point you need to start listening to yourself and just make the jump.

Also, you generally have to do shit you aren't interested in in any legal job.  Hell, that could be the definition of "lawyer" sometimes -- you need to fix whatever problem someone will pay you to fix, not the one you'd like someone to pay you to fix.  And it doesn't sound like you're supremely enthused about the work you are doing now, right?  Would bankruptcy be worse than ERISA?*

One other consideration:  running a solo/small practice requires a completely different set of skills than working in a firm.  If you go to work for this other lawyer, there is no guarantee that you will succeed or that her firm will stay in business until you are ready to take over.  But worst-case, you will be getting the experience and developing the skills you will need to run your own firm -- something that is not happening at your current job (how many people are going to walk into a lawyer's office off the street and say, "hey, I don't know you from Adam, but I have this really complex ERISA problem I need help with"?).  So even if everything crashes and burns, you can consider your time there a well-paid internship in "solo practice skills."

In short:  good luck!!

*Answer:  Fuck no.  ERISA sucks.  But that's just me.  :-)

This was basically my analysis. I've made a couple dumb mistakes with the wrong guy, I've made a joke with the wrong partner, I've done this and that...I feel like there's several partners here who didn't want to hire me in the first place and have used that to be extra critical of me. I've always felt like there's a scarlet letter here no matter how hard I'm working.

The idea of a clean slate and just having one boss is really appealing to me. Whether this is the right opportunity for that, I don't think I could ever be 100% sure, but it does sound pretty enticing.

Thanks for your post.

I'm a solo and I love it.  Others have left good comments.  I agree that you must clarify how the 10% is calculated and get that in writing, but I imagine it would be 10% on work you bring in.  That's how many small firms do it.  They're bringing in all the work and paying you a salary so they don't generally pay you an additional percentage on top of that just for doing your job.

Thoughts:
1. Discuss whether the 10% can be increased over time.  Perhaps year 1 = 10%, yr 2 = 15%, yr 3 = 20%, yr 4 = 25% or time to discuss partnership.  That's how it was at a boutique where I used to work.  The idea was to encourage you to focus more on work than on rainmaking in the early years.

2. Discuss all potential "benefits"--meaning everything that she would pay in addition to your salary.  Ask whether she would be amenable to other benefits that are easier for her to handle--ie, whether she'll pay for any particular annual conference that you attend or membership in a local or specialty bar association or networking group.  If you think this is included already, clarify that.  Clarify whether she will pay your bar dues and liability insurance and parking.  Make no assumptions--clarity is key.

3. What is your annual billable hour goal?  Is there one?  Or does she evaluate you on collections?  Or both?  Is there a guaranteed bonus if you exceed the goals by a certain amount or is that discretionary?  Who is responsible for billing--you or her?  You want to find this out now and be on the same page.

4.  Be polite when asking the questions above.  A solo hiring another attorney is taking a big risk, so you don't want to scare her away.

Overall, it sounds like you might be better off with the solo.  You'll definitely learn a lot that you can apply to running your own practice later if that's your goal.  Good luck. 

This is great advice. I agree with you (and others) that clearing up the 10% issue is critical, and further that following up on the details is very important.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 02, 2017, 01:46:45 PM
Thanks all for your advice thus far.  I have ultimately made the decision to change jobs.  This became very clear to me when my wife asked, "How much would it take from your current firm to keep you there," and my response was basically that they couldn't pay me enough to keep me there.

So, right now I have her current offer communicated by phone. She is putting it in writing by tomorrow, and I am supposed to get back to her by Monday.

Below is my counteroffer, and I'm curious whether it is perhaps too demanding. I've received some advice to focus on the variable costs rather than the fixed costs, so that's kind of what my counter is geared towards.

Her Current Offer
Salary: $50,000
CLE/Bar Expenses: paid by firm
Malpractice Insurance: paid by firm
SIMPLE IRA: to include employer contributions as provided by IRS guidelines (believe this should be in her offer)
Percent of Billing Receipts (to include all work in which I am billing hours): 10%

My Counteroffer
Salary: $55,000
CLE/Bar Expenses: paid by firm
Malpractice Insurance: paid by firm
SIMPLE IRA: to include employer contributions as provided by IRS guidelines (believe this should be in her offer)
Percent of Billing Receipts (to include all work in which I am billing hours): 15%
Percent of Originating Receipts (to include all clients originated by me): 25%

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on December 02, 2017, 03:14:49 PM
I am not a lawyer, and I am female (noted because we tend to be conservative in negotiations about salary and benefits) but I think asking for a 10% salary increase over her initial offer AND an increase in percentage of billed hours AND an additional higher rate for billable work you generate is pushing too hard.   Given that you now know that you want to leave your current firm, I would ask for one or MAYBE two of these, and that the terms be looked at again for possible adjustment in 1 or 2 years. 

Best strategy might be just to ask for a higher percentage of billable hours you generate -- then work your ass off to build a book of business that benefits both you and the firm.  But there, too, I would be conservative -- maybe ask for 15 or 20% of that portion, with a revisit after 6 months to a year.

I think you are driving a hard bargain, but not an impossible one. I also totally agree with lhamo that you should be clear upfront that you may want to revisit some of these items (particularly the %age of billing and originating receipts) in the future.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 02, 2017, 03:42:20 PM
Agree I知 trying to drive a hard bargain, but there痴 really two reasons for that.

One, her offer is based on my current income rather than what she can pay. The associate pay at firms like mine is well known in the area, and her offer basically matches my current salary. So I think her offer is based on what I make rather than what she is willing to pay.

Second, and maybe I知 dumb, but I feel like she is evaluating me throughout this process. If I知 just a push over *for my own salary negotiation,* how hard can she expect me to advocate for clients?

Those are just my general thoughts, and again, all opinions welcome and appreciated.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on December 03, 2017, 08:10:57 AM
^ with that information I say go with the counter-offer you suggested here. It'll show you are willing to fight and will also test the waters of what she's willing to pay. Just remember to be polite and professional throughout the entire process, even if you don't get everything you asked for. Good luck!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 03, 2017, 10:22:48 AM
FWIW, I received the offer in writing today:

Quote
This would be a salary position at the starting rate of $1923.08 bi-weekly, with an additional incentive of ten percent (10%) of the collected fee, of all hourly billing generated by you.  Likewise, additional benefit of legal malpractice insurance, continuing education, office and support staff would be made available to you.


This confirms to my understanding, although we did discuss a SIMPLE IRA when we met, so I知 not sure why that痴 not included.

I知 getting drinks with a mentor tomorrow and will likely counter by tomorrow night.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on December 03, 2017, 12:54:45 PM
FWIW, I received the offer in writing today:

Quote
This would be a salary position at the starting rate of $1923.08 bi-weekly, with an additional incentive of ten percent (10%) of the collected fee, of all hourly billing generated by you.  Likewise, additional benefit of legal malpractice insurance, continuing education, office and support staff would be made available to you.


This confirms to my understanding, although we did discuss a SIMPLE IRA when we met, so I知 not sure why that痴 not included.

I知 getting drinks with a mentor tomorrow and will likely counter by tomorrow night.

Um, I think that's not what you thought.  You thought that it was 10% on all your billables.  It's not.  It's 10% on the amount collected of the hourly work that your generate.  This is what I had thought originally--you get 10% on all your own originations that get collected.
  That makes more sense than giving you 10% on your own billables if it's work that she generates. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 03, 2017, 02:12:32 PM
FWIW, I received the offer in writing today:

Quote
This would be a salary position at the starting rate of $1923.08 bi-weekly, with an additional incentive of ten percent (10%) of the collected fee, of all hourly billing generated by you.  Likewise, additional benefit of legal malpractice insurance, continuing education, office and support staff would be made available to you.


This confirms to my understanding, although we did discuss a SIMPLE IRA when we met, so I知 not sure why that痴 not included.

I知 getting drinks with a mentor tomorrow and will likely counter by tomorrow night.

Um, I think that's not what you thought.  You thought that it was 10% on all your billables.  It's not.  It's 10% on the amount collected of the hourly work that your generate.  This is what I had thought originally--you get 10% on all your own originations that get collected.
  That makes more sense than giving you 10% on your own billables if it's work that she generates.

I interpreted it differently. I think if she meant originate, she would have used that verb, or used some other modifying adjective. I think her language is so that I don稚 get a flat 10% of all billing receipts from the firm, but instead only the matters I知 working on.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on December 04, 2017, 12:29:40 AM
I agree with everything that Laura33 and TVRod said upthread in Reply #s 8 and 9.

Regarding the written offer, I could actually interpret her language either way -- that you get 10% of all work you bill and is collected, regardless of who originates it, or that you get 10% of all work that you originate and gets billed and collected.  Strange, as I started my reply here to agree with TVRod's interpretation, but then while typing, I could see your interpretation, too.  However, if you originate work, I think you should be getting much more than 10% of that collected fee.  Has she given you a certain billable hour requirement?  Either way, you need to make sure that this is clarified in writing.  I have attorney friends with small practices who have told me about their own compensation disputes with other partners, etc., and you do not want to end up with that situation yourself!

Congratulations on finding a good way out of your current firm!  It sucks, but I think the reality of your situation there indicates that at least one of the partners would block you from making partner with them.  In my opinion/experience, it's better to cut your losses sooner rather than later.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: jwright on December 04, 2017, 08:53:11 AM
FWIW, I received the offer in writing today:

Quote
This would be a salary position at the starting rate of $1923.08 bi-weekly, with an additional incentive of ten percent (10%) of the collected fee, of all hourly billing generated by you.  Likewise, additional benefit of legal malpractice insurance, continuing education, office and support staff would be made available to you.


This confirms to my understanding, although we did discuss a SIMPLE IRA when we met, so I知 not sure why that痴 not included.

I知 getting drinks with a mentor tomorrow and will likely counter by tomorrow night.

Um, I think that's not what you thought.  You thought that it was 10% on all your billables.  It's not.  It's 10% on the amount collected of the hourly work that your generate.  This is what I had thought originally--you get 10% on all your own originations that get collected.
  That makes more sense than giving you 10% on your own billables if it's work that she generates.

This is how I read it as well.  She is using "generate" as an equivalent to "originate".  That's much more standard.  I don't know any firms that would pay you 10% of collections on all work originated by someone else that was simply assigned to you if you are a staff associate.  It seems like the word generate would be unnecessary if she meant all of your hourly work.

ETA:  I have heard of receiving bonuses based on all collections after certain benchmarks are reached (collection of 3x salary).
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Blonde Lawyer on December 04, 2017, 08:59:26 AM
I haven't had time to read everything but here is what I get paid.

Salary of X, I keep 35% of my receivables, regardingless of origination, that exceeds 3 x my salary.  This is a pretty standard arrangement.  I would make sure that 10% is all receivables not just origination and try to make it 30%. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 04, 2017, 12:52:05 PM
This is how I read it as well.  She is using "generate" as an equivalent to "originate".  That's much more standard.  I don't know any firms that would pay you 10% of collections on all work originated by someone else that was simply assigned to you if you are a staff associate.  It seems like the word generate would be unnecessary if she meant all of your hourly work.

I polled two lawyers I trust (one being my dad), and they were split on how to interpret her offer.  That was enough for me to send a clarifying email to her.

I haven't had time to read everything but here is what I get paid.

Salary of X, I keep 35% of my receivables, regardingless of origination, that exceeds 3 x my salary.  This is a pretty standard arrangement.  I would make sure that 10% is all receivables not just origination and try to make it 30%.

I really like the idea of increasing the incentive bonus (for lack of a better term) for receipts that go over and above my salary. I'm getting drinks with a mentor in town tonight who is going to help me craft my offer, and I will mention this to him and see what he thinks.

Thanks for everything thus far everyone.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 05, 2017, 06:31:35 AM
You folks were right10% of originated receipts. I致e got some negotiating to do.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: nedwin on December 05, 2017, 02:48:25 PM
I'm responding to add my experience with a pay structure similar to what you have been offered.  At my former firm I was paid 40% of collected billing with no base salary.  The firm took the risk of collection for sixty days of non-payment, then it was on me to either continue work with the risk of no pay or drop the client.  Bonus was paid for collected hours over 1080 in a year, but I don't remember what the percentage was.  Originations did not count into compensation, except to the extent that they were considered for promotion to senior associate or partner.  The partners did not provide much work (at least those I worked with most), so there was an expectation to generate business on my own.  All that sounds terrible, but I made a decent income within that structure.

A few rhetorical questions to consider - is the offered salary lower or higher than the norm in your area?  What is your hourly rate?  Can your rate go up in the new firm?  Does the solo provide support staff and services?  Do you have (good, paying) clients you can take with you to the new firm?  Based on the answers, I would aim for something similar to Blonde Lawyer's compensation, which seems reasonable for a small firm to pay.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on December 05, 2017, 02:53:22 PM
You folks were right10% of originated receipts. I致e got some negotiating to do.

Good to get clarification.  What is the billable requirement?

Also, two more of my cents as both a solo and as someone who was hired by a solo where we did not have sufficient clarity:

1.  Clarifying the metric by which you will be judged is crucial.
2.  Negotiating is fine until it turns someone sour on you.  If she wants you on her team, don't make her into the opponent before you even start.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on December 05, 2017, 03:46:42 PM
Thanks all for the advice. To anybody still following this, we reached a deal this afternoon.

I actually had drinks with an attorney in town last night who has been practicing for 50 years but is now of counsel at my current firm in order to transition his clients as he retires. He said I'd be insane not to take this opportunity given the never-ending politics at my current firm and the room to grow with this attorney. He also vouched for her reputation as a person and a lawyer.

Her Offer
-Salary: $50,000;
-CLE/Bar Expenses: paid by firm;
-Malpractice Insurance: paid by firm;
-Incentive for originated receipts: 10% of collected fees;
-Access to and management over support staff.

Final Agreement
-Salary: $55,000;
-CLE/Bar Expenses: paid by firm;
-Malpractice Insurance: paid by firm;
-SIMPLE IRA: eligible to enroll in 2018;
-Incentive for originated receipts: 25% of collected fees;
-Incentive for non-originated receipts exceeding 1.5x my salary: 20% of collected fees;
-Incentive for contingency fee receipts in which I am the primary attorney: 25% of the collected fee;
-Freedom to engage in business opportunities that do not conflict with the law firm; and
-Access to and management over support staff.

Thanks to everyone on here who pretty much unanimously encouraged me to make this jump. I'm crazy excited.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on December 05, 2017, 04:08:53 PM
^Sounds like a great movement from the original offer- Congrats and good luck!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Suit on December 05, 2017, 06:29:34 PM
Congrats on the new job and the impressive negotiation! It's great that you're excited about the transition!

I'm also a lawyer who also recently switched jobs.  I'm much happier now and I wish you the same!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on December 05, 2017, 06:40:09 PM
That's fantastic, RSM!  Congratulations!!!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: change_seeker on December 05, 2017, 06:47:25 PM
Congratulations on the new position and thanks for sharing the process with us.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Blonde Lawyer on December 05, 2017, 07:48:47 PM
That's awesome! Great job!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on December 05, 2017, 08:16:52 PM
Super!  Congrats!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on December 05, 2017, 08:21:40 PM
Congratulations on reaching an agreement! May the road rise to meet you.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: jwright on December 08, 2017, 09:52:51 AM
Congratulations!  That's sounds like a great package and an awesome opportunity!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 28, 2018, 07:26:14 AM
Super late, but good deal. I hope it's working for you.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 31, 2018, 09:51:42 AM
Super late, but good deal. I hope it's working for you.

It's largely going well.  She has a pretty smooth running operation and I determined pretty quickly that she has an incredibly good client base and revenue stream.  She's only in the office for about 15 hours a week and delegates nearly everything to me.  I'm getting the distinct impression she wants to focus on other business ventures and slowly transition everything to me, and maybe in 3-5 years, sell me her practice. 

She also gives me a ton of autonomy.  She let me get the firm going on G Suite (Google's Business Suite), let me update how things are billed, and largely lets me work from home.  My long term goal is to be on my own, and this seems like an excellent bridge to get there.

My first billings go out this month, so I'll probably pay a very close eye to those receivables and hope to get an incentive pay in February.  She has already told me she'll likely give me some of these payments via "reimbursements" since I drive between offices so much, and that would be awesome.

The only downside is that she has a monster corporate case heading to trial in about two weeks and getting up to speed on it is consuming nearly every day.  We're talking 6-7 banker's boxes of bank statements, invoices, spreadsheets, etc.  It is all paying work, but I have a lot more fun working on a noncompete case one day and then a DUI defense the next.  Hoping this gets settled and I can go back to being a "street lawyer."

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on January 31, 2018, 02:52:00 PM
That sounds like a fairly good problem to have. Glad it's working out.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Malum Prohibitum on January 31, 2018, 04:30:57 PM
She's only in the office for about 15 hours a week and delegates nearly everything to me.  I'm getting the distinct impression she wants to focus on other business ventures and slowly transition everything to me, and maybe in 3-5 years, sell me her practice. 

She also gives me a ton of autonomy.  She let me get the firm going on G Suite (Google's Business Suite), let me update how things are billed, and largely lets me work from home.  My long term goal is to be on my own, and this seems like an excellent bridge to get there.
  Sounds like an excellent opportunity.  Learn what you can about the "business" aspects of running a firm - marketing, how to get clients in the door, that sort of thing.


Quote
The only downside is that she has a monster corporate case heading to trial in about two weeks and getting up to speed on it is consuming nearly every day.  We're talking 6-7 banker's boxes of bank statements, invoices, spreadsheets, etc.  It is all paying work, but I have a lot more fun working on a noncompete case one day and then a DUI defense the next.  Hoping this gets settled and I can go back to being a "street lawyer."
  The experience from trying a case like that is invaluable.  Cherish this learning opportunity.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on February 01, 2018, 01:26:29 PM
I have to agree with Malum Prohibitum on the trial thing. Trials are a huge pain in the a$$ but they are great learning experiences. Also, simply being ready, willing and able to try a case is worth money when you negotiate settlements on other cases.  Do you need to ask me how I know? Ok, you didn't ask, but I know because it happens to other, better attorneys! jk :)

Also, a successful solo in that position is very likely looking to continue to earn money from a business they created while pursuing other interests. Law firms are difficult to make totally passive but 15 hours a week is pretty good (for her)!. I bet your boss is attempting to snag a competent young attorney (i.e. you) with the desire and capacity to take over an existing business (you?) while, at the same time, wanting to catch some economic benefit (i.e. money) for passing along a functioning firm (will you let her continue to get money and for how long?). My advice would be to let this process play out over a period of years and don't be in a hurry.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FatFI2025 on February 03, 2018, 07:58:37 AM
Oh man, no. This is not an aggressive counter. I hope she wants to hire an aggressive associate and she should interpret it as a sign of strength that will benefit her practice. Feel free to explain this reasoning, from your perspective, in a polite manner. People who are hesitant jumping over and not firmly negotiating make way less over the long term - don't be one of those people.

I am not a lawyer, and I am female (noted because we tend to be conservative in negotiations about salary and benefits) but I think asking for a 10% salary increase over her initial offer AND an increase in percentage of billed hours AND an additional higher rate for billable work you generate is pushing too hard.   Given that you now know that you want to leave your current firm, I would ask for one or MAYBE two of these, and that the terms be looked at again for possible adjustment in 1 or 2 years. 

Best strategy might be just to ask for a higher percentage of billable hours you generate -- then work your ass off to build a book of business that benefits both you and the firm.  But there, too, I would be conservative -- maybe ask for 15 or 20% of that portion, with a revisit after 6 months to a year.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 03, 2018, 11:17:21 AM
I have no doubt that the trial is going to be great experience, but getting a grasp on that big of a file in just three weeks--having no prior knowledge of the file, the players involved, the underlying story of the business, etc.--has been all consuming.  I should add that our client, one of the 50/50 partners, died during the litigation, so we lost our best witness and can only speak through the documents.  It's just a mess.

That said, today is my first full day off in a couple weeks and I'm enjoying it.  Going to get back to the grind and organize a big aspect of this trial tomorrow morning.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 27, 2018, 07:08:05 AM
I have no doubt that the trial is going to be great experience, but getting a grasp on that big of a file in just three weeks--having no prior knowledge of the file, the players involved, the underlying story of the business, etc.--has been all consuming.  I should add that our client, one of the 50/50 partners, died during the litigation, so we lost our best witness and can only speak through the documents.  It's just a mess.

That said, today is my first full day off in a couple weeks and I'm enjoying it.  Going to get back to the grind and organize a big aspect of this trial tomorrow morning.

Well, this case settled.  I was pretty darn prepared and opposing counsel was not, and we ended up getting some great settlement terms for my clients.

Since other attorneys are posting about making moves, some more updates from me:

Things are going pretty decent so far.  There are a ton of clients and I'm getting a lot of experience in stuff that can provide a good base income (simple wills, guardianships, traffic tickets, etc.).  Doing this work is a bit ironic because, at my old job, I hated being a jack of all trades, master of none; but now I find myself enjoying picking up these skills knowing one day they will be beneficial if I have my own firm.  Also, I actually have one of the secretaries doing all of these in my Google Docs so I will permanently have these forms. 

I love the flexibility and the hours.  I worked from home last Thursday and Friday.  I show up every once in a while in jeans and a quarterzip.  I came in today at 7:00 and will probably leave at 3:00.  My boss is never here so the entire facetime requirement is gone.  Also, I have a lot of authority over the staff, and that in turn has made my life a lot easier.

The only downside thus far is that every single file that is even a remotely complex piece of civil litigation is a total clusterfuck.  My observation is that my boss delegated everything to an attorney with zero experience (fresh out of law school), and then she'd swoop into the file in full blown panic mode.  So not only are things indescribably messy and unorganized, there are also a ton of goofy and panicky motions, complete failure to correspond with opposing counsel, discovery hasn't been sent or responded to, etc.  She keeps telling me these cases are going to trial, but they are just total clusterfucks. 

I bitched about my old firm a lot, but they taught me to practice at the highest possible standard.  Memos to the file, well organized, filing everything timely, always following up correspondence within 24 hours, proofread everything a billion times, etc.  This has been ingrained in me, and it's how I practice.

So things are overall going well, but my goal is to get all these POS cases off my docket within the year so that all other files will at least have been managed by me.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 27, 2018, 10:48:30 AM
It may be frustrating now to deal with the mess, but there will be a huge amount of satisfaction knowing you turned a poorly run shop into a well-oiled machine.  And if she was doing such great business before with such poor underlying functions and the wasted time it must have led to, you guys are going to CLEAN UP once you get things hammered into shape.

I've thought about this a lot.  My boss is absolutely incredible at marketing and client generation, but she will be the first to admit that she's not great with communication and organization. I really fill in her weaknesses and she fills in mine (lack of clients at this stage in my career).

She's in the conference room now preparing for a jury trial next week in which she is a party (meaning we can't represent).  It honestly looks like a hurricane blew through there.  It's a total cluster.  It's almost comical if she didn't have me running around doing a bunch of stuff to cover her ass on an emergency basis.

Even better, she has me drafting a two page "Trial Statement."  I brought to her attention that the local rules require a pretrial statement with witness disclosures, summaries, legal citations, etc., and she flat out said she didn't care about the local rule because we didn't have time to do all that.  Oh well.  My signature is not going on anything, but what a classic microcosm this is of her practice--lack of diligence and organization leading to a potential explosion next week.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 27, 2018, 11:38:28 AM
Sounds a bit like opposing counsel in the lawsuit i was in court for the last two weeks.  He seemed to have real trouble keeping track of evidence, etc.

Favorite trial moment:

Opposing counsel grills defense occupational rehab expert on her opinion that plaintiff's long term earning capacity was not really affected by alleged injuries.   Makes a big issue of how the expert never met his client in person.  (One of his major arguments was that since our expert witnesses were paid they were obviously biased -- nevermind that it was obvious that HIS expert witnesses were also paid).   She says something to the effect of "you wouldn't let me meet with her."  And he protested loudly that he never restricted access.

During redirect, our lawyer holds up a piece of paper:  Can you read this for me?

It was the letter plaintiff's counsel had sent to our defense attorney citing the local statute that requires that the defense MUST be allowed access to the plaintiff for a defense medical exam, but pointing out that there was no such requirement for an occupational rehab assessment.  And denying, in writing, the request for access for same.

BAM!  In one fell swoop, he was made to look like an idiot.....

It's a dream to have that as opposing counsel, but it's not so great when that's your boss and you're kinda responsible for filling in the gaps.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 07, 2018, 07:36:43 AM
RSM -

Look at litigation systematically and then systematically organize your ability to take action. For example, I've got a form car accident discovery request from other Plaintiff attorneys in my local Plaintiff Association for every insurance company. So, as soon as I file a case, I get that company's discovery and I have my team start getting the answers. Then when I get served discovery from the defense counsel, I answer within 48 hours because I already knew what they were going to ask and had the answers. That get's us closer to trial, shaves at least a month of the eventual resolution of the case and usually sends a strong message to defense counsel that I'm not messing around without having to be aggressive to the opposing attorney in a mean way. We do little things like that all the time systematically as a matter of course.

Anyway, that is an example of what I mean by seeing it systematically. None of this stuff is new. You can anticipate what defense counsel will do and what you are going to do in response. I have found that being "offensive" with my ability to respond to these types of things rather than unorganized, missing deadlines, never filing MSJ's or strategic discovery of my own (due to lack of time caused by poor organization) causes me to work exponentially less to accomplish much more and gives me massive leverage in any settlement negotiations. So, save your Complaints, Answers, Discovery Requests, Discovery Answers, make witness list filing/exhibit document that can be reused, get a private investigator you like to find/locate lost witnesses. Once you've created them, refine them and fine tune them and then use them repeatedly.

Practicing law by attending to each "emergency" problem caused by lack of organization is exhausting and a disservice to clients.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 07, 2018, 09:18:13 AM
RSM -

Look at litigation systematically and then systematically organize your ability to take action. For example, I've got a form car accident discovery request from other Plaintiff attorneys in my local Plaintiff Association for every insurance company. So, as soon as I file a case, I get that company's discovery and I have my team start getting the answers. Then when I get served discovery from the defense counsel, I answer within 48 hours because I already knew what they were going to ask and had the answers. That get's us closer to trial, shaves at least a month of the eventual resolution of the case and usually sends a strong message to defense counsel that I'm not messing around without having to be aggressive to the opposing attorney in a mean way. We do little things like that all the time systematically as a matter of course.

Anyway, that is an example of what I mean by seeing it systematically. None of this stuff is new. You can anticipate what defense counsel will do and what you are going to do in response. I have found that being "offensive" with my ability to respond to these types of things rather than unorganized, missing deadlines, never filing MSJ's or strategic discovery of my own (due to lack of time caused by poor organization) causes me to work exponentially less to accomplish much more and gives me massive leverage in any settlement negotiations. So, save your Complaints, Answers, Discovery Requests, Discovery Answers, make witness list filing/exhibit document that can be reused, get a private investigator you like to find/locate lost witnesses. Once you've created them, refine them and fine tune them and then use them repeatedly.

Practicing law by attending to each "emergency" problem caused by lack of organization is exhausting and a disservice to clients.

Thanks for this bit of encouragement.  I've been a little down lately because, again, my boss is just always operating on a 911 basis.  Every single thing is last minute chaos due to an extreme lack of organization and/or my boss's complete absence from the firm itself (she's probably been here 7 or 8 days in the 2.5 months I've been here). 

This gets compounded beyond my control because she demands on seeing everything before it goes out, and then nothing goes out because she's here probably 4-6 hours per week. For example, I drafted discovery in a domestic case a week ago, emailed it to her and put it in her bin here at the office, and it's just been sitting in the abyss.  We're not up against any 911 deadline so it's not going to go out anytime soon.  Then it will be a 911 basis when we're right up against the deadline and things will go out with fire and fury and crazy.  I absolutely loathe the modern use of the word literally, but this is how it is for literally everything--draft it, wait weeks for her to review, and then nothing goes out.

That's my venting for now.  This is still a great learning experience because I am starting to use this experience almost as an incubator for my own eventual practice.  I have been putting anything and everything in my Google Docs and saving them as forms.  I've rented a practice manual from the local library and copied forms and checklists into my Google Docs on a variety of matters (estate planning, domestic, personal injury so far).  I'm eventually going to get to all the other areas I think I would eventually want/need for my own practice (civil litigation, criminal work, traffic tickets, workers' compensation).

Also, because part of my pay is based on my own receipts, I am keeping a very close track of my own referral generations, billing, and receipts.  I haven't quite come up with the number yet, but I think when I'm generating around $75,000/year in receipts and have "x" amount of money saved in my bank account (for cushion), I will be comfortable going out on my own.

So this is all a process, and I appreciate all the advice and wisdom from all you more experienced and wiser attorneys. Cheers.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 08, 2018, 11:36:22 AM
Sounds like you are making great use of your time.

About the laggard boss, I might start sending reminder emails weekly with lists (numbered lists, of course--we are lawyers) of items that she needs to review.  Nag her that way, and you've got a written account of all the times you tried to get her to act in her (and her clients') best interests.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 08, 2018, 11:41:51 AM
Sounds like you are making great use of your time.

About the laggard boss, I might start sending reminder emails weekly with lists (numbered lists, of course--we are lawyers) of items that she needs to review.  Nag her that way, and you've got a written account of all the times you tried to get her to act in her (and her clients') best interests.

Totally sensed this about a month ago and put this into practice two Fridays ago.  My assistant and I meet in the conference every Friday at noon, I buy her lunch, and we go through every active matter.  I send my boss an email of the status of every active matter and highlight the text of things that need her attention.

You've been great with your advice throughout, so if there's anything else I should be doing, let me know.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 08, 2018, 12:46:50 PM
Sounds like you are making great use of your time.

About the laggard boss, I might start sending reminder emails weekly with lists (numbered lists, of course--we are lawyers) of items that she needs to review.  Nag her that way, and you've got a written account of all the times you tried to get her to act in her (and her clients') best interests.

Totally sensed this about a month ago and put this into practice two Fridays ago.  My assistant and I meet in the conference every Friday at noon, I buy her lunch, and we go through every active matter.  I send my boss an email of the status of every active matter and highlight the text of things that need her attention.

You've been great with your advice throughout, so if there's anything else I should be doing, let me know.

Oh you.  Flattery will get you everywhere.

I wonder if a single email with lots of text is something she is actually reading (although I love that you highlight the text that needs her attention).  I might suggest asking her to meet with you for status reviews weekly.  Maybe you can get her used to it.  Who knows?  She might even appreciate it.  Or don't even ask.  You could make it a friendly ambush on her next day in the office--plop down in a chair in her office and bring your pad and just start in with your top items and keep going til you've either exhausted her or finished the list.  Then do it again the following week.  Make it a routine.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 09, 2018, 03:37:00 PM
I bet she would appreciate it.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't implement regular meetings with all my team until a year ago. It helps tremendously in getting everyone going in the same direction.

I would suggest that if you can get this other attorney to see that she needs someone with organizational talent to support her entrepreneurial talents and then supply your organizational ability - she might be (should be!) extremely grateful.

If she were not grateful, it wouldn't matter. You would have done all the organizational work and would have the capacity to do it again for someone else or for yourself. Small law firm management has a lot of value.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 10, 2018, 06:20:25 AM
Since this has turned into a journal of sorts, I'll keep ranting here (since I don't like for my wife/parents to get too worried about me)...hopefully some other attorneys find some value in my experience.

Can you suggest to your boss a regular meeting every Tuesday where you go through your Friday bullet points and agree on next steps?  Tuesday gives her time to go through them, but also gives you time to follow up before your next Friday update.  Pin her down for at least 2-3 hours/week like clockwork.  Would probably help reduce the 911 incidents.

When she's at the office, she's there to do what she has in mind, period. I'll bring something up (e.g., we have to file this by 03/16/2018, what do you want me to do), and she'll dismiss it and get back to why she is there. 

Also, her schedule is also incredibly inconsistent.  The odds of her coming in even one day a week--let alone the same day every week to meet to discuss matters--are pretty darn minimal.

I bet she would appreciate it.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't implement regular meetings with all my team until a year ago. It helps tremendously in getting everyone going in the same direction.

I would suggest that if you can get this other attorney to see that she needs someone with organizational talent to support her entrepreneurial talents and then supply your organizational ability - she might be (should be!) extremely grateful.

If she were not grateful, it wouldn't matter. You would have done all the organizational work and would have the capacity to do it again for someone else or for yourself. Small law firm management has a lot of value.

I actually came to learn yesterday that my boss *hates* my weekly update memo, telling her secretary that "it's a waste of a half hour" and she's never going to read it anyway.  I timed myself reading my update email and it took about four minutes.  I find it hard to believe she doesn't have time for that.

What I actually think is going on is that she is worried that I'm basically leaving a paper trail for her neglect towards some files.  I've come to learn of a very valuable workers' comp client that fired her for lack of communication, and I've also learned of two grievances filed within the last three years.

Just yesterday, a client walked into the office super pissed about a bill.  My secretary dealt with it and I could only overhear, but basically, my boss was supposed to file an abandonment of land contract about THREE YEARS AGO, never did, and then years later when the client figured out it never got recorded, my boss stated that she never did because the client never paid.  I reviewed the file and no bill was ever sent out.  No fee agreement was signed.  But regardless, my boss had the secretary create a bill at 2.75 hours at $250 per hour--when I know she only started charging that this year--and sent it to the client, which led them to coming in.  And I'm sitting there thinking...do you WANT a grievance filed?

Another similar incident this week: former client called me, said her husband died, said my boss did a deed with joint rights of survivorship back in 2012, and wanted a copy of the recorded deed to make sure house didn't go through probate.  I pull the file and...the deed was never recorded. No fee agreement signed.  No bill sent out. 


So coming full circle here...I think my boss hates my update email because it leaves a paper trail for all this shit she finds herself in.  But I'm not going to stop, because my first priority is protecting my own license.

/endrant
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on March 10, 2018, 07:43:17 AM
Since this has turned into a journal of sorts, I'll keep ranting here (since I don't like for my wife/parents to get too worried about me)...hopefully some other attorneys find some value in my experience.

Speaking for myself, yes, I do!

Quote
Can you suggest to your boss a regular meeting every Tuesday where you go through your Friday bullet points and agree on next steps?  Tuesday gives her time to go through them, but also gives you time to follow up before your next Friday update.  Pin her down for at least 2-3 hours/week like clockwork.  Would probably help reduce the 911 incidents.

When she's at the office, she's there to do what she has in mind, period. I'll bring something up (e.g., we have to file this by 03/16/2018, what do you want me to do), and she'll dismiss it and get back to why she is there. 

Also, her schedule is also incredibly inconsistent.  The odds of her coming in even one day a week--let alone the same day every week to meet to discuss matters--are pretty darn minimal.

I think you need to corner her and ASK her how she wants to handle the status updates and questions.  In other words, ask what way she would prefer you handle these communications.  Does she want a weekly in-person meeting, or perhaps a weekly phone call would be better?  You've got to get your answers from her, so put in in her hands to explain how and to commit to getting it done.  I'd keep going with your weekly emails regardless.

Quote
I bet she would appreciate it.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't implement regular meetings with all my team until a year ago. It helps tremendously in getting everyone going in the same direction.

I would suggest that if you can get this other attorney to see that she needs someone with organizational talent to support her entrepreneurial talents and then supply your organizational ability - she might be (should be!) extremely grateful.

If she were not grateful, it wouldn't matter. You would have done all the organizational work and would have the capacity to do it again for someone else or for yourself. Small law firm management has a lot of value.

I actually came to learn yesterday that my boss *hates* my weekly update memo, telling her secretary that "it's a waste of a half hour" and she's never going to read it anyway.  I timed myself reading my update email and it took about four minutes.  I find it hard to believe she doesn't have time for that.

What I actually think is going on is that she is worried that I'm basically leaving a paper trail for her neglect towards some files.  I've come to learn of a very valuable workers' comp client that fired her for lack of communication, and I've also learned of two grievances filed within the last three years.

Just yesterday, a client walked into the office super pissed about a bill.  My secretary dealt with it and I could only overhear, but basically, my boss was supposed to file an abandonment of land contract about THREE YEARS AGO, never did, and then years later when the client figured out it never got recorded, my boss stated that she never did because the client never paid.  I reviewed the file and no bill was ever sent out.  No fee agreement was signed.  But regardless, my boss had the secretary create a bill at 2.75 hours at $250 per hour--when I know she only started charging that this year--and sent it to the client, which led them to coming in.  And I'm sitting there thinking...do you WANT a grievance filed?

Another similar incident this week: former client called me, said her husband died, said my boss did a deed with joint rights of survivorship back in 2012, and wanted a copy of the recorded deed to make sure house didn't go through probate.  I pull the file and...the deed was never recorded. No fee agreement signed.  No bill sent out. 


So coming full circle here...I think my boss hates my update email because it leaves a paper trail for all this shit she finds herself in.  But I'm not going to stop, because my first priority is protecting my own license.

/endrant

Oh, SHIT!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 12, 2018, 12:12:05 PM
Wow.

This is not a great situation.  I think you are handling it well.  Continue with the emails unless she tells you (personally) to stop.  Her comments to the secretary are hearsay and you can't be sure of the tone that she used or even what she said.  But if you trust the secretary, you want to stay vigilant.  Don't get your name and bar number attached to any of her cases.  Also think about how soon you can be ready to start your own solo practice.  Not saying you will need to immediately, but it may happen sooner than you had planned.

I really don't mean to sound paranoid, but vigilance is never a bad idea.  Who knows?  You may settle on a status update with her and she may come around to appreciating it.

I a reminded of a friend who worked as an associate for a senior partner at a large firm who often messed stuff up.  The associate refused to sign any letters or put her name on cases b/c she didn't want the partner's bad actions coming back at her.  The partner had a magical way with clients, though, so he somehow got away with murder (essentially committing malpractice, then getting the client not only to accept what he did but to pay him to fix it!).  And my friend wound up working for him even when he left that big firm--she was with him for over a decade before she went out on her own.  In your case, it doesn't sound like your boss has that magical way with clients.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: NoStacheOhio on March 12, 2018, 12:27:40 PM
Since she doesn't like the emails, can you at least have a sit-down and let her know this way of dealing with stuff isn't working, for her or for you?  No shame no blame about whatever happened in the past, but now that you are here you want to help her clean things up and get things running more smoothly.  If tracking case flow and making sure things get wrapped up is not her strong suit, you can take that on.   But you need to have a measure of authority that is equal to your level of responsibility.  You can't be having to run things by her all the time -- at least not when her presence in the office is so limited. 

+1 to this. For some reason, my gut feeling is that this should happen outside of the office. Go out to lunch, breakfast, coffee, the park, whatever. Somewhere quiet where you aren't going to be bothered or overheard and just try to talk through it and convey to her that you sincerely want to help your clients and the practice.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 12, 2018, 12:55:19 PM
Seriously, thanks for all the feedback.  My mind has been relentlessly running away from me the past couple weeks as I worry about things that might be lying under the rug.  It's gotten to the point that I was thinking about all this so much that I almost ran a red light while driving around Pittsburgh this weekend because I was so distracted thinking about how to handle all these messes.

I do agree that I should meet with my boss out of the office.  I have a trial next week and shortly thereafter I will have been here for about 90 days.  I think that would be a good benchmark to propose going out to lunch to talk things over.  As you guys have correctly identified, the biggest issues are (1) me needing to run things by her when she's barely here, which is completely impractical and grinds everything to a halt; and (2) how she wants me to keep her updated on active matters so, again, we can keep things moving along.  I would hope these are resolvable issues.

The one saving grace I have is this primary goal: I want to resolve all her shit civil litigation files within this year. These are all poorly run and at this point unsalvageable due to deadlines passing, but I think this may go okay if we can get these other issues resolved and get these crap civil litigation files behind me.

As a backup, and as I've previously indicated, I really am gearing up to maybe start my own practice. My plan was to be here for 2-3 years, but that timeline has shortened to about 12-18 months.  I am keeping addresses of all clients, keeping an incredibly organized form folder, and soaking up the estate planning and domestic part of her practice.  I've also made the decision that, absent incredibly important items (i.e., a Monday deposition or upcoming trial), I am no longer going to do billable work on weekends, but will instead focus my time on organization and researching/planning my eventual solo practice.

For what it's worth, I ran all this by my dad, and he's of the opinion that I need to get the hell out of here before my name gets on too many pleadings and files that are going to go down the shitter.  He says the longer I'm here, the more likely I'm inevitably heading towards a grievance.  To quote him, "Practicing law is hard enough, practicing law with a boss like that is impossible."
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: NoStacheOhio on March 12, 2018, 01:13:44 PM
Seriously, thanks for all the feedback.  My mind has been relentlessly running away from me the past couple weeks as I worry about things that might be lying under the rug.  This forum and all you intelligent folks have been a great outlet.

I do agree that I should meet with my boss out of the office.  I have a trial next week and shortly thereafter I will have been here for about 90 days.  I think that would be a good benchmark to propose going out to lunch to talk things over.  As you guys have correctly identified, the biggest issues are (1) me needing to run things by her when she's barely here, which is completely impractical and grinds everything to a halt; and (2) how she wants me to keep her updated on active matters so, again, we can keep things moving along.  I would hope these are resolvable issues.

Here's my experience with a similar manager, for what it's worth. Not law, but some things transcend industry.

My current gig is also my first job out of (grad) school. I wasn't super young, but got treated like I was anyway.

During onboarding and all of that, my boss was like "I need to be on every single email you send." I was really surprised and a little taken aback. I pretty quickly decided that was never going to happen, but was trying to be careful about not just flouting it. My first couple projects, I was working back and forth with clients over email to figure out what they wanted, like you do. At one point, I sent a client a rough draft of a script I had been working on, and my boss reprimanded me for sending it to the client instead of sending it to my (two) departmental bosses first. Lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseam. Sometimes she's around, sometimes she's not. Nobody ever knows precisely what she's working on, but she has to be involved in everything.

Now, I'm pretty stubborn and pretty blunt, so there were lots of disagreements over this kind of crap. For years. At one point she put me on probation/PIP.

Eventually, after three or four years of butting heads, things sort of leveled off. She still drives me nuts with the micromanaging sometimes, but she's mostly backed off for my primary project. The rest of my department is not so lucky. We were hoping it would get better after she came back from cancer treatments.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying zebras rarely change their stripes.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 12, 2018, 01:21:36 PM
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying zebras rarely change their stripes.

Thanks for your reply, and that's exactly what I'm scared of--that no matter how much I try, she won't really change, and I'll find myself significantly at odds with my boss's management style.

And in further support of that, I actually reached out to her former associate and we got beers last Tuesday.  Turns out I am her fourth associate in two years, that one associate was so blown away by how much of a cluster**** this office was that she quit after one month and via a post-it note, and that this is basically how it always was when he was here no matter how many discussions he had with her.  He lasted about six months.

Somebody beer me.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 12, 2018, 04:08:46 PM
Yeah, RSM. Here's the deal - be careful. These types of solo's are a different breed. But, there are some details that you should try and keep in mind and it definitely has to do with the 70% psychologist that was mentioned above.

First, what you described is - without judgement - a bad business person. But, that isn't all that surprising because I've come to realize over the years that most attorneys are bad at business. But, just a simple statement that has lots of consequences.

If this person is bad at business, they must have some strength. You need to identify and observe this other attorney's strengths and weaknesses. At the very least, you'll see her clearly and take all the lessons you can. Some lessons are intentionally good. Some are unintentional based on incorrect actions - but can still be a lesson for you.

Also, start looking around for other attorneys. You should now have a more refined capacity to see who is actually good and who is not. Or, if you don't have that yet, you soon will. The point is, as a young attorney, you might think someone is "good" because you have heard of them or recognize their name for some reason. But, some/many small and medium firms are a collection of attorneys that are bad at business and a result are ticking time bombs (at worst) or slowly decaying institutions that don't do a true service to their clients by providing high quality representation because they lack the business systems to effectively serve. Try to use this experience to be able to see what makes a good firm vs. a bad firm. You can put that to use in creating your own firm or entering a better firm in the future.

For example, could you define what a good small firm looks like and identify one in your community? At some point in your future that will be easy to do. For now, it probably is not.

I guess I have to stop myself. I could talk about small law firm management for a long time. But, don't lose your head dealing with this person. See where you can assist, work with them, keep your integrity at all costs, build your management skills for yourself or a better place in the future, build your legal skills as well (they are distinct qualities).

Oh, one last thing, read the book the "E-Myth" by Michael Gerber. It will give lots of insight into your bosses mind - that even she doesn't have.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 13, 2018, 11:50:37 AM
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying zebras rarely change their stripes.
I actually reached out to her former associate and we got beers last Tuesday.  Turns out I am her fourth associate in two years, that one associate was so blown away by how much of a cluster**** this office was that she quit after one month and via a post-it note, and that this is basically how it always was when he was here no matter how many discussions he had with her.  He lasted about six months.


Fourth associate in two years???? 

Get out.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 13, 2018, 12:56:14 PM
I'm hesitant about my dad's advice because this is a really small town.  My boss is well respected, and I would never speak ill of a boss in an interview no matter what I thought.  I think it would get around that I was already looking, and that wouldn't be a good look.

---

That said, I'm definitely being as careful as humanly possible:

(1) I do not sign, or have my name on any signature blocks/certificates of service, on any matters in which I am not primarily handling;

(2) I keep crazy accurate billing with very detailed accounts of what I am working on, who I spoke to, etc.;

(3) I am sending her my weekly update email;

(4) I am making checklists on the minor files (estate planning, deed recording) to make sure that everything gets done before the file is closed.

My half glass full part of me says all these systems will be essential when I go out on my own, so I want to test the viability of these checklists, tinker them, etc. while getting paid by somebody else.  If any of you have any more ideas, then let me know.

---

In terms of four associates in two years, I left out an important detail: I am the first associate she's ever hired that wasn't fresh out of school.  I have been practicing for about four years and at least have a grasp of what's going on with these files.  God pity my former self if I got thrown all of this, with no supervision at all, and poor management on top of it, fresh out of law school.  I probably would have quit.

---

I totally agree that this is a learning experience: Despite everything I've posted about, her phone rings off the damn hook.  This is one of the great contradictions I've seen in my professional life, and I need to figure it out.

Also, I'm gaining a TON of experience on her dime because she's never here.  I tried a Civil Protective Order this past Monday.  I'm taking two depositions in an employment intentional tort case this Thursday and Friday.  I have a bench trial in a home construction dispute next Wednesday.  I am finishing up a couple wills after that.  I'm currently litigating three divorce cases.  This is all stuff I would want to know how to do when I was out on my own, and I'm getting paid a salary (and incentives) to figure it all out.

---

I'm really trying to play the somewhat long game here, and again, last about 18 months (15 months to go).  I've posted relentlessly over the past 2-3 years about starting my own practice.  This experience is accellerating that while instilling best practices (and what NOT to do) deep into my subconscious.  That's at least worth something.

To go back to my first point, though, CYA is my top priority, so if any of you guys have any other ideas, let me know.  And if you honestly think the only proper way to CYA is to get out of here, then that's fair, too.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: formerlydivorcedmom on March 14, 2018, 01:24:03 PM
My experience in IT may or may not be relevant to you. I've dealt with both micromanagers and scatterbrained managers who couldn't meet deadlines.

Have you been able to determine why she wants to review everything?  Because it is new to you and she's afraid that you will make mistakes?  Because she has control issues?  Because she's used to straight-out-of-school associates who don't know anything?  Because she's so scatterbrained it doesn't occur to her that you might not be?  Because she's worried about more grievances being filed against her so she feels she has to be involved?  Because other reason....?

For some of these explanations, the key might be time.  Prove that you know what you are doing and she doesn't need to hold your hand, and she may back off.  I generally give my bosses six months to figure out they can trust me.  That means you have another 3 months to go...and in the meantime, can you ask her if you can just highlight a few cases in each type?  I.e., I promise I'll run things by you if I've never done it before, and once you've reviewed 3 of these types of cases, we'll consider that training finished.

For others of these explanations....those are her issues and not yours.  You'll just have to choose which path makes sense to follow given her personality and your deadlines.  If you haven't already, it might be worth asking some of the other employees in the office for advice on how boss works best/what paths might make most sense for you to take. 

I think you are doing the right thing with your weekly emails.  I love to send these.  I break mine into sections depending on what action the boss needs to take. That way there is no scrolling to figure out what is really relevant.
NEEDS REVIEW [highlighted/in red] - with quick bullet points about what I need from the boss.  Includes a date by which I need a response and is sorted by that date.  I totally lie about dates, asking for their feedback a good week or two before I need it because I don't like unnecessary fire drills.
NEW - new stuff I took on
On track - status change on projects that I don't need anything from boss; just an FYI
Closed - things that are now off my plate.

When I was trying to clean up a process-free IT group, I also sent my boss emails detailing the processes I was putting in place and why.

Boss eventually admitted he never read my emails - he was too busy.  I got in the habit of stopping in his office once a week at 5 pm and not moving until we dealt with the stuff he'd been postponing.  He figured this out eventually and as soon as I showed up he'd open his email and sort on my name.  We'd go through each email individually and get through as many as I could before he got bored and/or I wanted to go home.  I know this will be harder for you given her lack of a formal schedule, but stick to your guns when she is there.  When she tells you to go away, politely insist that she set a time when the two of you can discuss the things you need to discuss.

For one boss, I just gave up after a while and stopped waiting for him to reply.  I did my thing, and when he figured it out he'd yell at me and I'd cross my fingers behind my back and apologize and promise never to do it again. Repeat cycle.  After 2 years of this he caught me on a bad day, started yelling, and I snapped at him "Exactly what would you have done differently?"  He sputtered and walked away.  That broke the cycle.

The key is to keep enough boundaries in place that you aren't letting the crazy take over your life (and driving habits).  If it gets to the point that you can't do that, then you have to be very blunt with her.  If you can't come up with a solution as a team, THEN I'd say it's time to run away.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on March 15, 2018, 11:32:03 AM
As a middle aged lawyer in a small city firm, I'm probably closer to the partners at your old firm than you.  This whole thread reads as a bit of a cautionary tale.  While your salary numbers are much lower than what's market here, I'm sure the cost of living is also lower there so all things being equal, I'm sure that associates making $100K still feel like they are "barely getting by," and some definitely feel that "they aren't paid what they are worth."  But I cannot help but wonder whether this move ... and the apparent/likely/inevitable next step of hanging out a shingle ... will end up really limiting your potential lifetime earnings.  Over the years we've had a few associates that wanted to get paid partner salaries NOW and not wait.  Those who have left the firm have definitely increased take home pay in the short term (albeit at least in part at the expense of a generous benefits package), but have gotten themselves to a point where there really isn't any room for growth.  Those who have stayed have (begrudgingly!) extracted some associate salary concessions and are on track to become, or have in fact become, very successful partners who are making more than their solo counterparts. 

Reading between the lines here, it sounds to me like your biggest asset right now is diligence, and commitment to deliver a high quality work product.  And you've also figured out that lawyers who are sloppy and deliver garbage (like your boss) can still be successful (if the malpractice nightmares don't ruin them/drive them to drink/stress them to an early grave).  Fact is clients don't really know whether you are good or not... they just can't evaluate the quality of their services, especially for consumer level stuff, which it sounds like is mostly what you do.

To be really successful in private practice, I think you need to be competent in three areas:

1. lawyering (and it sounds like you are good here)
2. marketing -- making the phones ring
3. supervising others (leveraging their labor to make more $$$)

It sounds like your current boss is a master of #2 and pretty terrible at everything else.  I'd really work on figuring out what she does to keep the phones ringing.  Sounds like she's not going to be a great resource for learning the law or for learning how to supervise, but maybe you can take some of her marketing mojo with you to the next gig.

As a backup, and as I've previously indicated, I really am gearing up to maybe start my own practice. My plan was to be here for 2-3 years, but that timeline has shortened to about 12-18 months. I am keeping addresses of all clients, keeping an incredibly organized form folder, and soaking up the estate planning and domestic part of her practice.  I've also made the decision that, absent incredibly important items (i.e., a Monday deposition or upcoming trial), I am no longer going to do billable work on weekends, but will instead focus my time on organization and researching/planning my eventual solo practice.

I can't remember whether you are in Ohio or PA, but either way, if your jurisdiction has adopted the uniform trade secrets act, it could be problematic to try to take confidential client contact information with you.  I would not recommend actively soliciting your employer's client list to come with you -- bad idea.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 16, 2018, 10:41:47 AM
Some great thoughts from Showndoggy.

But, from a totally different perspective, I often wonder about the people who "pay their dues" in established law firms. I've seen multiple friends get the "out" and not the "up" after five or six years of working very hard in a "lock-step partnership track." Others that became "non-equity partners" or seemed be mistreated intentionally so they felt there was no other option but to leave. Or, as appeared might have happened to RSM, they don't become partner because one partner "doesn't like them." They never make the big bucks and they are left without the skills to fend for themselves. Double ouch. That is on the allegedly "safe" path.

Also, I see some attorneys put caps on their earning by associating themselves with other "partners." For example, when I win a big PI case, I don't have to put the money into a firm account to be distributed amongst my "partners" at the end of the year. I get the check for the firm and then distribute the proceeds directly to myself. No "year end" bonus, just a direct reward for winning the case. It happens a lot and the money can be staggering. If a person works 20 years as a good, competent PI attorney they will get a million+ dollar fee. Do you want to share it? Maybe, maybe not.

In one small firm with 13 attorneys that I worked at for four years, I saw some partners give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to underperforming "partners." Count me out on that. But it was a great deal for those receiving the extra money.

I personally believe that anyone who takes the time to develop the array of skills you mentioned (legal, marketing, management) can find themselves in the best possible position with high earnings, full autonomy and great work/life balance. And, although the complete package of those skills don't come naturally to very many (or anyone?) they can be developed if an intentional attitude is taken to learn about each of them. Although some might say my situation is an outlier, I can say from personal experience this is a real possibility.

I think RSM has to adopt a vision that allows him to grow into each of those skills and see this as an opportunity to develop those skills. If he does, he will make all the money he wants and get autonomy to direct his energy and effort.

In my view, RSM's current move significantly advances his efforts to develop the skills he has and, therefore, I think it is a move in the right direction despite all the challenges he faces. So, I can't say you are wrong, but I can say I, for my part, do not see a cautionary tale. Now he has his future in his own hands. That can be scary for many, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

I personally believe that although the legal industry is a minefield of potential ways to end up in various positions that put your future in the hands of others, a successful solo or founder of a firm is a path that can result in a person "having it all." That is a valuable possibility and worth seeking.

PS I totally agree with not taking clients unless they specifically sought you and hired you directly. You don't want to build your practice by poaching other attorney's clients.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on March 16, 2018, 03:42:19 PM
^^^ I totally agree with most of this stuff. 

Quote
In one small firm with 13 attorneys that I worked at for four years, I saw some partners give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to underperforming "partners." Count me out on that. But it was a great deal for those receiving the extra money.

Someone is always going to be in last place.  Sometimes that someone is the same person year after year, and that's frustrating.  By the same token, it really depends on how you split the overhead, and how (or whether) you value the communal safetynet of a partnership.  Over the years we've been pretty generous to folks who've been knocked down by a medical issue, and I don't regret that at all.  More like I look at paying it forward in case that's ever me.  But we're pretty unique, with an eat whatcha kill comp system.  Cover your OH, keep the rest.  I don't worry about billing, someone does that for me. I don't worry about HR, someone does that for me.  I don't worry about paying the bills, someone does that for me.  So most of the time I can use my work time for actual work, rather than running the business. 

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 16, 2018, 05:47:13 PM
^^^ I totally agree with most of this stuff. 

Quote
In one small firm with 13 attorneys that I worked at for four years, I saw some partners give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to underperforming "partners." Count me out on that. But it was a great deal for those receiving the extra money.

Someone is always going to be in last place.  Sometimes that someone is the same person year after year, and that's frustrating.  By the same token, it really depends on how you split the overhead, and how (or whether) you value the communal safetynet of a partnership.  Over the years we've been pretty generous to folks who've been knocked down by a medical issue, and I don't regret that at all.  More like I look at paying it forward in case that's ever me.  But we're pretty unique, with an eat whatcha kill comp system.  Cover your OH, keep the rest.  I don't worry about billing, someone does that for me. I don't worry about HR, someone does that for me.  I don't worry about paying the bills, someone does that for me.  So most of the time I can use my work time for actual work, rather than running the business.

Forgive me for saying it with to fine a point!

My personal experience was a lot of money being distributed to long-term under performers. I was very fortunate to have quick success in building my firm and so I became a little economic engine producing cash for the firm for four years. I paid 10k a month for the final 24 consecutive months to "the Firm" (aka the guy you know down the hall who bought a car with the money I earned him.). When I finally said I thought 10k was a bit much for an office with no staff, the under-performing partners told me I was wrong, I should be paying 20k a month (higher percentage) for all the great mentorship I was receiving as their associate!

Haha. What a hoot that was. I opened my own firm the next week.

So, I do sometimes get a little tunnel vision on the issue of the value of partnerships in small firms. I know going solo isn't for everyone. I do think there are many mutually beneficial relationships that can be made in small/medium law firms where people with various strengths (lawyering, marketing, managing) get together. For example, something like you described that works for you. Usually though to getting the the earning and autonomy one desires in a small/medium firm means having a true blend of talents.

As I said, I have the experience of seeing something...else.

Thanks for correcting my tunnel vision.

Continue on your journal RSM :) Sorry.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on March 17, 2018, 08:07:12 AM
I paid 10k a month for the final 24 consecutive months to "the Firm" (aka the guy you know down the hall who bought a car with the money I earned him.). When I finally said I thought 10k was a bit much for an office with no staff, the under-performing partners told me I was wrong, I should be paying 20k a month (higher percentage) for all the great mentorship I was receiving as their associate!

I'm sure somewhere in the world $240k a year is reasonable overhead, but that would be very high at my firm (like we'd have had to have had an historically terrible year overhead wise).

This is a fine point too -- again having been on the other end of the associate's pay me more "gun to the head".  It DEFINITELY depends on the individual situation, but it's not uncommon for us to lose money on an associate for several years while they get up to speed... only to have the associate come to us when they finally are profitable and demand a raise. 

That was perceived as borderline offensive by older partners (guys who "paid their dues" themselves and would've never made such a demand in their day), and for those of us in the middle, who see the long term prospects of those associates (and future partners) it's a tightrope... we want to keep them happy but also recover some of the front end investment where we took a loss. 

The approach we (the younger partners) have developed is to offer a minimum salary with a profit share component.... collect $X and get Y%, make it to $X+$50k and get Z% on top of the guaranteed base.  We're only a year in on this new model, but it seems to be working.  (this also sounds a lot like what RSM negotiated at his current gig).

With my three elements of a successful practice I noted above, we often have a hard time getting associates to get point #2 at all (generating their own business).  Once a lawyer has their own book, they have much better control of their own destiny, and really are attractive as a lateral hire too. 

RSM, sorry for the digression, but hopefully it's illustrative of how people who might hire you are thinking, and maybe give you some ideas for the future.  I can say that at my firm we are always looking for motivated entrepreneurial associates and there's probably a firm like ours in your hood if you look hard enough.  My worry for you from your practice description is that you are turning into a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.  Down the road you can usually bill more if you have a specialized skill set (but that of course also means that you have a narrower list of potential clients than "everybody").  Some of the diversification is absolutely necessary as a smaller market lawyer... you aren't going to find a small town lawyer who only does M&A work, for instance.  But cranking out consumer oriented work (basic divorces, basic wills, etc) is a volume/price kinda market, where what you can charge is to some degree going to be governed by what your lowest priced competitors are charging. 

(no knock to people who do volume practices -- I know you can be successful on that side too -- it just sounds like such a monotonous slog to me).

With some specialization you have fewer competitors and thus can hopefully/eventually charge more/make more.  That's why the incubator nature of a firm can be really helpful for lifetime earnings... associates have a safetynet while they develop some specialization and aren't purely focused on dragging dollars in the door to make payroll and eat.  At least this is what we tell our associates ;-) (but it has been true for me too).
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIFoFum on March 17, 2018, 01:08:14 PM
FWIW - I 100% agree with your dad. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.

This path is a clusterfuck of malpractice and grievance risks bouncing back on you and potentially costing you way more than is worth in what is gained for sticking it out for 12-24 months.

You will be ethically and perhaps legally compromised as you uncover the depths of her past malfeasance. Your current work product is already jeopardized by her negligent process.

Beyond that, I agree with the posters who've already pointed out that you're on shaky ground trying to build a client list for the purpose of poaching them for your future practice.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 17, 2018, 09:47:15 PM
One last thing to Showndoggy (sorry RSM and all other thread readers) - I actually never got paid a salary. I asked for a straight up eat-what-you-kill arrangement on day one out of law school and they agreed because they didn't want to pay a salary. In that kind of a situation, I didn't feel much sympathy when they took up your line of reasoning about being unprofitable at the beginning. I figured (literally "figured" with excel spreadsheets and math) my two years of straight up profitability was way more than enough for any costs in money or time that were incurred during my first two years.

But, alas, the fun had to end. Well, for them. I'm still having fun and I'm more profitable than ever :) And, actually, I did leave on good terms and I know they are having fun on their journeys as well. It was just business.

But I do manage my own associate attorney now. I'll tell you, that is a mind bending change of positions! That is where I say, "Don't hire anyone even remotely like yourself." I was/am a exaggerated entrepreneurial personality. I also began to see the types of people it takes to make a true team to create that "talent blend" I mentioned above.

You hear that RSM? People have different talents. You probably knew that. But, I was slow to really "get" that at a true fundamental level (What? Everyone isn't just like me???! I'm dense sometimes.). So, in case you are as dumb as me, it has now been stated to you clearly - people have different talents. Your boss has to have some talent. I presume you have a talent. The question is whether your talent and her talent are compatible. If so, you'll make each other much better than you could be apart. I guarantee that is what your boss is hoping for and the reason she hired you. If not, then it's time to start looking again. But smarter the next time - for both of you.

A couple good books on recognizing different talents are "Rocket Fuel" or "Multipliers" which could be considered management skill development reads. Google those titles with "book" and you'll find them.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 19, 2018, 08:57:08 AM
As a threshold matter, all of this discussion above is awesome and is 100% welcome.  I love discussing the practice whether it relates to me personally or not.  If I can be used as a case study for other lawyers to examine, have at it. Keep it coming.

My first phone call today was from the judge's bailiff advising that my bench trial Wednesday was continued due to an F1 rape case proceeding to trial.  My schedule is entirely open, thus allowing me almost 90 minutes to type away on a personal finance forum.  This job maybe isn't so bad.

I'm responding to various posts, so quote whatever portion you'd like.

--

I don't want to re-litigate my decision to leave my prior firm, but just wanted to engage Shawn's thoughtful posts and critiques.  First, this move was not just about increasing take-home pay in the short term.  I had some very frank discussions with a mentor at my firm.  Assuming I made partner (big assumption), my five year window was set to look something like $52k, $55k, $70k, $80k, $90k. 

But that $90k was close to my *long-term* ceiling.  My mentor brought in some of the highest receipts in the firm for three years running, and he was making about $95k-$100k a year.  The overhead was out of control at this firm: too much staff, too much office space, too much paying old partners. My mentor told me that, while the partnership formula was complicated, you could expect to take home about 40% of your receipts.  Essentially, the partnership itself DRAMATICALLY affected your take home pay, and the partnership was entirely unable to address that in the 3-4 years I was there.  Sorry, but I'm not interested in a law firm with a 60% overhead.

The inability to properly manage the practice's finances trickled to each individual's practice: the dynamics of the firm made it an environment where you lacked control. And that was my biggest concern: about 95% of my practice was becoming ERISA defense and workers' comp defense.  I could handle doing workers' comp defense and not ERISA, or vice versa, but man, doing both, day in, day out, day in, day out...that's a tough way to make $50k a year.  More importantly, practicing full time in these practice areas aren't really transferable, and I feared feeling naked if I needed to move on if I'd been cornered into these niches for too long.

Ultimately, this decision to move was about the path I saw myself *long-term,* both in terms of practice areas and income.  My goal is to make a decent living with as much autonomy as possible over what I was doing.  I was losing control of that, seemingly in an unstoppable fashion, so I left.

--

I've worded the "taking clients" portion of my posts very poorly.  I will leave here within the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Here's the relevant portion of the Ohio Advisory Opinion on the subject:

Quote
The Board advises that a departing attorney may notify clients of his or her departure from a law firm, identify his or her new location of practice, and indicate a willingness to provide legal services at the new location.  A law firm may notify clients of the departure of a lawyer from the law firm and inform the clients of the law firm痴 desire to provide continued representation of the client.  The notification may be made to the clients in person or through an announcement card or letter. Such communication is permitted under DR 2-102(A)(1) and (2) and DR 2-103(A). 

The departing lawyer and the law firm should handle the departure professionally and ethically.  Both the departing lawyer and the law firm should be made aware of the planned departure before any announcement is made to the client. The announcement to the client of the departure may be communicated separately or jointly.  The departing lawyer should not unfairly disparage the law firm to the client.  The law firm should not unfairly disparage the departing lawyer to the client.  The law firm should not withhold the departing lawyer痴 whereabouts from the client.  Client files should neither be 途aided by the departing lawyer nor 斗ocked up by the law firm for this can cause prejudice to the client. Client files should remain with the law firm if that is the client痴 choice.  However, if the client chooses the services of the departing attorney, the files should be handed over in a professional and timely manner per the client痴 instructions.  Respect for a client痴 choice demonstrates to the client and to the public that the lawyer and law firm are truly practicing a profession.

Another advisory opinion indicates that one should only send a departure letter to clients with whom he or she has substantial contacts.  And because my boss is never here, there's quite a bit of these.  My standard for substantial contacts will likely be "Did I handle their entire case?"  If so, those clients are on my "client log," and I will send a departure letter.

--

RSM, sorry for the digression, but hopefully it's illustrative of how people who might hire you are thinking, and maybe give you some ideas for the future.  I can say that at my firm we are always looking for motivated entrepreneurial associates and there's probably a firm like ours in your hood if you look hard enough.  My worry for you from your practice description is that you are turning into a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.  Down the road you can usually bill more if you have a specialized skill set (but that of course also means that you have a narrower list of potential clients than "everybody").  Some of the diversification is absolutely necessary as a smaller market lawyer... you aren't going to find a small town lawyer who only does M&A work, for instance.  But cranking out consumer oriented work (basic divorces, basic wills, etc) is a volume/price kinda market, where what you can charge is to some degree going to be governed by what your lowest priced competitors are charging.

This is certainly valid, and early on in my career, I complained about being just that--a jack of all trades, master of none.  But I've had 4-5 years to scale the landscape, and this consumer type of work is what's in demand in my area.  My geographic area is what they call blighted, but people need wills, they get divorced, they get in car accidents, they get in civil disputes.  Bottom line is that the market almost demands not having a niche practice where I'm from, and the most successful attorneys I know are consumer attorneys.

Also, I *love* the variety the consumer practice brings.  I'm constantly seeking to learn. I'm in the public library every three weeks getting new books.  I swing by the law library every time I'm at the courthouse to get a book on something that I know is coming up.  I have a list of mentors in practice areas who I bounce questions off of on a regular basis.  So this stuff is kind of a harmonization between what I believe the local market demands and what I enjoy doing. 

--

To wrap all this up, my ultimate goal in my career is to have autonomy over what I do.  We're all on here presumably aiming to reach FIRE, but to me, the independence is by far the most appealing of everything.  I'm not saying anything revolutionary here, but you don't need to reach FIRE asset numbers before acting independently.

I don't stuff money in retirement accounts and keep expenses low just to FIRE.  I do it to give me present day leverage.  My wife's income covers all our expenses (and more), and that fact alone gives me a ton of leverage to take risks and do what I think aligns most with my career goals.

This current job is one such decision.  Maybe long term I would have made more by staying.  Maybe not.  But I want autonomy over my career, and despite my gripes about my current practice, I still think it's a step in the right direction towards forging my own path.

And forging my own path involves, as FIREby35 indicates, utilizing my contacts and skill set.  I'm strong with interpersonal communication, diligence, organization, and putting out quality work product.  The things I'm missing are clients and a nose for marketing, and hopefully I can learn that in my current job.

Moving on from here, if I can find a firm that will provide decent autonomy (rather than shove practice areas down my throat), then I may go there.  If I can join another more reputable solo, I may do that.  I may ultimately go out on my own if my receipts demonstrate that my practice is stable and profitable enough to do so.

But ultimately, I want to be in control of what I'm doing, and I'm attempting to plan my career trajectory on that principle more than anything else.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on March 19, 2018, 10:49:01 AM
Here's my experience with a similar manager, for what it's worth. Not law, but some things transcend industry.

My current gig is also my first job out of (grad) school. I wasn't super young, but got treated like I was anyway.

During onboarding and all of that, my boss was like "I need to be on every single email you send." I was really surprised and a little taken aback. I pretty quickly decided that was never going to happen, but was trying to be careful about not just flouting it. My first couple projects, I was working back and forth with clients over email to figure out what they wanted, like you do. At one point, I sent a client a rough draft of a script I had been working on, and my boss reprimanded me for sending it to the client instead of sending it to my (two) departmental bosses first. Lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseam. Sometimes she's around, sometimes she's not. Nobody ever knows precisely what she's working on, but she has to be involved in everything.

Now, I'm pretty stubborn and pretty blunt, so there were lots of disagreements over this kind of crap. For years. At one point she put me on probation/PIP.

Eventually, after three or four years of butting heads, things sort of leveled off. She still drives me nuts with the micromanaging sometimes, but she's mostly backed off for my primary project. The rest of my department is not so lucky. We were hoping it would get better after she came back from cancer treatments.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying zebras rarely change their stripes.

Sorry to return to this, but I also wanted to share my (non law) experiences with both a micro-management boss and a non-present boss.

One of my last bosses at my previous job (it's another story, but this boss contributed significantly to me beginning to search for another job) was insane in the micro-management department. similarly, he asked to be CCed on every email, involved in every decision, and even made a "for information only" signatory on all of our outgoing published documents (lots of them). I survived, and even found a way to thrive in this environment through continued outrageous optimism  (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/)despite the circumstances, but mostly by being sickeningly polite while also having a better knowledge of corporate policies than him. Through his incessant questioning I would often catch him in scenarios that were minor violations of company policy, and then out him to all involved in the most polite way possible and recommend more appropriate path forward. After a few of these instances, he learned to loosen the grip a little bit and make it more bearable.

My current boss is very not-present, and sounds somewhat similar to RSM's boss (albeit in a corporate environment). Despite being verbally told "don't send emails unless there is an emergency", I have continued to send emails as I deem appropriate and to cover myself for the future. Additionally, I word all my emails such that a non-response to the email is acceptance ("I will proceed with this path forward unless you have any issues with this plan" is a go-to). It's been working out well so far, but your mileage may vary on that one.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 19, 2018, 12:25:58 PM
RSM, I liked what you said about seeking independence and autonomy.  I truly enjoy being a solo in great part because of the autonomy and independence I have.  One of the benefits of being frugal (well, compared to most attorneys--I'm sure many MMMers would not consider me frugal) is that it gives me options even before reaching FIRE.  Since I enjoy my work and find it satisfying, I don't need to rush to FIRE by maximizing my income.

I like what BuffaloStache had to say about drafting emails in such a way that they do not require a response ("I'm going to do xxx on yy date next week unless directed otherwise").

Keep sending your weekly email; keep highlighting important points.  Keep keeping your client contact info on your own database.  As you quoted, as long as you notify the firm of your departure before you notify any clients, as long as you keep it polite, as long as you provide the client with all their options (to stay with the firm, to go with you, or go a third way), and as long as you only notify clients of cases where you had substantial input, you should be fine.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 21, 2018, 07:30:43 AM
Thanks for the tips above.  My initial emails were organized by urgency, but my boss likes things organized by practice area.  So I tried doing that, and apparently she never read it.  I like the comments above because it balances the two and will give me some autonomy.

On a side note, and this related to this comment:

FWIW - I 100% agree with your dad. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.

This path is a clusterfuck of malpractice and grievance risks bouncing back on you and potentially costing you way more than is worth in what is gained for sticking it out for 12-24 months.

You will be ethically and perhaps legally compromised as you uncover the depths of her past malfeasance. Your current work product is already jeopardized by her negligent process.

I overheard a call this morning from probably the most irate client I've ever heard speak through the phone.  My boss agreed to do a notice of intent to relocate on a domestic matter for $750.  No fee agreement.  I guess the thing ballooned out of control, and I guess my boss just sent a bill for 23 hours at $250/hour.  ($5,000 on top of the $750 quoted).

This caller was so pissed that I overheard her screaming through the phone to my secretary, who is more than 15 feet away and in another room.

My secretary, who has been here for two years, said "this has grievance written all over it."  And so I asked how many grievances there have been, and she said this would be the third in the last two years.

Thank God I had nothing to do with this file.  And ya, I'm back to "let's survive this for 18 months and get out."
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 22, 2018, 12:33:30 PM
I guess I'll start by apologizing for maybe coming off as dramatic in all these posts.  But I don't vent like this to anyone.  I don't want my family to worry about me, and I don't want to disparage my boss to any other colleagues.  So as I said previously, this thread has become an outlet of sorts, and I really can't express how much I appreciate all your feedback.

We had our three month meeting today, and it was a complete disaster.  This "sitdown" (as she called it) lasted four hours.  I don't want to bore all of you, so here's a summary:

(1) There was not a single word of gratitude for me basically running her law practice for the last three months.  I don't expect a pat on the back for doing my job, but man, I've covered 100% of hearings, handled 100% of incoming calls, handled 100% of new client intakes, etc., and there was no mention of anything.

(2) She went over every single call into the firm from when I started to the present, and wanted to know how each and every one was handled.  We are talking hundreds of calls.  She was supremely upset that I was not keeping track via "client contact logs," which I was not aware existed until about three weeks ago. 

(3) She again expressed how much she hated the email update, and said it did not conform to her preexisting systems. She said she just wants the files in her basket (which I can't emphasize enough how laughable that is...her basket would be eight feet high and she would lose half of it).

(4) She criticized me for not following up on things, when my email updates expressly advised that I had done exactly what she wanted me to do.  These things were in her basket.  They got lost.

(5) She was irate I haven't done things on files that I've never heard of.  There were specifically three files which she had obtained judgments years ago, and she was upset that I wasn't working on the collections.

(6) She substantively disagreed with everything I suggested in two big pieces of litigation when I am the one who did all the research.  At this point I think we are waiving our defenses in these matters.  On one case, I drafted the answer 02/19/2018.  She looked at the answer for the first time yesterday and is upset that this is a 911.

(7) I had no opportunity to communicate any of my concerns because she had to go when she was done.  She's going to be gone for another week and a half.


I could go on and on and on.  I was in her office for four hours. Today has been bad.  Today has been the first time in my adult life where I was sitting in a meeting and actually pictured myself saying, "I'm done," and then walking out.

And I really am almost to that point.  Between the potential ethical violations, poor management, and being unappreciated, none of this is worth it.

By coincidence, my wife brought up my wellbeing last night.  She said I'm acting the way her dad did about 15 years ago when he had to leave his accounting firm and took a 9 month sabbatical from being so mentally exhausted.  She said I'm going to bed later, waking up at night more, acting more distracted at home, not eating as much, eating more unhealthy, etc. She told me she knows it's been worse than I've been telling her, and that she even went so far to say that she wouldn't care if I quit today.

Well, we have about $18k in cash, I can expect to bring a decent amount of clients with me (I have three big pieces of civil litigation that are mine), and she nets enough income ($3,200 monthly) to cover the bills ($2,700). I'm honestly really strongly thinking about leaving within a month.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on March 22, 2018, 01:21:49 PM
This lady is bananas. Make a thorough plan with your wife痴 counsel, and tell her exactly how bad it is.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Phoenix_Fire on March 22, 2018, 05:43:55 PM
Not a lawyer, but if I were ever on tv I could probably pretend to be one...

If you were to leave right now, today, how long would it take to set up your own practice? What paperwork has to be done? Can you start prepping that now? Get all your paperwork lined up. Create an LLC or whatever needs to be done for a law practice.  Basically , get yourself setup so that you could literally walk out the door and start practicing on your own.  Get someone to setup a website, get your own domain created, with the website in place just waiting for you to hit a button and go live with it.

I think she just told you today that you are going to get the blame for anything that gets missed, even the things you haven稚 been told about. And who knows how much more of that there is.

Based on the 4 other lawyers and their short timeframes, your expectations/hopes of making it 18 months are not going to happen. You just told us you don稚 vent this way to family, but your wife can tell how badly you are being affected.  Her dad had to take 9 months off to recover. Don稚 get to that point yourself. If she told you you could quit today, IT IS BAD!!! 

But guess what, in your short time there you have learned that you can run a law practice effectively, or so it seems.  She might be great at drumming up business, and while that is huge, she can稚 keep it running effectively.  Don稚 put yourself at risk.

Not sure on the ethics/legalities of it, but would the secretary consider leaving with you? She has to be stressed as well, and should at least be familiar with the clients.  Something to think about.

If you could literally be up and running tomorrow then you might want to consider it, especially with her being out for a week and a half. You could even resign with a note in her basket as she has indicated that is her preferred method of communication.  Yes, it痴 a dick thing to do and passive aggressive, but sure fun to think about, right?

If you can稚 be up and running tomorrow, start focusing on you and getting your practice up, do the minimum to cover yourself, and get out ASAP.  She does not view you as an asset. In fact, I think you are her scapegoat for anything that goes wrong.

If you somehow stay there 9 months, let alone the 18 you were originally hoping for, you might want to leave law altogether at that point.

Your timeline for going out on your own just got bumped up to now.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on March 22, 2018, 07:01:27 PM
That lady is really pissing me off on your behalf!  She should be thanking her lucky stars to have you, except that it exposes her weaknesses, which she is obviously insecure about.  I have to agree with the others.  I would probably give 2-weeks' notice tomorrow.  In the past, I let a bully lady partner mistreat me and try to damage my reputation for around 18 months.  I should have left soon after it started, so I'm obviously not a good example of following through to stand up for myself.  In your case, it's different but somewhat worse in that her actions implicate professional ethics and raise malpractice claims.  I was one who thought you made the right decision to move on from you previous firm, and it still do -- it made a lot of sense.  But the mess of a firm you've ended up in, led by a totally poor manager, is not a good situation.  I would get out ASAP.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 22, 2018, 07:44:50 PM
Hey RSM -

Think of it this way, you now know that raging, incompetent assholes are attorneys as well. When you open your own practice you can now say with confidence that a client is lucky to have you because it could be much, much worse.

This person is showing you something. What is it?

Now, all of that should not confuse the most basic thing that needs to be said: Fuck her. You don't need her. She's the one who will have it all come crashing down around her for the REST OF HER LIFE. She is confined to her own mental hell. Leave her to it and get out.

Fortunately, you have the opportunity to go out on your own and create a firm that provides a valuable service to people who need it for a reasonable fee on your terms. What could be more rewarding than that?

So, leave now. You don't need another dime from her. Take your cases. Work from your kitchen table and use a friend's conference room for meetings. You have friends with conference rooms. I know it.

With the few cases you have, you'll get them caught up quickly. Everything will immediately slow down because you won't be dealing with all the BS. During that time, don't panic. Slow is good. Relax.

Here is where you work "on" your business rather than "in" the business. Think strategically about the needs you have witnessed in your market. Think about good places to be physically located. Where do you start to get to your envisioned end? Read some books about business management. Grow your capacity to solve problems of all types.

Always consider yourself an independant actor who can and does act collaboratively whenever you choose but does not need anyone else.

And definitely, follow your instinct and only work with people who you like or are at least neutral. People like your boss - they just send out negative energy and abuse everyone and everything they come into contact with. There are other people who have the opposite affect and everything in-between.

Think about the power of your words. "Working with [Ridiculous attorney] helped me realize I have the ability to be out on my own." Make sure you don't downgrade the other person but clearly state you are on your own, ready, willing and able to serve anyone in need and anyone you meet can come to you for a free consultation just call the number on your card [then give them a card].

Don't take everything. But, don't be to proud to help someone with a driving under suspension for $500 bucks. You know what I mean? I love to walk my clients into court for small stuff because there is no pressure and they are always grateful for someone to just show them around and where to sit and explain what the hell is going on. It's not rocket science, and that's what I love about it. It's just helping people.

Seriously, you can do this.
 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on March 22, 2018, 07:50:39 PM
@RSM:  first, I am sorry.  Please spend this weekend figuring out what is necessary to go out on your own.  And tomorrow, start calling malpractice insurers.  You can get started with a cellphone and a laptop in your bedroom, but you cannot practice without malpractice insurance, and you really don稚 want to leave 土our clients stuck with someone you know will screw them over, so start that ball rolling ASAP.  I bet there are Bar resources available that help lay out the details of the requirements (e.g., IOLTA accounts) so you can get your ducks in a row.

Give yourself a deadline - I suggest two weeks maybe? - and see if you can be ready to go by then.  You have the safety net, this is the time to use it before she has a chance to throw you under the bus before the ethics board.  Hell, I壇 give her two weeks notice tomorrow, as you will need a documented plan to make sure she is up to speed on your plans and to work client notifications. 

Oh, wait, she痴 on vacation, right?  Perfect!  Spend the relative calm working out the details of your plan and get the ducks in a row, and then greet her on her return with your two weeks notice and detailed status memo and transition plan.  Welcome back, honey.  😉

And then go post in the Epic FU Money Stories thread.  😄👍
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIFoFum on March 22, 2018, 09:22:13 PM
Oh man, that sucks.

Some great advice and comments here. I agree with Phoenix_Fire that you are being set up to be a scapegoat. I'd move into extreme CYA mode at this point. She seems like she's preparing to fight you on the "not my case/my case" line.

Until you extricate yourself from this mess (hopefully soon!), of course you want to keep sending those email updates. She hates them because they are creating a record of her dropping the ball. Of course, she'd prefer you put things in a basket - with no proof that you did so.

I'm glad your wife is being supportive and hope you figure out a good game plan together.

ETA: I'd d/l and copy my emails at this point, on the off chance she pays attention enough to cut off your email access instantly at the moment she realizes you are planning to bail.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 23, 2018, 06:38:03 AM
BTW, I forgot to say that your wife sounds like a real gem. Don't forget that a happy marriage between two people who love each other is your biggest asset. This situation is allowing your wife to reveal herself as perceptive, caring and supportive. So, can you be as awesome as her? I bet that you can. Look for a way to show your gratitude for her support sometime in the coming weeks.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 23, 2018, 07:41:59 AM
Thanks for the encouragement.  I've read all of your responses and private messages three or four times this morning (I will respond to the PMs in due time).

Like any good legal writer, I'll start with my conclusion: I've decided to leave my current job.  This is based on my gut, my wife's concerns about me, my dad's advice, and on all of your very thoughtful advice. I also met with a mentor last night, and long story short, he said it's unfortunate but that I should leave as soon as possible.

The only thing left to determine is the timeline.  I talked about it with my wife last night and we decided on my last day being somewhere between May 11 and May 17.  This is based on the following considerations:

Dealing with My Boss: My boss is out of the office all next week.  I have my own vacation scheduled the following week.  This means I basically won't have to deal with my boss until mid-April, and I will put in my notice in early May.  I then have a one-year anniversary trip beginning May 18, and it will be a lot more blissful knowing I left this mess behind.

Finances: My wife and I are going to temporarily stop contributing to retirement accounts, and this will allow us to save about $3k each month in April and May.  This means we will have $25k in cash when I start.  I know some of you may think there's no difference between $18k and $25k, but we are looking to start a family soon, and I'm not going to have my crazy boss dictate any of that.

Also, my payroll runs two weeks behind, meaning I will still get two paychecks in May.  My wife gets paid three times in June.  This means even without any income from me, we will have a nice surplus in June.

Logistics: I need a few weekends to really focus on my business plan, practice areas, potential office share arrangements, etc.  I want to hit the ground running.

Furthermore, I want to control the message of my departure.  My mentor told me last night that he would send his overflow work to me. Another colleague joined us and he said he would as well, and also offered free space for a year.  I want to have more of these meetings, without disparaging my boss, but just to control the message and see what's out there.

If any of you think this timing is off, then let me know.


At this point, I'm not going to post anything else regarding the shit going on at my current job.  I could feel something was off and this was an amazing place to vent.  But now you guys have nudged me in the final direction, and that's where my head is at moving forward.  Again, I'm sorry if I'm coming off as dramatic, but thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on March 23, 2018, 04:29:57 PM
Again, I'm sorry if I'm coming off as dramatic, but thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement. 

You're not coming off as dramatic.  You appear very level-headed and are being quite wise in how you plan out your departure and new practice.  I feel like you've grown a lot as an attorney and on the business management side during the time that you've been posting about your legal career in the MMM forum.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on March 23, 2018, 04:33:19 PM
RSM, it sounds like a solid plan.  In my life, even in turbulent times, things get much easier with a plan to move forward.

Despite current boss's dislike of the update memo, I would continue to do them (or some version of them).  Long and short of it is that you want to be sure to "paper the file" so when the inevitable bar complaints come, you've got plausible deniability.  Additionally, six months or two years from now, or whenever those lurking landmines might explode, you'll have (hopefully) long forgotten the details of these cases.  "Making record" in the moment could have a lot of value in that context too.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on March 23, 2018, 06:48:55 PM
@RSM:  we are rooting for you and look forward to a few years from now when you start talking about your fantastic and lucrative solo career, like Fireby35.  😉

One thought:  make sure you download or print out copies of every single email update you provided her, and make copies of notes you took of any conversation.  You will lose access to your files and email probably as of the minute you give notice, and you want to make sure you have the documentation you need if there is a claim a year or two from now.  Because you know she痴 not going to keep it, right?  Or find it if she did! 

Congrats and best of luck!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 24, 2018, 09:12:55 AM
Again, I'm sorry if I'm coming off as dramatic, but thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement. 

You're not coming off as dramatic.  You appear very level-headed and are being quite wise in how you plan out your departure and new practice.  I feel like you've grown a lot as an attorney and on the business management side during the time that you've been posting about your legal career in the MMM forum.

I second this. You are not complaining. You are learning. Growing as an attorney is definitely an evolution who you are at a fundamental level. That requires thinking about new experiences of your own and your clients and attempting to integrate the lessons of those experiences into your most updated version of yourself. Allow yourself to grow by only lightly holding onto your current vision of "how it all is."

That is the process you are feeling play out in yourself.

It's not something to apologize for, it is something to embrace and consciously participate in. Direct the flow of your own evolution into something smarter and better every day. You will be amazed how it all unfolds.

So, what practical problems are you facing right now? Is there anything we can assist in? I, for my part, would love to hear your current ideas for how you are going to tackle this project. I am sure we could all crowd source some solutions. I know I have spent a lot of time researching best available phone solutions (Vonage Business crushes local cable companies for multiple reasons) and printing solutions and advertising methods and what not.

BTW, free office space for a year? That is an amazing opportunity! Are you taking it?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 25, 2018, 09:42:55 AM
Despite current boss's dislike of the update memo, I would continue to do them (or some version of them).  Long and short of it is that you want to be sure to "paper the file" so when the inevitable bar complaints come, you've got plausible deniability.  Additionally, six months or two years from now, or whenever those lurking landmines might explode, you'll have (hopefully) long forgotten the details of these cases.  "Making record" in the moment could have a lot of value in that context too.

Definitely agree with this.  I might not do a single update email, but will definitely be going out of my way to paper files excessively over the next two months.

So, what practical problems are you facing right now? Is there anything we can assist in? I, for my part, would love to hear your current ideas for how you are going to tackle this project. I am sure we could all crowd source some solutions. I know I have spent a lot of time researching best available phone solutions (Vonage Business crushes local cable companies for multiple reasons) and printing solutions and advertising methods and what not.

BTW, free office space for a year? That is an amazing opportunity! Are you taking it?

Because I have wanted to go solo basically since I graduated, I too have been researching this stuff for quite some time.  My business plan is currently 23 pages and counting, and I have gone so far as to identify the firm credit card that best suits my needs, fax solutions, mentors for each practice area, marketing ideas, potential clients, etc.  The table of contents is as follows:

Executive Summary
Firm Description and Practice Areas
Timeline
Disengaging from Current Firm
Firm Startup and Operations
Firm Technology
Firm Finances
Short-Term Revenue Generation and Goals
Marketing Plan
Client Satisfaction
Networking
Mentors and Referral Sources
Tax Considerations
Civil Litigation
Estate Planning
Family Law
Landlord/Tenant Law
Personal Injury

I'm actually working on this business plan right now and am hoping to have it done within about two weeks.  I may share it with some of you via email when it's close to complete to see your thoughts.

The biggest thing I need to work on is establishing my practice areas.  I absolutely DO NOT want to do "door law" just because I need money.  The things I've indicated above are things I observe as being in demand, but I'd love to hear how you guys established your practice areas.

In terms of space, I don't think I will accept that offer of free space.  As good as it sounds, it's in a completely separate community from where I'm from and I don't think it's a good long term solution.

I actually had lunch with another solo yesterday who I basically idolize--I seriously want to be this guy in 20 years.  Established, well respected, doesn't give a shit what people think, and has fun practicing.  He shares space with five other lawyers in the busiest corridor of my hometown.  He has a small office that a paralegal uses and he said I could probably have it for $300/month for the first six months.  This gives me access to a receptionist, conference room, office supplies, copier, scanner, etc.  It also puts me in close proximity to five lawyers with very established practices.

That solo referred me to his landlord, who is also a lawyer in that building, and we have a telephone conference scheduled for 3:15 this afternoon.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on March 25, 2018, 12:52:23 PM
Posting to follow

RSM - I read through your post/journal.  I am not a lawyer, but have found it very interesting.  I hope you will keep us all posted on your transition to your own practice.

I think you have a great plan/schedule for leaving.  If you wanted maybe establishing a memo or fact sheet for open cases you will be leaving to her.  I think everyone has given excellent advice to make the transition and CYA.

Also, sounds like you got some great mentors to help you get on your feet. 

Your wife sounds amazing.  Do not underestimate the impact of stress on your health.  Plus if you family can cover expenses plus on your wife's salary you are in a good place to follow your destiny.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 27, 2018, 07:19:35 AM
Despite current boss's dislike of the update memo, I would continue to do them (or some version of them).  Long and short of it is that you want to be sure to "paper the file" so when the inevitable bar complaints come, you've got plausible deniability.  Additionally, six months or two years from now, or whenever those lurking landmines might explode, you'll have (hopefully) long forgotten the details of these cases.  "Making record" in the moment could have a lot of value in that context too.

Definitely agree with this.  I might not do a single update email, but will definitely be going out of my way to paper files excessively over the next two months.

So, what practical problems are you facing right now? Is there anything we can assist in? I, for my part, would love to hear your current ideas for how you are going to tackle this project. I am sure we could all crowd source some solutions. I know I have spent a lot of time researching best available phone solutions (Vonage Business crushes local cable companies for multiple reasons) and printing solutions and advertising methods and what not.

BTW, free office space for a year? That is an amazing opportunity! Are you taking it?

Because I have wanted to go solo basically since I graduated, I too have been researching this stuff for quite some time.  My business plan is currently 23 pages and counting, and I have gone so far as to identify the firm credit card that best suits my needs, fax solutions, mentors for each practice area, marketing ideas, potential clients, etc.  The table of contents is as follows:

Executive Summary
Firm Description and Practice Areas
Timeline
Disengaging from Current Firm
Firm Startup and Operations
Firm Technology
Firm Finances
Short-Term Revenue Generation and Goals
Marketing Plan
Client Satisfaction
Networking
Mentors and Referral Sources
Tax Considerations
Civil Litigation
Estate Planning
Family Law
Landlord/Tenant Law
Personal Injury

I'm actually working on this business plan right now and am hoping to have it done within about two weeks.  I may share it with some of you via email when it's close to complete to see your thoughts.

The biggest thing I need to work on is establishing my practice areas.  I absolutely DO NOT want to do "door law" just because I need money.  The things I've indicated above are things I observe as being in demand, but I'd love to hear how you guys established your practice areas.

In terms of space, I don't think I will accept that offer of free space.  As good as it sounds, it's in a completely separate community from where I'm from and I don't think it's a good long term solution.

I actually had lunch with another solo yesterday who I basically idolize--I seriously want to be this guy in 20 years.  Established, well respected, doesn't give a shit what people think, and has fun practicing.  He shares space with five other lawyers in the busiest corridor of my hometown.  He has a small office that a paralegal uses and he said I could probably have it for $300/month for the first six months.  This gives me access to a receptionist, conference room, office supplies, copier, scanner, etc.  It also puts me in close proximity to five lawyers with very established practices.

That solo referred me to his landlord, who is also a lawyer in that building, and we have a telephone conference scheduled for 3:15 this afternoon.

I like where your head is at. Keep the rent and overhead as low as possible out of the gate. $300 a month and all the other stuff with a community of more established attorneys around you sounds positive.

Don't get to attached to your business plan! I, for my part, have never created one. I've seen a lot of people write business plans to never actually take the leap. Just know, even with all your planning, you will confront surprise obstacles. You can't think of everything up front. Be ready to be flexible and adjust.

But, having a well-thought out business plan is certainly useful. Good job.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 27, 2018, 09:58:32 AM
RSM,
Good for you for deciding to leave.  I suggest that you do so sooner than later.  That meeting was her laying down the exit carpet.  You can set up shop faster than you might believe.  Personally, I did it in less than 24 hours when I went solo.  I was actually forced out of a "partnership" where I was partner in name only.  Like you, I had seen the writing on the wall, didn't like the partner's practice methods, and I had planned to leave.  The rug was pulled out from under me, though, and I walked out one morning at 10am, had a lease by 1pm, business cards by 5pm, a website up by 9pm, and a new client meeting the next morning.  Letters to old clients were out shortly thereafter.  Like you, I had a supportive spouse who could carry us until I started paying myself.  I started my practice with $10,000.  Made most of it back on the first client.  You can do this.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 27, 2018, 11:43:36 AM
I like where your head is at. Keep the rent and overhead as low as possible out of the gate. $300 a month and all the other stuff with a community of more established attorneys around you sounds positive.

Don't get to attached to your business plan! I, for my part, have never created one. I've seen a lot of people write business plans to never actually take the leap. Just know, even with all your planning, you will confront surprise obstacles. You can't think of everything up front. Be ready to be flexible and adjust.

But, having a well-thought out business plan is certainly useful. Good job.

I definitely hear you on taking so long to work on a business plan that you never actually launch. I guess my business plan is more of a checklist-oriented approach to make sure my office is up and running on June 1.  Business credit card open, stationary and client forms in hand, website up and running, office set up and ready to go, forms and strategy for practice areas ready to roll, files ready to be worked.

Onto your point about keeping overhead low, I did secure that office share arrangement for $400 (got a little bit bigger of a space and access to storage).  The following is my estimated monthly budget:

Rent (Office Share): $400
Google Suite: $5
Malpractice Insurance: $125
Domain/Website Host: $18
Office Supplies: $50
Marketing: $25
Miscellaneous: $100
TOTAL: $723

That obviously excludes taxes, but my business plan includes the basics about taxes, and I'll worry about those when I actually have income.


Taking other advice in this thread to heart, I also applied for a business credit card.  Got approved for an AmEx with no annual fee, decent perks, $9,000 credit limit, and 0% APR for 15 months.

RSM,
Good for you for deciding to leave.  I suggest that you do so sooner than later.  That meeting was her laying down the exit carpet.  You can set up shop faster than you might believe.  Personally, I did it in less than 24 hours when I went solo.  I was actually forced out of a "partnership" where I was partner in name only.  Like you, I had seen the writing on the wall, didn't like the partner's practice methods, and I had planned to leave.  The rug was pulled out from under me, though, and I walked out one morning at 10am, had a lease by 1pm, business cards by 5pm, a website up by 9pm, and a new client meeting the next morning.  Letters to old clients were out shortly thereafter.  Like you, I had a supportive spouse who could carry us until I started paying myself.  I started my practice with $10,000.  Made most of it back on the first client.  You can do this.

I outlined my reasoning for my current timeline previously, but I appreciate your encouragement on being able to get up and running quicker than thought, especially because there's always the possibility that she tells me to leave when I give my notice.

And that, in turn, leads back to my point to FIREby35: I'm working pretty hard to make sure this thing can get up and running as soon as humanly possible.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on March 27, 2018, 12:41:35 PM
Not sure if these apply in your state, but don't forget business registration, business docs (e.g., articles of organization, operating agreement), and operating and trust accounts.  It's possible your state bar has its own resource for starting up a law office.  I know my state has one that is free and covers a lot of the bases for what we need here.  ("The Guide to Starting Your Georgia Law Practice is the program's famous 'Office Start Up Kit,' and it answers almost all of the questions about opening a practice in Georgia. The contents include thoughts on hanging out a shingle, choice of entity selection, marketing, office automation, trust accounting, social media and more!")
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 27, 2018, 01:14:24 PM
Not sure if these apply in your state, but don't forget business registration, business docs (e.g., articles of organization, operating agreement), and operating and trust accounts.  It's possible your state bar has its own resource for starting up a law office.  I know my state has one that is free and covers a lot of the bases for what we need here.  ("The Guide to Starting Your Georgia Law Practice is the program's famous 'Office Start Up Kit,' and it answers almost all of the questions about opening a practice in Georgia. The contents include thoughts on hanging out a shingle, choice of entity selection, marketing, office automation, trust accounting, social media and more!")

I've run the entity analysis by other local solos, and all unanimously advised a sole proprietorship until you hire staff or an associate.  To quote them, "Insurance saves your ass, not your entity."

And holy moly...after all my books and research and blah blah blah, I just found a 278 page guide from the Ohio Bar Association on starting a practice.  You're my hero.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 28, 2018, 01:52:09 PM
Just FYI, it is true that your insurance saves you in the event of a malpractice claim and not your business organization. BUT, that is not the reason to form an LLC.

Having an LLC enables you to shelter income from taxes. It might not be necessary on day one. However, within your first year of being solo I highly recommend to choose a CPA and get strategic tax planning advice. I didn't create my LLC and tax strategy until January of what would be my second full year of practicing (18 months approx as sole proprietor). I lost thousands of dollars by waiting. Literally, probably 15-20k.

I've gone around this issue with some friends. If you shovel an unnecessary 15 or 20k annually to the IRS (or even 1k or 5k) then you are working for free on cases where you earned that equivalent fee. Getting a CPA then might be the most profitable "case" you take all year. If you can take 5 meetings with various CPA's, form a plan and implement it then you will save money for that year and every year you continue your practice. That makes those meeting possibly the most profitable meetings you will have over your entire career. Taxes man, they add up.

Since this is an MMM forum, I'm going to assume you want to be the most efficient possible with your income. LLC's are an often over-looked piece of that puzzle.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: jwright on March 29, 2018, 08:28:48 AM
Chiming in to say, I've been following this post with interest.  Thanks for sharing all of this RSM.

I'm not an attorney, but CPA firms work in a similar partnership model a lot of the time.  I've been in a large firm, small firm, and now do tax prep as a side hustle.  There's many ways to thrive in the professional service world, and I wish you the best.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 29, 2018, 01:34:46 PM
I'm going to echo FIREby35 on entity formation over sole proprietorship (although I went with an S-Corp over an LLC).  As a sole proprietorship, I could deduct business expenses, sure, but I would owe payroll tax (Medicare & Social Security) on all of the net income.  As an S-Corp employee, I pay myself a salary and then take a distribution of the excess profit.  The salary is subject to payroll tax, but the distribution is not.  Additionally, starting this year under the Tax Cut & Jobs Act, if my income is below the threshold, then I can take an additional 20% deduction on the distribution.  The biggest caveat is that your salary has to be reasonable--if your net income would be $100,000, you can't pay yourself a salary of $10,000 and take a distribution of $90,000 and avoid payroll tax on 90% of your income that way.  But you could probably pay yourself $70,000 and take a distribution of $30,000, and save the payroll tax on the $30,000, PLUS get 20% of the $30,000 as an additional deduction on your 2018 taxes.

DISCLAIMER:  This is all off the top of my head, so look into it to see if I have the deduction part right from the new law.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 29, 2018, 02:25:09 PM
I think both of you (FIRE and TVR) are correct in your summaries.

To FIRE, however, my understanding is that a single member LLC is taxed the exact same as a sole proprietor.  I think the tax benefits there start to kick in when you have a multi-member LLC or have staff/associates working for you, which I don't have yet due to my immediate needs to keeping overhead low.

As for the S-Corp analysis, I believe you are exactly correct, TVR.  My biggest concern in doing that is the "reasonable salary" requirement.  While I am bringing clients with me and I am hopeful that I have relatively immediate revenues, I'm pretty hesitant to commit to an S-Corp and thus require me to pay myself a "reasonable salary" when I'm entirely uncertain about revenues.  If I get this thing up and running and I'm making a consistent income, then I will likely re-organize to an S-Corp.

All that said, I have two meetings with CPAs here in the next few weeks, and I plan on running some of this stuff by them.

And beating a dead horse here, this is why I'm giving myself a couple months before launching.  I want to get all of these ducks in a row so I'm working on getting clients and doing legal work instead of spending a day on entity formation.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 29, 2018, 06:33:54 PM
So, what practical problems are you facing right now? Is there anything we can assist in? I, for my part, would love to hear your current ideas for how you are going to tackle this project. I am sure we could all crowd source some solutions.

I'm taking this offer to heart and would love to crowdsource the following practice area/marketing ideas.  I don't know why I've put this off--I somehow have my floorplan for my new office set up on a grid sheet (including where wall items/decor would go...God I'm weird)--but I haven't really found my niche yet.

I think that's been in part because of my career thus far.  I was a bit of a generalist at my firm because, well, it was a general litigation/business firm (although I did end up concentrating on ERISA/workers' comp).  And then I went to a solo attorney that did estate planning, family law, workers' compensation, personal injury, SSDI, copyright litigation, etc. etc.  I don't know how many hours I've spent in just three months reading supplements to figure all of this out.

So on my rides too and from work, I've been listening to several podcasts, and the relatively unanimous advice is to niche down.  This is generally for three reasons:

(1) You'll become more proficient and spend less time on things that you can't bill to clients;
(2) You'll establish a reputation; and most importantly,
(3) You can establish a referral network with other solo attorneys who have a niche.

So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I think I've found my niche: real estate litigation.  My thoughts on this are as follows:

(1) I've had a decent amount of construction law, landlord/tenant, quiet title, adverse possession, and nuisance experience thus far, and I generally enjoy it. 
(2) If I were in a bigger market, I'd go narrower (e.g., just construction law), but I don't think my market could sustain such a narrow niche.
(3) These clients--business and consumer--have all been good paying, well informed clients (thus far...knock on wood).
(4) This seems like a sustainable niche in that, early on, consumers would hire me, and later, businesses would want me representing them.
(5) Also early on, I would market myself as a specialist (within the ethical rules), but work as as a generalist with personal connections (doing PI work, workers' comp, etc) until my niche is bringing in sufficient revenues. 


So there's my spiel.  I think it's a decent idea that I would enjoy, but I'd love to hear what you folks have to say.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 29, 2018, 08:03:17 PM
Sounds good. I agree with your podcasts. I get plenty of work from other attorneys in other fields of law.  Pick something you like. I couldn't stand being an attorney if I hated what I do.

On the S Corp thing, you don't have to lock yourself into paying yourself a salary right away. I didn't pay myself for 3 months, and the first money I took out was a return of my initial contribution. Talk to the CPAs, but don't think you actually need every single duck lined up and spit shined before leaving the dumpster fire you are in.  You will make choices and some will be right. Others you will change after a time. You will make mistakes. Just don't make the kind your boss does.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on March 30, 2018, 08:04:11 AM
double check the impact of the 20% cut on tax on s-corp distros... pretty sure lawyers and other professional service providers are specifically excluded from that particular tax cut.  (making America great again on the backs of lawyers, as usual! ;-) )
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 30, 2018, 08:06:51 AM
double check the impact of the 20% cut on tax on s-corp distros... pretty sure lawyers and other professional service providers are specifically excluded from that particular tax cut.  (making America great again on the backs of lawyers, as usual! ;-) )

Yes, we are excluded from the 20% deduction, but only after a certain AGI threshold (I believe it's at a reduced amount starting at AGI of $315,000 for MFJ and fully excluded at $415,000, with lower amounts for single filers and Married Filing Separate, and I'm not sure if it's AGI or just Gross Income, but again, this is off the top of my head).
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: nedwin on March 30, 2018, 01:37:50 PM
RSM - I have read through this entire thread and wish you luck.  I would do the same in your shoes.  My only advice would be to sit down with a CPA to determine entity selection and tax structure, which others have suggested and you've agreed.  My dad was a sole practitioner, and he structured his business as FIREby35 and TVR described, except he used a prof. corporation entity.  I think MMM has also structured this blog in the same manner.  Also, you should be very careful doing work on a client's file if there is no signed fee agreement.  I don't know about Ohio, but no signed fee agreement is a violation of the professional rules in CO. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 31, 2018, 09:46:39 AM
I think both of you (FIRE and TVR) are correct in your summaries.

To FIRE, however, my understanding is that a single member LLC is taxed the exact same as a sole proprietor.  I think the tax benefits there start to kick in when you have a multi-member LLC or have staff/associates working for you, which I don't have yet due to my immediate needs to keeping overhead low.

As for the S-Corp analysis, I believe you are exactly correct, TVR.  My biggest concern in doing that is the "reasonable salary" requirement.  While I am bringing clients with me and I am hopeful that I have relatively immediate revenues, I'm pretty hesitant to commit to an S-Corp and thus require me to pay myself a "reasonable salary" when I'm entirely uncertain about revenues.  If I get this thing up and running and I'm making a consistent income, then I will likely re-organize to an S-Corp.

All that said, I have two meetings with CPAs here in the next few weeks, and I plan on running some of this stuff by them.

And beating a dead horse here, this is why I'm giving myself a couple months before launching.  I want to get all of these ducks in a row so I'm working on getting clients and doing legal work instead of spending a day on entity formation.

Actually, what I was talking about was an LLC where I elect to be taxed as an S-Corp :)

Don't get hung up on the reasonable salary part. Over the years, I spoken with multiple people who just hold on very tightly to opinions they formed without getting all the info. It is frustrating to me to see/hear people get caught on the same problem when it really is not that big a deal and it costs them lots of money they worked hard to obtain. The key thing is to go get enough information to make an informed decision where you accept the risks you can tolerate.

As for a "reasonable" salary, if you have a new business with no demonstrated profitability and a single owner/employee then a salary of $0 could be considered reasonable. After all, it would be literally impossible for you to declare a salary larger than your gross receipts (which are $0!). It would be business suicide to create a payroll expense larger than you receipts (of $0!) or a high percentage of your gross receipts (funded by debt mascarading as a "normal" business practice called a "line of credit" many use to pay themselves heavily taxed "salaries" in an epic misunderstanding of business and money). "Reasonable" depends on many things. I, personally, don't even agree with TV about the percentage proportions he mentioned but admittedly said were just ball park ideas. Don't take offense TV, you can use any percentage you are comfortable with! :)

My personal approach is to pay myself a 55k salary (with full 401k contributions reducing taxability on this salary even further) even while bringing in more than 500k in receipts. How is that reasonable? Well, it is extremely reasonable if you have any experience managing cashflow for a business like this. 500k in receipts but 175k in one case and another 100k on the other top 3 cases during the year. That means I don't have a steady income stream and I need to be very conscious of how I steward the cash I get. I certainly don't want a large recurring payment to myself that does not serve my business model of taking in large  sums at unpredictable intervals. Don't forget, my employees do reasonably demand to be paid their salary regardless of my high or low cash flow situation. I need low recurring expenses to survive the draughts and that includes my salary to myself. Actually, lowering my salary is the best, most flexible lever/tool I have for protecting my cash flow.

Using the above approach, I have never used the line of credit I set up "just in case." That is "good business" and, therefore, highly rational, reasonable and defensible in case of a highly unlikely IRS audit, in my opinion. I accept all risks associated with this plan and receive the benefit of an efficient effective tax strategy every April.

BTW, if the "big risk" is an audit then what are your real dangers/risks? If you make a rational, reasonable plan and use a CPA and then the "big risk" happens (i.e. you get audited) then you certainly won't go to jail or be heavily penalized. You might be told your plan was too aggressive and be required to pay back some money to the government. But, since a tiny, tiny percentage of people are audited this is a small risk. Also, you are a mustachian so you will likely have saved and invested the money for a period of years. You would have funds available to pay any back taxes. So, if that is all true why would you "overpay" the taxes as a protective measure against this risk? The risk is actually small and manageable. I wouldn't pay thousands of dollars a year as a self-imposed insurance against this risk. But, again, that is just me and my risk tolerance.

Much more important than my personal opinion and approach is that you gather information so you can make that determination for yourself. That is why I suggested interviewing multiple CPA's. I talked with 3 and got different variations on the same advice ranging from pretty conservative to pretty aggressive. It was clear to me, there is no "right" answer. I then made my decisions. Take the time to get info straight from a CPA. Weigh it, form a plan and then implement it (using the CPA you liked best).  As long as you do that, any choice you make will save you lots of money over the default - which is half-formed opinions based on little incomplete pieces of information from random people who won't actually be filling out tax forms and writing checks for you to the IRS. You have to become the expert on how and why you do things in your business - including your tax plan.

Lastly, don't let it overwhelm you. Give yourself a year to gather the info and implement the plan. You are doing great by simply thinking and talking about it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 31, 2018, 05:33:57 PM
RSM -

Sorry for getting tunnel vision on the tax stuff.

As for your plan with the real estate litigation, you have this idea that real estate law will be a good niche. I say, test it out.

"Testing it out" is different than "making it happen." Making it happen implies that you will, come hell or highwater, be a real estate litigation lawyer. I don't think that is the right attitude.

Testing it out implies you will see if there is sufficient demand for this particular service to sustain you and your family in an acceptable economic state. This is how you do it: while out and about, you say, "I just opened my practice, so I'm taking any case that will keep the lights on so please send any friends and family. Even if I can't take it, I'll help them navigate finding an attorney. But, I have experience in real estate matters and I hope I have enough business doing just real estate litigation someday." This statement will direct other people's minds to what you do and they will naturally ask you any relevant questions - if they have them. Then you will begin to see how much of that work exists, if it pays enough and if you like the people that will be your eventual client base, etcetera.

You can learn to see who you need to be talking with! Where you should be to find your clients and other important pieces of information. For example, at a conference for the local chamber of commerce, if you make the above statement enough times you will eventually connect with whoever in the room owns enough properties to enjoy talking with a real estate lawyer over coffee in a conference room to start the last Friday of the month (lol). Trust me, your local chamber of commerce is crawling with real estate agents, mortgage vendors, real estate developers and small time landlords (and lots of insurance salesmen and women!). Then you repeat that process over and over and over again - for years. Eventually you will know many of the people who would be your potential client. If you are paying attention you will be looking for common characteristics these people have so you can find more - if you want or need more clients.

If you get enough real estate business then your plan is a good one. If there is not enough real estate business then your plan is a bad one.

Don't get attached to your plan. Making a good or bad plan has nothing to do with you as a person.

Testing it out implies that you will evaluate the evidence in front of you. If you don't get enough business then you can always make a new plan and test that out.

Eventually, you'll find something that clicks.

That is your niche and finding it is a beautiful thing.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 02, 2018, 09:06:44 AM
Thanks for the advice and wisdom.  I think your post explains (in much more detail) how I plan to go about marketing like a specialist and practicing like a generalist.

I guess my follow up question for you (and the board) would be how "all in" to go with my marketing plan.  Should my website, business cards, and stationary reflect real estate litigation?  I'm thinking I should have at least a website about being a real estate litigation specialist, and also have a section about civil litigation.  And then, as you suggested, I can tinker this the way I see fit as clients actually come in.

I'm actually going on vacation this Wednesday and am writing my marketing portion of my business plan, and while this is not going to be some concrete doctrine, I will probably post it here so each of you can see more of where I'm coming from and my plans moving ahead.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Embok on April 02, 2018, 10:24:52 AM
RSM:

Saw @lhamo 's message, read your entire journal, and as a 30 year real estate lawyer in big firms and now my own small one for the last 7 years, have a few responsive thoughts:

1.  Your decision to start your own practice and get out from your boss from hell is sound.  The way you have described she is running her practice sounds dangerous at best, unethical at worst.  Plus you need to value your own health, including your mental health.  The sooner you can leave, the better.

The practice of law need not be miserable, nor full of emergencies.  Once a litigation is started, organization is key, but there is a fairly straightforward set of deadlines. (I'm a transactional lawyer, and the timing of deals is more variable). Your boss is obviously quite disorganized, and is a hazard, and is looking for a scapegoat. So she is dangerous to you.  (A side note:  in California, it would be unethical to represent a client without an engagement letter, though one engagement letter can cover several matters, as with a big corporate client such as an insurance company.)

2.  Your planning sounds thorough.  I second the advice about finding a great strategic advisor type of CPA.  This may or may not end up being the CPA who does your taxes.

3.  Real estate litigation is a great field.  I work in the area of commercial real estate.  We frequently need litigation help, particularly in down cycles.  There is a lot of work in the area, at least out here.  Most RE litigators start as civil litigators, and gradually specialize.  Good RE litigators are hard to find, as it is a lot of work to learn enough to be a great litigator and to learn real estate.  So it could be a good niche. 

Writing and getting articles published is a great way to start learning the field and gaining credibility.  That then leads to speaking gigs, which build your reputation.  It is quite easy to get published if you can write a decent legal article: most legal and business journals run on the voluntary articles written for free (by lawyers), and need a constant supply of fresh ones.  I *don't* mean law reviews:  I mean the kind of "how to" articles in trade magazines that people in the real estate and finance business read.   

It is easy to find a topic:  whenever you stumble on an issue you have to research, and it is not clear, chances are it won't be clear to other folks and will make a good article.  Keep them short.  Publish 10 and you become seen as an expert. 

Every time you publish an article, try to get it republished elsewhere (twice the exposure for the same work) and add it to your resume and website.  You likely won't get clients directly from publishing but you will gain knowledge and credibility, as when a potential client looks you up, he or she will see you have written on the topic.  And when you have the opportunity to pitch a client, your knowledge will show.

The other advantage to RE litigation is that it is local and unlikely to be replaced by computers. 

Be sure to get a sufficient retainer up front every time, make it evergreen, and do an engagement letter with every client every time.

Find a calendaring system and billing system that works for you;  we used one that was a disaster,  then we moved to Rocket Matter, which is good and has worked pretty well for us.  Get a backup system in place for your computer files and use it religiously or set it up so it runs automatically. Keep your time daily and sent out bills timely -- and cut off clients who don't pay promptly.

If you have any questions I can answer, just let me know, and I'll try.

Good luck!

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on April 02, 2018, 10:39:32 AM
RSM,

Not is the business as stated before.

Why not take a look at your competitions websites?  I know they may not be directly in real estate, but might help address your needs.

Think about who will be looking for your services.  How will they want to seek you out?

I cannot speak for the specialist side, but last year I was looking for legal representation for a civil matter related to employment.  As a consumer my main criteria was experience in the area, affordability, and responsiveness.

Responsiveness ended up being one of the most important.  If they did not respond to my inquiry within 24 to 48 hours they were not even considered.

I look at the quality of their website.  I do not need a super savvy website, but I expect more than a simple wordpress template.  I figure if they do not even take a little time to provide quality information on a website, I am not going to get much better in person.  Also, simple to navigate.  Definitely include a self picture.  People want to know who they are dealing with.  Although we do not want to admit it, on some level we all judge a book by its cover.

I ended up going with a sole practitioner.  Partly because the big firms did not want to give me the time of day.  The lawyer I went with discussed my issue in detail and reviewed some material and provided some feedback prior to me hiring her.  She has been very helpful thus far.  She will be starting depositions this month.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on April 03, 2018, 07:21:14 AM
As for how to market like a generalist and grow a specialty, I would put on your website, business cards, letterhead and anything else something that says, "General Litigation and Real Estate Law" or something to that effect. "General Litigation" means "I'll take anything." The average customer will assume whatever their case is fits within "General Litigation." The real estate clients will know you "specialize" in their issues.

The best marketing tool I have ever made is an excel spreadsheet with the address of every friend, family member, client who came in for a consultation, client who hired me, professional I met at a chamber of commerce or other community event or any person I have met in anything resembling a professional capacity. I have them organized by category. These are the people who form your "base." They personally know you and, if you are doing a good job, they are neutral about you or they like you. You need to remind them you are open for business periodically. They will hire you or refer their friends.

Your first marketing act can be to create your current list and send them a postcard telling everyone, "I've moved!" or "I've taken the plunge and opened a business!" Once you have your office and everything set up, have a grand opening (it can be six months or a year after you open, btw). Invite your family and friends onto this new journey with you. Let them see, "how it all began." Get them personally invested in seeing you succeed. You have to make sure everyone in your life knows how they can help you. The answer to that question is: by referring a friend or family member to you! All you are asking for is work. Then win their trust by truly serving the person in front of you. If you can't take the case, help them find a good lawyer.

BTW, helping someone find a good lawyer is an actual positive thing you can do. The average customer has no idea how to evaluate an attorney. I see people all the time who are choosing between me and another attorney I know is under review for serious bar complaints (a public order from a judge referring him to the bar for lying on the record about juror and witness tampering in murder case. Yikes.) They literally know nothing. So, if you can direct them to a reputable lawyer in any specialty then your friends and family will feel like they "know a guy" who can connect them to "the best" lawyer in any given area. They will then always call you first which gives you "first look" at all the cases. It is a real win-win. So, start your marketing with a small, strategic acts of kindness :) Even better news, this approach is damn near free.

That reminds me, for more info on how to give in a way that is helpful to others and yourself, read the book, "Give and Take" by University of Penn sociology professor Adam Grant.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 03, 2018, 10:30:15 AM
Thanks for the detailed response on my real estate litigation idea, @Embok .  I have definitely been thinking about blogging about real estate law in the early part of my practice--and I think the idea to get the content republished is an especially good idea.  I was also going to post free forms on my website (perhaps a free tenant application form and three-day notice form with my name and information on the bottom).  Basically, provide value to people before they hire me, and then hopefully they will call.


Thanks for sharing your experience as a consumer @civil4life .  I will remember your consumer experience when building my website.  Right now I'm probably leaning towards Squarespace due to ease of use and its mobile compatibility, but I'm open to suggestions.


And @FIREby35 , I have already created a spreadsheet of all family, friends, colleagues, and existing clients who will receive my announcement letter.  I'm still working on getting addresses, but luckily I just got married last year and have a spreadsheet with lots of names and information on there.


I also just referred a client to one of my eventual office share attorneys.  I was conflicted out, but this potential new client was very grateful for me steering him to an attorney I trusted.  Furthermore, the attorney I referred him to let me know that he is going to need help with appellate briefs in June.  Hopefully this is just the start of a great referral relationship.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on April 03, 2018, 11:29:57 AM
Hey RSM this is a very specific piece of advice so take it how you will... do you have an Avvo profile and/or have you posted any content there?  When things were grim around here economically (say 2010-12) I used a lot of my free time to answer questions posted on Avvo.  You can narrow the questions that you see geographically and by subject matter, and you can set up auto notifications when there are new questions in your chosen area. 

I do transactional work, which in my small burg includes corporate and real estate work (mostly commercial RE), including LL/Tenant (again, skewing commercial).  Anyhow, I ended up posting answers to a lot of questions in corp/LLC and the LL/Tenant fields and low and behold my phone started ringing as a result.  Like a lot of calls, actually, for the amount of time invested (haha, my phone never rings as a result of my MMM posts).  I think I probably answered fewer than 100 questions and none since 2014 or so. 

It took me a while to figure out, but for me the sort of leads that this work generated was not what I was looking for, and I quit posting once I figured out that I was mostly getting consumer-oriented leads.  However, seeing as you seem to be looking to build a consumer oriented practice, I'm throwing this experience out there.  I did (and still do) get quite a few calls... many of which may be the kind of stuff you're actually looking for.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on April 03, 2018, 01:55:05 PM
I never used square space. But, I did use wix. It was a great, cheap way to have a low-cost website. It worked for many years until I really started doing digital marketing with intention. So, you might make a quick comparison between the two and go with the better option.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Embok on April 03, 2018, 04:56:26 PM
RSM:

I'd be careful about blogging, for three reasons:

1.  It is a *lot* of work.  You need to write something at least every week or so. It has to be interesting, pithy and short.  And correct.  Lawyers will come out of the woodwork to leave unanswerable questions on your blog under pseudonyms, asking things they have not figured out, either because they are too lazy to do the work, or the questions have no easy answer.   If you answer, it eats nonbillable time.  If you don't, you look like you are evading questions.  (I blogged for a national online real estate site for several years, and quit for this reason.)

2.  You don't get the reputational value or validation of having your articles published by a third party when you blog.  Most publishers of legal and business magazines won't republish your blog posts.  They want you to publish pieces in their magazines, but will let you copy those articles to your website.  That's the better way to show your expertise.  The article is more impressive if it is published by a real estate magazine, or your state bar real estate journal, or the like.

3.  As you are a litigator, other lawyers opposing you will read what you write, and may try to quote your blog out of context to support their positions.  I've had this happen in foreclosure litigation our firm was handling.  I've never had that problem with an article published in in a business or legal publication as opponents don't want to add to your credibility -- but don't feel they are risking that if they quote or misquote your blog.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on April 04, 2018, 09:24:06 AM
Great points here.  So much good information.  I wrote a reply post the other day but I see it got eaten and never posted.  Oh well.  A few thoughts.

1.  I agree with FIREby35 on the low salary points.  You are not required to pay yourself anything right away.  What is "reasonable" can change year-to-year, heck even month-to-month.  But it starts with what your actual revenue is, if there is revenue at all (hopefully there is).  Some years I've made more money and my W-2 income went up.  Some years I made less and it went down.  In all years, I had some W-2 income and some distribution income.  One good thing about W-2 income is that you can set up a SEP-IRA and put 25% of it into the SEP.  But don't worry about that now.  Focus on getting yourself set up.  Be impatient for profits.  The good news is that you don't need a lot of money to start a solo practice and you have a spouse who can cover your personal overhead at the outset.

2.  I totally agree with Embok on the blogging points.  If you're going to put in the work to write it, get someone to publish it.  There are lots of places to publish.  Personally, I don't do it b/c I don't like to spend that non-billable time.  I've seen some colleagues have some success with email newsletters, but I don't do that either b/c I get so many that I don't read.  But if you do one a month, it is a way to keep your name popping up in people's inboxes.  It needs to be short, well-written, and correct.  And if you manage to write something that you get published, use a condensed version in your newsletter and direct people to the publication. 

3.  I agree with shawndoggy on using avvo.  Their rating point system is driven by an algorithm, so filling out your profile brings your point value up right away.  Getting endorsements from other attorneys also increases your point rating, but client reviews do not.  Still, if you can get some client reviews, prospective clients like to see that.  Published pieces also increase your rating, btw, but blog posts do not.

4.  Networking:  Look at networking within the real property section of your state bar.  Lawyers get conflicted out and pass work to others they know.  Also, if you attend your section events regularly, not only will you learn things but other real estate attorneys will start to see you as someone who keeps up with real estate law.

I network selectively, since I don't like to take time away from my family.  Very rarely am I out of town at an event or attending cocktail/dinner time meetings.  Mornings are full for me with breakfast with my kids and school drop-offs, so I avoid BNI breakfast meetings, too.  I found a good lawyer lunch group that meets once/month and that provides all the CLE I need.  I joined a local estate planning council (my area) that meets for dinner once/month, and I attend about every 2nd or 3rd month.  I joined a local women's professional group that meets for dinner once a month, and I attend that about every 3rd month.  I get business from other lawyers at all three.  I also make a point to have networking lunches one-on-one about 3-6 times per month.  I go to my bar section meeting a couple times a year when it's convenient.  And I attend a once yearly important estate planning conference.  Since I work alone a lot, I enjoy the networking time and learn from other attorneys there.  I've made friends, and friends are good.  Friends who are good lawyers who can help you out are even better.  I also make sure I offer myself as a resource to them--you can't show up and only expect to get business if you're not willing to give.  Oh, and listing different networking groups in your avvo profile can raise your rating, too.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 09, 2018, 10:27:23 AM
Thanks for the advice @Embok and @TVRodriguez.  I will certainly take that into account.

To update, I just put in a three week notice this morning.  Some backstory, because (per usual) I need somewhere to vent. And I really deliberated telling the entire sequence of events, because it definitely involves a mistake on my part, but I'm not one for being dishonest.  So here it goes.

The Monday prior to leaving for my vacation in Maine, our office received a letter from a subgrogation lienholder on a PI claim we settled two months ago.  I never heard of this subgrogation interest on this file.  So I went back and looked in the file and, there it was, a letter from this lienholder dated 10/12/2016.  This letter was in a completely irrelevant folder (NOT in the subgrogation folder) that I obviously failed to look at thoroughly enough.

My boss, who's been handling this file for almost two years now, reviewed everything prior to settlement and OK'd everything.  Even with that said, and for all the ways I can shift blame (most especially the disorganization of the file after four attorneys worked it), I'm really beating myself up for not catching this.

So I told my boss about receiving this notice, and she seemed to take it well.  Prior to my leaving for my trip, I had my secretary print all emails relating to this file.  This included an email from Subrogration Lienholder A (the one I was aware of) to my boss dated 12/01/2017 (prior to me being here), and this email included an attached chart which clearly shows Lienholder A did not pay for one of the bigger bills.  That obviously leads to an inference of there being a Subrogation Lienholder B.

In my defense, this email and attached chart was not printed or in the file when I inherited it. I had no knowledge of this chart from Lienholder A.  But, I still feel like I could and should have caught this.

Anyway, today was the first day back from vacation.  My boss scheduled back to back meetings with clients at 9:00 and 9:30 at Office Location B on my first day back without asking.   Both of these meetings required some prep on my part, but okay, she's my boss, whatever. 

Before I had sat in a chair for 15 seconds (not exaggerating here), she absolutely lambasted me about this PI file.  Like you guys have been saying for months, she was hellbent on putting the entire blame on me for this. She was screaming with the doors open and her hands were shaking she was so mad.  She was bewildered how I didn't catch this.  Perhaps rightfully so, but again, it was clear she was not taking any of the blame for this mistake.

So I went into my car, called my wife, and told her fuck this, I just wanted to put in my notice now.  My wife gave me the green light. So after driving for a bit, I turned back around, went back to where my boss was, and gave my boss three week's notice.  I left things on good terms and told her it was me, not her (mostly relayed health concerns I've been having since I started).  I told her I thought a lot of her personally and as a lawyer, but that this just wasn't going to work out long term.

And that's that.  I'm going to transition everything professionally and as smoothly as possible.  After April 27, I'm probably going to take two weeks completely off (other than answering new clients--can't let those pass up).  I need to work on my practice before working in it, and I'm looking forward to that.

Thanks again for the ears/eyes.  Cheers.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on April 09, 2018, 11:41:44 AM
Congratulations!  I'm very happy for you.  It does not feel good to be yelled at, whether or not any of it was your fault.  Sounds like you handled it well, and you are leaving on good terms (as good as can be expected here).  That the boss didn't fire you for something that made her that mad tells you that it's more her than you.  You'll do fine.  Good wife you've got there, too.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Embok on April 09, 2018, 01:36:35 PM
Congratulations, RSM. Practicing law is very difficult and stressful at the best of times because of the responsibilities lawyers carry.   Taking care of those responsibilities is hard enough without being yelled at by a crazy boss. I know, I've worked for them too. You're much better off out of there. Your wife sounds great, and she probably understands you will ultimately be better off on your own.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Suit on April 09, 2018, 07:01:48 PM
RSM, regardless of making a mistake, it's horrible management on her part to react like that. Further evidence of her lack of professionalism. I'm glad you're getting out of there!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on April 10, 2018, 06:59:43 PM
Wow, she's got some nerve!  Congratulations on staying level-headed, consulting your wife, and giving your notice with professionalism.  I hope you are feeling excited about the new venture you're about to undertake!  You can do it!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on April 11, 2018, 06:20:18 AM
Congratulations, RSM. Practicing law is very difficult and stressful at the best of times because of the responsibilities lawyers carry.   Taking care of those responsibilities is hard enough without being yelled at by a crazy boss.

pardon the thread drift but this is such a great observation.  The one thing that I will add is that lawyers (at least the better ones) frequently blame themselves for not seeing every potential outcome and anticipating every potential pitfall.  We are supposed to be the "experts" after all.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on April 11, 2018, 07:10:09 AM
lawyers (at least the better ones) frequently blame themselves for not seeing every potential outcome and anticipating every potential pitfall.  We are supposed to be the "experts" after all.

Oh this is so true!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 11, 2018, 12:03:22 PM
Welp, the boss called me in today and let me know that she thought there was no point in working out a notice.  She asked me to notify my clients, file substitutions of counsel, pack up my stuff and leave.  I was actually happy to hear this and I'm looking forward to just being done.

Looking back, I got the feeling Monday that she was relieved I put in my notice.  My secretary said she's been making a lot of comments when I'm not here about how I'm the first associate to challenge the way she does things.  I can somewhat sympathize with her--I'd be pretty mad if an associate tried to change things.  The key difference, though (and go back to my first post in this thread), is that she promised me I'd have autonomy and management authority.  That clearly wasn't the case, and so on top of everything else, we were butting heads.

So that's that. Time to pack up and start a new chapter.

Thanks for the 50th time to all of you.  Perhaps we should have a MMM attorney get together where we can chug some beers and laugh at the absurdity of this profession.  Cheers!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on April 11, 2018, 12:28:01 PM
This lady is something else.  Good thing you were ready for it. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on April 11, 2018, 02:24:55 PM
Also, just want to chime in by saying that missing a subrogation lien is not an error which merits you losing even a moment of sleep or doubting your own competency. Don't get me wrong, subrogation interests and liens are an important part of any personal injury claim. But, it is a fixable problem. The biggest issue is that you have to do more work to correct it than if you had just done it right the first time. Therefore you reduce probability and you probably have to make an embarrassing phone call to the client which limits potential referrals from a satisfied client. That's not good and I wouldn't make it my standard operating procedure, but it is part of practicing law. You will have lots more opportunities to get it right.

Also, the true way to fix a problem like that is to create multiple systems that work in unison to ensure such an error never occurs. As you know, your boss did not have any such systems, the predictable error happened and the attorney was happy and content to let her management failures be blamed on someone else so she could escape the responsibility she has as the owner of the firm to ensure it never occurred again.

One could view all the procedures and systems I have as corrections to mistakes I've made. I have a lot of systems!

It was much easier for her to blame you than look in the mirror. Don't be surprised to see that pattern replay with many different people throughout your entire life and in a variety of contexts. It actually explains a large percentage of all human communication, in my opinion.

Maybe you already knew all I said above but I think its important to be clear about the nature of the error, especially since you felt enough embarrassment about it to consider not sharing it. Many people allow BS negative energy to be spewed at them and enter into their consciousness rather than simply seeing what it is and moving along. You should just move along and let her keep doing whatever she is doing. Again, don't let it cost you any sleep.

Finally, great job keeping your cool and pulling the trigger. Just the other day I was reminiscing on my own experience leaving my prior firm. It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you don't have people draining your energy with nonsense. You will be much better for this entire experience and for escaping it so quickly.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on April 16, 2018, 02:37:30 PM
Congrats! Just want to remind you to keep us posted and don't be a stranger- let us know how this all works out.

Funny, I started reading this thread because I was also transitioning to a new job from a well-established-but-going-nowhere-job. I'm in a completely different industry and so far my experience has been completely different, but it's been good to learn about how things go sometimes. Best of luck with the new practice!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on May 10, 2018, 01:43:18 PM
Ok, I'll admit it. I have been checking in periodically hoping to see an update on your adventures while also knowing exactly how much work goes into starting a firm. With that said, someday, sometime, I selfishly want to hear how it's going :)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on May 17, 2018, 01:07:22 PM
^ditto, hence my post above. I hope RSM gives an update eventually, but I can only imagine how busy the "beginning a new business" time must be.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on May 18, 2018, 11:18:10 AM
count me in too.  Looking forward to an update!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on May 21, 2018, 08:27:50 AM
Thanks for checking in, everyone.  I thought about providing a bit of an update but haven't been on the forums much lately due to a lot of work and a lot of travel. Here's some bullet points.

(1) My last day at my old office was April 11.  I spent April 12 setting up a bank account, filing everything with the secretary of state, meeting to obtain an office space, and doing all the other behind the scenes things that make a law firm churn.

(2) I am very grateful for the advice here and working on my business plan for the past year.  I knew exactly what I wanted with everything -- where to get business cards, where to set up a bank, where to set up a website, where to look for office space, what computer to buy (Lenovo Thinkpad), etc.  This avoided a lot of "analysis by paralysis."  Everything -- and I mean everything -- is pretty much up and running at this point.

(3) I moved into my new office on April 22 and I absolutely love it.  The other attorneys are great and refer me work.  Granted, my space is about 8.5x9 feet, and it's more of a workspace than an office, but it's well organized and gives me access to internet, two conference rooms, fax line, phone line, receptionist, copier, scanner, unlimited paper, IT support, etc., AND it's in a great location, for just $400/month.  Can't beat it.

(4) All my clients came with me, including a huge trade secrets case that should carry me through the summer/early fall.  I refused to take any clients from my old boss, even though they wanted to come with me, because it just wasn't worth the dispute that I knew would ensue.

(5) Looking back on my previous transition, I think one of the big mistakes I made was going right from my firm job to the job with the solo with zero break.  To avoid making the same mistake twice, I spent most of April just giving myself time to breathe and working on my website, business cards, stationary, marketing strategy, etc.  I am very pleased with how all of this turned out, and I feel mentally ready. 

(If you want to see my website and give me some feedback, feel free to PM me.)

(6) Startup costs were a little more expensive than I anticipated, but not too bad.  Everything has so far been put on a 0% AmEx and my balance is at about $2,100.  I don't see needing to buy anything in the near future.

(7) I did not send out any invoices in April due to the limited work being performed, but I have them ready to be sent out the end of this month.  These invoices total about $10,000, mostly due to that trade secrets case.

(8) The best marketing thing I've done is browse dockets for credit card companies and mail out of town counsel that I am available to cover hearings.  I am covering 2-3 of these hearings per week for $100/hearing.  I've covered 7 so far in May (only started doing this a couple weeks ago), so that's $700.  My fixed expenses are about $700, so this alone covers it.  This is the easiest money there is.

(9) Now that I left my old boss, I can't tell you how many lawyers have said, "Ya, when I heard you left [firm] for [solo lawyer], I knew that was a bad idea."  It's been unanimous.  I only wish people were this candid prior to my leaving, but now I'm here, so oh well.

(10) I'm still debating whether to do appointment work or not.  I may sign up at the municipal courts (minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors), but covering for the credit card companies provides a similar per diem and is way easier.  I'll see how cash flow is here in the first couple months.


Probably the three biggest things:

(1) Living "mustachian" has flat out given me the opportunity to feel quite independent right now.  I live in a small home, drive a used Honda, my wife has a paid off Toyota, we don't have cable, we shop at Aldi's, etc.  Our monthly expenses are about $2,600 for necessities and averaging $3,800 total (lots of travel/weddings so far this year).  My wife earns (net) about $4,000 per month when she's not contributing to retirement accounts, so these couple months have given me the opportunity to get my practice up and off the ground without worrying about money.  My wife gets paid three times in June (so income should be around $6,000), which means that I can focus on big picture things instead of taking everything that goes through the door.

(2) The reason I think this is going so well is two-fold: I'm a control freak and have a short attention span.  The control freak part is obvious (always knew I would like doing my own business cards, website, etc.), but I underestimated how much I'd enjoy the other aspects of running a small business. The law law law law stuff gets old when it's day-in-day-out, so I like days (like today) where I'm focusing on marketing, accounting, and business development.  It provides a great break for me.

(3) Most importantly, my wife is the greatest spouse of all time.  She has been so god damn supportive that it makes my head hurt.  She listens to me babble on during our long walks, she shares in my successes, and she has been working hard and picking up extra hours to make sure we are comfortable.  Hell, this week, we are going on our one-year anniversary trip to DC, and instead of just putting in PTO time for Thursday and Friday,  she worked yesterday and is putting in three 10 hour days M-T-W, thus saving the PTO time in case we need it later in the year.  She's just been so great, and I'm really indebted to her.


So, this went longer than anticipated, but things are going well.  I've spent the last two weeks doing work work work, so this week I'm taking a step back and focusing on finances and marketing again.  I'm really enjoying this so far, and again, I thank you all for the encouragement and advice. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on May 21, 2018, 09:35:15 AM
Congrats RSM! Glad to hear that things are going well.

...
(5) Looking back on my previous transition, I think one of the big mistakes I made was going right from my firm job to the job with the solo with zero break.  To avoid making the same mistake twice, I spent most of April just giving myself time to breathe and working on my website, business cards, stationary, marketing strategy, etc.  I am very pleased with how all of this turned out, and I feel mentally ready.

This is a great piece of advice, and something I didn't follow as well as I should've in my recent transition. Coming into any new opportunity with a refreshed mindset is invaluable to starting off on the right foot.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on May 21, 2018, 01:58:07 PM
Agree re decompressing between jobs... especially for a young lawyer upon whose desk the buck will now stop for all things.  You won't get another chance for a "real" vacation like that till you retire or quit practicing law. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on May 21, 2018, 07:45:05 PM
What a fabulous update!  Cheers to your new business, and enjoy your anniversary trip with your wife!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on May 22, 2018, 07:12:07 AM
RSM -

What a great update. I am so glad to hear you are landing on your feet.

First, that idea for covering hearings is awesome. I have thought about that, but never put it into action. I sincerely think that will be my "retirement" plan. I'll go to court to cover some hearings for a few hundred bucks a week and have an excuse to go to courthouse and talk to everyone without actually having to be involved in serious cases. Even if you eventually stop doing that, never forget about it! That is a great retirement plan. Or, it is even a great way to earn money now while refusing "dogs" and taking on only the interesting cases.

You office share sounds awesome. I wouldn't worry about the size of your office. $400 per month is all I needed to hear!

As for appointments, your hearing covering situation is much better paid. I think misdemeanors in my area get $60 p/hour. I do federal court appointment work and even on that I only get $140 p/hour (and they just raised it). Actually, I took myself off the federal appointment list because it just doesn't pay enough to deal with some of the things you have to deal with doing federal defense work. But, I go back and forth on the federal court appointments. Those can be fun cases.

$2,100 to open a law office. Can you see how many lawyers exaggerate the cost of opening a firm?  It is not a lot of money for all that you are going to receive in terms of keeping a much larger percentage of your income and total and complete autonomy.

Man, they should have told you about the other attorney. Just remember not to hold back your true opinion in a similar situation in the future. What is any lawyer for if not for giving their true opinion about a situation? It's takes a lot of discretion to give your full opinion without "trashtalking" but you have to figure out how to do it. That's the job sometimes!

Hey, you know I love Shawndoggy, but don't buy the idea that "lawyers can't take vacation until they die or retire." I spent two months in Mexico in 2017 and five weeks in Mexico this year. I hear that it "must be nice" from a wide range of attorneys. We manage 236 cases at a time in various practice areas with lots of deadlines and hearings. If you want to know how to set it up so you can have freedom to take an extended absence with mental clarity and no anxiety, read "The E-myth" by Michael Gerber. Set up systems. Start now and in a few years you will have it all ready to roll. Yeah, it takes years of effort. But, it can be done and it is worth it.

Hey, sorry for giving advice. You know, I can't help it sometimes! But, great work. Now that you have crossed the threshold, it will get better and better and easier and easier if you just keep your integrity. Not having to chase every cent to make a high overhead will make it that much easier to do the right thing. After that, its all gravy!

Have fun. It's the ride of a lifetime.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on May 22, 2018, 11:22:51 AM
Woohoo!!  I am so thrilled to read this update.  Supportive spouses for the win!  And I'm with you on loving the shared workspace.  I've been in one for years and it still works for me.  Congrats on a great start.  Looking forward to hearing more great news as time goes on.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on May 22, 2018, 04:30:36 PM
Hey, you know I love Shawndoggy, but don't buy the idea that "lawyers can't take vacation until they die or retire." I spent two months in Mexico in 2017 and five weeks in Mexico this year. I hear that it "must be nice" from a wide range of attorneys. We manage 236 cases at a time in various practice areas with lots of deadlines and hearings. If you want to know how to set it up so you can have freedom to take an extended absence with mental clarity and no anxiety, read "The E-myth" by Michael Gerber. Set up systems. Start now and in a few years you will have it all ready to roll. Yeah, it takes years of effort. But, it can be done and it is worth it.

haha yeah I can be a whiner about it sometimes.  I do transactional work.  Average turn for a new matter is about 3 days, and a long matter would take 2-3 weeks.  Right now I have no idea what I'll be working on two weeks from now.  So two months would be the death of my career.  Anything longer than a week (with constant attention to the e-mail inbox and fingers crossed for no fires) is quite dangerous. 

But my litigation and estate planning partners seem to be able to shoehorn in some pretty cool extended vacations (>1 week) without ruining their practices, so I'm sure it can be done.

I'm in the home stretch now, so I've resigned myself to grinding for a a while longer and making hay while the sun shines.  ;-)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: chrisgermany on May 22, 2018, 11:27:02 PM
The e-myth is also available as a special Attorney version.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on May 23, 2018, 06:24:31 AM
The e-myth is also available as a special Attorney version.

I didn't know that! I just read the original version and it blew my mind (about three years ago). I'm ordering the attorney version now.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on May 23, 2018, 11:10:48 AM
The e-myth is also available as a special Attorney version.

I didn't know that! I just read the original version and it blew my mind (about three years ago). I'm ordering the attorney version now.

Per your recommendation in a PM, I read the E-Myth (attorney version) a couple months ago.  I'm going to read it again here soon.  It's a great book, and I should be working on those systems now.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 01, 2018, 04:08:20 PM
A brief financial update, and a question:

I just sent out my first invoices.  Woohoo! Some thoughts:

-Wow, that's a lot of work to do on your own -- creating bills, cover letters, etc.  I might look into software here soon, but I really love my customization. 
-My invoices totaled about $7,900.  That was almost all just May invoicing (very minor work in April), so I'm pretty happy with that invoice amount for the first month. 
-Of course, invoices are much different than receipts, but anyway, I'm happy about the volume of work I had in my first month.

So here's the question: towards the end of the month, I actually found myself pushing to do stuff into June and/or not billing a file with only minor work.  For instance, a corporate client is having me review his contracts (I estimate about 10 hours of work), but he doesn't want them done until mid-July.  Thus, I didn't really do this in May since I had a decent amount of other work already.  My thought was to spread out the work a bit so I have something to do in June. 

I also didn't bill matters that just got started at the end of May.  I thought it was in bad taste to bill when nothing much has been accomplished, but more importantly, I thought I could do more work on these matters, get more accomplished, and then send a bigger bill in July (since June invoices were already a good number).

Is this "spreading things out" idea an okay strategy?  Or should I be trying to churn work in and out as fast as possible?  Hopefully this question makes sense.

Cheers.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: shawndoggy on June 01, 2018, 05:06:43 PM
RSM I can only say what I do:

a) default rule is to bill regularly and monthly (sounds like you are on track with that)  Definitely DON'T get to a point where you say "oh, I'll just get the billing done next month."  Your collections will suffer on stale invoices.
b) if I start a "big" matter in the last week / couple days of the month, I will "hold" the bill to be combined with time for next month, so that there isn't some piddly time on one invoice when it makes more sense to be combined with next month's
c) same goes for when time runs over into next month (i.e. big time in may but matter doesn't conclude till June 5... if I can I want all that time on a single invoice).
d) where matters have concluded, even though before the end of the month, don't hesitate to get an invoice out.

And in your context, I wouldn't necessarily limit yourself to billing monthly unless that's what your engagement letter/retainer agreement says you are going to do.  There's a very successful family lawyer in my burg who is (in)famous for billing her clients weekly.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 02, 2018, 08:39:38 AM
RSM -

I have taken a different path with how I handle my billing. It has a lot to do with my practice and I understand that it might not be something you can fully adopt, but I'll share it anyway so you can consider if any of it works for you.

First, with your billing, you definitely do not want to count billed amounts as anything resembling real income. I've been around attorneys who thought their accounts receivable had value and learned the hard way that it is literally not worth the money they spend printing and mailing. The truth is that nothing matters except money that is received, deposited and cleared the bank. If you choose to continue with hourly billing and monthly invoices you absolutely have to keep your time and send  out your bills regularly.

You will also have to develop a systematic response (a policy) for how you handle people with overdue balances. You have to be firm in telling every client - "If your retainer gets below $1,000 (or 2 or 3 or whatever) then I will stop working." Then, when they break that clear rule, you have to stop working and inform the client immediately and clearly. You might get form letters that get sent out at $1,500 as a warning to them and second letter informing them that you will not continue working until additional funds are received. The bottom line is your clients will expect that you work for free if you don't tell them clearly and explicitly what the deal is at the beginning. I can't tell you how many clients I have heard complain about their attorney (not me!) because, "They only care about the money." They really don't get it that, yeah, you expect to be paid for your time. That doesn't make you a "greedy lawyer" anymore than whatever other person who expects to receive a paycheck.

If anyone tries to throw that bull at you, give them their file and let them hire someone else. Don't get needy for clients, which is hard at the beginning, but letting people who complain become someone else's unpaid bill and walking trash talker about their firm (not yours!) is always a good idea. You want happy, satisfied clients.

Trust me when I tell you that if a person does not want to give you the retainer you request, "Umm, I'm short right now can I pay as I go?" There is a very good chance that person is going to accumulate a balance and never pay. You don't lose anything when you let a non-paying client hire and not pay someone else. Eventually, you'll develop an eye for a future unpaid balance and decline to take the case at the first consult.

Consider every unpaid bill as a continuing education you just paid for! When it's clear you are not getting paid, write it off. Never sue a client to collect. Never get mean with a client who won't pay. If you do that, those people will dislike you and tell everyone about it. On the other hand, if I've had people who don't pay me what was agreed and I know I'm never getting paid, I write a letter stating I am writing off the bill and, in return, I only ask that they send me referrals that will generate enough business to cover the loss. That works. You are converting your unpaid bills from a potentially toxic situation involving collections into a sales force of people saying nice things about you.

Do not get in the habit of taking involuntary pro bono work.

But, I've gone away from monthly billing totally. I don't take any cases on an hourly rate. Everything in my office is paid up front on a flat fee or on a contingency so I do zero monthly invoices. In my opinion, hourly billing creates many distorted incentives that are damaging to the lawyer client relationship. They want to call and talk to you, maybe give you some good information, but they don't want a bill for a $100 half hour conversation or to come to your office to talk for an hour and get billed $200 (or whatever). I think most clients, even small and medium business clients, prefer being charged a flat fee for their legal work. If you set a flat fee then they pay it, money is no longer a part of your relationship. At that point you can just work, cooperatively, on a project.

One other perverse incentive is that hourly billing gives you a motivation to take more time on something which is the opposite of what your client wants. You want incentives aligned between you and your clients. Having a major incentive misaligned and permanently a focus between you and your clients because they will receive and review the bill monthly just does not create positive relationships - in my opinion.

With a flat fee, you are incentivized to do everything in the absolute most efficient manner. Clients respect efficiency when they see it. It gains you credibility and I have never had a client say, "Well, I wish you would have taken longer to get this done to make your hourly rate more reasonable." They don't think of it as an hourly thing, they think they just paid you $750 for an LLC, $2,000 for a probate, $1,000 for a DUI, $10,000 for their compliance work or whatever. They paid you X dollars for Y project. That is all they think.

Hourly billing does not give people certainty about the cost of the project. A lot of times a client would prefer a flat number so they simply have the knowledge of the cost of the project. I don't work with businesses, but I have to think a business person appreciates the certainty on cost so they can go and manage their cashflow. Often they will prefer this flat number even if they know it comes out to a higher hourly rate.

Clients never seem to grasp the idea that the attorney is charging $x00 dollars per hour but that does not all go to the attorney, it covers the cost of running the entire business. They think you are making $250 an hour and they compare that to their hourly rates - which for most have never been more than $50, $60 p/hour and many its $20, $25 or less, and think you are ripping them off! But, they don't think about all the costs you have. I've even been with bigger corporate clients who are my friends (not clients) squawking about their big firm lawyers "$800 hourly fee is ridiculous!" But, they are the ones who want attorneys with fancy offices, expensive degrees, expensive suits, expensive cars, etcetera. What do they think they are paying for?

If big business people don't like it, medium business people don't like it, regular people don't like then why do we keep doing it?

As you are seeing with your billing, you don't like it either! It is a lot of work for you to bill by the hour. Flat fees would be a significant saver of time and resources for you as well. You won't have to write down your .1 and description of everything you do all day, every day for the next few decades, put it into a bill, send it out every month, maintain records of unpaid balances, etcetera. Someday you'll pay someone to do all that and it will not be your problem with time, but it will be your problem with money for a salary, taxes, etcetera for the person who does that job. As MMM has made clear, if you pay someone else you have to spend your time to earn the money for their salary and you get caught in the wheel of needing to earn enough to cover your firm's monthly overhead.

I suggest trying out the flat fee whenever possible. Give the client the option to choose a flat fee or an hourly rate. You will charge too little on occasion and too much on occasion. It all balances out in the end. You also get better and better at it. You can also say to the client, "I'm charging X but, this project is hard to predict so I reserve the right to ask you for more money depending on how the project unfolds." I just do my level best to never ask for more money except in extreme circumstances. Clients always know the case has taken a lot of effort relative to what they paid and are understanding as long as it is an actual fact that you have spent a lot of time relative to the money on the case. I've had clients offer me more money before I even asked! It's amazing how the dynamic between the client and lawyer changes when they don't feel you are fleecing them monthly. They feel like you are their champion and they pay you like it.

Anyway, good luck creating your own philosophy on billing. But, be aware of the fact that you are creating a philosophy on billing. Don't allow it to be by default. Don't just do what you think everyone else is doing. Think about it. Read about it. Talk to other attorneys about it and then choose the best option for you.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on June 02, 2018, 12:59:02 PM
I will share from the client side.  My lawyer bills me in chunks after doing a large amount of work on my case.  I am suing a former employer and it has been a very slow process.  On my end it is stressful, because I am never really sure when I will get a bill, but know that she usually waits until around $5k of work is complete.  I would definitely appreciate having a set fee for each level of the process.  I try to avoid calling or emailing as I know it will cost me about $20 per .1 hour.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 03, 2018, 10:14:14 AM
Thanks for the replies.  Some thoughts on the comments and suggestions:

(1) I think billing took so long this time because it was the first bills being sent out.  Now I have a template cover letter, template bill, etc. for each client.  I think this will grow more efficiently over time.  Also, like I said, these bills were extremely customized--the cover letter summarizes what work was done and why it was done; there is an "Update on Your Case" box on the actual invoice; etc.  I sent a sample to two family friends and they said they would pay the invoice in a heartbeat. 

My hypothesis right now (based on my reading) is that taking time to generate good, customized, professional invoices should hopefully improve collections.  This is obviously a hypothesis right now, so I will keep you posted.

(2) My goal is to bill on the first of the month, every month.  I've read in multiple books/articles that having a set date reduces the client's surprise of getting an invoice and helps with collections.

But, as another poster alluded to, I am "holding" bills until something is accomplished.  As a customer, I wouldn't like a $200 bill when I've only retained the attorney for a week and nothing has been done.  Perhaps I should send a "I am withholding your June invoice" letter to remind them that I'm not working for free.

(3) I absolutely love the idea of withdrawing if the past due balance get past a certain dollar amount.  I am going to put this in my fee agreement.

(4) The flat fee billing is something I've been reading about and considering for a long time.  The modern trend certainly seems to tip towards flat fees, and the attorneys tell me that customers love it.  BUT, when I went solo, I asked 3 or 4 of my clients (including my two biggest corporate clients), and they said they wanted to continue getting billed hourly.

I believe the idea of giving the client a choice is a tremendous option.  I kind of did this unintentionally the other day when I entered into a limited scope fee agreement whereby I accepted $500 to just handle this single part of potential litigation, and if it blew up, we would sign another fee agreement.


All good thoughts, though. I felt weird about sending out my invoices--in a sense I was proud of my work, in another, I knew they weren't worth the paper they were printed on unless I actually collected.  I'll keep you guys posted. I guess this is all in the fun of being a solo practitioner.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrUpwardlyMobile on June 03, 2018, 10:31:16 AM
Thanks for the replies.  Some thoughts on the comments and suggestions:

(1) I think billing took so long this time because it was the first bills being sent out.  Now I have a template cover letter, template bill, etc. for each client.  I think this will grow more efficiently over time.  Also, like I said, these bills were extremely customized--the cover letter summarizes what work was done and why it was done; there is an "Update on Your Case" box on the actual invoice; etc.  I sent a sample to two family friends and they said they would pay the invoice in a heartbeat. 

My hypothesis right now (based on my reading) is that taking time to generate good, customized, professional invoices should hopefully improve collections.  This is obviously a hypothesis right now, so I will keep you posted.

(2) My goal is to bill on the first of the month, every month.  I've read in multiple books/articles that having a set date reduces the client's surprise of getting an invoice and helps with collections.

But, as another poster alluded to, I am "holding" bills until something is accomplished.  As a customer, I wouldn't like a $200 bill when I've only retained the attorney for a week and nothing has been done.  Perhaps I should send a "I am withholding your June invoice" letter to remind them that I'm not working for free.

(3) I absolutely love the idea of withdrawing if the past due balance get past a certain dollar amount.  I am going to put this in my fee agreement.

(4) The flat fee billing is something I've been reading about and considering for a long time.  The modern trend certainly seems to tip towards flat fees, and the attorneys tell me that customers love it.  BUT, when I went solo, I asked 3 or 4 of my clients (including my two biggest corporate clients), and they said they wanted to continue getting billed hourly.

I believe the idea of giving the client a choice is a tremendous option.  I kind of did this unintentionally the other day when I entered into a limited scope fee agreement whereby I accepted $500 to just handle this single part of potential litigation, and if it blew up, we would sign another fee agreement.


All good thoughts, though. I felt weird about sending out my invoices--in a sense I was proud of my work, in another, I knew they weren't worth the paper they were printed on unless I actually collected.  I'll keep you guys posted. I guess this is all in the fun of being a solo practitioner.

Bill monthly on every file.  There are tons of reasons but regular billing results in better cash flow and fewer delinquent or slow paying accounts.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: NorCal on June 03, 2018, 10:47:46 AM
My first job out of school involved Accounts Receivable at an eDiscovery company.  Here's some general advice that would apply to corporate clients, but might not apply to small firms or individuals.

1. Get to know the Accounts Payable people at your client, and don't be afraid to give them a call.  Most payments issues occur because your client (the individual) doesn't know how to properly submit invoices to their own AP department.  Your invoice will end up in a bureaucratic limbo, and no one will think to tell you about it.  This is particularly true of your first invoices to a client.

2.  Call early and call often about late payments.  Typically start with AP, then escalate to your contact if needed.  It's MUCH easier to be annoying about it upfront than to try and collect on unpaid invoices months later. 

3.  Don't be afraid to cut off services to clients that are past a certain delinquent threshold.  Just document it and be consistent about it.  I once threatened to cut off access to a law firms Discovery documents mid-trial due to an extremely late payment.  Amazingly, the 120 day old invoice was paid overnight.

4. Set a late-fee in your contract for new clients.  Consistently charge it, but be willing to negotiate it away for those operating in good faith.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on June 04, 2018, 12:17:24 PM
Nice update!  Congratulations on running your first set of invoices--and for a good amount, too.  Well done.  A few thoughts as I read your update and the responses.

1.  I bill flat rates on some matters and hourly on others.  I explain why in the initial intake call before the first meeting.  Flat fee clients do not receive monthly bills.  They usually pay 50% up front and the balance once I've performed the work.

2.  I bill monthly, on either the last day of the month or the first of the next month (depending on where it falls in the week).  I set the due date 30 days out or by the first of the next month.

3.  I bill a consultation fee for my first in-person meeting because my time is valuable and because I give lots of valuable information during the meeting.  It's not my hourly rate (it's 75% of my hourly rate) and it covers the whole meeting, which can go up to 3 hours.  It's a gate-keeper.  I also credit the consultation fee to any flat fee if they hire me within a reasonable time after the meeting (~a month).

4.  When someone has not paid me for three months, they get a notice that I will stop working on their matter until they bring their account up to date.  I've only had to do this a couple of times, and it works.  I don't have a form letter.  It's pretty short to write that out.

5.  My engagement letter includes the client's specific agreement to be responsive, and it states that I will only begin work once my deposit has been paid and the letter is returned signed by the client or clients.

6.  I bill flat fees when the work depends only on me (and on the client's responsiveness to my need for information).  When I have to depend on the court, I bill hourly.  Judges around here can change the rules overnight, which can literally add thousands of dollars to a matter, and I will not be left holding that bag.  I've known a couple of attorneys in my area who were billing flat fees, and both of them stopped practicing because they were being run ragged.  No thanks.  I don't want a volume practice or to run a factory.

7.  Don't try to be the lowest-billing attorney (or anything, really).  If your biggest selling point is that you are cheap, then your clients will desert you for the newest cheaper guy down the block.  You must have something to offer that is worth paying for.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 04, 2018, 01:01:51 PM
Thanks for the additional tips, TVR and NorCal. Some thoughts:

-I actually had two clients email me *thanking* me for the invoice and indicating that payment has been sent.  They really appreciated the updates.

-I had my due date as 14 days from receipt of the invoice.  My assumption was that's plenty of time to pay an invoice.  Maybe I should make it 30?

-I do not charge for the consultation (or a lot of phone calls, so long as the client doesn't abuse it), but I always put this time on the invoice and then write it off as "NO CHARGE" at the end of the invoice.  It reminds the client that my time is valuable and my limited experience thus far is that it makes the client feel like they are getting a discount.

-Per this board's suggestion, I already incorporated the flat fee model today.  This is a "responsible party" on a nursing home collection matter (when the nursing home unlawfully tries to go after the "responsible party" and pretend they are a "guarantor," which is illegal).  I let the client pick between flat fee and hourly and she picked flat fee.  I'm charging $250 to send letters to get these nursing homes off her back.  I may turn this into a pattern of corrupt activity complaint if I get another one of these.

This is fun stuff.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: zygote on June 04, 2018, 01:47:15 PM
From my perspective as a client:

I'd recommend a 30 day due date since you are working with corporate clients. Where I work, 14 days would be tight to get everything through the layers of bureaucracy. (It does not help that some vendors I work with only send their invoices by snail mail and it can take up to two weeks after the postmark date for it to end up in my mailbox, but that's another issue...)

Personal clients, I think 14 days is reasonable.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: NorCal on June 05, 2018, 07:13:58 AM
Thanks for the additional tips, TVR and NorCal. Some thoughts:

-I actually had two clients email me *thanking* me for the invoice and indicating that payment has been sent.  They really appreciated the updates.

-I had my due date as 14 days from receipt of the invoice.  My assumption was that's plenty of time to pay an invoice.  Maybe I should make it 30?

-I do not charge for the consultation (or a lot of phone calls, so long as the client doesn't abuse it), but I always put this time on the invoice and then write it off as "NO CHARGE" at the end of the invoice.  It reminds the client that my time is valuable and my limited experience thus far is that it makes the client feel like they are getting a discount.

-Per this board's suggestion, I already incorporated the flat fee model today.  This is a "responsible party" on a nursing home collection matter (when the nursing home unlawfully tries to go after the "responsible party" and pretend they are a "guarantor," which is illegal).  I let the client pick between flat fee and hourly and she picked flat fee.  I'm charging $250 to send letters to get these nursing homes off her back.  I may turn this into a pattern of corrupt activity complaint if I get another one of these.

This is fun stuff.

You're doing all the right stuff.  I would consider everything you've listed as "best practice".

I think 14 days is a fine term length to use.  15 days is actually a pretty standard term.  If any client has issues with this (some might), you would want 14 days to be the starting point for negotiations, not 30.  Consider putting the payment terms in your engagement letter as well.

I'm really encouraged by your experience for personal reasons.  My wife has future plans to leave her law firm to start her own practice.  You have a lot to be proud of.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Blonde Lawyer on June 05, 2018, 08:26:04 AM
Great updates! I haven't read this thread in awhile.  Lots of changes!

I have a couple questions.  How much is your malpractice insurance? Second, did you get a legal research contract with Lexis or Westlaw? Those are the types of costs I worry about if I ever went solo.  My state has Lexis/Westlaw at one of the law libraries where I could become a member. We also have free access to Casemaker which is pretty good but doesn't have all of the unpublished opinions that Lexis/Westlaw have that are important to my areas of practice.

I hate tracking and entering my time more than anything.  I love the idea of all contingency/flat fee.  However, I think in my state I would still have to track it.  Judges can require time records, particularly if a party is awarded attorneys' fees.  I do mostly litigation and it would be really difficult to do a flat fee since it is so unpredictable how the case will go.  We routinely do litigation budgets for corporate litigation clients and those are often difficult too.  I guess those could be a starting point for flat fee.  Something like this flat fee includes up to 5 depositions, one mediation, etc.

Lastly, what are you doing about funding expert witnesses and other litigation costs? Many of my contingent fee PI clients cant afford that stuff so my firm pays it up front and gets paid back from the settlement/judgment.  This can be particularly costly in medmal cases. I guess you could just pick clients that could fund their own expenses but that really limits your pool of contingent PI stuff.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 05, 2018, 01:33:52 PM
I'm really encouraged by your experience for personal reasons.  My wife has future plans to leave her law firm to start her own practice.  You have a lot to be proud of.

Thanks for this.  Things are going well so far--but hopefully I start receiving checks in the mail soon.

I know I'm in no place to give advice (being so new at this), but I guess just let her know that I've been working on this for a couple years now.  I've really been able to hit the ground running and that's made my life a lot easier.  Shoot me a PM if you want to exchange contact info outside of this site.

Great updates! I haven't read this thread in awhile.  Lots of changes!

I have a couple questions.  How much is your malpractice insurance? Second, did you get a legal research contract with Lexis or Westlaw? Those are the types of costs I worry about if I ever went solo.  My state has Lexis/Westlaw at one of the law libraries where I could become a member. We also have free access to Casemaker which is pretty good but doesn't have all of the unpublished opinions that Lexis/Westlaw have that are important to my areas of practice.

I hate tracking and entering my time more than anything.  I love the idea of all contingency/flat fee.  However, I think in my state I would still have to track it.  Judges can require time records, particularly if a party is awarded attorneys' fees.  I do mostly litigation and it would be really difficult to do a flat fee since it is so unpredictable how the case will go.  We routinely do litigation budgets for corporate litigation clients and those are often difficult too.  I guess those could be a starting point for flat fee.  Something like this flat fee includes up to 5 depositions, one mediation, etc.

Lastly, what are you doing about funding expert witnesses and other litigation costs? Many of my contingent fee PI clients cant afford that stuff so my firm pays it up front and gets paid back from the settlement/judgment.  This can be particularly costly in medmal cases. I guess you could just pick clients that could fund their own expenses but that really limits your pool of contingent PI stuff.

-Malpractice has limits of $250k/$500k.  I may increase that over time but that seemed like more than enough for now.  Annual premium is $1,184.

-I did not get a contract with Lexis/Westlaw.  As you suggested, my local law library has premium Westlaw.  I use it whenever I have a hearing downtown.  Annual membership for the law library is $20.

-I totally agree on keeping track of time.  I do a lot of CSPA, FDCPA, consumer-oriented statutes where fee-shifting is a possibility.  I've developed a great system for keeping track of time and it's not a big deal for me.

-I have yet to have a big expense case.  My plan for this was to bring in one of the guys here at my office on a referral basis -- he specializes in PI/med-mal, and I think I could give him some of the fee, have him front the costs, and then I could learn a ton from him, making his cut of the fee worth it.  He's referred me a bunch of stuff already, so this could be a great relationship.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 05, 2018, 03:05:41 PM
RSM - If you get a big case, co-counsel it.

By "big case" I mean something where you can see there is a big recovery. A big contract dispute, major injuries on a med mal, major injuries in a truck accident or something like that. Med mal cases are a great example. They can take tens of thousands or a hundred thousand dollars and years of floating it to effectively prosecute. I've been practicing for 8 years, I manage 100+ PI cases (and another 100+ immigration and criminal) and I've been dutifully mustachian - but I don't have that kind of money to invest in a single case. I max out at about 10k which, in my neck of the woods, can buy a life-care plan, loss of earning capacity report and economist report. Anything over that, I call specific attorneys I researched and interviewed (although, informally and they didn't know they were getting interviewed!) and I believe maximize the recovery potential for me and the client (aligned incentives for clients and counsel on that one!).

Anyway, it depends on the co-counsel attorney but the best deal I have gotten is 50/50 split, they pay costs and do the work. If you think about it, its an offer you can't refuse. That attorney is a former president of our trial attorney association and has won so many cases worth so much money he doesn't sweat the expenses and he doesn't have to negotiate for a good percentage split - he just gets calls from all the other Plaintiff attorneys to work their best cases. If you are plaintiff trial attorney, that is as good as it gets.

On that, I'm sure your office mates are great and you definitely want to reciprocate with people who send referrals. But, if you get "the big one" make sure you take the time to pick your co-counsel partner carefully. Just like the tax strategy and your billing philosophy you want to have a really good reason for why you chose a particular person as you co-counsel partner on a game changer case.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 08, 2018, 07:02:56 AM
RSM - I was just reading your post to my wife about your malpractice insurance and how much it cost, she said, "Oh man, that's a lot." Check out Minnesota Lawyers Mutual for your insurance. According to my wife (who is a CPA and does all our books) we get at least one million in coverage for two attorneys for about the price you are paying. Just check it out. It might save you some cash.

Also, on the legal research thing, I have found that google gives you most decisions if you find it cited in a brief or something and then, if it is federal, you can pull up the case docket on Pacer and get all the original documents, including briefs filed by both parties in the case. My biggest problem is copying and pasting from PDF's of others great arguments. You can even get transcripts of hearings to really know what is going to happen - usually for a couple dollars! If you do that, opposing counsel is usually not as well prepared and you have the advantage. Our state system is electronic and allows you to see all the filings online as well. So, I do the same thing. I have a statute book that has the criminal statutes, criminal procedure statutes and civil procedure statutes, jury instruction book, evidence book, and a book that is titled [State] Trials and includes all the relevant statutes and cases for each phase of trial. The circuit Court and our state Court put annotated model jury instructions online as well and once you have the case citation, you have it all. Anyway, with all that readily available for no subscription and often for free I rarely need additional research tools. Those books probably cost $500 total. If I do need more, I get a law clerk for the project - which is cheaper than a contract with Westlaw or Nexis which they bring with them as current law student who get it for free. Not to mention the law library if you really need it.

The point is, Westlaw and Nexis are dinosaurs and certainly not needed to run a profitable and aggressive litigation firm.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on June 08, 2018, 09:26:35 AM
My biggest problem is copying and pasting from PDF's of others great arguments.

@FIREby35 This may help with the copying and pasting... https://pdfcandy.com/

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: DealingWithDreams on June 08, 2018, 07:15:38 PM
ReadySetMillionaire,

I've read your post with interest because a few years ago, I did the exact same thing that you did. I am glad that you negotiated to keep  a percentage of cases you originate, because I didn't (I just get a straight salary) and now I'm kicking myself! Good job!

I would try and renegotiate that, but the dynamics of the firm have changed and it would not be well received.


Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 09, 2018, 08:10:52 AM
My biggest problem is copying and pasting from PDF's of others great arguments.

@FIREby35 This may help with the copying and pasting... https://pdfcandy.com/

OMG! Thanks!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: LeRainDrop on June 09, 2018, 08:22:41 AM
My biggest problem is copying and pasting from PDF's of others great arguments.

@FIREby35 This may help with the copying and pasting... https://pdfcandy.com/

OMG! Thanks!

Ditto! Seriously, I am in the middle of a project right now that involves lots of quoting from pdf-ed letters, and this program is going to be a huge time saver. Thank you!

Edit: Oh, and this is flat fee legal work :-)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on June 09, 2018, 04:14:27 PM
Just an FYI...There are numerous pdf editors online for free.  Some you can download others that you can use online.  So if you ever need to manipulate a pdf in someway just Google what you want and usually you can find what you need.  Sometimes the size of the file may be limited or the number of uses in a month is limited.  The other thing you need to watch for is some will watermark the document.

cutepdf - This one is a great pdf driver you can download to print docs to pdf.
pdf escape - This one is good to fill out forms.
pdf995 - This is a downloadable software.  It has annoying ads, but works well.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 10, 2018, 08:07:33 AM
RSM - If you get a big case, co-counsel it.

By "big case" I mean something where you can see there is a big recovery. A big contract dispute, major injuries on a med mal, major injuries in a truck accident or something like that. Med mal cases are a great example. They can take tens of thousands or a hundred thousand dollars and years of floating it to effectively prosecute. I've been practicing for 8 years, I manage 100+ PI cases (and another 100+ immigration and criminal) and I've been dutifully mustachian - but I don't have that kind of money to invest in a single case. I max out at about 10k which, in my neck of the woods, can buy a life-care plan, loss of earning capacity report and economist report. Anything over that, I call specific attorneys I researched and interviewed (although, informally and they didn't know they were getting interviewed!) and I believe maximize the recovery potential for me and the client (aligned incentives for clients and counsel on that one!).

Anyway, it depends on the co-counsel attorney but the best deal I have gotten is 50/50 split, they pay costs and do the work. If you think about it, its an offer you can't refuse. That attorney is a former president of our trial attorney association and has won so many cases worth so much money he doesn't sweat the expenses and he doesn't have to negotiate for a good percentage split - he just gets calls from all the other Plaintiff attorneys to work their best cases. If you are plaintiff trial attorney, that is as good as it gets.

On that, I'm sure your office mates are great and you definitely want to reciprocate with people who send referrals. But, if you get "the big one" make sure you take the time to pick your co-counsel partner carefully. Just like the tax strategy and your billing philosophy you want to have a really good reason for why you chose a particular person as you co-counsel partner on a game changer case.

PS RSM - I just got a call yesterday that a case I referred a year ago to this attorney settled for 135k and I'll be getting a 22k check in the mail this week (50/50 on 44k fee). After I signed up the client and brought in the co-counsel, I did basically nothing. I went to a couple meetings but had no responsibility for interacting with opposing counsel, filings or anything like that. That is the best way to make money as a lawyer!

Take a minute to think about it from the client perspective. How would they have known to find the most well-regarded Plaintiff attorney in their state for their issue? The person who just spoke at a national AAJ event on exactly that issue? This involved extremely sensitive issues that not just anybody could successfully deal with. It didn't cost them anything extra. Anyway, I think helping non-lawyers navigate the entire system, including finding the right specialist, is a service and you can get paid for it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on June 10, 2018, 11:45:24 AM
Wow, great advice and great progress!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 14, 2018, 08:10:04 AM
I have received enough checks that it is time for me to go to the bank.  Two of these checks are retainers.  These obviously go into the IOLTA account. 

But what about clients who paid my bill hourly?  I've already earned these fees, meaning they can be deposited straight into the operating account, correct?

This is obviously a red-flag area so I'm trying to be super cautious.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 14, 2018, 11:23:27 AM
I actually know each state has its own rules on this question. In one of my states EVERYTHING has to go to trust first. In the other state you can deposit earned fees directly into the business account.

The attitude I take is that I ALWAYS want to be able to justify anything I do with money. Rather than be fearful, be prepared to always explain the the "who, what, where, when, why" for any movement. It's actually really easy. Wells Fargo give the opportunity to input a description on their online transfer. So, I put it there. Scan a copy of your bill into your electronic file, write an email to yourself with a certain heading that goes automatically into an outlook folder. Whatever, just keep notes and reconcile your books regularly (or have a bookkeeper do it, eventually).

One idea is to go look at some disciplinary decisions from your state and then do the opposite of what got people in trouble! If you read a couple that involved money, you'll get a feel for what gets people in trouble. You can even call the counsel for discipline and ask what decisions they think a new practitioner should read and then read them. It'll take an hour and save you years of worry.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on June 18, 2018, 10:39:35 AM
Ditto FIREby35:  check your state rules.  Lots of bars offer free CLEs on trust accounting to make it easier to comply.  Check yours.

In my state, earned fees go in the operating account.  Those checks do not represent client money, which is what goes into the trust account.  Here, flat fees can be considered earned and immediately deposited into an operating account as well.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Blonde Lawyer on June 18, 2018, 12:17:43 PM
Ditto FIREby35:  check your state rules.  Lots of bars offer free CLEs on trust accounting to make it easier to comply.  Check yours.

In my state, earned fees go in the operating account.  Those checks do not represent client money, which is what goes into the trust account.  Here, flat fees can be considered earned and immediately deposited into an operating account as well.

And my state is different on flat fees.  You have to do something to earn it and if it is a large matter, you need to take the flat fee in chunks throughout, not all at the beginning.  So you can take the flat fee as a retainer and pay yourself from it throughout at your discretion but you do not "earn" the whole fee until you have substantially completed the work.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 19, 2018, 07:13:41 AM
Ditto FIREby35:  check your state rules.  Lots of bars offer free CLEs on trust accounting to make it easier to comply.  Check yours.

In my state, earned fees go in the operating account.  Those checks do not represent client money, which is what goes into the trust account.  Here, flat fees can be considered earned and immediately deposited into an operating account as well.

And my state is different on flat fees.  You have to do something to earn it and if it is a large matter, you need to take the flat fee in chunks throughout, not all at the beginning.  So you can take the flat fee as a retainer and pay yourself from it throughout at your discretion but you do not "earn" the whole fee until you have substantially completed the work.

This is exactly the issue. I am licensed in one state that does it each way. Personally, I think the idea that a flat fee is not earned upon being retained is dumb. For example, if I take a 15k fee on a criminal conspiracy case I am immediately conflicted out of representing co-conspirators and even future people who might be connected to that person. So, I think I should be able to consider it earned upon making my Entry of Appearance. But, whatever. It's not that big a deal either way.

I actually have a sneaking suspicion it is more about the state bar getting more interest from the trust accounts! More money in trust accounts equals more interest payments to legal aid. But, I'm not against that either.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 19, 2018, 02:32:55 PM
Thanks all for the advice.  I deposited everything yesterday and it all went well.

FYI if any other Ohio attorneys are reading: flat fees are not earned upon receipt unless specifically noted in the fee agreement.  This wording is complicated, so it's better to just deposit flat fees into IOLTA until the work is completed.



Also, and this is probably the only thing I procrastinated on, but I am sending out my law firm announcement to family and friends.  I couldn't find any templates of these online, so I'll let you guys pick this apart and let me know what you'd change.

I'm eventually going to delete this, so please try to comment/critique without quoting.

06/22/2018

Name
Address Line One
Address Line Two

   Re:   Opening of The Law Office of ReadySetMillionaire

Dear Family Friend:

I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope you enjoyed your recent trip to New York City to see Springsteen on Broadway [personal anecdote of which I was aware, will personalize with each client].

I am writing to let you know that I recently opened my own law practice here at home in City.  The opening of my own solo practice comes after practicing for other firms in the area for approximately four years, but I have ultimately decided to carve my own path so that I can concentrate all of my energy and expertise towards providing clients with straightforward and goal-oriented legal counsel.

My practice largely focuses on real estate litigation (boundary disputes, construction litigation, landlord/tenant, etc.), civil litigation (business law and litigation, employment law, personal injury, etc.), and estate planning.  You can learn more about my firm and its practice areas at www.readysetmillionare.com.

At this early stage, my marketing budget consists of the cost of the stamp on this letter and word-of-mouth referrals.  Thus, if you or anyone you know are in need of professional legal services, I would greatly appreciate if you contacted me or provided my contact information to a prospective client.

Thank you for your time and attention to this letter, and please tell [her friends and relatives, personalized with each client] I said hello.
                  
Respectfully yours,
                  

Adam
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 19, 2018, 03:05:09 PM
Good letter.

Keep an excel spreadsheet with every personal and professional contact. You can send mailed postcards to the same people every quarter or six months. Christmas cards from the firm are good too. Anyway, you are collecting the addresses now so keep them organized for future use.

Another thing you can do is to have a "grand opening." We cut a ribbon with the chamber of commerce and everything. I had mine 6 months after opening the firm. So, there is no hurry. You can wait until things calm down. But, I think it helped people to be like, "Oh, wow, this is real. He has an office any everything." It's just another way to spread the word that you are open for business.

BTW, good job on getting paid and getting the money IN THE BANK! That is a big win.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on June 20, 2018, 10:15:12 AM
Thanks all for the advice.  I deposited everything yesterday and it all went well.

FYI if any other Ohio attorneys are reading: flat fees are not earned upon receipt unless specifically noted in the fee agreement.  This wording is complicated, so it's better to just deposit flat fees into IOLTA until the work is completed.



Also, and this is probably the only thing I procrastinated on, but I am sending out my law firm announcement to family and friends.  I couldn't find any templates of these online, so I'll let you guys pick this apart and let me know what you'd change.

I'm eventually going to delete this, so please try to comment/critique without quoting.

06/22/2018

Name
Address Line One
Address Line Two

   Re:   Opening of The Law Office of ReadySetMillionaire

Dear Family Friend:

I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope you enjoyed your recent trip to New York City to see Springsteen on Broadway [personal anecdote of which I was aware, will personalize with each client].

I am writing to let you know that I recently opened my own law practice here at home in City.  The opening of my own solo practice comes after practicing for other firms in the area for approximately four years, but I have ultimately decided to carve my own path so that I can concentrate all of my energy and expertise towards providing clients with straightforward and goal-oriented legal counsel.

My practice largely focuses on real estate litigation (boundary disputes, construction litigation, landlord/tenant, etc.), civil litigation (business law and litigation, employment law, personal injury, etc.), and estate planning.  You can learn more about my firm and its practice areas at www.readysetmillionare.com.

At this early stage, my marketing budget consists of the cost of the stamp on this letter and word-of-mouth referrals.  Thus, if you or anyone you know are in need of professional legal services, I would greatly appreciate if you contacted me or provided my contact information to a prospective client.

Thank you for your time and attention to this letter, and please tell [her friends and relatives, personalized with each client] I said hello.
                  
Respectfully yours,
                  

Adam
I just copied this and sent it to myself. I think your letter is a good start, but could be better. To begin with, I would avoid using the same word twice in your opening sentence.

How thick is your skin? know we have some badass writers and editors on the forum, so you might want to ping lhamo, Malkynn, and axecleaver, among others, for more help.

We all want to see you succeed!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on June 20, 2018, 11:47:50 AM
Nice letter.  A bit wordy.  Sorry to quote you, but it's necessary to edit. 

I don't love the 'small marketing budget' line, but I can see the potential chuckle, so keep it if you're attached to it.  I also wouldn't use "focus" twice.  I changed the second one to "mainly handles" and made other changes, too.  I presume your website will be in your letterhead, so I took that out of the body.  Take what you like.


06/22/2018

Name
Address Line One
Address Line Two

   Re:   Announcing the The Law Office of ReadySetMillionaire

Dear Family Friend:

I am excited to announce that I have opened my own law practice here in City.  After practicing at area firms for several years, I have decided to carve my own path.  I will be focusing on providing City area clients with straightforward, goal-oriented, and cost-efficient legal counsel.

My practice mainly handles real estate litigation (boundary disputes, construction litigation, landlord/tenant, etc.), civil litigation (business law and litigation, employment law, personal injury, etc.), and estate planning.  Please visit my website for more information.

At this early stage, my marketing budget consists of the cost of the stamp on this letter and word-of-mouth referrals.  If you or anyone you know needs legal services, I would appreciate it if you contact me or send my contact information to your friends or family.  Feel free to call on any legal matter, and I will let you know if I can help.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and please tell [her friends and relatives, personalized with each client] I said hello.
                 
Respectfully yours,
                 

Adam
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 20, 2018, 02:11:56 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. Looking to send these out by Friday. And you guys aren稚 going to hurt my feelings, so comment away.  Per @Dicey 's comment above, pinging @lhamo  , @Malkynn , and @Axecleaver for some constructive critique.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 22, 2018, 08:37:35 AM
I love "wordsmithing" as much as the next person, but don't forget that the act of sending that letter counts for 95% of its benefit.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 22, 2018, 09:38:38 AM
I love "wordsmithing" as much as the next person, but don't forget that the act of sending that letter counts for 95% of its benefit.
Sent this morning.  Next step is sending to other local solo attorneys that I know regarding being available for contract work and hearing coverage.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 03, 2018, 08:48:05 AM
Just a brief update:

-Invoices for work performed in June totaled $7,450, which is a little bit under my goal but consistent from May. This included $1,450 just from the appearance work.

-My biggest client didn't pay from May.  June invoice (with May being late) was almost $9,500.  It seemingly always takes them a while to pay, but I'm not sure if/when I should nudge them.  I'm going to dance like an animal when I get their check.

-I've taken a glance at July and I'm expecting worst case scenario to be invoicing about $6.5k.  Add a couple more referrals and it will be another good month. 

-I signed up for Quicken Self-Employed and couldn't recommend it highly enough to other solo practitioners out there. 

-I got on the municipal court appointment lists.  This includes only minor misdemeanors and friends have advised this should be anywhere from $15k-$20k per year.  Add that to my appearance work (should be around $12-15k per year) and I'm doing alright ($27k-35k) without very much effort.  Add doing a couple wills and traffic tickets a month, a couple pieces of litigation, and other miscellaneous matters, and this seems to be going as planned.

-All in all, don't regret my decision for a second and enjoying this so far.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on July 03, 2018, 03:11:17 PM
I love it.

I hope you dance like an animal soon. One thought, which you can take or leave, is to call the people who owe you $9,500 and take the attitude that you know everything is all right and they have every intention of paying BUT you want to know who is the person specifically tasked with writing that check and what is the normal process of paying invoices so you can plan accordingly. I would also mention, in a friendly tone, how excited you are about starting your own firm and business and what a great experience it has been and how hopeful you are for the future. People have a way of wanting to help when they don't feel personally defensive. They ought to get the hint that you are patiently waiting to do a $9,500 happy dance :)

If you have to justify your inquiry, just tell them lawyers you know have told you not to let a balance get to big. If not for the repeated advice of more experienced business owners, you wouldn't have even mentioned it.

Glad to hear you are thriving.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on July 04, 2018, 05:19:33 PM
Glad to hear it RSM! Also, how did the "Law Firm Announcement" letters go? Did you get any new interest or potential clients from them?

Even though I'm not in the law profession at all, this thread is an amazing story of perseverance and turning around what could've been a terrible situation. Definitely inspiring to read/follow, so thanks for that!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 05, 2018, 07:16:35 AM
Glad to hear it RSM! Also, how did the "Law Firm Announcement" letters go? Did you get any new interest or potential clients from them?

Even though I'm not in the law profession at all, this thread is an amazing story of perseverance and turning around what could've been a terrible situation. Definitely inspiring to read/follow, so thanks for that!

Haven't per se received any new business, but I certainly raised a lot of awareness that I started my own practice.  I guess I got caught in my own bubble and assumed people knew I went out on my own, but there were a lot of people who texted me and congratulated me, or called my parents and brought up receiving my letter.

This has certainly been eye opening and is nudging me very strongly towards sending out even more letters to both colleagues and "second tier" relationship type of people I know.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on July 05, 2018, 07:55:30 AM
RSM - I send out a mailer once a quarter. Even having been out in business for 8 years, I find it is very helpful to give people gentle reminders. If you find a friend or small business person graphic designer then you can have little postcards created and send those. Those have the advantage of being cheaper than paper and an envelope in terms of materials and postage. Also, if they are designed "nice" people start thinking you are running a "real business."

As for second tier contacts, I keep a list of every person I meet. A consult, a business card, everyone. Those people receive my postcards quarterly. That is the most important advertising I do and it is also the cheapest. The next best is Facebook, btw. At least for me. It's the same principle, "once-in-a-while" posts about your business to remind people you are in practice and keeping you "top of mind." You can set up a professional page and pay $15 or $20 to promote your post and it is pretty effective.

It's amazing all the conversations those cards will start and all the minds that will be thinking of you and your business. They will conspire to send you business and it will be awesome!

https://www.google.com/search?q=mailer+postcard+sizes&oq=mailer+post&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.2335j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 26, 2018, 12:51:04 PM
I'm going to echo FIREby35 on entity formation over sole proprietorship (although I went with an S-Corp over an LLC).  As a sole proprietorship, I could deduct business expenses, sure, but I would owe payroll tax (Medicare & Social Security) on all of the net income.  As an S-Corp employee, I pay myself a salary and then take a distribution of the excess profit.  The salary is subject to payroll tax, but the distribution is not.  Additionally, starting this year under the Tax Cut & Jobs Act, if my income is below the threshold, then I can take an additional 20% deduction on the distribution.  The biggest caveat is that your salary has to be reasonable--if your net income would be $100,000, you can't pay yourself a salary of $10,000 and take a distribution of $90,000 and avoid payroll tax on 90% of your income that way.  But you could probably pay yourself $70,000 and take a distribution of $30,000, and save the payroll tax on the $30,000, PLUS get 20% of the $30,000 as an additional deduction on your 2018 taxes.

DISCLAIMER:  This is all off the top of my head, so look into it to see if I have the deduction part right from the new law.

So I still haven't paid myself, largely because I still haven't decided how I want to be taxed.  To reiterate, I formed an LLC, which gives me the option to either be taxed as a sole proprietor or s-corp.

The sole proprietorship accounting just seems so straightforward.  Want to contribute to an HSA? Just transfer funds.  Want to pay myself? Just take money out.  Want to contribute to a 401(k)? Just write a check.

The S-Corp accounting just feels so complicated.  I apparently need to sign up for a payroll company just to pay myself a salary.  I also apparently need to go through an accountant for seemingly every last thing I want to do financially.  It's very annoying just thinking about.

Numbers wise, I just feel like the tax difference won't be that great.  I plan on contributing as much as humanly possible to tax deductible accounts -- 401k, HSA, etc. Then I can deduct business and professional expenses.  By the time all that's done, I just don't think the potential savings is worth the hassle.

So I'm honestly leaning toward just doing sole proprietorship.  Might cost me more in taxes but I'm thinking it will be worth the convenience.  I invite @TVRodriguez and @FIREby35 to talk me off my rocker.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on July 26, 2018, 03:45:30 PM
I have an advantage of being married to my CFO who is an auditor/accountant. So, keep that in mind.

All I can say is to take the time to make the calculations. If you would save 5k in taxes but pay 5k in accountants and book keepers and still have the hassle - not worth it. But, if you are talking about saving tens of thousands of dollars and comparing it to a "hassle" or "inconvenience" then its not different than not taking the time to find the economically efficient car, house, insurance, phone, etcetera. There will be some hassle involved in setting up systems and learning about the most efficient tax strategy. But, it'll save you money in the long run. For what it's worth, it has saved me big money.

What might not be economically viable today, could become economically necessary tomorrow.

What feels like a hassle "one more thing to do" today, might be an interesting project tomorrow.

So, if you decide not to do it now, I'd leave the door open for the future. You actually are doing A LOT of new things right now. Forming a CPA, Book keeper team might be a good task for early 2019 or later. I didn't get to it until 18 months after opening my firm.

How is the rest of it going? Are people paying? Did you get your 10k?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 27, 2018, 06:26:57 AM
You've basically summarized my gut feeling thoughts.  Certainly doesn't seem worth it this year, but if my practice gets rolling, then doing things the smart way is probably the best way.  It just seems that I have control over literally everything other than this, so it's been drawing my ire lately.

As for updates:

-I still don't have my $10k--and they are actually the only client that hasn't paid.  I emailed the CFO directly about nine days ago.  I'd be shocked if they didn't pay but it's getting frustrating. 

-But, I basically didn't do any work for them this month, and it's looking like another $7-8k type of month, which means I wasn't entirely reliant on their case.  I will move to withdraw if they don't pay by mid-August.

-Business is good.  I had 9 invoices for April/May billing, and now I have 20 for my July invoices. 

-I'm doing good flat fee, cash-up-front work like license suspensions, traffic tickets, and estate planning.  The license suspension stuff is comically easy but takes time, and people will find a way to pay you to get their license back.  It's easy paying work.

-I got on the criminal appointment list and already got assigned two cases.  I entered into a great plea yesterday arguing an illegal search.  Easy $200-250 there.

-Appearance work this month totaled $1,490, and there's still a couple days to go.  I actually found another great appearance site, so I'm hoping to get this up to $2k in August.


Overall things are going great, minus not getting that big check.  I'm moving ahead, providing a great service/product, and people seem to be noticing. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on July 27, 2018, 07:21:06 AM
Congrats! Hopefully you get paid soon, but I'm glad to see you are moving on to other things to ensure you still get income.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 27, 2018, 09:59:24 AM
Also, one other big update: I have formed a co-counseling relationship with another attorney who I've known for years.  She mostly handles domestic but those clients eventually get employment related claims. She has brought me on board for two BIG employment law contingency cases. These are her clients, but we are going to split the fee and the work 50-50.  I've known her for years (she represented my mom in her divorce) and I trust her a ton.

The first case involves a veteran who worked for our county's Veteran's Office.  He served in Iraq and has PTSD.  His employer put him through a bunch of tests, ignored his own doctor's reports, and then fired him for having PTSD.  I mean that's the headline -- "Local Veteran fired from Veteran's Office for Having PTSD."  He was making $78k/year.  Should be a great case if I can figure out all the public sector BS that comes with these claims.

Second case involves wrongful termination/age discrimination.  She was making about $30k/year, but she had been there for 16 years and planned to work there until she was 70 (six more years).  Evidence of a hostile work environment seems pretty clear.  Again, could be a big case if we can get a decent front pay award.

I myself have brought on a potential sexual harassment claim.  She began a consensual relationship with a supervisor, which then turned very ugly.  He then began texting her from his work phone calling her a prostitute, calling her a degenerate, etc.  The texts are flat out scary.  She reported him to management and they changed who my client reported to.  Insufficient as far as I'm concerned. The obvious issue here will be tying this to her employment, but I think it's not that far of a leap given that some of these texts do in fact discuss work.


So anyway, three potentially big contingency fee cases.  They probably won't come due this year, but I'm setting up a nice 2019 already.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on July 27, 2018, 03:40:07 PM
The first case involves a veteran who worked for our county's Veteran's Office.  He served in Iraq and has PTSD.  His employer put him through a bunch of tests, ignored his own doctor's reports, and then fired him for having PTSD.  I mean that's the headline -- "Local Veteran fired from Veteran's Office for Having PTSD."  He was making $78k/year.  Should be a great case if I can figure out all the public sector BS that comes with these claims.

I have a similar case except when I requested ADA Accommodations, I was put through a battery of tests.  I was not fired but faced retaliation and hostile work environment.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on July 29, 2018, 06:27:33 PM
On the tax stuff, do what works for you.  I use Quickbooks online and find it very easy.  I like having direct deposit, payroll taxes paid as I go, and easy bookkeeping at my fingertips.  And it helped when I added employees b/c I pay them by direct deposit, too, and I use the same program.  But I have friends who found it too difficult or were just not interested in learning something else and signed up with a CPA.  You have to decide where to spend your energy and your time.

On the work stuff, it sounds like things are going well.  I'm happy for you.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on July 30, 2018, 06:51:13 AM
On the tax stuff, do what works for you.  I use Quickbooks online and find it very easy.  I like having direct deposit, payroll taxes paid as I go, and easy bookkeeping at my fingertips.  And it helped when I added employees b/c I pay them by direct deposit, too, and I use the same program.  But I have friends who found it too difficult or were just not interested in learning something else and signed up with a CPA.  You have to decide where to spend your energy and your time.

On the work stuff, it sounds like things are going well.  I'm happy for you.

It's sad to admit this, but...I am currently running both Quickbooks Online and Quickbooks Self-Employed because I still haven't made the tax decision.  I mistakenly signed up for the QBSE, which is only good for being taxed as a sole proprietor.  So then I signed up for regular Quickbooks Online, which is a little more complicated but just as straightforward.

I am going to meet with a CPA this Wednesday for lunch to get everything set up and finally make the sole proprietor vs. S-Corp decision. 

I've been playing around with this calculator https://www.incfile.com/s-corporation-tax-calculator/ (https://www.incfile.com/s-corporation-tax-calculator/), and the obvious conclusion is this: the lower your income, the more marginal the distinction (if any); the higher your income, then being an S-Corp is very, very advantageous.

***

I guess the strange feeling for me, and I think I've posted about this before, is that I have no intent on turning my firm into a huge multi-attorney firm or working like crazy.  I just want to gross anywhere from $80-120k per year, and that is basically my current trajectory. If I land a couple huge settlements in a year then I will probably just take it easy for the rest of the year and re-charge.

So I don't see myself earning more than $150k per year.  Take away the big 401k contributions you could do with that, HSA contributions, business expenses, etc., and the tax savings seem to be a couple thousand dollars, which I'm sure I'd be paying in accountant fees anyway.

So again, I'm sure you guys see which way I'm leaning, but maybe this CPA will beat me over the head with a frying pan this Wednesday.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on August 01, 2018, 01:08:24 PM
Met with the CPA for lunch today.  He advised sole proprietorship.  Ohio has no state income tax for sole proprietors up to $187,500.  We discussed possible numbers and he said the differences would be so small that the complications of an S-Corp wouldn't be worth it for a long while.

He also noted (correctly) that going from a sole proprietorship to an S Corp is very easy, but going from an S-Corp and dissolving it and all that and back to a sole proprietorship is more difficult.

Finally paying myself this Friday!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on August 01, 2018, 10:20:13 PM
...
I guess the strange feeling for me, and I think I've posted about this before, is that I have no intent on turning my firm into a huge multi-attorney firm or working like crazy.  I just want to gross anywhere from $80-120k per year, and that is basically my current trajectory. If I land a couple huge settlements in a year then I will probably just take it easy for the rest of the year and re-charge.
...

This my friend, is a great dream to have, and seems well within your reach. Good luck!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on August 03, 2018, 08:30:43 AM
RSM - On your desire to keep yourself solo at the 100k+ mark - I think that is pretty wise. I've got my firm going now where we have 6 total people working and our gross receipts (not my profit) is up at 450k-650k consistently for the last 6 years. I keep thinking, I'm really close to being "Fire by 35" but what am I going to do with this firm? I've got 230+ cases and it will take drastic action to reduce the size of my firm. Plus, if i do that, I'd have to let go of my employees (who now are counting on me for a good, stable job). Anyway, if you build a solo practice into a mini-firm then it becomes harder to walk away. Although, I also am redundant in my business so I do take multi-week vacations and lots of days off because I have people around to handle business while I'm away. Double edged sword, ya'know?

At the same time, I know those 230+ cases have a lot of value. So, if I just quit taking cases and closed down what I've got, I bet I could easily clear 500k in profit and easily cross my FIRE threshhold. So, should I sell, wind down, partner up or what? Anyway, the point is, "Mo' Money, Mo' problems!"

I like the idea you are floating. Keep it simple. Make 100k+ along with your wife earning and working. Take the court appearance biz, some court appointments, look for some premium contingency cases and co-counsel referral cases when you can. You won't work like crazy, you'll have lots of flexibility and you'll make more than enough over the long term. Couple that with some MMM financial badassity and you'll be golden.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: crimwell on August 10, 2018, 10:23:16 PM
Just finally finished reading through new posts in this thread. Extremely inspiring!

Awesome trajectory, RSM!

When/if I get tired of the government job thing, I might actually be able to do something like this
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on August 29, 2018, 11:47:42 AM
Met with the CPA for lunch today.  He advised sole proprietorship.  Ohio has no state income tax for sole proprietors up to $187,500.  We discussed possible numbers and he said the differences would be so small that the complications of an S-Corp wouldn't be worth it for a long while.

He also noted (correctly) that going from a sole proprietorship to an S Corp is very easy, but going from an S-Corp and dissolving it and all that and back to a sole proprietorship is more difficult.

Finally paying myself this Friday!

Congrats!  This is a great example, btw, of turning to a professional in your local area who can give proper advice.  Nicely done. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on August 31, 2018, 02:22:09 PM
Met with the CPA for lunch today.  He advised sole proprietorship.  Ohio has no state income tax for sole proprietors up to $187,500.  We discussed possible numbers and he said the differences would be so small that the complications of an S-Corp wouldn't be worth it for a long while.

He also noted (correctly) that going from a sole proprietorship to an S Corp is very easy, but going from an S-Corp and dissolving it and all that and back to a sole proprietorship is more difficult.

Finally paying myself this Friday!

Congrats!  This is a great example, btw, of turning to a professional in your local area who can give proper advice.  Nicely done.

100% agree.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on October 09, 2018, 11:49:11 AM
**Five Month Update**

Work is a little slow this week, so I wanted to come here and provide an update for those who have been following. Next month will technically be six months, but I'm slammed in November, so I wanted to come here and give a five month update.

Amount Invoiced:
-May: $7,765.50
-June: $7,422.50
-July: $5,195.74
-August: $3,742.50
-September: $7,329.66
TOTAL: $31,455.90
Monthly Average: $6,291.18

Notes: August really slowed down because I got very, very involved in two contingency matters (employment law).  One case is on the verge of settling (probably in the range of $20-25k, so $4-5k for me), and the other is likely in the six figure range.

Amount Collected:
-May: $7,765.50 (100%)
-June: $3,732.50 (50.29%)
-July: $4,691.74 (90.30%)
-August: $3,742.50 (100%)
-September: $0.00 (Just mailed)
TOTAL: $19,931.74
Monthly Average: $4,982.94 (excluding September since those just went out)

Notes: One client is responsible for the non-100% months (the same one that didn't pay before).  Their trial is set for this January.  They have always paid, even though it takes some time.

Furthermore, I'm hoping for a big boost when these employment matters settle.

Another Note: I also have about $2,500 sitting in IOLTA.  These are active matters that I'm billing regularly.

Appearance Fee Work:
-May: $500.00
-June: $1,450.00
-July: $1,460.74
-August: $2,112.50
-September: $1,537.15
TOTAL: $7,060.40
Monthly Average: $1,412.08

Notes: This is just for appearing at hearings.  I basically do not turn these down under any circumstance.  It's leading to judges knowing me on a first name basis, which can't be a bad thing.

Monthly Business Expenses:

I can't seem to get a monthly breakdown at the current moment, but I've spent $7,862 so far this year.  The breakdown is as follows:

-Rent: $2,400 ($400/month)
-Materials and Supplies: $1,300
-Insurance: $1,200
-Taxes: $1,000
-Everything Else: $1,900

Notes: Most of my expenses were startup.  I'm averaging about $650/month since June. The "everything else" includes a lot of meals and entertainment that I would otherwise do anyway, but include in my business.

Other Notables:

Criminal Appointments: Per the suggestions here, I am on the criminal appointment list.  This is leading to a decent stream of work.  I've made about $1,300 thus far because I am only doing the area courts (misdemeanors).

Office Situation: I mostly like my office situation -- good location, good conference rooms, and a quiet place to work for the most part.  However, with things getting consistent and a little busier, I'm a little cramped in my 9x9 space.  I think I want to get consistently to about $8,000/month before upgrading.  I'm hoping to stay at the same location, but I'm keeping expenses low and playing this by ear.

Contemplating Home Office: Even with the above, I'm contemplating an entire home office setup and renting a space for conference rooms only.  This is something I'm kicking around in case I can't upgrade my office at my current location.

Taxes: As you might expect for someone on this forum, I'm very on top of taxes and making sure I get every deduction I can.  Because we can live on my wife's income alone, I'm transferring all my profit to an HSA and Solo 401(k).  My tax liability should be very, very low this year.

Paid Myself!: As referenced earlier, I paid myself $10,000 the other day.  That's enough to max our HSA and cover any slight overages we have on the household front.

Could Be Doing More?: I have this aching feeling that my numbers could be even higher.  I've had trouble focusing recently, so I'm hoping to get back into the groove.  Any productivity recommendations would be great.

I Should Have Done This Sooner: I want to end on some high notes -- this has been great.  If you're thinking about doing this and have the finances to ride things out for a bit, do it.  I am an average joe schmuck and I'm doing just fine.  The autonomy cannot be beaten.

Personal News: Since going out on my own, I've lost 12 pounds and my cholesterol has lowered 16 points. I'm exercising every day, and I never, ever, ever did that when I was in a 9-5 job. The autonomy has relieved stress, had me eat a better diet, and allowed me to exercise more.

Even Bigger Personal News: My wife is pregnant! We find out the gender on 10/17/2018.  We are having the OBGYN put the news in an envelope, and then we are driving to Portland, Maine (where we went on our honeymoon).  We are going to go out to eat and learn the gender over a nice dinner.  We are very, very, very excited to be parents.

Year End Goals:

#1 - Have $50,000 in receipts by the end of the year (would mean I was on pace to average a $75,000 profit in year one)

#2 - Settle my employment law claim, which will go a long way in helping out the above

#3 - Continue building networks for referrals

#4 - Continue making myself available for court appointments and appearance work.  This is easy money.

Lastly, and I say this with almost all of my posts in this thread -- thanks to all of you for encouraging me to take the plunge and for giving me constant advice.  Aside from marrying my wife, this is the best decision I ever made.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: crimwell on October 09, 2018, 02:13:56 PM
Fantastic, what an inspiration!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Lady SA on October 09, 2018, 02:38:25 PM
Congrats on the pregnancy, and I'm so glad everything is going so well!

A big thing that has boosted my working productivity is organizing my to-dos into a kanban board. Every time something occurs to me, I add it to a post-it and slap it under to-do. The To-do column is also in priority order, with the big important ones at the top and the less important ones further down, and I pick as many high-priority/high-impact items as I can before I get down into the smaller tasks. Then I limit what I can be actively working on at any one time (promoting focus), generally 2-3 items is the guideline. Then once you are completed with a task, you move it to "done" and get a nice dopamine hit.

I like this model because then I know tasks are logged, but I dont have to worry about them until I've actively chosen them to work on. And once they are chosen, I can focus exclusively on them until they are done. If you hit a roadblock, you can move it back into to-do and pick up something else.

You can also add any kinds of columns depending on your workflow, and you can even color-code your stickies. The trick is to have the board visible and front-of-mind and the items on post-its so you can move them from column to column.

So your to-do board might look like this:

To-Do    |  Doing  |   Done
[][][][][][] |     [][]     | [][][]
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on October 10, 2018, 06:05:10 AM
Congrats on the pregnancy, and I'm so glad everything is going so well!

A big thing that has boosted my working productivity is organizing my to-dos into a kanban board. Every time something occurs to me, I add it to a post-it and slap it under to-do. The To-do column is also in priority order, with the big important ones at the top and the less important ones further down, and I pick as many high-priority/high-impact items as I can before I get down into the smaller tasks. Then I limit what I can be actively working on at any one time (promoting focus), generally 2-3 items is the guideline. Then once you are completed with a task, you move it to "done" and get a nice dopamine hit.

I like this model because then I know tasks are logged, but I dont have to worry about them until I've actively chosen them to work on. And once they are chosen, I can focus exclusively on them until they are done. If you hit a roadblock, you can move it back into to-do and pick up something else.

You can also add any kinds of columns depending on your workflow, and you can even color-code your stickies. The trick is to have the board visible and front-of-mind and the items on post-its so you can move them from column to column.

So your to-do board might look like this:

To-Do    |  Doing  |   Done
[][][][][][] |     [][]     | [][][]

Hmm.  You might be onto something with this board.  I don't know if would do exactly that, but perhaps a whiteboard in here would be a great idea.

I guess I get bogged down in the opposite -- I do a ton of small things, or work on small things related to my practice (e.g., logging miles, categorizing charges, sending emails, etc.); and before I know it, it's 4:00 PM, and it's too late to start something big.

Need to be able to just come in, work on 2-3 billable things, and then get to all that.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on October 10, 2018, 08:04:21 AM
@Lady SA Hope you're proud.  Although this did have me procrastinate a little this morning.

(https://i.imgur.com/lazSmBw.png)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on October 10, 2018, 08:18:05 AM
RSM -

Awesome to see you are thriving. Believe it or not, the most likely path forward is that your income goes up year-over-year. These are the "hard times!" Wait till you hit those contingency cases and, if you keep at it, you develop your sense for the type of contingency case that leads to big paydays and you have many of them in your case load. Then it is literally crazy - but not really more work.

As for the organization convo, I make To-Do lists. The way I have done them has changed many times over the years as my firm and practice has grown. But, I have always kept a list of every case in my office/practice and reviewed it weekly/bi-weekly to make sure I don't forget about any case.

The most important thing I read is your appreciation for the absolute freedom associated with running your own law practice. I can tell you that after 8 years I am still discarding my self-imposed ideas of what "work" is. You mean I can write on a MMM forum to get my work day started? Sure. I can leave early? Take the last Friday of the month off? Yes, please! Hit a 5 week vacation every winter? Oh yeah!

Somehow, it doesn't slow my business. Actually, being in a clear, calm, relaxed mental state allows me to find solutions to cases that overworked, over stressed, less organized attorneys can not. Often they paint themselves into a corner by ignoring their cases until the last minute and it creates an opportunity for me. So, time off, vacations and general self-maintenance (physical and mental) are just part of being a good solo - I think.

Anyway, I can tell you the freedom and how much of it you have will reveal its full magnitude and unfold over years. Your child will benefit tremendously from a Dad who can drop them off at school, pick them up, coach their sports (or other activities), be at every conference, pick them up on sick days and still be wealthy. Think about it - that is an amazing deal.

Keep at it, there is so much promise in this path.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Lady SA on October 10, 2018, 10:51:31 AM
Hmm.  You might be onto something with this board.  I don't know if would do exactly that, but perhaps a whiteboard in here would be a great idea.

I guess I get bogged down in the opposite -- I do a ton of small things, or work on small things related to my practice (e.g., logging miles, categorizing charges, sending emails, etc.); and before I know it, it's 4:00 PM, and it's too late to start something big.

Need to be able to just come in, work on 2-3 billable things, and then get to all that.
@Lady SA Hope you're proud.  Although this did have me procrastinate a little this morning.

<snip>

Awesome! I think project management is a skill that can always be continually refined, and finding easier/better ways to organize your workflow can only make both your life easier and your clients happier with the speed and quality of your work.

I was curious to see if other lawyers also use a similar kanban system so I googled this morning and found this article that you might find interesting/inspirational! https://www.lawpracticetoday.org/article/dawn-agile-attorney/
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on October 10, 2018, 12:57:08 PM
Kudos on the success so far.

I am a project manager and yet I have still not perfected the art of my to-do list and work load.  I think the best thing that has helped me are the following:

*Do NOT check your email first thing in the morning.  If you absolutely must, make it to only check for emergency issues that have to be done immediately.
*Setup specific times you will check your email. People will learn your habit and adjust
*Each day I have 2 to 3 tasks, typically ones that either are time consuming or require more mental focus.  I then figure anything I get done beyond those tasks as gravy for my day.
*It is best that before you leave for the day to decide on those 2 or 3 tasks.  When you arrive in the AM you are ready to go.

It sounds like you are getting a little bogged down on some of the minutia that is not billable.  There many programs out there that can help with these things.

One I can think of is there are several apps that track work mileage automatically for you.  I have used Everlance.  It tracks your miles and you can label them work, personal, volunteer, or whatever.  You can also make certain trips automatically define like your daily commute.  It will recognize work to home and automatically define it appropriately.  You can also track receipts and other business items.  It can all be downloaded to various softwares like excel.

Some good books that are not necessarily about time management, but have some interesting sections.

The 4 Hour Work Week - A lot of this books goes into how to get a work from home deal, but it does have some strategies about reducing work.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F.... - This one is more of a self help book, but again goes into all the things we waste time worrying about and wasting time on.  And it is a good book in general.

These are some other philosophies that I cannot recall what book I got them with.

Only deal with email once.  There are 3 Ds - Do it, Delegate it, Delete it.  This goes along with only checking the email at set times during the day.  Many times we look at our email so often we will save certain emails that take more time than we have at the moment.  If you only check email when you have set aside time you will not need to save things for later.

The 80/20 rule.  - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on October 17, 2018, 10:56:48 AM
Woohoo!!  Great update!  Your expenses are amazing.  I'm super impressed.  Way to go! 

Congrats on your wife's pregnancy!  Very exciting.

I echo Fireby35's comments about "being there" for your kids.  I LOVE the flexibility that I have in running my own solo practice AND in working so close to home and school.

On the productivity front, I use a Bullet Journal.  I do well with the flexibility of the dotted blank pages.  I list out each week on one page, and I use the following pages to make daily to-dos or sometimes just use one weekly to-do list.  Some months I plot out the whole month--sometimes I don't.  I take this thing with me everywhere and use it to take notes at CLEs, for example.  I cannot express how much I love my bullet journal.  Writing it all out by hand works better for me than putting it in a spreadsheet.  I can make one list of current to-do items that includes work and personal stuff.  That is key for me to make sure that today's priorities will get accomplished, because some days the work priorities come after the personal.

I also use my online calendar (I use Microsoft 365, so I use Outlook), which syncs to my phone, for appointments.  I have one calendar that is personal and business--everything goes on there.

I also use a small white board at work on which I have a list of all current matters, divided by type (for me, that means Estate Planning in one column, Estate Administration in another, and a third Other down by the bottom).  I honestly hand write that list on a yellow legal sheet and stick it up on the white board with magnets.  The white board sits on my desk and leans against the wall, and I can take it down when I have clients in my office so they can't see it.  I revise it as necessary but definitely every two weeks at least.  It really helps for those cases that can get lost in the shuffle.

Thanks again for the update! 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on October 30, 2018, 06:31:19 AM
Also, one other big update: I have formed a co-counseling relationship with another attorney who I've known for years.  She mostly handles domestic but those clients eventually get employment related claims. She has brought me on board for two BIG employment law contingency cases. These are her clients, but we are going to split the fee and the work 50-50.  I've known her for years (she represented my mom in her divorce) and I trust her a ton.

The first case involves a veteran who worked for our county's Veteran's Office.  He served in Iraq and has PTSD.  His employer put him through a bunch of tests, ignored his own doctor's reports, and then fired him for having PTSD.  I mean that's the headline -- "Local Veteran fired from Veteran's Office for Having PTSD."  He was making $78k/year.  Should be a great case if I can figure out all the public sector BS that comes with these claims.

So, on this case, yesterday was probably my greatest day as a lawyer.

We had a mediation in the State Personnel Board of Review, which is just an agency that can offer the affected employee with back pay and reinstatement. But this case was exhausting me -- I've probably put in around 100 hours, so I was looking for a global settlement to resolve all the FMLA and ADA issues.

Leading up to the mediation, my demand letter was nine pages.  Then I made a state law FOIA request that required them to produce 1,200 pages, and they knew I wasn't done. I've been a major pain in their ass for three months.

Having been defense counsel for about 4 years, I called every bluff they made at yesterday's mediation.  They were at $100,000 and then took that off the table and just wanted to settle the agency issue.  After a couple hours they put it back on the table and eventually got up to their "top dollar" offer of $200,000.  Take it or leave it -- this was the most they would ever offer and it was off the table after yesterday.  I told the mediator I wanted to speak to their counsel directly.  Basically gave her the riot act -- that I was going to file suit on FMLA within the week, that we were going to file suit on the ADA when the EEOC investigation was complete, and that we were going to take this case to the press. 

Ten minutes later my client had a $250,000 settlement without me even needing to file suit.  For the record, his best case scenario in court, if literally everything broke his way, was probably $300,000.

So that's about $42,000 for me (had to split the 1/3 with my co-counsel, who was great and it was her client anyway).  So, so, so pumped.

As I said I would, taking it easy for the rest of this week.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on October 30, 2018, 07:16:38 AM
Oh man, I love it. RSM, you are the man! Just take a moment and think about what it would have taken to get a 42k bonus working for someone else. (Silence) That's right, it would never happen!

But it happened to you because you took the risk to set up shop for yourself.

Keep your eyes open, it can happen again and again and again and again....

Great work!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on October 30, 2018, 07:36:12 AM
Yeah, yeah, work is great, so happy for you...but what about the gender reveal date? Are you going to keep us in suspense?

Just kidding - funny how a whopping success makes everything in life look better. Congratulations on all counts!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on October 30, 2018, 07:47:08 AM
Yeah, yeah, work is great, so happy for you...but what about the gender reveal date? Are you going to keep us in suspense?

Just kidding - funny how a whopping success makes everything in life look better. Congratulations on all counts!

It痴 a boy!!!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on October 30, 2018, 12:24:08 PM
Yeah, yeah, work is great, so happy for you...but what about the gender reveal date? Are you going to keep us in suspense?

Just kidding - funny how a whopping success makes everything in life look better. Congratulations on all counts!

It痴 a boy!!!

Yay for little boys! 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on October 30, 2018, 07:03:52 PM
For the record, I totally forgot about the pregnancy. But, that makes the entire thing even more amazing. I remember winning my first "big" fee (smaller than 42k!) after my son was born and I'd been practicing for all of 6 months. That was a great feeling.

Enjoy it RSM. Enjoy it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on November 02, 2018, 12:43:29 PM
Also, one other big update: I have formed a co-counseling relationship with another attorney who I've known for years.  She mostly handles domestic but those clients eventually get employment related claims. She has brought me on board for two BIG employment law contingency cases. These are her clients, but we are going to split the fee and the work 50-50.  I've known her for years (she represented my mom in her divorce) and I trust her a ton.

The first case involves a veteran who worked for our county's Veteran's Office.  He served in Iraq and has PTSD.  His employer put him through a bunch of tests, ignored his own doctor's reports, and then fired him for having PTSD.  I mean that's the headline -- "Local Veteran fired from Veteran's Office for Having PTSD."  He was making $78k/year.  Should be a great case if I can figure out all the public sector BS that comes with these claims.

So, on this case, yesterday was probably my greatest day as a lawyer.

We had a mediation in the State Personnel Board of Review, which is just an agency that can offer the affected employee with back pay and reinstatement. But this case was exhausting me -- I've probably put in around 100 hours, so I was looking for a global settlement to resolve all the FMLA and ADA issues.

Leading up to the mediation, my demand letter was nine pages.  Then I made a state law FOIA request that required them to produce 1,200 pages, and they knew I wasn't done. I've been a major pain in their ass for three months.

Having been defense counsel for about 4 years, I called every bluff they made at yesterday's mediation.  They were at $100,000 and then took that off the table and just wanted to settle the agency issue.  After a couple hours they put it back on the table and eventually got up to their "top dollar" offer of $200,000.  Take it or leave it -- this was the most they would ever offer and it was off the table after yesterday.  I told the mediator I wanted to speak to their counsel directly.  Basically gave her the riot act -- that I was going to file suit on FMLA within the week, that we were going to file suit on the ADA when the EEOC investigation was complete, and that we were going to take this case to the press. 

Ten minutes later my client had a $250,000 settlement without me even needing to file suit.  For the record, his best case scenario in court, if literally everything broke his way, was probably $300,000.

So that's about $42,000 for me (had to split the 1/3 with my co-counsel, who was great and it was her client anyway).  So, so, so pumped.

As I said I would, taking it easy for the rest of this week.

Mine is similar situation...When I requested FMLA and then ADA they had me jump through hoops and get various medical exams.  In the end their doctor had the same recommendation as my doctor.  Suing for Rehab Act., Harassment, Hostile Work Environment.

I wish my former employer would even sit down for mediation.  I was basically told by my lawyer that since the government entity that I worked for is self insured that they rarely if ever settle even with a slam dunk case.  They use their own lawyers who are salary so their expenses do not really matter.  This all happened in 2015-16.  Filed suit a year ago last month.  We are still in discovery.  Both sides having well over 2500 pages of discovery.  My depo has been cancelled 3 times. 

I hope mine works out as well as yours in the end.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on November 02, 2018, 09:31:26 PM
It痴 a boy!!!

Yay for little boys!

Congrats!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 08, 2018, 05:20:29 PM
Settled another employment case today.  Girl worked part time and made $12.75 an hour and I got her a $28,000 settlement without pursuing litigation.  My cut is 27.5% ($7,700). Another very, very good day.

That 27.5% number comes from a graduated fee agreement, which I generally like -- 27.5% for pre-litigation settlement, 33.33% if I have to file suit, and 40% if I have to try the case.

I think everyone expects the 33.33%, so I'm thinking that pre-litigation number should either be deleted or come up to at least 30%.  In this case, 30% would have been another $700, and 33.33% would have been another $1,633.

I'm happy, but I think I'm cutting myself short.  But at the same time, this gives plaintiffs a dog in the fight, and this now makes two clients who have settled pre-litigation, perhaps in part because they got to keep a higher percent.  And that's a lot less work for me, so maybe that carrot is worth it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 17, 2019, 11:08:51 AM
2018 Year-End Update

It took me a bit, but I just wanted to come here and provide a year-end update to my first year of practice.  In doing so, I scrolled through this thread and saw my post from early October:

Quote
Year End Goals:

#1 - Have $50,000 in receipts by the end of the year (would mean I was on pace to average a $75,000 profit in year one)

#2 - Settle my employment law claim, which will go a long way in helping out the above

#3 - Continue building networks for referrals

#4 - Continue making myself available for court appointments and appearance work.  This is easy money.

I'm happy to say I accomplished every one of these goals and more.

2018 Yearly Totals

2018 Solo Income: $65,940 (first invoices sent 06/01/2018, so basically seven months)

2018 Solo Expenses: $9,100 (most of it being startup expenses)

2018 Solo Profit: $56,840

2018 Source of Revenues

Hearing Coverage: $10,389.76

Settlements (Employment Law): $28,533.33

Criminal Defense Court Appointments: $1,633 (just got started in October)

Other Civil Litigation Work: $24,933.91

Again, all of this was done over about seven months.

Client Notes

When I sent out my first invoices on 06/01/2018, I sent 9 invoices.

For my January 2019 spreadsheet, I have 42 clients to bill, and I seem to be adding more and more every week.

2019 Goals/Thoughts

Income: My goal for this year is to make $150,000.  I am getting the second half of an employment law settlement ($20,833) by the end of this month, and I also expect to bill a good paying client $9,000 this month.  Those plus the referral relationship below, plus my normal course of work, leads me to believe I'm on a good track for 2019.

Office Space: With more and more work coming in, my office is feeling smaller and smaller.  I find myself going more and more to Panera or Dunkin Donuts to feel like I'm not in too small of a space.

I'm not sure if this is a long term solution, but for now, I can't pass up only paying $400 per month here. 

That said, I have discussed opening an office much closer to my house with a couple people, and that would involve paying similar rent. 

Referral Relationship: In addition to the referral relationship I've already established, I have actually established one more, and this one looks to be great.

Basically, I beat another attorney in an arbitration, and it was the first case he lost in 20 years.  He recommended me to an attorney who has had a solo practice for 45 years, and this guy has an absolutely impeccable reputation.  We had lunch yesterday and he needs me to help on 5-10 litigation matters a year while he winds down.  He said I can expect $5,000-$10,000 in billings per case, easy.  This is going to be great.

Staff Help (Would Love to Hear Your Thoughts): Whether I move or stay here, I am getting pretty close to hiring someone to provide about 9 hours of help per week.  I now find myself putting off billable work to organize, calendar, double check everything, print dockets, draft form letters that I can't bill for, etc. 

My rough calculations are: 9 hours per week (x) $15/hour (probably higher than market rate around here) (x) 50 weeks = $6,750.  In speaking to another lawyer, we can "value bill" public defender work, and I think a staff would probably pay for him or herself in doing all the standard criminal motions that must be filed.

This seems well worth it to me, but I'm not sure when the right time to do this might be.  Any thoughts?

Family First: Most importantly, my wife and I have a little boy on the way in March.  We're crazy excited.  I'm hauling ass in January and February so I can take March a little easy and see how things go from there. I'm glad that my practice gives me the flexibility to take a step back if necessary. I've also revamped the home office so I can be home and available more. Hopefully this goes smoothly.

***

I'm bludgeoning a dead horse at this point, but thanks all for the advice and support. Cheers to 2019.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Proud Foot on January 17, 2019, 11:33:31 AM
I have been following your thread since the beginning and I think this is my first time commenting.  You really rocked it with your first 7 months! Awesome with setting your goals when you went out on your own and really hustling to build your practice.

For your question about employing someone have you thought about contacting a temp agency to see what one would cost? Your low hour requirements might make this a better option as you wouldn't have to think about all the extra costs of having an employee. Even paying a higher hourly rate you might have a hard time finding someone to work that few hours.  Another suggestion might be to reach out to a local college and see if any students would want to work those hours for you. This could be beneficial to someone who may be considering law school as well as the possibility of them getting to count the work as credits towards graduation. With expected birth in March now might be the time to get this all set up so they will be fully trained and used to your expectations and you can focus on billable work and being there with your wife and son.

And congratulations to you and your wife on the pregnancy! I am sure the flexibility of having your own practice will be very beneficial in the last few weeks pre and time post delivery.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on January 17, 2019, 12:22:43 PM
Awesome!  I'm very happy to see this update.  Congrats on the great first (partial) year! 

I will second the suggestion to look for a college student.  I have employed college and law students part-time and it's been very good for me overall.  You may wish to contact a local college's career services office to post a listing on their online jobs board.

I would not suggest a temp.  You don't need to be re-training new people all the time, as that will defeat the purpose of freeing up your time.  In fact, even students will only last so long, and I finally found one who is an older student who will last longer with me (fingers crossed) than the others.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 17, 2019, 02:08:26 PM
Man, I'm glad you are doing well. I think you will find opportunities keep presenting themselves as long as you are diligent and honest in your work and dealings.

I have hired part-time college students who are aspiring lawyers. I've taken it as an opportunity to mentor someone. I have now had two that worked for me part-time for at least three years each. One worked for me during undergrad and during law school and is now a lawyer serving underrepresented communities. The other just got admission and full-tuition scholarships to both of the local law schools. Anyway, it has been great for me and if you take a mentorship type role it can really help the aspiring lawyer as well. Even though you are young, you still know much more than an undergraduate student! You could contact your local university, find the pre-law club and find a couple people who would jump on the opportunity. Probably very smart, driven people - just lacking experience. You help them and they'll help you.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on January 17, 2019, 05:26:14 PM
Congrats on the first year!

I wish my employment case was moving.  I am at a year and half and have expanded discovery 4 times.  Of course we are at almost 25000 documents.

I agree with the others with a college student.  I know you are in NEO I will throw out my alma mater U of A.  Great Law school.

I would suggest getting someone in place before the kid is born.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 18, 2019, 07:27:40 AM
Such a great update! Congratulations on the bambino!!!l
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on January 18, 2019, 09:18:47 AM
Echoing everyone else's thoughts here- congrats on a successful first (most of a) year of self employment! Keep up the good work and good luck on hitting your 2019 goals.

Two challenges that I think you have coming for you are not work-specific related:

There'll always be the temptation to work more/make more money/provide more for your family. In my mind one of the key tenants of mustachianism is finding the balance between what is actually needed to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled -vs- making more for nothing but money's sake. Sounds like you are well aware of both of these challenges, but make sure not to forget about them as your business grows.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on January 18, 2019, 12:08:08 PM
I am so, so happy for you -- congratulations!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 30, 2019, 06:24:48 AM
Thanks all for the replies and encouragement.

An interesting development is taking place the co-counsel who referred me that case that settled for $250k moved right next door, leaving her suite unoccupied. She knows the owner and property manager really well and is likely to be a positive reference. I知 contemplating making the jump from my tiny office share to a legitimate office. Here痴 the general comparison.

Rent (Includes Utilities): $450 (current = $400)

Location: about 4 miles closer to home, on same main strip as current office, but in the back of a commercial park type of setting (current = right in heart of commercial area)

Commute: 10 minutes shorter from home than current office, and new office is closer to highway and thus most courthouses

Office Space: about 700 square feet, including a kitchenette and bathroom (current = 81 square feet plus shared spaces)

Room for Files: way more space; my current 81 square foot office is getting extremely crammed and it痴 becoming stressful to make it work (just picked up 2,500 more pages of discovery yesterday)

Amenities: no receptionist or staff (current = receptionist that answers phones for me, which is nice) 

Furnishings: I would have to buy conference table, guest chairs, etc. (current = furnished, although it痴 about 35 years dated and several clients have commented on it)

Supplies: current office comes with phone line, copier, scanner, fax line; I壇 probably set up Google Voice and buy a solid $400-500 all in one.

Lease: I would have to sign a three year lease (current = no lease)

Logistics: I only have a very tiny office, so I don't think moving would be that difficult; the more laborious thing would be to notify courts/clients of the change in address, although that would seem easier to do now than later.

Lawyers: the biggest downside, I think, is losing proximity to five other good, respectable lawyers. They致e referred me a couple cases, but more importantly, they are there to answer questions I still inevitably have as a young lawyer.


As you can likely tell, I知 leaning towards taking this next step and moving. The monthly cost is only a slight increase, and I estimate that I can furnish the office for about $2,000-$2,500. I not only would love having my own space to decorate/furnish, but I知 getting to a point where I need the space and my current office just doesn稚 have any space available.

Most importantly, this place is one of the biggest steals in the area. Sure, it痴 in the back of a building, but my colleague works back there and she kills it. This is cheap, in a very safe area, still on the same main strip, closer to home, and would provide a lot of autonomy.

Any thoughts? Any considerations I might be missing?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on January 30, 2019, 07:08:46 AM
Rent (Includes Utilities): $450 (current = $400)
++
Location: about 4 miles closer to home, on same main strip as current office, but in the back of a commercial park type of setting (current = right in heart of commercial area)
+ Personally if I am looking for a lawyer I am not going to choose one office that I randomly drive by.  I am going to do my research online to find a few to contact and go from there.  Do you really get walk-ins?  Everyday that is 20 more minutes with family.  Also, efficiency of getting to courts easier.
Amenities: no receptionist or staff (current = receptionist that answers phones for me, which is nice) 
+ However in your update you were talking about getting a part time employee.  Maybe have a few more hours and you are getting a receptionist.  Plus isn't there the option of hiring remote receptionist.  I would say my current lawyer has 2 lines and answers them both personally, unless her part time employee is there.

Furnishings: I would have to buy conference table, guest chairs, etc. (current = furnished, although it痴 about 35 years dated and several clients have commented on it)
= So you may spend a bit on this.  You would if you were moving to a bigger place anyway.  Plus like you say further below it would give you the ability to give it your personal touch.  Plus you could take your time, since you have some furniture you can look for deals.

Supplies: current office comes with phone line, copier, scanner, fax line; I壇 probably set up Google Voice and buy a solid $400-500 all in one.

+ you would have to do this anywhere you move.  This allows you to set stuff up to your preferences.  Does the current lawyer have this infrastructure in place?
Lease: I would have to sign a three year lease (current = no lease)

Lawyers: the biggest downside, I think, is losing proximity to five other good, respectable lawyers. They致e referred me a couple cases, but more importantly, they are there to answer questions I still inevitably have as a young lawyer.

+ You have already made connections with them.  I doubt that would stop if you are not next door.  If anything you could make a small flyer for when they do make a referral that would show the client how to contact you and get to your office.

I estimate that I can furnish the office for about $2,000-$2,500. I not only would love having my own space to decorate/furnish.
+

Most importantly, this place is one of the biggest steals in the area.
+++

I think the negatives are minor and mostly small inconveniences.  Or even opportunities to grow. 

Only other items I can think of is there convenient parking.  Asking the other Lawyer if there are anythings she dislikes about the location or the owner/property manager.  What are her plans?  Have you discussed if she is planning to make upgrades to her equipment and whether she may be willing to sell some to you.

I say go for it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 30, 2019, 08:25:27 AM
RSM -

Being in the market for a better office is a good idea. I'd recommend taking a moment to think about how you picked your current space and why you are needing to move so quickly to try and avoid the same dilema repeating itself. It seems to me that you got your current space because it was cheap and allowed you access to other attorneys. Both of those considerations are based, at least in part, on your worry/belief that a) you wouldn't have enough business and b) that you needed mentorship to start your business.

I am suggesting to you that you will have enough business and that you don't need mentorship right around the corner. Still, choosing an economically advantageous place and maintaining and expanding your professional network are important. So, what does this mean for you when thinking of a new office?

I would look at what space is available to you should your practice continue to grow. I think moving is a pain in terms of changing letterhead, notifying courts, changing all of your entry of appearances, etcetera. Also, clients get confused and confused clients are not what you want. So, if you can get a place that meets your needs now but also has some room to grow, that would be good. Although, it might not be possible and it shouldn't be considered a requirement - just a positive factor if available.

I don't have "class A" office space. I have a decent office, I've painted it, put in floorboards and done other "under-the-radar" type stuff to spruce it up. I get my office furniture from the used warehouse at the local office supply store or from "At Home." All very affordable.

I did get lucky and find a cheap space where I was the only person on the entire floor when I rented my initial space for $500. Since then we have expanded to have the entire half of the floor for, now, seven people working in the office (Rent up to $2,100!). We've never had to move! Clients come to the same place. If you look, you might find something that gives you this growth opportunity at no/little cost.

Anyway, moving from the small office is a good idea. But, keep the long view in mind. When contemplating the long view, consider that you just might have more success than you are currently allowing yourself to believe and that you can maintain professional relationships without seeing a person physically every day.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 30, 2019, 08:52:06 AM
I think the negatives are minor and mostly small inconveniences.  Or even opportunities to grow. 

Only other items I can think of is there convenient parking.  Asking the other Lawyer if there are anythings she dislikes about the location or the owner/property manager.  What are her plans?  Have you discussed if she is planning to make upgrades to her equipment and whether she may be willing to sell some to you.

I say go for it.

I generally agree with all your comments. Parking is good and plentiful here. The other lawyer loves the space -- she has had an amazing career and was contemplating buying her own building, but just elected to move suites.

I think it sounds like a great option.

Re:  phone answering ...

Some very good ideas here. I've been toying around with Google Voice for the past couple days and it seems like a good option. Although, it just rings straight through to my cell phone, so I'm not sure why I just wouldn't use my cell phone anyway.

RSM -

Being in the market for a better office is a good idea. I'd recommend taking a moment to think about how you picked your current space and why you are needing to move so quickly to try and avoid the same dilema repeating itself. It seems to me that you got your current space because it was cheap and allowed you access to other attorneys. Both of those considerations are based, at least in part, on your worry/belief that a) you wouldn't have enough business and b) that you needed mentorship to start your business.

I am suggesting to you that you will have enough business and that you don't need mentorship right around the corner. Still, choosing an economically advantageous place and maintaining and expanding your professional network are important. So, what does this mean for you when thinking of a new office?

Doing some reflecting here, I think I secured my space mostly because of the immediacy of how this all transpired, and because they did not make me commit to a lease.  If you recall, I gave a three week notice and was terminated two days later. I wanted to focus on other aspects of my business, and because this space had already been offered to me, I knew I could just secure this and move onto other areas that needed attention.

The other big reason was obviously cost -- finding an office share for that cheap is remarkable. They really did me a solid here. But now, with this new space, the cost increase is negligible -- I'm estimating maybe $100-150 in fixed monthly costs, and maybe a couple thousand on buying furniture.

***

Overall, I think the risks are minimal. I need to see this space again to visualize everything, but I think this provides a great short and long term solution. I'm seeing the property today at 11:30.  I'll keep you posted.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 04, 2019, 07:02:48 AM
Small update -- I visited the space again and my wife agreed that it's perfect. Locked in the $475/month rent.  Still negotiating move-in date (hoping for April 1, but it might be May 1). I'm probably jumping the gun, but I've already ordered my conference room table, desks, chairs, printer, scanner, and TV. Oops.

A small dilemma -- does anybody have any experience with Ruby Receptionist? I'm in a middle ground of not wanting to take on too much overhead by hiring staff, but I still want someone else to answer the phones.  I did a small focus group with family/friends and all unanimously agreed that they would think it was odd that an attorney answered his/her calls directly.

So, Ruby seems like a great compromise. The plan I would need is about $300/month (or $3,600 for the year), which seems expensive, but is incredibly minimal compared to paying somebody full time ($20-25k per year, minimum.

Anybody have any experience with Ruby or a similar remote answering service?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on February 04, 2019, 07:14:26 AM
Small update -- I visited the space again and my wife agreed that it's perfect. Locked in the $475/month rent.  Still negotiating move-in date (hoping for April 1, but it might be May 1). I'm probably jumping the gun, but I've already ordered my conference room table, desks, chairs, printer, scanner, and TV. Oops.

A small dilemma -- does anybody have any experience with Ruby Receptionist? I'm in a middle ground of not wanting to take on too much overhead by hiring staff, but I still want someone else to answer the phones.  I did a small focus group with family/friends and all unanimously agreed that they would think it was odd that an attorney answered his/her calls directly.

So, Ruby seems like a great compromise. The plan I would need is about $300/month (or $3,600 for the year), which seems expensive, but is incredibly minimal compared to paying somebody full time ($20-25k per year, minimum.

Anybody have any experience with Ruby or a similar remote answering service?

Congrats! Very exciting. So, how did the rent increase from $450 to $475? I agree with the family, you don稚 want to answer phones. I have no experience with that service, but I agree that virtual is great, especially in the beginning. That price seems reasonable to me. Do you use any case management software or document management software?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 04, 2019, 07:50:10 AM
Congrats! Very exciting. So, how did the rent increase from $450 to $475? I agree with the family, you don稚 want to answer phones. I have no experience with that service, but I agree that virtual is great, especially in the beginning. That price seems reasonable to me. Do you use any case management software or document management software?

I'm having them paint the entire office (it's very, very dark gray, almost close to charcoal right now; lightening that up to a light gray) and put in all new floors (dated carpet in exchange for commercial laminate flooring). So they basically amortized the cost of that over the five years. Certainly seems fair to me.

Also, @Lady SA , I'm super pumped to say that I am going to fully implement your Kanban Board idea near my desk. I've never had room for it, but now I have room for it in spades. I'd like to make a physical board but I'm not sure what to use. Might use a whiteboard, as that seems easy, cheap, and easily able to change. Post-Its with tape was another idea, although I'm not sure if that would look great. Also thought of just painting a grid on the wall and using post its as well. So much fun stuff to think about, so little time.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on February 04, 2019, 08:14:45 AM
Wow! I just read this whole thread. I remember when you first posted but didn稚 follow it. What an adventure you致e had in a relatively short time. Congrats on all your bold moves and for the little one on the way. You池e smashing it by taking control of your destiny. You池e also a good writer.

Here痴 an idea or two: after a couple of years you could set up a blog or have a consulting business helping other lawyers to go solo, and/or, look into teaching at a local law school. You致e got quite a lot to offer and I think you could easily build a secondary or later in life career out of what you致e learned.

Just my 2 cents.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 04, 2019, 08:26:23 AM
Here痴 an idea or two: after a couple of years you could set up a blog or have a consulting business helping other lawyers to go solo, and/or, look into teaching at a local law school. You致e got quite a lot to offer and I think you could easily build a secondary or later in life career out of what you致e learned.

Just my 2 cents.

Thanks for the kind words. 

I've definitely thought about dovetailing a second career. Writing an e-book, starting a blog on solo practice, doing conferences, etc. Seems right up my alley, but I wanted at least several years of success under my belt before spitting in the wind.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Lady SA on February 04, 2019, 12:28:33 PM
Woo for kanban boards!
I prefer a giant whiteboard (I have this at work) because you can customize/change it much easier as you refine your working process. Add/subtract columns or swimlanes, change the "status" names to be more precise, etc. You can use painter's tape on the whiteboard if you don't want to draw the lines, and it comes off without too much fuss.
Otherwise, at home I used painters tape to put up a grid directly onto the wall, and then larger post-its for the column labels. It isn't pretty, but it is utterly functional. :)

I wouldn't paint the grid, that's too permanent. You will always discover things that aren't working quite right for you, and you would then be forced to either repaint or contort yourself to fit within the existing process.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on February 04, 2019, 01:48:24 PM
RSM, congrats on the new space!  Although, grey walls?  Really?  Well, it's your space.  I would go with a bit more color or at least a happier neutral myself.

I use a magnetic whiteboard as a kanban board.  I use small magnet/labels and use dry erase markers to make my lists of items for the kanban board.  I don't like post-its myself.  I keep my kanban board on my desk to the left of my computer screen, leaning against the wall, to that I can see it while I work and so that I can take it down when I want to.

I have heard good things about Ruby Receptionists, although I haven't used them myself.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on February 05, 2019, 06:32:32 AM
My lawyer answers her phone personally the majority of the time.  She has a part time secretary.  I like it.  I feel it is more of a personal touch.  Although I know she is near the end of her career and does not carry a large case load and can be selective.

I would suggest a greyish blue.  Also maybe consider not using it on all ways.  Use it more as accent walls.  Then maybe a neutral light brown or cream to keep the place bright.  Or keep a few of her darker grey walls as accents.  Maybe one wall in a conference room.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 05, 2019, 11:01:32 AM
Who knew this would turn into an interior design thread! Let's dance.

Here's the general space which, of course, I've measured exactly and then mapped out in Google Sheets (each square  = 6x6 inches) because I'm insane:

(http://i64.tinypic.com/2d9hrk.png)

Note that all the red lines are my own furnishings. Blue are chairs. Not sure why I picked a different color.

So, I really like the flow of the office. The only thing is that there are only two small windows, one to the right of the entrance, and another behind my desk, so natural light is limited.

The receptionist area is a little half wall. It's nice. I'm putting a sign/logo and probably my degrees in this room. There will be a "please ring this bell sign if the receptionist is not here," which will be the majority of the time.

I love the flow of the main working room. There will obviously be some considerations for attorney-client privilege, but I will make that a huge priority.

I'm very excited to use a TV with the conference area. I plan to make civil and criminal litigation powerpoints so I can walk clients through the process. I also plan to pull up dockets, maps, documents, etc.

As for color scheme, with the lack of natural light, I am looking to lighten up the space. I do not like the look of traditional law offices. I want the client to feel welcome.  I agree with @civil4life that a blue-ish gray would be nice. I still need to pick that out. Trim is all white. For the floors, I had limited options, so I am going for a medium/dark gray floor (other options were woods that were all either too light or too dark).

The furniture I've ordered is beech wood. In sum, my office will somewhat have this color scheme, but with lighter walls, composite hardwood floors, and less modern looking furniture:

(https://abovethelaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/White-Case-NY-2017-79-620x465.jpg)

I'll also point out that my colors for all my marketing materials are red, black, gray, and white. It's my high school and college alma mater colors. People who know me love it because they know it's personal. All this matches with the above (I think).

I'm now not going to be able to move in until May 1, but that leaves me with a nice little mental distraction when I'm up at 4:00 AM taking care of a newborn.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on February 05, 2019, 02:57:13 PM
This all sounds really cool. That looks like a great space for $475. Good find.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on February 05, 2019, 05:36:32 PM
Ok, now you have my interior design side too.  When ever I want to rearrange a room I draw it on graph paper to scale.  Then cut out pieces for all of my furniture and move the pieces around to see how I like the fit.

If you are sticking with your Red, Black, White, and grey. (Is it scarlet for OSU).  I would use a deeper/darker red for some accents like pillows in the lobby, window coverings, red for some bathroom accessories, and possibly your logo.

I would put a dark grey on the tv wall and the wall behind your desk.  Then consider a neutral brown with a red hint in it.  Then either the black or white for trim.  Had you not ordered the furniture I would do furniture in black and trim white.

I would say use the dark grey for either the furniture/lobby wall or the one next to the bathroom.

Here is a pallette

(http://salarmynwa.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Paint-Colors.png)

Look at the make over here http://salarmynwa.us/tag/office/ (http://salarmynwa.us/tag/office/)

Also you have talked about the Kanban chart.  Maybe consider one of the dark greys as chalk paint?

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 05, 2019, 06:30:25 PM
...

As probably the biggest OSU fan on this forum (the mods would ban me if they knew how much I've spent on the Michigan game every year since 2002), being corrected about "scarlet" is pretty embarrassing for me.

To get more detailed, this is the furniture I've bought -- https://www.officedepot.com/a/products/286330/Bush-Business-Furniture-82-W-x/

It was crazy, crazy on sale (due to rewards points and 20% off entire order for rewards members this past weekend), and I'm always partial to lighter working areas.  I wanted a smaller conference table so it was more intimate, and further, I thought it being a little irregular would provide a home field advantage for depositions. Perhaps another lawyer won't be such an ass in such close quarters.

Anyway, your color palate is almost exactly what was in there, and it is very, very dark. Maybe that beige would lighten it up, but I'm always partial to gray. It goes with everything else I have (both Ohio State degrees, OSU memorabilia, ha).

Where I'm open for plenty of comment is the flooring and accent pieces. I'm starting to think brown floors might look good and bring some earth tones in so this doesn't look like an HGTV special. And are fake plants a thing? How else do I bring some color in here? I want it to be "me" but I also don't want it to look like a dorm room.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: grantmeaname on February 05, 2019, 06:57:27 PM


As probably the biggest OSU fan on this forum
Go Bucks! I won't tell the mods if you don't tell them I went to the Rose Bowl this year (didn't even ride my bike there...)

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 05, 2019, 07:37:54 PM


As probably the biggest OSU fan on this forum
Go Bucks! I won't tell the mods if you don't tell them I went to the Rose Bowl this year (didn't even ride my bike there...)

I was there as well! Section 14. First Rose Bowl for me. It was great.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on February 05, 2019, 07:58:36 PM
Well I am horrible at watering plants.  I would either do real or not at all.  Maybe a fish tank or a fountain.

To get the OSU in without it looking like a dorm or pub.  Maybe a portrait Horseshoe but have it framed very nicely as you would a diploma. An OSU themed clock. 

Some sort of Ohio "heart of it all" type of wall art/craft.

(http://fanatics.frgimages.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_3176000/ff_3176170_full.jpg&w=340)

Another could be through rugs.

I did a google search for red office accessories.

(https://image.lampsplus.com/is/image/cropped/78448cropped.fpx?qlt=75&wid=240&hei=240&op_sharpen=1&resMode=sharp2&fmt=jpeg)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on February 05, 2019, 08:14:00 PM
Oh trust me, I have plenty of well framed and nice OSU stuff. Several panoramics of the same game for crying out loud.

@civil4life what痴 your thought on flooring?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Suit on February 06, 2019, 08:00:30 AM
Go Buckeyes!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 04, 2019, 10:07:33 AM
New inquiry, as I make this transition to my new office -- anybody have any experience with case management software? Any recommendations? @TVRodriguez @Lady SA @FIREby35 @Fuzz @Finances_With_Purpose

I've looked and Clio and Practice Panther seem like pretty good options. I like the idea have having everything seamlessly integrated and having all of my client's stuff in one, convenient portal. I also like the idea of being able to batch invoice.

However, I loathe the idea of adding another fixed expense, and especially one that will continue in perpetuity.  Each of these services is about $65/month, or $780 annually.  With my move ahead, I'm already increasing overhead from about $800/month to $1,200/month, and I'm weary of adding another expense at this time.

I currently use Google App Suites and think I have it pretty well mastered.  My Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Drive, etc. are all linked pretty well. I should add that everything I have is on Google -- Forms, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, Google My Business, Analytics, etc.  It's all favorited on my bookmarks bar so it's like a dashboard of sorts.

I also just started going paperless via Google Drive, and I am creating secure folders for clients and sharing that link with them. The feedback so far is INCREDIBLY positive with that collaboration.

I also just started using Wave Accounting/Invoicing, and wow, for a free service, what a great job it does.  It has reduced my invoicing time from about 4-5 hours to about 1 hour. So that headache, I think, has been largely taken care of.

So this is a classic "fixed expense" type of debate. Perhaps case management software is essential to "grow" the business so that I am working "on the business, not in it," and so that I can eventually sell the business. However, I feel like Google is a great alternative option that *almost* does the same thing, and can scale as well.

Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on March 04, 2019, 10:23:49 AM
@civil4life what痴 your thought on flooring?
I'm not civil (snirt), and this response may come too late, but Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVP) is the bomb. Easy to install, impossible to kill, totally waterproof, a breeze  to clean, and not terribly expensive. Shaw US Floors* even makes a product with a cork backing. It dampens sound and is more comfortable underfoot. Full disclosure: the cork back type requires a saw. The regular stuff is just score and snap.

*Edited to update - It's not from Shaw, unless they own US Floors. Since retiring from the industry, I don't GAF. We're installing a houseful of it now. It is a breeze to work with and the cork backing is  delightful underfoot.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Lady SA on March 04, 2019, 11:21:20 AM
If google solutions are working for you right now, I'd stick with it until there is a compelling reason to switch.
A lot like how we tell people on the forums to not move houses until you *need* to. You say yourself that there isn't anything wrong with your current solution, but you are looking at other options to see if there is a "grass is greener" option. I would consider these systems on a "convenience (problem severity & frequency) -- price" scale. Do you currently have any issues with the convenience factor with google? If yes, how severe are the problems you are encountering? How often do these problems occur?
If each time you had to bill a client, you had to go through a 3 hour rigamarole, then your decision might look different than if things work pretty smoothly today, with maybe a few infrequent but short headaches to deal with.

I'd also try to minimize the amount of "change" you are experiencing with the new move. There will be plenty of that (new commute, new neighbors, new processes, etc) without voluntarily adding learning a whole new system of software onto your plate as well. I'd wait until you settle into your new rhythm and then revisit this question.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on March 04, 2019, 12:07:30 PM
Oh trust me, I have plenty of well framed and nice OSU stuff. Several panoramics of the same game for crying out loud.

@civil4life what痴 your thought on flooring?

Somehow I missed this. 

I will second Dicey on the LVP.

I recently replaced my kitchen flooring.  The previous owner had cork.  Total mess.  I actually went with cheap vynyl, but that is because I live in a low income area and most likely will not be in the house too many more years. 

The flooring people definitely pushed the LVP.  If it had been a forever home or higher end one I definitely would have went went with it.

Do you have color swatches?  I really like the more rustic looking floor styles and with OSU a grey hue would probably be interesting, but I do not think it would go with the color scheme.

I agree with sticking with Google.  You already seem to have a good system that works. 

I work in engineering.  My employer just switched to one of the project management softwares.  Overall it is ok.  It would not have been one of my picks.  It is probably more focused on the business/financial side than for me the project manager. 

Just Curious

Being in MMM there is the FIRE and also the work life balance.  What are your aspirations for your firm?  Do you want it to grow to a multi-lawyer office or stay a one man show?  If a one man show what do you think or want your capacity to be?  How does this fit in with your FIRE goals?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 05, 2019, 10:16:31 AM
I use Case Peer. It is cheaper than most case management programs, doesn't require any contracts and is pretty awesome. If I were you, I'd at least check it out.

As to whether you need a case management system or not, that is a more difficult question. I did not use a case management software for the first 6 years of running my own practice. I was able to use excel spreadsheets, good programs, outlook and other tools to keep track of all my things. In my experience, the case management software became essential as I built a team of people and wanted the team of people to have a common infrastructure to handle the cases as a team (rather than individuals handling cases inside a firm with no collective efforts).

If I had been using the case management software from the beginning it would have saved me a lot of work trying to convert all our files into the system and then have everyone in the office learn a new software at the same time. So, if you get a case management software now, it would make it easier to grow.

On the other hand, I didn't pay any subscription costs for 6+ years. So, I did save money.

https://www.casepeer.com


One last thought, I don't think selling a solo law practice is a likely outcome. It is not like other businesses and is more difficult to sell for many reasons.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on March 05, 2019, 01:18:34 PM
Confession:  I'm kind of a hodgepodge of systems, which I am guessing you'd like to avoid.  I'll come clean here and explain.

I've been using Clio since I started on my own, and it's gotten a lot more robust since then (almost 6 years ago), but honestly I'm not using it for all it's worth.  I have friends who use it for everything, including the client connect; I mainly use it for billing.  It works well for me for invoicing, which I generate on Clio and then download and either mail or email to clients.  I like that my assistant has her own login and can log her time at her rate, too.  I like the dashboard that has my targets right on the front page when I log in.  But I don't send bills out from Clio's website.  I tried with my very first client, and she didn't like it.  So I didn't bother trying again.  I'm told by other friends that they do routinely send out their bills from Clio with no problems.  But honestly, I have several clients who do not email at all, so they still prefer to receive an invoice in the mail and send me their checks in my SASE.  And for the EP matters, they pay me 50% at the first meeting and the balance at the last meeting, so there is no need to send an invoice.  I mark my time for my own edification and reports.

I think I get a discount for paying Clio annually.  I used to, and I haven't checked on that lately but I should.

I use Microsoft 365, and since Outlook what I use for email, I like that Clio has buttons in Outlook for me to access it that way, too.

I use Square to accept credit cards.  If you take credit cards through LawPay, Clio waives the monthly fee for you, so you only pay the percentage associated with that credit card.  LawPay has a low fee for "regular" credit cards (less than 2%).  But I tried LawPay before they hooked up with Clio, and I found that the rewards credit cards have a higher fee than the standard fee from Square.  So I switched to Square for accepting credit cards.  But that means that I send regular paper/mail or pdf/email bills, and if someone wants to pay by credit card, then I end up generating and sending a link from Square and attaching the pdf to that.  Not terribly efficient, but it's never really been a problem for me.  Also, my state just approved attorneys passing along credit card fees to clients, although I haven't done that and am not sure if I will.

Another solo I know loves MyCase for herself, and I think she uses a lot of the Google App Suites, so I guess that works well together for her.

I use Quickbooks, partly for bookkeeping and partly for payroll.  I pay myself, my two assistants, and any contract attorneys through direct deposit.  It's easy for me, and I am used to it.  It generates the reports I need easily.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on March 08, 2019, 09:21:33 AM
Thanks for sharing about your systems.  I guess I'll share mine in more detail for those following along.

I use Google Apps for email, calendar, documents (Docs), spreadsheets (Sheets), online storage (Drive), slides, forms, tasks, notes (Keep), etc.  My website is also through Google (kind of) in that I also use Analytics, Google My Business, etc.  All of this for $6 is probably the best value any business could have.

Almost all of this Google stuff integrates.  Tasks speaks to Calendar; Gmail can speak to Calendar; and Drive speaks to everything. It creates a Google Dashboard of sorts, although it does not fully integrate like a case management software. More on this later.

I've used Quickbooks Self-Employed for about a year now, but per @FIREby35, and after getting hammered on taxes this past year, I am electing to be an S-Corp this year. So QBSE doesn't work with this type of accounting, which is sad, because I love this app.

Thus, for financials, I just converted to Wave.  They have an amazing free invoicing service that allows for incredibly customized invoices and they only charge 1% to pay online (everywhere else is 3%).  Multiple clients paid almost instantly this month and provided feedback that they really appreciated the ability to pay online. If those clients become "raving fans" then the 1% is well worth it.

Wave also provides payroll and basic accounting features. The accounting is free but is not very nuanced.  I don't think it needs to be because, unless I'm missing something, I just need to stay on top of my expenses, categorize them, and then give that to my accountant at the end of the year. Wave does a good job at this.  Wave's payroll service is $24/month; there are cheaper options but I think I want to do this so all my finances (invoicing, accounting, payroll) are in one place.

There's three things about the above described system.

1. There's no single place where EVERYTHING for a client is in one place. Sure, I have my calendar appointments and emails, and I have Google Contacts, and all of this is accessible, but case management software really seems to put everything in one place.  That seems convenient, although I'm not at the point where that is worth almost $1,000 per year.

2. Google does not really speak to Wave or anything accounting wise.  Again, this is not a huge deal, but it means there are separate ecosystems for legal work and finances.

3. Invoicing is still by biggest admin time sink.  I just did my first batch this month and it took a while. Granted, I did have to create a client for all of them this time, and maybe I'll get more familiar and quicker, but manually transferring from a Google Doc to invoices is quite a task that still takes at least half a day. While this is a time sink, I always follow up with clients, finish minute stuff that needs to get done while billing, and actually keep a list of "making money in [next month]," because my somewhat manual billing gives me a list of projects.  It's almost like a tickler system of sorts.

So, I'm always looking to improve. Some new tech for the new office:

1. As part of my push to become as paperless as possible, just bought an iPad, as the newest models are on sale for $250. No longer have to waste time printing stuff and carrying around huge files to court -- it will all be accessible via Google Drive.  I'm also using this as my Amazon Cloud Reader, and it's way bigger/better than a Kindle.

2. Bought a Google Home Assistant ($30).  Going to be able to say "Call Clerk of Courts" and have it dial right from there and use it as a speakerphone.  Will also be able to use it to remind me of tasks and set calendar appointments. This plus Ruby Receptionists seems like a great solution for now.

3. Got a 55" TV for the conference room. Going to link this up with my computer to give presentations to clients.

4. Updated my website. It's 99% done and holy moly is it an improvement. I'll probably share via PM with some of you when it's done.

5. Buddy of mine designed a logo. It's sharp.

That's all I can think of right now. Including that $21k from the settlement, almost $50k in invoices so far this year.  Things are continuing to move in the right direction.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 09, 2019, 07:27:40 AM
RSM - you are like me, it only took one year of getting hammered on taxes before I took the time to figure it out. Taxes are real! :)

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Fuzz on March 26, 2019, 05:46:17 PM
Case management software is not essential for a solo. It seems like you have a good thing going with google suite.

I would encourage you to use a text expander.

Whether case management software is useful depends on your practice area. If  you have a volume practice where you use a lot of the same forms and the cases follow the same workflows (immigration, trusts/estates, misdemeanor criminal defense), then purpose built case management software can really accelerate your practice (wealth counsel and a couple of immigration suites are especially impressive). If your cases are more one-off cases (and very few practice areas are like that imho), then don't bother with a case management system.

If you're doing the same tasks again and again, there is generally a way to automate it. Figure out how to automate it.

I have no idea how Wave gets around credit card fees (wholesale fees are more than 1%) and offers a free account. Is it a virtual check or debit card only service?

I think it is a huge mistake not to take credit cards. I think it is a huge mistake not to get paid up front. My advice is to build the cost of CC processing into your price. I do not organize my biz around clients that want to mail me a check. I will work with those folks, but it's not my preference or typical workflow. And that's okay. It's my vision/practice. I don't work without being paid so I make it easy to pay me. My experience is that most individuals do not write checks on a regular basis. So I don't make them go find their checkbook. If I served businesses that sent out a lot of checks, then I'd care more about taking checks.

My bias is to spend money to save time, and then use that time to do more valuable work for clients that can pay. Your vision may be different. If you keep your costs low, you can charge low prices and serve a different market. That business model works too.

With Clio, I send invoices from the software. I send dozens of invoices a month. It does not take anytime and my clients pay with a credit card. But where Clio is much more useful is integrating document automation/document management/tasks across a team. With Clio grow, it does intake too.

Also, FYI on invoicing. An invoice is also a marketing document, so make the invoice look good and explain what the hard work you did in detail :)

Final thought: I have a whole bunch of subscriptions, an associate and a paralegal. I am not making a ton more money than when I was a true solo doing everything myself. It would have been easier to keep a simple practice with one niche only, almost no expenses and no overhead. That would have been a really good way to go. I could work 3 days a week and take home 60% of what I am taking home now. However, my more complicated/expensive model is generating some great cases and I am doing neat work that I like. My expectation is that it will really pay off in the second half of 2019 and 2020. So discount my thoughts accordingly.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: iluvzbeach on March 26, 2019, 10:50:13 PM
PTF. I致e read from the beginning and love seeing how far you致e come. Quite impressive. Adding a comment because I only stumble across the thread every few months and have to get caught up. Now I値l be able to keep current.

Best wishes on baby boy RSM!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on March 28, 2019, 01:33:11 PM
Case management software is not essential for a solo. It seems like you have a good thing going with google suite.

I would encourage you to use a text expander.

Whether case management software is useful depends on your practice area. If  you have a volume practice where you use a lot of the same forms and the cases follow the same workflows (immigration, trusts/estates, misdemeanor criminal defense), then purpose built case management software can really accelerate your practice (wealth counsel and a couple of immigration suites are especially impressive). If your cases are more one-off cases (and very few practice areas are like that imho), then don't bother with a case management system.

If you're doing the same tasks again and again, there is generally a way to automate it. Figure out how to automate it.

I have no idea how Wave gets around credit card fees (wholesale fees are more than 1%) and offers a free account. Is it a virtual check or debit card only service?

I think it is a huge mistake not to take credit cards. I think it is a huge mistake not to get paid up front. My advice is to build the cost of CC processing into your price. I do not organize my biz around clients that want to mail me a check. I will work with those folks, but it's not my preference or typical workflow. And that's okay. It's my vision/practice. I don't work without being paid so I make it easy to pay me. My experience is that most individuals do not write checks on a regular basis. So I don't make them go find their checkbook. If I served businesses that sent out a lot of checks, then I'd care more about taking checks.

My bias is to spend money to save time, and then use that time to do more valuable work for clients that can pay. Your vision may be different. If you keep your costs low, you can charge low prices and serve a different market. That business model works too.

With Clio, I send invoices from the software. I send dozens of invoices a month. It does not take anytime and my clients pay with a credit card. But where Clio is much more useful is integrating document automation/document management/tasks across a team. With Clio grow, it does intake too.

Also, FYI on invoicing. An invoice is also a marketing document, so make the invoice look good and explain what the hard work you did in detail :)

Final thought: I have a whole bunch of subscriptions, an associate and a paralegal. I am not making a ton more money than when I was a true solo doing everything myself. It would have been easier to keep a simple practice with one niche only, almost no expenses and no overhead. That would have been a really good way to go. I could work 3 days a week and take home 60% of what I am taking home now. However, my more complicated/expensive model is generating some great cases and I am doing neat work that I like. My expectation is that it will really pay off in the second half of 2019 and 2020. So discount my thoughts accordingly.

Fuzz, your advice was/is great. I bolded the parts that really struck me. I have the same type of deal with my practice. Was bigger really better? No way to know now and way to late to look back. Plus, there are some advantages and things to look forward to with a small firm, as you mentioned.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TheInsuranceMan on April 17, 2019, 10:34:34 AM
How did this fall to page 4?  I literally come to MMM to read this thread, as I think it's excellent (and I'm not even an attorney, or a business owner!).  I mean, I read a few other things while I'm here, but I'm a bit hooked on this thread, or was at least.

Any updates on it?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TheInsuranceMan on April 17, 2019, 02:04:22 PM
RSM welcomed a baby to their family a few weeks ago -- I'm guessing the business is on the back burner for the time being!

Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that!  Babies add to the craziness, no doubt!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on June 06, 2019, 10:51:15 AM
How did this fall to page 4?  I literally come to MMM to read this thread, as I think it's excellent (and I'm not even an attorney, or a business owner!).  I mean, I read a few other things while I'm here, but I'm a bit hooked on this thread, or was at least.

Any updates on it?

@TheInsuranceMan ... so sorry for the delays.  As said, my son was born in early March.  He's doing great -- sleeping well, eating well, loves his mom, etc.

To add to that, I moved offices at end of March, which obviously took a ton of time. The new office, though, is amazing and is arguably the best decision I've made -- most especially because I also did a complete redesign of my logo, letterhead, website, etc.  I will post pictures of it some time soon, but it's been getting great compliments from other attorneys and clients. Also, as I alluded to in another post, coming here and basically being guaranteed to not be bother has been an almost surreal experience coming from multiple offices with a ton of lawyers and staff and the phone ringing off the hook.

Expense wise (since @Fuzz and @FIREby35 mentioned it), I'm still running very lean.  My rent did go up to $475/month and I now have a phone answering service for $276/month, but my overall budget is still less than $1,100 per month.

Business revenues are going really well. So well that I've hired my brother to come in about twice a month (or $100/month or so) to help out. Well worth the expense -- he does all the work I hate doing (printing envelopes, creating new folders, etc.).

Through end of May, I have $72,000 in earned receipts. My June invoices were $9,950 -- almost $5,000 of which were billed against retainers.  The invoice amount would have been higher, but I withheld invoices on a couple cases that are just about to wrap up. I'm hoping my July invoices (for June's work) total more than $12,000.

I feel pretty confident because I've diversified my revenue sources pretty well.  I have 4-5 big pieces of litigation into the foreseeable future.  I'm also still doing local counsel work and appointed work.  I also got added to the criminal appeals appointment list, so that's an entirely new thing to figure out.

Also in the pipeline is a co-counseling relationship with an attorney in another county.  We met in February and he followed up just this week and said he is going to get me involved in 3-4 of his biggest cases -- he said he was allowing me to enjoy time with my son before getting too involved.

Also in the pipeline is a co-counseling relationship with that family law attorney I've mentioned before.  We settled that $250,000 whopper and she's brought me on board for three other cases since.

Revenue goal for this year is $150,000.  I think I can get there if one of the contingency fee cases settle.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TheInsuranceMan on June 06, 2019, 12:50:27 PM
How did this fall to page 4?  I literally come to MMM to read this thread, as I think it's excellent (and I'm not even an attorney, or a business owner!).  I mean, I read a few other things while I'm here, but I'm a bit hooked on this thread, or was at least.

Any updates on it?

@TheInsuranceMan ... so sorry for the delays.  As said, my son was born in early March.  He's doing great -- sleeping well, eating well, loves his mom, etc.

To add to that, I moved offices at end of March, which obviously took a ton of time. The new office, though, is amazing and is arguably the best decision I've made -- most especially because I also did a complete redesign of my logo, letterhead, website, etc.  I will post pictures of it some time soon, but it's been getting great compliments from other attorneys and clients. Also, as I alluded to in another post, coming here and basically being guaranteed to not be bother has been an almost surreal experience coming from multiple offices with a ton of lawyers and staff and the phone ringing off the hook.

Expense wise (since @Fuzz and @FIREby35 mentioned it), I'm still running very lean.  My rent did go up to $475/month and I now have a phone answering service for $276/month, but my overall budget is still less than $1,100 per month.

Business revenues are going really well. So well that I've hired my brother to come in about twice a month (or $100/month or so) to help out. Well worth the expense -- he does all the work I hate doing (printing envelopes, creating new folders, etc.).

Through end of May, I have $72,000 in earned receipts. My June invoices were $9,950 -- almost $5,000 of which were billed against retainers.  The invoice amount would have been higher, but I withheld invoices on a couple cases that are just about to wrap up. I'm hoping my July invoices (for June's work) total more than $12,000.

I feel pretty confident because I've diversified my revenue sources pretty well.  I have 4-5 big pieces of litigation into the foreseeable future.  I'm also still doing local counsel work and appointed work.  I also got added to the criminal appeals appointment list, so that's an entirely new thing to figure out.

Also in the pipeline is a co-counseling relationship with an attorney in another county.  We met in February and he followed up just this week and said he is going to get me involved in 3-4 of his biggest cases -- he said he was allowing me to enjoy time with my son before getting too involved.

Also in the pipeline is a co-counseling relationship with that family law attorney I've mentioned before.  We settled that $250,000 whopper and she's brought me on board for three other cases since.

Revenue goal for this year is $150,000.  I think I can get there if one of the contingency fee cases settle.

Awesome!  I mean, besides the fact that I know you're an OSU fan, of course.  And, I can understand the kid thing taking time, I've got 3, oldest just turned 5, middle just turned 3, youngest is 9 months.  Oooofta.

Good luck, I'll continue following the story for any updates.  Nice to see the hard work paying off.  I dream of going off on my own and starting an agency, but in my area, it isn't the most feasible.  It could be done, but I've got a non-compete, and I literally live a block from where I work, and a few miles from where we farm.  Not worth moving to get out of the radius required, and I don't have the cash to fight it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on June 06, 2019, 12:51:39 PM
Excellent update, RSM!  Sounds like the move was a great, uh, move. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on June 07, 2019, 07:34:51 AM
It seems almost to good to be true, right? More money, more freedom, less headaches (caused by bosses or partners, etcetera). I'm glad it is working.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on June 09, 2019, 10:57:15 PM
I always love a good update! ♡♡♡
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 15, 2019, 10:50:17 AM
What's up everyone.  Some pics, an update, and a question.

***

Office Pics

A lot of you chimed in and helped with my office move and setup, so I thought I'd post some pictures. 

The view when you walk in:

(https://i.ibb.co/ThC3TFy/Office-Pic1.jpg) (https://ibb.co/ThC3TFy)

Receptionist/waiting area:

(https://i.ibb.co/BKDGT1j/Office-Pic2.jpg) (https://ibb.co/BKDGT1j)

Kitchen/production room:

(https://i.ibb.co/238wYsm/IMG-2783.jpg) (https://ibb.co/238wYsm)

Conference/meeting area:

(https://i.ibb.co/jVpfCMD/IMG-2784.jpg) (https://ibb.co/jVpfCMD)

My desk/work area:

(https://i.ibb.co/NK6R3Sd/Office-Pic3.jpg) (https://ibb.co/NK6R3Sd)

***

Office ultimately came out great.  There's tons of storage here.  I tried to blend being me versus looking professional, and I hope I struck a nice balance there.  I'm really comfortable working here, and clients are also very comfortable here.  It's not stuffy at all, which is what I was going for.

***

Big Picture Update

Big picture, things are getting busier and busier.  I still have a nice income stream from a variety of sources -- appearance work, appointment work, my own cases, and co-counseling.  I had a bit of a lull in September, but it's picked back up, and I'm busier now than I've ever been.

Gross income is at approximately $130,000 year to date.  Pretty good year so far.  $21,000 is from that huge settlement in January.

There are currently $15-16,000 in accounts receivables.  I expect to get most of these by years end.

I switched to an S-Corp this year.  Everything is a bit more complicated but I'm finally starting to get this on auto-pilot.

Total expenses, excluding my own salary and taxes, are approximately $20,000, or about $2,000 per month.  This is higher than I'd like, but the office move was about $5,000 total once the dust settled.

As stated more below, I have partnered up as co-counsel with two very reputable lawyers on about 10 cases total.  They are very well renowned and are in their upper 60s.  It's provided a ton of billable work here lately.  This, plus my other income streams, mean that 2020 is going to be a good year.

I also have four pending contingency cases.  I hate this work and I'll probably stop doing any of it next year.  I can't wait to close these files.

Should I Hire Part-Time Help?

So here's the big issue I'm facing. I have started partnering up with two other lawyers on about 4-5 cases each.  This is all hourly billing at $200/hour, and I want to knock these out of the park so these cases keep coming.

This, on top of my already pretty busy workload, means that the smaller, more menial BS has been getting put on standby.  Things like sending letters, doing small criminal motions, cleaning the office, reviewing mail, calendaring things, running errands, etc. is all not really getting done the way it used to.  Granted, it's getting done, but much slower, and it piles up and then takes a whole day to accomplish.

A secretary I used to work with moved jobs to a state agency.  She's looking for a little side work.  I think I could pay her between $12-15 an hour.  She is honestly an awesome secretary and, perhaps more importantly, she knows that I'm a perfectionist after working with me for quite a while.  We get along.

My only concern here is that I'm trying to run a lean and mean practice.  Expenses have flattened out to about $1,500 a month.  My wife works less now that we have a kid, so I'm a little cautious in adding an additional expense.

My thought here is that she could come in for about 4-8 hours per week.  This will free up my time to bill hourly clients.  Plus, Ohio allows "value billing," so when she does criminal motions, for instance, she can bill for that.  I'm thinking she ultimately pays for herself just through this, but she will also free up a ton of time for me to bill more $200/hour stuff.   

Assuming she wants $15/hour, an average of six hours per week is a yearly expense of $4,500.  That seems like a really good expense to me.

I think this decision is obvious, but I'm looking for someone to push me over the ledge here.  Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on November 15, 2019, 11:21:10 AM
Do it -- hire her immediately.  I am not joking when I say that when my assistant retires, I will too.  ;-)

If you want some rationalization, go back and look at your initial projections when you first opened the office -- what you hoped for.  Now look at what you've actually done this year.  Pretty freaking awesome, right???  So (A), you can afford it.  You don't need to anchor to your initial expense estimates when you have so far exceeded your initial income estimates.

And then (B), your unexpected success has meant that your time is far more occupied with good-paying work than you anticipated -- and you have a much more lucrative option coming in.  So that means that you either need to work even harder to make sure you get the bills out (and thus defeat the purpose of running your own shop), or forsake $200/hr legal work so you can spend your time doing billing and such (and thus minimize your future profits/growth), or let the bills and administrivia lag (and thus both work your butt off AND not get paid for it).  Or you can hire someone at $12-15/hr to do the administrivia, thus freeing up your time to do more $200/hr legal work.

You're a smart guy.  You don't need me or anyone else here to tell you the answer.  ;-) 

Oh, and (C):  the nice thing about additional help is that it is not a fixed expense -- if the need goes up, you can ask for more time; if the workload drops, you can drop her hours.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on November 15, 2019, 12:03:33 PM
A secretary I used to work with moved jobs to a state agency.  She's looking for a little side work.  I think I could pay her between $12-15 an hour.  She is honestly an awesome secretary and, perhaps more importantly, she knows that I'm a perfectionist after working with me for quite a while.  We get along.

My only concern here is that I'm trying to run a lean and mean practice.  Expenses have flattened out to about $1,500 a month.  My wife works less now that we have a kid, so I'm a little cautious in adding an additional expense.

My thought here is that she could come in for about 4-8 hours per week.  This will free up my time to bill hourly clients.  Plus, Ohio allows "value billing," so when she does criminal motions, for instance, she can bill for that.  I'm thinking she ultimately pays for herself just through this, but she will also free up a ton of time for me to bill more $200/hour stuff.   

Assuming she wants $15/hour, an average of six hours per week is a yearly expense of $4,500.  That seems like a really good expense to me.

I think this decision is obvious, but I'm looking for someone to push me over the ledge here.  Any thoughts?
Your estimation of the expense is low (at least needs to add employer portion of payroll taxes but you also need to consider any other new expenses you'll have due to taking on an employee). Even so, it sounds like the only real downside of making the hire is that you will become dependent on her services. It sounds like she'd be profitable to you at a rate much higher than $15/hr.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on November 15, 2019, 12:19:25 PM
Do it!

Also, congratulations on building the practice. Keep an eye on how much work you have and what you like. Keep the good stuff and let the rest fade out. Eventually, you'll find yourself right where you want to be.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: feelingroovy on November 15, 2019, 05:09:39 PM
I agree you should do it.

I am a small business owner and I was also hesitant about hiring at first.

I think just about everyone in your situation underestimates how much admin work there is and how much of a drag it is on your productivity. She will easily pay for herself at even a much higher rate.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Gronnie on November 15, 2019, 05:13:53 PM
Awesome thread, posting to follow.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 18, 2019, 06:29:59 AM
Thanks for the encouragement.  We are getting lunch Wednesday.

My thought is that, to start, she comes in one day per week.  I have plenty of small items for her to do.  Just today, for instance, I got a letter with a settlement check that needs signed by my clients and then returned to me.  Right now that means drafting a letter, printing it, signing it, printing both their envelope and my return envelope, scanning everything before it goes out, etc. Huge time-sink for me that I can't bill for.  Now I can just throw this on a list for her to do.

This is how she did it at our old job.  Just give her a list and she plow through it.  So as the week goes on, just keep adding to her to-do list, and I know she will do a good job.

If she completes those tasks, I also have a huge project of going paperless and digitally organizing my files. Another big to-do is to make trial binders. In other words, there's always going to be 4 hours of work for her to do.

I also hate, hate, HATE contingency fee cases.  I think I'm going to defer almost all the record-finding to her and give her a 10% bonus of my fee on these cases.  It will make these cases worth it.

Thanks for the push everyone.  Hope this works out.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Laura33 on November 18, 2019, 07:55:13 AM
I think I'm going to defer almost all the record-finding to her and give her a 10% bonus of my fee on these cases.

Please make sure this is ok under your local ethics rules -- ours have a lot of rules about fee-splitting with non-lawyers.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on November 18, 2019, 08:54:37 AM
I think I'm going to defer almost all the record-finding to her and give her a 10% bonus of my fee on these cases.

Please make sure this is ok under your local ethics rules -- ours have a lot of rules about fee-splitting with non-lawyers.

I looked into this, but probably need to more.  My post is obviously somewhat hypocritical, but the payment can be made to a non-lawyer *within the firm,* so long as it is a "bonus" and not a percentage.  My ten percent number was just a kind of rule of thumb thing.

Obviously I need to look into this more.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on November 18, 2019, 09:23:17 AM
That is all great.  I was trying to figure out the blue/purple football thing on the one cabinet.  Is it Berea?

One other thing.  You said she works in government?  Is it in the legal arena.  There may be that conflict of interest for her.  Just like I can't work under the table for a company that does business with my municipality.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: TVRodriguez on November 18, 2019, 12:45:55 PM
I will say that my assistant more than earns what I pay her.  I friggin LOVE not doing all the work that she does.  It saves me so much time.  I love paying my contract attorney to do work for me, too, because that saves me time, too.  A good assistant is definitely worth it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on November 19, 2019, 02:59:15 PM
If you don't like collecting medical bills and records for insurance adjusters then file the lawsuit and watch the defense attorney happily issue endless subpoena's to earn their hourly rate. Plus, when the adjuster makes a crap offer you are much closer to a jury. Being close to a jury means you will get your best offer sooner and, if you don't like it, you are right there, ready to tell a jury what you think is fair. Any pre-trial litigation work you have to do is equal to or less than the work to collect the bills and make a demand.

That is the only solution I have found to that problem.

Contingency work is too profitable to hate! :)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Malum Prohibitum on November 20, 2019, 05:52:26 PM
ReadySetMillionaire,

Got a 401(k) yet?  ABA Retirement has one that is easy to set up.  The funds are not as cheap as Vanguard, but the choices are halfway decent, and, being self employed, your match can be as high as you want it (up to 25% of W-2 income).

Just a suggestion from one solo to another.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 08, 2020, 02:31:35 PM
Just wanted to provide an EOY update...

2019 Numbers/Thoughts

My Quickbooks was actually jacked up (counting all A/R as "income" for some reason), so my income was way higher on my P&L than I actually thought. Anyway, the final numbers for the full year are as follows:

Gross Income: $117,000

Expenses (not including taxes/payroll): $23,000 (a little higher than I would like, mostly due to new office/moving)

Net Profit (Before Taxes): $94,000

After Taxes (Rough Guess for Right Now): $78,000

***

Currently have about 40-50 active matters.

The co-counseling relationships are going pretty well in terms of income, although I hate the co-dependency and not getting back to me.

Things are generally looking up, but my hiring of the secretary got all screwed up.  Basically, I hired her, she called off, then she stated she could not work due to a medical condition.  Super bummed out because I had a ton of administrative work for her, and now it's all on me again.

My wife has actually started to come in once per week.  That is actually going pretty well, and it saves me a ton of money.  And she can work from home.  Not sure if this is a long-term solution, but oh well.

But...Another Opportunity?

I got a call today from the Magistrate at the local county court.  He stated that the city is looking to hire somebody for the City Law Department.  This is pretty interesting because I know the director of the City Law Department, and he is great friends with my mentor; so with the magistrate and my mentor giving me praise, something tells me this job is mine if I want it.

I've heard whispers that starting pay is around $63,000.  I have been involved in cases suing the city, and I know for a fact that the healthcare package is worth $30,000-plus.  My wife and my current healthcare sucks (almost a $1k/month premium, $13k deductible).

Also state retirement pension, student loan benefits, etc.  I've talked to numerous lawyers, and both agree that if the salary is around $63k, then the total compensation package is worth close to double that.

The biggest factor also is that, generally, the city lets you still run your private practice on "flex time."  I know several lawyers who do this and make a killing.  I think this would allow me to fire the majority of clients that don't pay or annoy me, and only keep my best clients.  I'd also stop doing the flat fee appearance work and appointment work, which nets me probably around $2k/month.

The biggest con -- government work.  A couple of my friends have lasted less than a couple years working in government (not this particular office, though). 

I think it's worth meeting to iron out the details, but if I can still operate my practice on the side, $63k plus awesome benefits is no small "base" to start from. 

Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Gronnie on January 08, 2020, 03:09:14 PM
Is the healthcare worth $30k to you?

If you pay $1k/mo right now but hardly use any healthcare (don't have any chronic ongoing conditions that you know you will shell out $x/yr for) then the "better healthcare" might not be worth all that much to you. It would also depend on how much the premium is, deductible, etc.

It does sound like the government job would provide you a very secure base (I assume it's pretty darn hard to get fired and you will always get paid on time). So as long as you think you would be able to tolerate the work (ie not hate your life) and can keep your best clients on the side, I would say go for it.

If you were to just continue with private practice, do you still have a ton of room for income growth or are you getting near capped out for your area? That would be something to think about too. If you have a real possibility of making many multiples of $63k without working 100 hour weeks by staying in private practice, that would get you to FIRE much sooner.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 08, 2020, 03:26:59 PM
Is the healthcare worth $30k to you?

If you pay $1k/mo right now but hardly use any healthcare (don't have any chronic ongoing conditions that you know you will shell out $x/yr for) then the "better healthcare" might not be worth all that much to you. It would also depend on how much the premium is, deductible, etc.

It does sound like the government job would provide you a very secure base (I assume it's pretty darn hard to get fired and you will always get paid on time). So as long as you think you would be able to tolerate the work (ie not hate your life) and can keep your best clients on the side, I would say go for it.

If you were to just continue with private practice, do you still have a ton of room for income growth or are you getting near capped out for your area? That would be something to think about too. If you have a real possibility of making many multiples of $63k without working 100 hour weeks by staying in private practice, that would get you to FIRE much sooner.

Regarding healthcare, that's the thing -- we hardly use it, and our premiums are $1,000 per month.  Premiums for the city are $250/month with significantly better health insurance.  So at minimum we would save $9,000/year, and if we actually need to use it, a ton more.

Regarding income cap, that's a really tough question to answer.  I feel like I really hustled this year and I grossed $117k.  I'm in a very rust belt, LCOL area.  I could see it getting better, maybe $140ish, in 2020.  But I just had a conversation with a good friend of mine, and he said there's maybe 10-15 solos going north of $200k, and all of them work like dogs.  I personally know a couple of them that we discussed and can confirm that they work crazy hours.

Another thing -- being self-employed, all my income gets the brutal self-employment tax.  I did do an S-Corp this year but my taxes generally suck as compared to when I was a W-2.  So getting more W-2 income and less self-employment income would probably be okay.

But, the one co-counseling relationship I'm starting is one of those unicorn guys.  He definitely works hard but he's got to be north of $300k per year.  Granted, he's almost 70, and I imagine it's taken him his entire career to get here, but the ceiling is obviously way higher in private practice if things break the right way.

That "if" should be size 72 font.  Like most other government vs. private sector analyses, the government job is the conservative, safe choice (I think).
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 08, 2020, 04:38:57 PM
How stable are the city's finances? It would suck for the city to experience a budget crisis and you get axed. If you're the only one in this position, that might not be a concern... Also, does the healthcare coverage extend into retirement? My city's does not, which is part of why they are more fiscally healthy than many others. Finally, how many years do all these things take to kick in? I think this sounds interesting as hell.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 08, 2020, 05:07:49 PM
How stable are the city's finances? It would suck for the city to experience a budget crisis and you get axed. If you're the only one in this position, that might not be a concern... Also, does the healthcare coverage extend into retirement? My city's does not, which is part of why they are more fiscally healthy than many others. Finally, how many years do all these things take to kick in? I think this sounds interesting as hell.

All good questions to ask, none of which I know the answers to.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on January 08, 2020, 07:37:45 PM
I like the opportunity, it痴 a win win. If it doesn稚 work out or you hate it, you just go back to your current plan. You have nothing to lose, guaranteed work and the ability to run your practice. I壇 just make sure you池e not killing yourself with the schedule.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 09, 2020, 07:34:12 AM
I like the opportunity, it痴 a win win. If it doesn稚 work out or you hate it, you just go back to your current plan. You have nothing to lose, guaranteed work and the ability to run your practice. I壇 just make sure you池e not killing yourself with the schedule.

The last part is the most important.  I've posted in here I don't know how many times that I did not want my practice to take over me.  My goal was always to make $100,000 or so and not work myself to death to get over that.

If I'm working for the city, boom, there's $65,000ish (plus ridiculous benefits); and now I need to net $35,000 (so earn roughly $50,000) in my practice.  That doesn't seem too hard to me, and won't require a ridiculous schedule.

My biggest long-term concern is that my practice gets referrals solely through word of mouth.  If other attorneys know I'm working for the city, I'm not sure if they send clients my way.  Tough to know the answer to that.

For right now I'm leaning towards taking the meeting and, for me to take the job, everything has to be right.  Great amount of "flex time" (allow me to cover my own hearings during the work day), not too much criminal work, and a complete green light on running my practice on the side.

Absent that I think I have too much of a good thing going.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 10, 2020, 10:29:12 AM
RSM -

1. I may be a "unicorn" but I think your private practice has more upside than you think. It's always about working smarter, not harder. One car accident with a clear policy limit situation on a 100k policy is a 33k fee. I call that a "lightning bolt" - I plan for it to happen one per quarter. There are other situations where the money can happen without limit. It has taken me 8 years to figure it out, but I settled a 1.1 million med mal case, a $450k semi-truck case and 400k truck case in the last few months. It was over 300k in fee on just those cases (I had experienced co-counsel partners who did the heavy lifting and took a lot of the total fee, but still). I'm not suggesting it was easy or happened fast (I worked for years without pay and investing costs into all three of those cases). But, don't underestimate the possibility as you grow in stature and experience. The more I learn how to hunt elephants, the easier it becomes.

Side note, once you have MMM-style financial independence, you can take a smaller case load of big cases, focus more attention on those cases, which results in better results make plenty of money with part-time work hours. To me, that is the law practice I want.

2. The city job may not compromise that long term growth so it could still be a good idea. You may learn how to win lawsuits against political subdivisions by seeing behind "enemy" lines. So, consider what you would be doing for the city. At the very least, I'd pay very close attention to the relationship between the city and their insurance carrier and what types of situations get paid large settlements. It happens. The question is how and why.

3. Healthcare is such an interesting topic. I've been uninsured for 8 years. I have saved my premiums. Now I have over 100k in saved premiums available to directly purchase the health care I may need. Working with severely injured people who need emergency and long term healthcare, I can say with confidence that 100k in cash is a lot of purchasing power. My personal belief is that very many people are brainwashed into a fear about their healthcare. The insurance companies clearly want it to be scary and confusing so you can solve the problem by aligning yourself with them - very large and ever growing price with larger and ever rising deductibles. You can do that, and be very normal. But man, to let healthcare be such a huge factor in your decision making doesn't make sense to me (me personally). I know I'm contrarian on that point, but I feel it is worth saying.

I could have wrote more, but I have meetings. Forgive typos or spelling errors. Good luck. You are in "high cotton."

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 10, 2020, 10:57:30 AM
^^Some people get cancer out of the blue when they're 21 years old. Other people get hit by uninsured drivers. I agree the insurance industry is fucked up, but so is this advice. I know that sounds harsh, but you are one lucky [something].

ETA: $100k can vaporize in an instant in a medical crisis, and health insurance cannot be purchased retroactively.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on January 10, 2020, 11:27:58 AM
I will give my perspective as a government employee.  Although not in legal.

I am familiar with Ohio's pension system since I have been trying to get into ODOT for years. 

Most positions you pretty much have to commit murder before you are fired.  It probably takes more work to get fired than to do the work.  However there are certain positions that "Serve at the pleasure of..."  In that case you do not have as much security.  The job could be lost for politics alone.

Many government offices are obsessed with ass in seat time.  In other words, they want you there a set time no matter how busy/slow you are.  Some are not willing to do alternative work schedules or teleworking. 

I know working with our legal office in my position they always seem extremely busy and over worked.  You do not mention what city and its size or expectation of work load. 

You will need to be concerned with conflict of interests with your clients in the city.  Do you do a lot of business in this city?  You would probably need to drop any clients you have within the city?

I have not looked at the individual stocks available for Ohio but they have options for a defined benefit, defined contribution, or combo of both.  The health insurance is excellent.

I would search to see if the city publicizes its salary bands and employee salaries.  You could then get a better idea of possible negotiation power.  My current employer allows for hiring up to 15% greater than the base, if you want more it needs to be approved by the chief operating officer.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 10, 2020, 01:49:17 PM
All great questions @civil4life .  I actually met with the Law Director today. The highlights:

-While not expressly stated, job is mine if I want it

-Job duties are less litigation than I thought, but I met with another person who used to work there, and she said the legal issues are interesting (real estate, personnel/employment issues, local government stuff, etc.)

-Job is 8:00 to 4:00 with an hour paid lunch (so 35 hours per week); all holidays paid

-Salary likely close to $69,000

-Defined benefit retirement includes 24% salary to OPERS (Ohio Public Employee Retirement System) after working there for six months, so add $16,000+ there

-Healthcare premium is $190 (!!!) per month with a $500 deductible

-Most importantly, the Law Director told me point blank that "job security is not guaranteed."  He said a new administration could come in and fire everyone, although that rarely happens.  He certainly thinks he would be gone if the mayor is not re-elected.

But, I could tell they were desperate to hire someone, so ten minutes later in the conversation, I turned this on its head and said, "Look, that's exactly why I can't shut my practice completely down."  I said I can't take this for 18 months, get fired, and then start up again. And he approved.  He said, "You can't say I told you this, but I need you in the office 4.5 days a week.  If you can do your practice during lunch, after 4:00, and on weekends, then that's your business."

***

I met with a magistrate who used to work there.  The highlights:

-She said the Law Director doesn't know what he's doing for the civil side, but he's nice and tolerable, you just have to deal with him and repeat things

-Said I'd be very competent there

-Said it's "low mental energy work," doesn't think doing stuff on the side would be an issue

***

Met with another friend for lunch as well.  Guy I trust a ton.  Said you have to consider this like a $100,000 super demanding and irrational client.  Would you do it?  Interesting way to look at it.

***

So @FIREby35 -- with the being able to do my side practice out of the way, you've hit the nail on the head.  How will this affect my long term career growth?  How will this affect referrals? Things are on the up.  I'm better at picking cases.  I'm better at looking at clients and saying they need to give me a $10,000 retainer and not flinching. A couple referral sources are really starting to flourish. Things seem to be going well.

But, I don't know if I have enough data yet. I've only been on my own for 20 months.  I still had that big settlement in January.  What if that doesn't come this year?  I think it would go up, but it also could go down.  I just don't know.

My ideal version is this: work that government job, do private practice emails/calls during lunch, work until 4:00, drive over to my office (10 minutes from City Hall), work for an hour, and then work on big projects on weekends/holidays.  I work a ton of hours now anyway.  If I trim it down to my 8-12 best clients, that's manageable.

***

Needless to say I'm strongly considering this.  I'd have to gross about $96,000 to make the equivalent salary at my office.  AND I get to run my own practice still, so there's a vent of autonomy still available.

Paging @Dicey , @MrThatsDifferent , @Malum Prohibitum , and @TVRodriguez .  Tough decision here, although I'm leaning towards jumping in.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on January 10, 2020, 02:40:52 PM
But, I could tell they were desperate to hire someone, so ten minutes later in the conversation, I turned this on its head and said, "Look, that's exactly why I can't shut my practice completely down."  I said I can't take this for 18 months, get fired, and then start up again. And he approved.  He said, "You can't say I told you this, but I need you in the office 4.5 days a week.  If you can do your practice during lunch, after 4:00, and on weekends, then that's your business."
I'd be very concerned that this doesn't sound like enough flexibility to run your practice. You certainly can't make your own appearances if you are in the office at city hall.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 10, 2020, 05:09:11 PM
But, I could tell they were desperate to hire someone, so ten minutes later in the conversation, I turned this on its head and said, "Look, that's exactly why I can't shut my practice completely down."  I said I can't take this for 18 months, get fired, and then start up again. And he approved.  He said, "You can't say I told you this, but I need you in the office 4.5 days a week.  If you can do your practice during lunch, after 4:00, and on weekends, then that's your business."
I'd be very concerned that this doesn't sound like enough flexibility to run your practice. You certainly can't make your own appearances if you are in the office at city hall.

To be clear, I expressly asked about this, and he said I would need to take flex time or vacation time to make up for my own hearings. But it was clear to me that I壇 be able to run my own practice.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: mozar on January 10, 2020, 05:37:11 PM
I used to work for the federal government so this may be different,  but they seemed to have a don't ask don't tell butt in seat policy. So if someone wasn't at work but they had gotten all their work done they looked the other way and ignored the fact that they weren't in the office. I would ask around about butt in seat time. Say you're supposed to be at work until 4, but your seat is empty between 3 and 4 some random afternoon. What are they going to do about it? Ask for forgiveness,  not permission.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on January 10, 2020, 05:41:25 PM
So it is OK to take off time between 8:00 and 4:00 to do your own practice, just not on city time (which makes sense). At first pass it sounded to me like you might have difficulty getting the time off approved. Is the amount of time you'd be able to take off sufficient for all your needs (private practice hearings, vacations, your appointments with professionals, sick days, etc.)? Can you negotiate more time off for lower salary to make having the time needed for your private practice easier?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Gronnie on January 10, 2020, 06:11:29 PM
Does flex time mean you are supposed to work 8-4 but say you had a hearing from 11-12 you just stay an hour later?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 10, 2020, 06:44:07 PM
Does flex time mean you are supposed to work 8-4 but say you had a hearing from 11-12 you just stay an hour later?

Right. It痴 under the radar as someone else stated. You don稚 announce you池e leaving for your own hearing, but you have the professionalism to make up for it.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on January 10, 2020, 08:21:31 PM
Mate, you池e squeezing a lot in here, a lot! You池e setting yourself for work from 8-6ish almost every day and weekends. You still have to do all the admin stuff with running your own practice, and taxes. How much time is left for you and your young family? How long do you plan on doing this for?  Instead of designing your perfect life with flexibility, you池e boxing yourself in.

From you致e described, I壇 see it as an either/or, not an and.

Option 1: stay as is. You致e put a lot of work in your practice and by every measure, you致e been a success. You池e your own boss and you have lots of room to grow, and even add lawyers to the practice if you wanted to. downside, is you have to keep hustling, but you致e seem to have a good handle on it, and it痴 not killing you.

Option 2: Gov job. Mildly engaging, working for others, punch a clock and you池e out. Absent someone clearing house it seems you could do this, de-prioritize work and focus on your family. Work becomes just something in the background to pay bills. Downside: you seem to crave intellectual stimulation and I知 not sure you値l find it here. It also won稚 be easy working for someone again after you致e been your own boss. Remember the politics of work places? That will return in droves.

Option 3: Doing both 1 & 2. Manageable but barely and you might find yourself pulled way to thin, while sacrificing your family time.

Personally, I壇 stick with 1. Otherwise, I壇 go to them and say, I can give you 3 days a week, or all mornings 8-1 but the rest of the time is for me. If that doesn稚 work for them, you already have things just how you want them with the power to shape it to your needs as you wish.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: civil4life on January 10, 2020, 08:35:22 PM
If you hate it you can easily jump ship.  If it does not work out how easy would it be to ramp up the type of work you would turn away if you took the job? 

Would you be able to make the appearances for your other cases if needed?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 10, 2020, 09:55:07 PM
How much sick time and vacation time do you get to start? Are there any waiting periods for benefits like healthcare and retirement? Do you think you can actually get their work done in the time allotted? What if some big-time shit hits the fan in the city?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 11, 2020, 09:45:30 AM
I have to be honest RSM, I don't really like the idea of working a full-time public law job and a private law practice at the same time. Your longest term, best financial asset is your marriage. You've got a kid and wife at home and you are contemplating working a day job and a side job on nights and weekends. I'd say you are talking about engulfing your entire life in the law. Lots of my peers who did this didn't stay happily married.

On the other hand, I worked a lot at the beginning - now that I think about it. Years 0-5 in my law practice were a lot of hours. Perhaps I'm talking from further up the stream, but I wouldn't want to work that much today. If you do it, you should at least be aware that you are undertaking a huge task.

Side convo on insurance......

Hey Dicey - Is it really f**ked up to accept and accurately assess the risk of sickness and death on terms equal to every human being all over the planet across all times? It is an illusion to think that insurance diminishes the probabilities of sickness and death appearing in our lives. Perhaps it could determine the probability of survival of a battle with sickness and death, but it is only one variable among many. I am absolutely certain I have multiple assets (financial and otherwise) that will provide a greater than average chance at surviving that inevitable battle with sickness and death. I also acknowledge, I will die.

If someone is unhealthy and needs insurance to survive, then they should have it. But, that is not the situation for many people. For a healthy person, there is a different analysis. Arguments about the social benefits of universal participation in a social contract do not change an individual rational calculation of optimal behavior. Making an accurate assessment for an individual circumstance (i.e. a healthy person) and choosing not to engage in a financially sub-optimal transaction is not f**ked up. You might call it undesirable or selfish, but I just call it self-insuring.

To RSM  or other lawyers on this point, if you are a lawyer then you may understand that medical care is provided to people who are involved in catastrophic incidents that routinely happen in your community. These incidents are a fact of human existence and are dealt with in county courthouses all across our land. They involve many parties, possibly including a health insurance company. A bill is generated and sent - care is not denied at any hospital around me. None of those bills are real. Medicaid/Medicare doesn't pay that price, private health insurance doesn't pay that price. No one actually pays the price that medical care is alleged to cost. The providers have to sue to collect. I'd much rather use money to defend myself than pay for protection up front. As you well know, $10,000 can buy a lot of legal defense and dramatically affect the ultimate resolution of a complex financial dispute.

It's incredible to see people's faith in their insurance shatter when they receive a denial of coverage letter for a major expense. Our bar association sub-group will semi-regularly solicit legal assistance for people in this situation. Health insurance companies are hardly a warm blanket of compassion for the sick and dying.

For chronic conditions or slow moving disease, you are allowed to register with pre-existing conditions annually. I also have medical bills sharing which I am comfortable using as a much lower cost substitute. Cash can be used to secure medical treatment in such a situation.

People on this forum should understand the power of money. It actually can be used to gain access to medical institutions in this country - cash, lots of it if necessary. This is a power many on this forum are privileged to enjoy. Can you imagine what it is like for human beings with only access government health insurance in your community? Many specialists in my community won't see medicaid patients, insured-but-can't-afford-their-deductible or uninsured people without cash (i.e. the people I serve daily) but they will always see people with cash. That is a simple fact in my community. I make use of that fact to help my injured clients get access to these specialists. I know my cash is more valuable than their insurance. If you have insurance but you can't afford to use it or your insurance won't get you access to the specialist you need, are you still insured?

I'm not trying to provoke. Conversations about insurance often cause tension due to the strongly held views around insurance and it's association with politics. I'm not even talking about the macro vision of insurance. I am specifically talking about an individual analysis of existence within the current system - as is. I'm not varnishing today's reality with potential future improvements or suggestions on how to fix it. To me, in today's system, cash is a more powerful ally than insurance in the inevitable battle for survival with sickness and death.

Is that really so f**ked?

P.S. Edit: What I am saying is RSM should consider deeply how much weight he gives to the availability of health-insurance in these decisions. If given too much control, it could easily extinguish many very exciting paths in life.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dee18 on January 11, 2020, 10:25:26 AM
When I was a government attorney we were absolutely forbidden from engaging in any private practice.  That was years ago and perhaps that is not the rule everywhere, but it is certainly something to check out.  However, I agree with the many others that government job + private practice+young children=serious overload
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 11, 2020, 11:15:45 AM
P.S. Edit: What I am saying is RSM should consider deeply how much weight he gives to the availability of health-insurance in these decisions. If given too much control, it could easily extinguish many very exciting paths in life.
After I had cancer, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that doctors believe was related to that fact that I grew six inches over the course of a single summer. And I was ahealthy, active, normal weight person. You bet your ever-loving ass that the need for affordable healthcare, or any healthcare at all, colored every single decision after that. Yes, you certainly could say it extinguished many potentially exciting paths in my life, especially pre-Obamacare.

Yes, that is fucked up indeed.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 11, 2020, 01:48:19 PM
P.S. Edit: What I am saying is RSM should consider deeply how much weight he gives to the availability of health-insurance in these decisions. If given too much control, it could easily extinguish many very exciting paths in life.
After I had cancer, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that doctors believe was related to that fact that I grew six inches over the course of a single summer. And I was ahealthy, active, normal weight person. You bet your ever-loving ass that the need for affordable healthcare, or any healthcare at all, colored every single decision after that. Yes, you certainly could say it extinguished many potentially exciting paths in my life, especially pre-Obamacare.

Yes, that is fucked up indeed.

I'm sorry you are in that situation. I bet it did affect your decision making. It would be reasonable for a person without those health conditions to make different decisions.

I can only say, if I had insisted on health insurance from my employer then I wouldn't have been able to create my law practice. If I did all the work to create my practice, but surrendered to the siren song of health insurance from an employer after 18 months, I would have foregone a lucrative career. The career has, so far, been lucrative enough to provide resources I can deploy in place of health insurance. For my part, I do prepare for a bad situation by saving and investing consciously (rather than spending those resources on non-essentials). I think there are millions of people who fit within this fact pattern (except maybe the saving, but we are on the MMM forum so...). I think many of those people are self-employed - as is RSM.

I still don't see how money is not as valuable an ally as insurance. Also, for those in good health, medical bills sharing as a lower cost supplement. To me, this is the best a self-employed person can do: 1) save your cash 2) try the medical bill sharing. I think it is okay to accept this situation rather than desire/insist on health insurance for some human beings. That is probably the unfair or "F'd" part, you need to be healthy enough to consider this option. To my knowledge, RSM is healthy enough to consider this option.

It is also very important that post-Obamacare it is possible to get insurance despite having a pre-existing condition. I think it is a good policy for reducing human suffering in our communities.

PS Lucrative is only one part for me. I don't think I could stand having a butt-in-seat requirement. I'd be a terrible government employee. A self-employed person can have control of their time. Again, you might not have health insurance. But, if you do the rest, is it a risk worth taking to gain near total control of your time?
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 11, 2020, 02:47:57 PM
PS again - Everyone is truly welcome to prioritize their health insurance situation uniquely. I wouldn't have even mentioned it except RSM discussed it as relevant to his decision. It is a thing for all self-employed. In the law, you can go with a big firm or the government and get good benefits. But if you are solo or small law you have to accept something else or pay a pretty penny. I said my part and I don't want anyone to think I was trying to give them any crap for their situation. Sincerely :)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 11, 2020, 05:40:17 PM
Appreciate all the comments.

Someone mentioned the low income work I do (flat fee appearance work and appointment work). I can shut that down and pick that up whenever I want. But it takes a disproportionate amount of my time. I bet it痴 25% of my income and about 40% of my time.

I also bet other loss leaders take up a huge portion of my time. Extremely small hourly cases with $500-$1000 retainers. I壇 drop these in a heartbeat.

Take these two things out and I致e reclaimed 50% of my time, if not more. Also, contrary to another poster, my admin time would be WAY down without these small matters.

Based on the comments here, I took a real serious look at my active matter list. There痴 honestly just about 8-10 matters I壇 like to keep. I think this is manageable. I壇 obviously be very selective in other cases moving forward.

I致e talked with 6-7 local lawyers now who all think juggling the city job and solo practice are manageable. The solo  practice will not be anywhere near what it is now but it will basically be a small revenue generator and also an insurance policy if I want to leave.

I致e basically coasted in several months and those months were always $3,500-4,000. I think my practice would do about the same if it were on the side. That痴 20 billable hours a month. Probably talking 10-15 hours a week. Yes, motions and depositions will make this fluctuate, but it won稚 be close to another full time job.

Regarding insurance, it痴 really important. Our insurance sucks. We are trying for Kid #2 and just being on better insurance will be worth $4,000 (what we paid OOP for our first son).

If it痴 overwhelming, I値l have a decision to make. Keeping the lights on at my practice permanently gives me options. Ramping up takes time (2-3 months to make a penny). Keeping it running is better than shutting it down.

Ultimately, I never started my practice to make a ton of money. My previous job that started this thread 2+ years ago paid $47k with mediocre benefits (compared to city job). Now it痴 two years later and I知 being offered $68-69k with amazing benefits; and a private practice on the side that could generate more money than most side jobs. Not bad.

I知 going to meet with one more mentor and one of my clients, who is also a mentor. I want to see how he reacts to me saying, 的 think I知 taking a city job, but I知 keeping my practice open and want to keep you on board. If his reaction is positive then I知 probably going to try it out.

The risk seems very low given that my practice will always be there to fall back on.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 12, 2020, 08:29:03 AM
Somewhat of an important update: I called my best two clients, who both act as mentors, as well as my best referral source this morning.

I approached my clients with a two-phase conversation -- (1) what's your professional/business advice and (2) what would you think of our attorney-client relationship.  They were extremely positive and both indicated they'd be glad to stay on board.

I had a similar conversation with my best referral source.  He said if he were my age he would take the job, and that keeping the practice open is the key.  He stated (and I agree) that even if they paid $100,000, but they required you to close the practice, then it's a much harder decision.  This is "an easy decision because you have the safety valve."

I also transitioned the conversation to his referrals, and he stated he would "hope and pray" I still make time for him.  This is great news.  Everything he sends me is $200/hour, sometimes $225/hour.  This relationship started in October and I made $8,000 just getting started with him, and things are only going on the up.

Strongly, strongly leaning towards taking it.  I agree with you guys that perhaps juggling both will be too much, but at that point, maybe the city job is fine, or maybe go back to private practice.  But this seems like a great opportunity at this point in my life.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on January 12, 2020, 12:26:42 PM
Mate, it痴 clear you want to juggle both, you池e young, with energy, we get that. I guess the one thing you haven稚 seemed to share is what your wife thinks, and how you think any of this will help you being a more present husband and father, especially as you consider adding a second kid? Not trying to be patronizing with the youth comments, we all know though that time for you and your family is far more valuable than time for work and money. Please don稚 underestimate the cognitive load that you池e going to be placing on yourself, while you work two jobs that will give you almost exactly what you have with one job, save for some work perks (which you have the capacity to exceed on your own). When you chat with your mentors, ask them about family life, happy and healthy marriages, and being truly involved with their kids. That痴 life. That痴 what you remember in your deathbed, and what will make a true difference to you. Measure that impact and if you come out ahead there, you池e golden. If not, something to strongly consider.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 12, 2020, 02:28:29 PM
Mate, it痴 clear you want to juggle both, you池e young, with energy, we get that. I guess the one thing you haven稚 seemed to share is what your wife thinks, and how you think any of this will help you being a more present husband and father, especially as you consider adding a second kid? Not trying to be patronizing with the youth comments, we all know though that time for you and your family is far more valuable than time for work and money. Please don稚 underestimate the cognitive load that you池e going to be placing on yourself, while you work two jobs that will give you almost exactly what you have with one job, save for some work perks (which you have the capacity to exceed on your own). When you chat with your mentors, ask them about family life, happy and healthy marriages, and being truly involved with their kids. That痴 life. That痴 what you remember in your deathbed, and what will make a true difference to you. Measure that impact and if you come out ahead there, you池e golden. If not, something to strongly consider.

Wife is totally and 100% on board. I would never do this if she was not. The benefits are extremely important to her at this phase in our life together.

I appreciate your input and the input of the more experienced people here. Life is short. It痴 easy for me to sit here and forecast, but my forecast is just an educated guess.

I truly believe I can narrow my practice down to the point that it is not overwhelming me. If it does then I will reevaluate and change things one way or another.

But, you池e right. Your post will resonate with me, I知 sure, as I知 working weekends. I will keep this strongly in mind as I move forward.

This opportunity seems very low risk to me. If it痴 too much I値l go back to private practice. If I can find a balance then it will be best of both worlds.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 12, 2020, 02:29:03 PM
You know man, you are right. It is a great situation.

I'd say, there is power in knowing you can support yourself. You have learned that and proven that - to yourself and others. The power comes from you having a private law practice. But, really, whether you close that or not, you know you have the ability to do it. So, tip of the cap :)

I'd still be cautious about the work/life balance. Don't get lost in the law. Life is still out there to be lived.

Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Malum Prohibitum on January 13, 2020, 03:16:22 PM
You asked for my opinion, so I am giving it - and I would be inclined not to go to work for the city.  I would instead focus on growing the practice and increasing hourly rates and developing a specialty or two that make you the go-to guy for that issue.

I wish you well either way, bit I think going to the city will harm your practice beyond repair, and, let's face it, there are no long term prospects of outstanding success there. 

The only way I would take that job is if you are desperate to survive because your practice is dying on the vine.  I do not get that sense at all from your description.  Indeed, I get the opposite impression, that your practice is growing. 

Going to work in a lower end job for a city at sixty something is not what you dreamed of when going to law school.

Just my honest answer.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on January 13, 2020, 05:08:29 PM
Going to work in a lower end job for a city at sixty something is not what you dreamed of when going to law school.
I'm pretty sure by 60 RSM will be retired even if he decides to take the city job and close down the practice. I personally agree that the upside potential of the private practice is worth keeping and that working both is too much work, but we don't have to throw straw man arguments at him to give him feedback on his options.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: grantmeaname on January 13, 2020, 06:11:32 PM
Sixty something thousand dollars
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BradminOxt19 on January 13, 2020, 06:51:18 PM
What a great thread / journal. 

I think you can't lose with any decision you make.  If you take the city job, it will work out well, and if it doesn't, you'll go back to your practice and still do well.  I know several lawyers who jumped between working for the city and private practice and it never impacted them negatively.

In life most decisions are not one way streets, as you found out leaving your first firm working for the psycho lawyer lady from hell.  You were able to leave in a few months and set up shop and get into a great place on your own.

I don't think you need any of us to tell you what to do.  Personally, any choice you make will be the right one.

I've been down this road many times, in another industry.  I turned down high paying jobs for lower paying jobs that were more balanced for me, and long term I ended up doing just as well, if not better, than taking the alternate path.  Life is full of choices and there should be no regret. 

You and the many other lawyers in this thread seem incredibly sharp and wise.  I enjoyed reading this thread a lot.

One item - regarding health care...this is the one thing I am concerned with.  I have been in a couple of car accidents, one as a passenger, and one where another driver struck me head-on going the wrong way.  Thankfully I was mostly fine in those cases, but I would be very leery to not have healthy insurance.  I have over $50k in HSA funds, but I still prefer to pay for insurance, not just for me, but my family as driving is the most dangerous activity we do every day, as passengers or drivers.

All it takes is one accident to cause major injury and medical bills, and most state liability insurance limits are a joke, plus there is a significant population of people who carry no auto insurance so you are on the hook for the medical bills.  Life is full of risks, but not having medical insurance with the danger of injury in car accidents is not one I would risk willingly. 

Good luck on your decision and I look forward to more updates!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on January 13, 2020, 08:37:45 PM
Thanks for the recent posts @BradminOxt19 , @Malum Prohibitum , and @FIREby35 .

Apparently I've built a reputation on here (in other threads) for "JADE" -- justify, argue, defend, explain.  I'm not sure how you engage in a forum about personal decisions like this without doing this, but I'll try not to do that here while also trying to articulate my rationale.

To outsiders, mid-60s sounds like a nothing salary.  But I'm in a LCOL rustbelt town.  Some figures:
-My 1,100 square foot ranch with a finished basement cost $127,000. 
-The average *household* income in my county is $42,000. 
-I know for a fact that associates with 3+ years at the "big" firms in town (20ish attorneys) start at around $55,000.

Accepting a job at $68,000 effectively guarantees my wife and me a gross income of about $113,000 before I earn anything from my private practice -- PLUS amazing benefits.  It's really, really hard to turn down.  Especially with a 10-month old son.  And especially when my wife is begging me to take this job so she has more security.

***

I haven't shared my struggles with my practice on here, because I don't want to complain.  But as it's grown, it's been a lot.  The work has felt suffocating at times.  Especially the administrative work.  A lot of that will go away when I scale it down.  My mileage log will be 1/20th of what it was.  For local hearing coverage, no more downloading hearing packets, reviewing files, driving there, and filling out hearing reports.  For appointment cases, no more administrative work and fee slips.  Also, no more small matters, which are more work than I bill for. 

I tried to hire someone else, but that fell through twice.  Then I tried to have my wife help out, and I just don't like taking her away from my son.

My gross receipts were $117k this year.  I could probably do better with case selection and the like, but trust me -- I hustled to earn this much.  An extremely successful lawyer who I used to office with says that the ceiling, most years, is around $200-225k.  He knows maybe 3-4 lawyers who do better.  There's just not that much work to go around.  And trust me -- this guy works like a dog.  We're talking 70-80 hour weeks.  I don't want to be like him.

I view this as a cleansing of sorts.  I can turn it back on if I want, but the goal is to just do $200/hour work moving forward.  If that increases to the point the city job is not worth it, GREAT.

***

The interesting thing here is that my local city is small enough that departments do not have HR departments.  The police, fire, parks and rec, sanitation, city counsel, mayor's office, health department, prosecutor's office, etc., do not have HR departments.  The Law Department *is* the HR department.  So a lot of experience that goes well beyond the city can apply to my practice.

***

At this point I've talked about this with my wife, my dad (also a lawyer), my best two clients, my best referral source, and about five other attorneys.  Their advice was unanimous to take the job and see what happens.  Most people in the know seem to think extremely good experience and connections can be made at the law office.

***

I went for my second meeting today.  I confirmed in no uncertain terms that I can keep my practice going.  I stayed until 4:02 and, sure as shit, not even a mouse was in the office past 4:00, including the other attorneys.

I drove to my office and finished my most important project for the day, and was home by 5:35.  Not bad.

***

I have to meet the mayor tomorrow, but it seems to be a formality at this point.  I'm going to give it a shot.  Maybe it will be a bad decision, but my experience in working for that "psycho" lawyer, as another poster described it, taught me one thing -- the worst case scenario is never as bad as you think.  I think this is especially true now that I have my practice to fall back on.

I really, truly appreciate everyone's advice and comments.  I've weighed it all heavily on several long walks over the last few days, especially those who think this is a bad decision.  Honestly, this thread is one of the only reasons I haven't just deleted my account on this forum.  I appreciate all of your advice.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 13, 2020, 10:57:09 PM
What a great thread / journal. 

I think you can't lose with any decision you make.  If you take the city job, it will work out well, and if it doesn't, you'll go back to your practice and still do well.  I know several lawyers who jumped between working for the city and private practice and it never impacted them negatively.

In life most decisions are not one way streets, as you found out leaving your first firm working for the psycho lawyer lady from hell.  You were able to leave in a few months and set up shop and get into a great place on your own.

I don't think you need any of us to tell you what to do.  Personally, any choice you make will be the right one.

I've been down this road many times, in another industry.  I turned down high paying jobs for lower paying jobs that were more balanced for me, and long term I ended up doing just as well, if not better, than taking the alternate path.  Life is full of choices and there should be no regret. 

You and the many other lawyers in this thread seem incredibly sharp and wise.  I enjoyed reading this thread a lot.

One item - regarding health care...this is the one thing I am concerned with.  I have been in a couple of car accidents, one as a passenger, and one where another driver struck me head-on going the wrong way.  Thankfully I was mostly fine in those cases, but I would be very leery to not have healthy insurance.  I have over $50k in HSA funds, but I still prefer to pay for insurance, not just for me, but my family as driving is the most dangerous activity we do every day, as passengers or drivers.

All it takes is one accident to cause major injury and medical bills, and most state liability insurance limits are a joke, plus there is a significant population of people who carry no auto insurance so you are on the hook for the medical bills.  Life is full of risks, but not having medical insurance with the danger of injury in car accidents is not one I would risk willingly. 

Good luck on your decision and I look forward to more updates!
Thanks for chiming in on this. I know I'm not a special snowflake. Shit happens to unsuspecting, undeserving people every minute of every day, but I didn't have the interest or energy to argue with the previous poster any more. Thank you.

I hope you've made a full recovery.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: MrThatsDifferent on January 14, 2020, 02:38:19 AM
Great update RSM. Just to be clear, I壇 don稚 think people are arguing against the job, but the idea of doing both. One thing, you池e smart and industrious and seem to have your priorities straight. I hope this works out exactly as you want and you have time for yourself and your family. All the best!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 14, 2020, 09:02:24 AM
What a great thread / journal. 

I think you can't lose with any decision you make.  If you take the city job, it will work out well, and if it doesn't, you'll go back to your practice and still do well.  I know several lawyers who jumped between working for the city and private practice and it never impacted them negatively.

In life most decisions are not one way streets, as you found out leaving your first firm working for the psycho lawyer lady from hell.  You were able to leave in a few months and set up shop and get into a great place on your own.

I don't think you need any of us to tell you what to do.  Personally, any choice you make will be the right one.

I've been down this road many times, in another industry.  I turned down high paying jobs for lower paying jobs that were more balanced for me, and long term I ended up doing just as well, if not better, than taking the alternate path.  Life is full of choices and there should be no regret. 

You and the many other lawyers in this thread seem incredibly sharp and wise.  I enjoyed reading this thread a lot.

One item - regarding health care...this is the one thing I am concerned with.  I have been in a couple of car accidents, one as a passenger, and one where another driver struck me head-on going the wrong way.  Thankfully I was mostly fine in those cases, but I would be very leery to not have healthy insurance.  I have over $50k in HSA funds, but I still prefer to pay for insurance, not just for me, but my family as driving is the most dangerous activity we do every day, as passengers or drivers.

All it takes is one accident to cause major injury and medical bills, and most state liability insurance limits are a joke, plus there is a significant population of people who carry no auto insurance so you are on the hook for the medical bills.  Life is full of risks, but not having medical insurance with the danger of injury in car accidents is not one I would risk willingly. 

Good luck on your decision and I look forward to more updates!
Thanks for chiming in on this. I know I'm not a special snowflake. Shit happens to unsuspecting, undeserving people every minute of every day, but I didn't have the interest or energy to argue with the previous poster any more. Thank you.

I hope you've made a full recovery.

Dicey, I didn't mean to seem like arguing. Some of us don't have pre-existing health issues or access to affordable health insurance.* That conversation (and others) had me thinking about how I am sensitive to the insurance thing. You are not the special snowflake - you are the normal one! I'm the one who has the contrarian point of view, but for that I often get negative comments (like that suggesting insurance shouldn't be top priority is f'd thinking). I'm so far down the rabbit hole, no one really ever wants to engage in the analysis of exactly what risks exist and whether there are alternative ways to address them - maybe I need to make friends with an actuary? Anyway, please consider this comment a peace offering. I'm not here to cause anyone to feel bad.

Fact for prior poster: this is a good reason to understand your auto insurance. I recommend high bodily injury limits, high medical payments and an umbrella. Auto accidents are, statistically speaking, the most likely way a catastrophic accident can happen to a person. Your auto insurance bodily injury limits will help you (as long as it was the other persons fault). If you have a high bodily injury limit (like 250k+) and an umbrella (One million) you have a lot of protection for a decent price. Usually the most you can get for medical payments is 10k. Medical payments are important because they do not rely on the event being the other person's fault and can be used to get access to see specialists/follow up care. In car accident situations, health insurance is most useful for access to treatment after the initial ER/ICU (which everyone gets and is billed for later and, often you could negotiate a better reduction than your health insurance if your health insurance has not already paid) and, of course, for any injuries from an accident you yourself caused. Auto insurance mitigates risk for accidents caused by the negligence of others (except for medical payments which is helpful no matter who caused the accident). You auto insurance will also help in the event the other person causes the accident but is uninsured or has low limits.

If you understand your auto insurance, you understand that it mitigates risk for a significant portion of the risk probabilities for a catastrophic accidents.

The other way to mitigate that risk is to drive less. Costs nothing and saves money :)

* When I last checked (it has been years), the plan available was $1,700 for my family of five, with 15k deductible and 50/50 until I was 20k out of pocket (20 of the first 25k). To me, that is not worth 20k a year in premiums. Instead, I have lots of auto insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, medical bill sharing and cash. I also speak Spanish and have geographic arbitrage at my disposal (i.e. I can get medical treatment at a fancy hospital in Mexico City for a fraction of the cost depending on the situation). Anyway, that is what I've got, it's not like I reject the entire concept of insurance :)


RSM: You are fine to work at the city. You don't have to justify. What you said before is right, it is a vast improvement from where you were. Also, your take home in a LCOL area (I live in one as well) is a very nice life. If you wife really wants the insurance, even better to make decisions that make her happy. Like I said above, a happy marriage is priceless.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on January 14, 2020, 09:24:39 AM
For chronic conditions or slow moving disease, you are allowed to register with pre-existing conditions annually. I also have medical bills sharing which I am comfortable using as a much lower cost substitute. Cash can be used to secure medical treatment in such a situation.
Are you referring to one of the health share ministries? These seem to be effectively like the catastrophic medical insurance plans that were available prior to the ACA (using an argument of religious freedom as a loophole allowing them to exist). While these aren't technically insurance (they have no legal obligation to pay any claims) they are intended to fill the role. I expect they would be effective at mitigating the impact of an unexpected healthcare costs up to the low 7 figure range (similar to the maximum lifetime benefit of insurance before the ACA). If I were not covered by an employer plan, I might consider one of these.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 14, 2020, 09:34:10 AM
For chronic conditions or slow moving disease, you are allowed to register with pre-existing conditions annually. I also have medical bills sharing which I am comfortable using as a much lower cost substitute. Cash can be used to secure medical treatment in such a situation.
Are you referring to one of the health share ministries? These seem to be effectively like the catastrophic medical insurance plans that were available prior to the ACA (using an argument of religious freedom as a loophole allowing them to exist). While these aren't technically insurance (they have no legal obligation to pay any claims) they are intended to fill the role. I expect they would be effective at mitigating the impact of an unexpected healthcare costs up to the low 7 figure range (similar to the maximum lifetime benefit of insurance before the ACA). If I were not covered by an employer plan, I might consider one of these.

Yes, this is what I am talking about. Yes, it is meant to fill the role my prior health insurance filled. That insurance no longer existed after ACA was implemented. Lots of people have a fear of medical bill sharing not being insurance and, therefore, pay a lot more for health insurance. Also, it is not available to those with pre-existing conditions. But yeah, that is exactly what I think.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BradminOxt19 on January 14, 2020, 10:21:46 AM
Auto insurance is very important but it has many gaps.  For instance I rent cars often or am in Uber / Lyft, and my auto insurance may not cover me in all those situations.  My family may ride in other people's cars (family / friends / co-workers / fellow students etc), and I have little control over what other people's auto coverages are.   Auto insurance also has gone up in cost in many areas as well due to the increasing injury and property damage, and dealing with an indifferent claims adjust can be a pain.  I had to contact legal representation at the cost of 1/3 of my settlement to get a settlement on some of my injury claims and that was no fun.

This is why I feel medical insurance is critical for all but the most affluent people. All it takes is one little accident, medical diagnosis, to threaten or wipe out your financial security.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on January 14, 2020, 02:28:32 PM
What a great thread / journal. 

I think you can't lose with any decision you make.  If you take the city job, it will work out well, and if it doesn't, you'll go back to your practice and still do well.  I know several lawyers who jumped between working for the city and private practice and it never impacted them negatively.

In life most decisions are not one way streets, as you found out leaving your first firm working for the psycho lawyer lady from hell.  You were able to leave in a few months and set up shop and get into a great place on your own.

I don't think you need any of us to tell you what to do.  Personally, any choice you make will be the right one.

I've been down this road many times, in another industry.  I turned down high paying jobs for lower paying jobs that were more balanced for me, and long term I ended up doing just as well, if not better, than taking the alternate path.  Life is full of choices and there should be no regret. 

You and the many other lawyers in this thread seem incredibly sharp and wise.  I enjoyed reading this thread a lot.

One item - regarding health care...this is the one thing I am concerned with.  I have been in a couple of car accidents, one as a passenger, and one where another driver struck me head-on going the wrong way.  Thankfully I was mostly fine in those cases, but I would be very leery to not have healthy insurance.  I have over $50k in HSA funds, but I still prefer to pay for insurance, not just for me, but my family as driving is the most dangerous activity we do every day, as passengers or drivers.

All it takes is one accident to cause major injury and medical bills, and most state liability insurance limits are a joke, plus there is a significant population of people who carry no auto insurance so you are on the hook for the medical bills.  Life is full of risks, but not having medical insurance with the danger of injury in car accidents is not one I would risk willingly. 

Good luck on your decision and I look forward to more updates!
Thanks for chiming in on this. I know I'm not a special snowflake. Shit happens to unsuspecting, undeserving people every minute of every day, but I didn't have the interest or energy to argue with the previous poster any more. Thank you.

I hope you've made a full recovery.

Dicey, I didn't mean to seem like arguing. Some of us don't have pre-existing health issues or access to affordable health insurance.* That conversation (and others) had me thinking about how I am sensitive to the insurance thing. You are not the special snowflake - you are the normal one! I'm the one who has the contrarian point of view, but for that I often get negative comments (like that suggesting insurance shouldn't be top priority is f'd thinking). I'm so far down the rabbit hole, no one really ever wants to engage in the analysis of exactly what risks exist and whether there are alternative ways to address them - maybe I need to make friends with an actuary? Anyway, please consider this comment a peace offering. I'm not here to cause anyone to feel bad.

Fact for prior poster: this is a good reason to understand your auto insurance. I recommend high bodily injury limits, high medical payments and an umbrella. Auto accidents are, statistically speaking, the most likely way a catastrophic accident can happen to a person. Your auto insurance bodily injury limits will help you (as long as it was the other persons fault). If you have a high bodily injury limit (like 250k+) and an umbrella (One million) you have a lot of protection for a decent price. Usually the most you can get for medical payments is 10k. Medical payments are important because they do not rely on the event being the other person's fault and can be used to get access to see specialists/follow up care. In car accident situations, health insurance is most useful for access to treatment after the initial ER/ICU (which everyone gets and is billed for later and, often you could negotiate a better reduction than your health insurance if your health insurance has not already paid) and, of course, for any injuries from an accident you yourself caused. Auto insurance mitigates risk for accidents caused by the negligence of others (except for medical payments which is helpful no matter who caused the accident). You auto insurance will also help in the event the other person causes the accident but is uninsured or has low limits.

If you understand your auto insurance, you understand that it mitigates risk for a significant portion of the risk probabilities for a catastrophic accidents.

The other way to mitigate that risk is to drive less. Costs nothing and saves money :)

* When I last checked (it has been years), the plan available was $1,700 for my family of five, with 15k deductible and 50/50 until I was 20k out of pocket (20 of the first 25k). To me, that is not worth 20k a year in premiums. Instead, I have lots of auto insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, medical bill sharing and cash. I also speak Spanish and have geographic arbitrage at my disposal (i.e. I can get medical treatment at a fancy hospital in Mexico City for a fraction of the cost depending on the situation). Anyway, that is what I've got, it's not like I reject the entire concept of insurance :)


RSM: You are fine to work at the city. You don't have to justify. What you said before is right, it is a vast improvement from where you were. Also, your take home in a LCOL area (I live in one as well) is a very nice life. If you wife really wants the insurance, even better to make decisions that make her happy. Like I said above, a happy marriage is priceless.
Okay, you say you're not arguing, but then it continues...
1. Nobody has a pre-existing condition, until they do. Revel in your health...for as long as you have it.
2. Sounds like your examples are pre-Obamacare. Things have changed for the better since, though clearly nothing in the future is guaranteed, thanks to the current administration.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: FIREby35 on January 15, 2020, 09:22:55 AM
Dicey - you are right :)
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Malum Prohibitum on January 15, 2020, 03:32:19 PM
Thanks for the recent posts @BradminOxt19 , @Malum Prohibitum , and @FIREby35 .

Apparently I've built a reputation on here (in other threads) for "JADE" -- justify, argue, defend, explain.  I'm not sure how you engage in a forum about personal decisions like this without doing this, but I'll try not to do that here while also trying to articulate my rationale.

To outsiders, mid-60s sounds like a nothing salary.  But I'm in a LCOL rustbelt town.  Some figures:
-My 1,100 square foot ranch with a finished basement cost $127,000. 
-The average *household* income in my county is $42,000. 
-I know for a fact that associates with 3+ years at the "big" firms in town (20ish attorneys) start at around $55,000.

Accepting a job at $68,000 effectively guarantees my wife and me a gross income of about $113,000 before I earn anything from my private practice -- PLUS amazing benefits.  It's really, really hard to turn down.  Especially with a 10-month old son.  And especially when my wife is begging me to take this job so she has more security.

***

I haven't shared my struggles with my practice on here, because I don't want to complain.  But as it's grown, it's been a lot.  The work has felt suffocating at times.  Especially the administrative work.  A lot of that will go away when I scale it down.  My mileage log will be 1/20th of what it was.  For local hearing coverage, no more downloading hearing packets, reviewing files, driving there, and filling out hearing reports.  For appointment cases, no more administrative work and fee slips.  Also, no more small matters, which are more work than I bill for. 

I tried to hire someone else, but that fell through twice.  Then I tried to have my wife help out, and I just don't like taking her away from my son.

My gross receipts were $117k this year.  I could probably do better with case selection and the like, but trust me -- I hustled to earn this much.  An extremely successful lawyer who I used to office with says that the ceiling, most years, is around $200-225k.  He knows maybe 3-4 lawyers who do better.  There's just not that much work to go around.  And trust me -- this guy works like a dog.  We're talking 70-80 hour weeks.  I don't want to be like him.

I view this as a cleansing of sorts.  I can turn it back on if I want, but the goal is to just do $200/hour work moving forward.  If that increases to the point the city job is not worth it, GREAT.

***

The interesting thing here is that my local city is small enough that departments do not have HR departments.  The police, fire, parks and rec, sanitation, city counsel, mayor's office, health department, prosecutor's office, etc., do not have HR departments.  The Law Department *is* the HR department.  So a lot of experience that goes well beyond the city can apply to my practice.

***

At this point I've talked about this with my wife, my dad (also a lawyer), my best two clients, my best referral source, and about five other attorneys.  Their advice was unanimous to take the job and see what happens.  Most people in the know seem to think extremely good experience and connections can be made at the law office.

***

I went for my second meeting today.  I confirmed in no uncertain terms that I can keep my practice going.  I stayed until 4:02 and, sure as shit, not even a mouse was in the office past 4:00, including the other attorneys.

I drove to my office and finished my most important project for the day, and was home by 5:35.  Not bad.

***

I have to meet the mayor tomorrow, but it seems to be a formality at this point.  I'm going to give it a shot.  Maybe it will be a bad decision, but my experience in working for that "psycho" lawyer, as another poster described it, taught me one thing -- the worst case scenario is never as bad as you think.  I think this is especially true now that I have my practice to fall back on.

I really, truly appreciate everyone's advice and comments.  I've weighed it all heavily on several long walks over the last few days, especially those who think this is a bad decision.  Honestly, this thread is one of the only reasons I haven't just deleted my account on this forum.  I appreciate all of your advice.

It sounds like you have put a lot of consideration into this.  Please update us from time to time on how your plan is working out.  You have several interested persons following. 
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 20, 2020, 06:16:22 AM
To follow up on a couple months ago, I did end up accepting the city job.  Pay was a little lower than I thought ($66k) but that wasn't going to sway me. 

One of the best benefits I didn't know about was deferred comp.  It's basically a 401k but I can access the money penalty free as soon as I leave the city job.  I am maxing that at $19,500 per year.

Overall the city job is exactly what I thought -- good staff (I already knew everyone), much more laid back than private practice, but also engaging.  I am enjoying the work and the people so far. 

***

Perhaps it is fate, but I am so, so, so fortunate I took this job. I started on February 18 and everyone was sent home around March 16 due to a city employee contracting the virus.  I have been working at my regular office and staying busy doing city work remotely.

This fixed income has been so important.  Due to Ohio House Bill 197, which effectively stayed all legal deadlines, my practice (and everyone else's) has basically dried up.  I did not send invoices on April 1 and I probably won't on May 1 either. Also, my wife's hours have been cut from 25-30 per week to maybe 5-10. 

This timing was so, so fortunate for me.

***

The obvious downside here is that I still have not developed any sort of routine with managing the city job *and* my law practice.  Oh well.  That is a small mental burden to carry.  We (the city law department) have an all-hands-on-deck meeting tomorrow. 

***

I have been busy with the city though, and one thing I am returning to is whether to have case management software.  A year ago, I decided just continuing my Google setup was adequate because I had time to manage various self-created spreadsheets, and manually integrate between different platforms.

Now, with the city job, I have considerably less time, and I am finding that my setup is falling apart.  For instance, when I get a new client, it's just too burdensome to manually do an intake, put that client into my "active matter" spreadsheet, draft and send the client a fee agreement, monitor their retainer balance, put their contact info into Google Contacts, put their contact info into Quickbooks, and then add it to my time-tracking sheet. And this is just my new client stuff.

I think I am going to go with Clio Suite (case management plus intake software).  I figure with my practice basically ground to a halt by HB 197, now is the perfect time to at least do a free trial and see if this really does save me time.

Total cost for the year is $1,000.  I think I've reached a point where I'm willing to pay $1,000 to avoid this constant headache.

***

Lastly, some numbers so far for this year.  I'm off to a great start:

Income: $38,961

Expenses: $6,690

Net Profit: $32,271

My goal used to be $100,000 in profit, but now I'm shooting for $75,000.  Obviously extremely difficult to predict right now, but still need that goal.

Hoping to send $12,000 in invoices on June 1 and then hopefully we are back to normal by then.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on April 20, 2020, 06:49:45 AM
Re: Those open invoices. Would you have time to send out a letter stating that under the circumstances you are holding off billing until June 1? Lets them know you're giving them a breather but that you haven't forgotten what's owed. This will create some goodwill, and remind people that their bill is still going to come due. It also gives you time to sort out who will be able to pay and who's going to need some kind of payment flexibility. The ones that can pay are more likely to do so promptly, which will help you juggle the ones that can't more easily.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: BuffaloStache on April 20, 2020, 07:05:15 AM
To follow up on a couple months ago, I did end up accepting the city job.  Pay was a little lower than I thought ($66k) but that wasn't going to sway me. 

One of the best benefits I didn't know about was deferred comp.  It's basically a 401k but I can access the money penalty free as soon as I leave the city job.  I am maxing that at $19,500 per year.
...
***
Perhaps it is fate, but I am so, so, so fortunate I took this job. I started on February 18 and everyone was sent home around March 16 due to a city employee contracting the virus.  I have been working at my regular office and staying busy doing city work remotely.
...
***
The obvious downside here is that I still have not developed any sort of routine with managing the city job *and* my law practice.  Oh well.  That is a small mental burden to carry.  We (the city law department) have an all-hands-on-deck meeting tomorrow. 
...
***
...

I haven't been here in a while, and just finally caught up. Congrats on the job, RSM! It definitely seems like you were methodical in considering it and made the decision that was right for your family. Also, it's amazing and really great that you can continue your private practice on the side, even if it's skimmed down to only the work that you know gives you the biggest bang for your buck. The deferred comp is a great benefit! I wish my job had something that.

Also, the timing was definitely lucky for you. Stay safe!

Finally, don't worry about a routine just yet. Things are so weird and not normal right now, you'll have plenty of time to establish a routine later. As Dicey said, definitely check in from time to time and let us know how it's going!
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 20, 2020, 08:51:49 AM
Re: Those open invoices. Would you have time to send out a letter stating that under the circumstances you are holding off billing until June 1? Lets them know you're giving them a breather but that you haven't forgotten what's owed. This will create some goodwill, and remind people that their bill is still going to come due. It also gives you time to sort out who will be able to pay and who's going to need some kind of payment flexibility. The ones that can pay are more likely to do so promptly, which will help you juggle the ones that can't more easily.

I sent out an email in mid-march letting all clients know I would not be sending out invoices on April 1 due to the circumstances.  I got a lot of very positive feedback from this and will likely do so again near May 1.

My email did let them know "service would be uninterrupted, and that I am staying on top of your case."  So they know the bill is coming due.

***

I'm like 12/10 excited to start my Clio trial.  It's something I probably should have done a year ago but I can't wait to just feel like I can offload this to software.

God I'm a dork.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: Dicey on April 20, 2020, 10:37:45 AM
Re: Those open invoices. Would you have time to send out a letter stating that under the circumstances you are holding off billing until June 1? Lets them know you're giving them a breather but that you haven't forgotten what's owed. This will create some goodwill, and remind people that their bill is still going to come due. It also gives you time to sort out who will be able to pay and who's going to need some kind of payment flexibility. The ones that can pay are more likely to do so promptly, which will help you juggle the ones that can't more easily.

I sent out an email in mid-march letting all clients know I would not be sending out invoices on April 1 due to the circumstances.  I got a lot of very positive feedback from this and will likely do so again near May 1.

My email did let them know "service would be uninterrupted, and that I am staying on top of your case."  So they know the bill is coming due.

***

I'm like 12/10 excited to start my Clio trial.  It's something I probably should have done a year ago but I can't wait to just feel like I can offload this to software.

God I'm a dork.
Maybe, but you're our dork and we love you.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: robartsd on April 21, 2020, 10:58:02 AM
457 deferred compensation plans are a great perk for public and non-profit sector employees interested in FIRE. Glad the timing of the new job worked out so well for your family. I hope you are able to hit your goals this year. Having your own office already set up must be quite nice, lots of people are struggling to figure out how to create effective workspaces in their homes with little to no notice and with a limitation on resources availible.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: lhamo on April 21, 2020, 02:39:11 PM
Sounds like just setting up a new client in your old system would be 1-2 hours of work. If the software cuts that in half and you bill at $100/hr you will quickly "earn" that money back because you will have more time available to spend on billable matters rather than the admin.
Title: Re: Employment Dilemma--Take New Job?
Post by: ReadySetMillionaire on April 22, 2020, 06:50:03 AM
Sounds like just setting up a new client in your old system would be 1-2 hours of work. If the software cuts that in half and you bill at $100/hr you will quickly "earn" that money back because you will have more time available to spend on billable matters rather than the admin.

That's exactly my thinking.

Previously, I had *all day* to work at my practice.  Yes, I could save time with software, but there literally was not enough billable work day in, day out, that I would need to be billing all day.  That left me with admin time, and I actually liked that time.

But that space for admin time has now disappeared.  I'm working 35 hours a week for the city, and while I've scaled my practice back, I still have 15-20 hours per week at my practice.  I need to *work* when I come in on Saturday, not do invoices or update spreadsheets. Thus, saving that admin time is much more critical now than it was previously.

The support here thinking it's a good idea means I'm going to pull the trigger on this...today.