Archive for December, 2009

Dec 16 2009

Following In Our Footsteps [or: Why Starting Your Own Firm Is Not All Glitz & Glamour]

Published by under Advice

Having recently started my own law firm, today I rode to a program in Raleigh sponsored by the NC Bar Association called Start Up Boot Camp. The seminar featured a series of speakers on topics related to starting one’s own small/solo law firm. Topics ranged from malpractice to fee setting to blogging to ethics.

On the way there, my colleague and fellow Elon Law grad (who also started her own firm) told me that she’d heard a rumor about Elon Law students. “A rumor at Elon!?” I exclaimed. “Surely not.” Indeed, she’d heard a rumor that certain members of the Class of 2010, having seen the blazing success of their predecessors in starting solo law practices, had stopped seeking jobs and intended to follow in the footsteps of so much of the Charter Class.

My friend and I are equally aghast at this idea. Oh, kids. Take heed: starting one’s own law firm is NOT all glitz and glamour!

If starting your own law firm is something you’ve contemplated a long time and have always wanted to do, then ignore this blog by all means. You’re all excited and I encourage you to follow your ambitions!

However, if you’re like so many who came before you and started out on your own simply because there wasn’t anything else, I still won’t discourage you, but CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

1. It takes money. A lot of law students come from money or at least have someone to pay their bills until they make money. Be sure you fall in one of those categories before you attempt this feat. Or be sure you have a nice line of credit. Starting a law practice is NOT CHEAP, even for the frugal among us. Space, equipment, filing fees, software, insurance, and advertising are all things you need and all things that have you bleeding money before you’ve made any. And bleed money you certainly will. If the sight of monetary blood leaves you queasy, consider sending more resumes and fewer PLLC filing fees!

2. It takes time. I am blessed with independent contract work to supplement my meager law firm income. However, every hour I spend earning $15/hr to pay my bills is an hour I’m not working on a firm that will potentially make me $150/hr. And every hour I spend building my firm (for free) is an hour I’m not billing as a contractor. Every hour I spend at seminars telling me how to do what I need to know how to do is an hour I make NO money. It’s a delicate balance and I spent the vast majority of the first month working 80+ hours per week. If you’re not ready, able, or willing to do that (consider your children and spouse before committing), then DON’T.

3. It takes skill you don’t have. Unless you were extraordinarily fortunate in your summer internships, and perhaps even then, you can bet that 95% of the issues crossing your desk will BAFFLE you. Seriously. Even stuff you just studied for the Bar will send you scurrying to friends and colleagues for the simplest advice. Law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer. It does NOT teach you how to BE a lawyer. It does not teach you what a “shuck” is or what to do with one or where to find one. It does not teach you what the plea options are for felony possession. It does not teach you what to charge your clients or what type of fee arrangement to make. It does not teach you how to navigate the courthouse or file your own claim (sans paralegal) or balance your office accounts or certify your IOLTA or create invoices or…. Well, you get the point. You will be lost all the time. Trust me. If fear frightens you, don’t start a law firm!

4. It takes clients you won’t have. Unless you have very naughty/unlucky friends begging you to start a practice and help them, you’re going to be clientless for a while. Advertising is expensive and hit-or-miss at best. Example: a business-size ad in the yellow pages is over $300/month. The traffic offense lists for direct marketing are around $185/month. The ESC list is $300/month. And stamps are $.44 a piece. All that adds up FAST. If you’re a schmoozer, GREAT! But make sure you schmooze people who need lawyers and need them now, otherwise that’s hit-or-miss, too. Oh, and those nice business cards you schmooze with aren’t free, either. Lawyer referrals are also great if you’re not all competing for the same clients, which a lot of us will be. And everyone is on the court appointed list these days. Point being: it’s going to take a lot of time, money, and work to get clients. And you’ll be poor until you do. If you’re broke, tired, and shy, DON’T start a law firm!

If I haven’t scared you yet, great. Pick a formation type and start writing checks on your way to seeing your name on the sign out front (also not cheap). Otherwise, please don’t look at all the Charter Class members, convince yourselves that we’re playing golf on Fridays with our new-found wealth, and strike out on your own on that basis. Starting a law firm is a LOT of ridiculously hard work and if you’re not in it to win it, reconsider.

If you are in it to win it, ROCK ON and GO ELON!

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Dec 08 2009

Guide to the CELL blog…

Published by under Miscellaneous

So a few things if you are an occassional or first time visitor.

1) At the bottom of each blog post is a link that says comments. You can find some good responses from classmates, the occassional professor, and visitors. Also, you can leave your comments, serious or sarcastic.

2) Additionally, CELL is actively seeking contributors. If you have some comments you would like to make about law school, life in general, or living in Greensboro, e-mail me at mgroves@elon.edu so that I can establish you as a contributor and have you start posting. You DO NOT need to be a student or even in the Elon community, so long as you are somehow related to the legal field. Again, the posts can be serious/not serious so long as they are loosely related to law and clear of (most) any profanity.

Forward any questions to the above e-mail…

Matt

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Dec 08 2009

Not an idea was stirring…. not after that exam

Published by under Miscellaneous

In the intervals of spare time we have between days of studying for exams, hopefully you are aware that the year is winding down.  There are less than 2 weeks to Christmas, and less than 3 to New Year’s 2010.  Rather than looking forward to decide where I will be spending your New Year’s Eve, I prefer to look backwards to see where the year started and how much progress has been made for 2009.  Did I make this year better than the last?  Most people don’t keep track of things like this.   As we get older, years tend to blend together, until we can’t remember which year I took that vacation.  Suddenly, while paying at the gas station you look down and see that you can’t buy cigarettes unless you were born before this day in 1991.  1991?  Didn’t that say 1984 two weeks ago?  The point I want to make here is to take time to ensure that every year counts.  Don’t just say you’re going to do it, as you will when you loosely make resolutions in three weeks.  Actually find quantifiable standards to mark your progress towards making yourself who you want to be so that law school doesn’t turn out to be a 3 year black out on your life’s itenerary. 

Hemingway said there were three marks of a man:  writing a novel, fighting a bull, and fathering a son.  Now, certainly he didn’t do these things every year, but there was a goal, a clear path to that goal, and a time frame for accomplishment.  To make a well rounded person he included a serious intellectual, physical, and emotional challenge (respectively).  Do something that makes you realize your own mortality so that you remeber that you are in fact, alive.  That can be lost in reading days, especially when your library is two floors underground. 

If you ever hesitate to seize an opportunity, consider the alternative.  Where will you be in 10 years if you monopolize your day with law school, get straight A’s throughout school, take a 150,000/year job with a large firm and work 70-80 hours a week to come home to an empty, albeit well decorated, condo to sleep wake up and start over again?  You can say “there’s always Vegas,” and then realize that that was 10 years ago.  Or you can heed Morgan Freeman, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

“Nunc lento sonitu dicunt morieris…”

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