Solo Practitioners

The traditional arguments against going to law school are: (1) there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs; (2) tuition and student loan debts are too damn high; (3) the high-paying or high-powered jobs are available only to the top students of the top schools; and (4) most “JD Advantage” jobs could have been obtained without a law degree.

The typical response to the above is something along the lines of, “That won’t apply to be because I’m going to put in the work and be one of the top students.” Now those of us who lived through law school might find this amusing and even ridiculous. But we can’t really blame them for their determination. We were their age once. Back then, the world was a playground and full of opportunities. If 0Ls today know all of the risks and can obtain a decent scholarship at least for the 1L year, then they should take a shot and see where they fall on the bell curve.

Today, I am going to talk about a few issues regarding law school and law practice that have not been discussed (at least extensively) amongst the law school critics. The issues apply to most students (even the top students) of almost every law school….

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When portraying lawyers, television tends to stay away from the horrors of Biglaw. The good versus evil of the criminal justice system tends to get more play; there is more inherent drama when freedom is on the line (and who can resist the ubiquitous chung CHUNG). If any other types of lawyers are represented, it skews toward do-gooders making emotional pleas in court as champion of the underdog or smarmy corporate lawyers finding the loopholes for the rich. But the hard-working cogs that actually make the legal industry churn along go unrecognized.

So what happens when a network sitcom tries to take on Biglaw?

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Listen to Bill Alverson and this tiara could be yours.

Small-firm lawyer Bill Alverson doesn’t show up on the first page of Google if you search for “lawyer in Andalusia, Alabama,” where Alverson’s firm is based. Which might be a problem for a lawyer relying on Google to generate clients.  After all, Andalusia has a population of only 9,078, so if you can’t make it onto the first page of Google there, can you make it anywhere?

But Alverson needn’t worry because his law practice isn’t an all-encompassing jealous mistress. Instead, Alverson has another kind of mistress on the side of his day job at his small father/son firm, Alverson & Alverson — dozens of them, really. As noted in this past weekend’s New York Times magazine (and today’s Quote of the Day), aspiring beauty queens retain Alverson to coach them to victory at state and national pageants.

Turns out, working with statutes and the statuesque have more in common than one might think….

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Keith Lee

Yesterday I went for a run, my usual 5k. I had given some thought to going farther than normal but when I got to the point where I could keep going, the trail crossing over the creek was flooded. I was stymied. Guess I’ll be sticking to 5k. Time to turn around.

I made it two steps before I stopped. Was I really going to let some water stop me from pushing myself? Give up at the first obstacle I came across? I pivoted and made my way through the woods away from the trail and towards the road.

I had to run a few blocks on the road away from my usual route to get to a different bridge over the creek. Then back to the trail and on my way — 10k instead of 5. Double my regular run. My lungs burned, legs tired. I felt great. And I almost didn’t do it because there was a trickle of water in my way….

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With the number of LSAT takers dropping yet again, the law school class of 2017 is likely to reach a similar low. And there is no indication that the application freefall has stabilized. Regardless, just about everyone (except for this guy) agrees that law school is still either an extremely risky gamble or a complete a waste of time and money.

But for those who are determined to go to law school no matter what any rational, non-biased individual says, I want to help make your dream come true. So while I am waiting for future job interviews, I am going to again interrupt my Back In The Race programming to give the future lawyers some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was an idealistic pre-law student. This is not a joke. Nor am I going to use a clever pitch like “Yale or Fail.”

The next few weeks should be spent taking some proactive and reflective steps to ensure that you will attend the right school and leave with minimal debt. Keep reading to figure out how….

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About two years ago, I signed up for Office 365, mainly to host my email. My $8.00 a month plan came with a bunch of things that I didn’t really think were that useful, but put it on my to-do list to look into them later.

One of those things was SharePoint. I had heard a lot about SharePoint, but could not figure out what it was. I knew a lot of the bigger law firms and Fortune 500 companies used it. The Lynda.com explanation only made me more confused – it’s not a program, it’s a whole experience and you can’t understand what SharePoint is until you experience it yourself.

I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what SharePoint is, and I am about to spoil the journey for all of you….

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For several years, I’ve enthusiastically supported co-working as an attractive office option for solos. Working alongside others not only mitigates the isolation of solo practice but offers demonstrated financial benefits: bar studies show that lawyers in shared space earn more than lawyers who work from home or in stand-alone offices. At the same time, co-working is more affordable than traditional full-time office space or many corporate virtual office arrangements and thus enables newer or cash-strapped solos to enjoy the benefits of shared space without substantial overhead.

But this recent post by Posse CEO Rebekah Campbell, for the New York Times You’re the Boss blog of the New York Times, has made me reconsider whether co-working space is right for everyone — particularly lawyers….

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As you know, in this column I examine how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. Hopefully, my columns will encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column you will meet Mitch Jackson, a California personal injury attorney, and will learn how he uses the wearable technology Google Glass in his law firm. Mitch founded his law firm, Jackson & Wilson, Inc., with his wife in 1988. Since then they’ve dedicated their practice to representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death.

It’s entirely possible that you’ve already heard of Mitch. Whether on Twitter, LinkedInFacebook, or YouTube, he has an incredibly strong social media presence. Most recently, part of his online focus has been on his use of Google Glass in his law practice. So of course he immediately came to mind when I conceived of the idea for the column. I knew I had to reach out to Mitch and explore how he uses Google Glass in his practice — and whether the technology is actually useful or whether it’s too nascent to be particularly helpful for lawyers.

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Soon after I started my solo practice, I realized that I needed to develop and execute a plan for getting new clients. At first, I did it the old-fashioned way: networking, joining organizations, giving elevator speeches, passing out business cards, and doing contract work for other attorneys. This method took time and cost money and it didn’t work to the extent I had hoped. So I asked a few colleagues whether I should hire someone to help me improve my business.

I received the names of consultants, SEO experts, and coaches. Someone even suggested I talk to Tony Robbins. Some people swore by them while others said that the “advice” they provided was a bunch of hooey and can be found on the internet or at the library for free.

Over the last few years, I have become very skeptical of business development professionals (sometimes known as “marketeers”) who claim that they know the “secret technique” for improving my solo practice. A number of them are lawyers or ex-lawyers who — for one reason or another — decided to go into consulting and coaching. Also, some of these “experts” have questionable backgrounds and may not understand the professional rules that we lawyers have to follow.

I should point out that the purpose of this post is not to badmouth any particular person or the legal business development industry. This guy covered that already. But click onwards to find out the reasons for my skepticism and my thoughts on when it might make sense to retain a business development professional….

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The first question people usually ask me when they find out I am a lawyer is: “What kind of lawyer are you?” My response is usually: “I am a story teller.” A good deal of my practice involves helping lawyers tell stories, because no juror ever said, “Well… I’m not really sure that I understand the plaintiff’s point of view completely. Let’s give him $10 million.” I usually advocate for the cyborg approach: part human and part machine. I think you can tell an effective story without a computer, but from my experience, jurors are a reflective part of the population that consciously moved out of the radio era and into CGI-laden-movies era.

I use neat hardware (sometimes cheap hardware), I use neat software, and I almost always use a whole lot of custom graphics. Talking about how to make a great graphic is almost impossible. Most of the good ones are good for unique reasons. Most of the bad ones are bad because they fall into a few general categories. Here are a couple of those categories:

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