Can I Start A Law Firm With No Money?

June 29, 2013
STRAIGHT CASH

This is how you get paid.

I think one of the most common questions I get asked is, “Jordan, I want to start my own firm, but I have like $1700 in my savings account. Can I start a law firm with no money?”

The simple answer is yes, yes you can. It doesn’t take much more than a law license, a working computer, a printer, and a cell phone to start a law firm.

But here is the better question. Will your law firm succeed in the long term if you start it with no money?

Well, that answer is a bit more complex…

I will preface this post with a true story. A friend of mine was abruptly laid off from biglaw. He couldn’t find a job so he decided to start his own practice with no clients, an office from home, and very little money in savings. During the startup period, he defaulted on his mortgage and his house was sold at sheriff’s sale. He also defaulted on his motorcycle loan, and rides a pedal bike around the neighborhood. At one point, he was on food stamps. Yes, a lawyer who once made a six figure salary working for a law firm was on food stamps. A few years later, his solo practice finally pays his rent, but he lost everything in the process.

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Brian Sims Owns Daryl Metcalfe For Silencing Him On The PA State House Floor Because Metcalfe Believes Marriage Equality Violates “God’s Law”

June 28, 2013
cc2011036 - Gays to Watch for G Philly

State Representative Brian Sims in GQ Magazine

This week it was reported that Downingtown’s own State Representative Brian Sims was going to introduce marriage equality laws here in Pennsylvania. Brian happens to be openly gay, and a really great guy from my hometown. As everyone is aware, last week the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and in doing so held:

The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.

In other words, the constitution forbids congress from passing laws based on discrimination. I thought we figured that out a long time ago, but whatever.

On Wednesday, Brian was going to address the Supreme Court’s historic ruling striking down DOMA. However, Representative Daryl Metcalfe didn’t want to hear Brian had to say about it.

Why? Because according to Metcalfe:

I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law

Now, I don’t know about you, but God has never explicitly told me that homosexuality is wrong. I know it kinda sorta says it in the Old Testament, but let’s be honest… the the Old Testament says a lot of things that we don’t follow in a civilized society. Things like not eating shellfish, selling your daughters into slavery, beating your wife, not trimming your beard, and not wearing polyester.

As a theology minor, no one has ever been able to convince me there is a valid theological basis for discriminating against our gay brothers and sisters. My interpretation of the Bible is that Jesus would be ashamed that Christians are using His name to promote their bigotry and political agendas.

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Just Keep Plugging Away – Some Thoughts From A Year In Solo Practice

June 28, 2013

We’ve been in business since February of 2012. Since it’s been longer than a year, apparently this is the part where I’m supposed to write a congratulatory blog post patting ourselves on the back, telling the world that our law firm is the greatest success ever, and that starting a practice was the best decision of our lives.

Truth be told? Money is still tight. I’m worried that every client who calls will be our last. I am still learning the basics of how to run a business, and I have made mistakes. I work longer hours than I did as an associate at a law firm, and there is no guarantee there will be enough money at the end of the month to buy craft beer. I’m still driving the same 2004 Honda Civic I bought right after law school.

That’s the glamorous life of a self employed young lawyer. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or trying to sell something. It’s a hard living. A very hard living, and it will be for a long time. I can see why people burn out after a few years of doing it.

Now, things have gone well for us, and they are a lot better than when we first opened the doors. We just expanded our physical office space, and we have a part time per diem lawyer doing coverage work for us. Part of me was tempted to write a “we’re so awesome because we’ve done this for an entire year” post. I admit it.

But I still remember the first day we started. Well, more accurately, I still remember that first Friday being out on my own. Before starting my own firm, I worked as an associate at a reputable mid-sized shop making a comfortable living. I woke up every Friday and there was money in my bank account.

On this particular Friday, I woke up and there was no money in my bank account. I sort of panicked. What if I didn’t make enough money to pay the mortgage?

I needed some reassurance. A pat on the head. Someone to tell me that I hadn’t make a huge mistake and that everything would be fine. I called my former boss, James. James started his own law firm three years out of law school. Now he is getting ready to retire, where he can spend more time sailing and with his family. I was certain that James would tell me everything will be okay, and that someday I’ll retire rich and successful like him….

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What Do Lawyers Do? They Represent Clients

June 27, 2013

Last week I wrote some actual questions prospective law students should ask themselves before deciding to go to law school. One question is “Do you really want to be a lawyer?” This is probably the most important question any prospective law student should ask themselves.

Of course, this led to a discussion on JDUnderground, where some of the same lawyers who complain that their law schools tricked them into borrowing huge sums of money to enter into a career that doesn’t pay them as much as they feel they are entitled to be paid, also complained about how bad the profession is.

Their gripe? Having to find clients, and then represent them.

Terrible.

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Some Actual Questions To Ask Yourself Before Deciding To Go To Law School, By A Non-Ivy League Lawyer

June 23, 2013
"Your honor, with all due respect, it is getting dangerously close to happy hour."

“Your honor, I went to a better law school than my less prestigious opposing counsel, so clearly my argument is better”, said no lawyer ever.

I graduated from a T2 law school (Temple Law) in 2008, after transferring from Widener (a T4 law school). I have been practicing law for five years now.

In law school, I clerked for a Superior Court judge, and then for a large law firm. When I graduated, I worked for a small firm in suburban Pennsylvania. After three years, I left and worked for a mid-sized law firm for a year, where I still work as Of Counsel. Sort of on a whim, I left the firm in 2012 and started “The Fishtown Lawyers” along with Leo, which is what I do now.

So far, I am very happy with my career. It’s been fun, interesting, and rewarding. My mortgage remains paid, and I will probably take a vacation to somewhere nice this year.

However, I’ve read on the internet that law is the worst profession in the world, everyone is unemployed, and the only people making money are the ones who went to the best law schools in the country, got the best grades, and are now working for large law firms.

That is what they call the “law school scam” apparently.

As you might imagine, the questions I get from prospective law students normally go like this: “If I get into X school, and get Y GPA, what are my chances of getting into biglaw? I’ll at least be able to get a shot in mid-law if I don’t get biglaw with that GPA, right?”

Almost all the questions involve their chances of getting into biglaw, and what will guarantee them that job.

While I appreciate where you are coming from, those aren’t really the right questions. Or at least the important ones, if you are considering law school.

Where you go to law school is a very tiny aspect of how your career as a lawyer will go. It’s certainly not the most important one.

Here are a few questions I would ask myself before going to law school, and selecting a law school…

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Talking Torrents: Judge Baylson Issues Final Memorandum Opinion on the Bellwether Trial; Kills Mass Joinder Torrent Actions

June 19, 2013

Today the Bellwether case officially concluded. Judge Baylson has issued his final memorandum opinion, found here.

Notably, you may recall that we filed a motion to dismiss at the outset of the case, arguing that all of the swarm are indispensable parties. Joinder is either proper or its not. The court rejected that argument and denied our motion.

Interestingly, the court’s opinion memorandum opinion issued today held that joinder is not approprriate in a bittorrent case:

I now believe that joinder of multiple defendants in a single complaint alleging copyright infringement through the use of BitTorrent technology is neither necessary nor appropriate. …  As I held then and believe even more firmly now, members of BitTorrent “swarms” are not essential parties for copyright infringement suits involving BitTorrent technology because the “swarm” is formed automatically by the software, and not by any actual association of these defendants. Moreover, there are downsides to allowing permissive joinder. As trial judges are well aware, a large number of defendants in a single complaint poses significant management problems and often delays disposition of cases. Further, joining multiple defendants allows the plaintiff to avoid separate filing fees, and also pressures individual defendants to settle because their costs of defending a multi-party case are likely to be larger than if there is only one defendant. For these reasons, and based on the record made in this case, I recommend against requiring joinder under Rule 19 and also against allowing it under Rule 20(a).

While this opinion will most likely end the era of massively joined bittorrent actions, I don’t think this is the end of torrent lawsuits. I suspect you will see more actions filed against individuals accused of massive infringement.

But absent massive joinder actions, is this the end of what is popularly characterized as “copyright trolling?” Does this mean that now plaintiffs will be more willing to take their cases to trial?

We shall see.

You may also recall that last year, I wrote an article suggesting that mass joinder actions may be better for individual John Doe defendants.

There is a lot going on in this opinion, and I’m sure you will all have interesting takeaways from it.


Talking Torrents: Some Thoughts on Prosecuting and Defending Bittorrent Cases

June 16, 2013

600px-US-CopyrightOffice-SealMany of you have heard of bittorrent litigation by now. In short, copyright holders will sue a group of people sharing their work on bittorrent. Often the lawsuits involve pornographic movies. Many of these lawsuits also involve large amounts of defendants, e.g., Media Company v. Does 1-50, which has lead to significant amounts of criticism. This month I had the pleasure of defending the first ever bittorent case to ever see the inside of a courtroom in the Bellwether Trial – Malibu Media v. Does 1, 13, and 16.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of litigating bittorrent cases, there is a popular narrative on the internet. It goes something like this: all the cases are a mass extortion scheme, the people accused were picked out of a hat, no one pirates anything on the internet, nothing could ever be proven in court, and if you just fight them a little bit these guys will run away and probably get sanctioned like Prenda Law.

If you read the internet, you would think everyone who gets sued in a torrent case is an unsuspecting victim forced to settle because it’s the cheaper route. And it doesn’t matter because none of theses case could ever be taken to trial anyway.

I disagree, and I think there is a lot of untrue information out there on the internet. This is my two cents, take it for what it’s worth…

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