Should I Start a Law Practice? (Redux)—Retrospective, Dec. 31, 2014

December 31, 2014
The Author with an Author

Sometimes real lawyers agree to slum it with the likes of me.

The practice of law is about relationships“.
-Me (And Brian Tannebaum, and probably plenty of other people much smarter than I am).

About two and a half years ago, Jordan wrote a post called “Should I Start a Law Practice?” It remains one of our most-viewed articles on this blog. Because it’s the end of the year,  rather than being creative and thinking of a new and exciting topic, I decided, now concluding my fourth year of practice, and having started as a true solo fresh out of law school, to revisit the topic Jordan discussed back in 2012. I’d intended to write this follow-up to his post way back then, but simply never got around to it.

My perspective is different that Jordan’s—partly because I graduated in 2010, when the market had tanked—and partly because I did not work at a firm before I hung my shingle.

Here’s my point: You should start a practice if you want to, and if you understand that the practice of law is all about relationships—with your colleagues, with your mentors, and with your clients.

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Technology Is Still Not How You Build A Law Firm

July 7, 2013

Today I read an… interesting… article suggesting something that only lawyers on the internet believe. Apparently “virtual technology” (I guess stuff like cloud computing and iPads) is going to reshape the face of law. This will allow young lawyers with very little supervision to offer cheaper legal services to people, thereby undercutting large and mid-sized law firms. The author states:

I’ve seen new law school graduates successfully fill the void between the brick and mortar model and the other option of downloading do-it-yourself legal forms on-line by serving this market virtually.  Clients can find the attorney on line, the attorney comes to meet the clients  at a time and place convenient to the clients, the clients can access their attorney and documents on line and everyone is happy.

The obvious regarding my questions about “virtual lawyers” aside (where do they take depositions? Where do they store deposition transcripts, or client files securely for that matter?), here are a few observations from a young guy who has their own practice that is doing well.

Of course, take my advice for what it’s worth because I only started my own firm in 2012, and it could all fall apart tomorrow. But these are my musings…

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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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A Scam Blogger Finally Gets It Right: “We went to law school for easy paychecks – not to actually become real lawyers!”

May 19, 2013

This morning Keith Lee directed me to a a post written by a law school scam blogger telling anyone who decided to offer productive advice to young lawyers to just go away. I normally ignore “law school scam blogs”, which are usually stupid blogs filled with juvenile rants about the legal profession, written anonymously by disgruntled, underemployed, lawyers using toilet humor.

However, I was shocked that “The Forgotten Attorney” actually got it right on why they are so angry:

Some people hoped to win the biglaw lottery and lost. Others went because they had a choice between law school, getting a McJob or becoming a commission only insurance salesman and law school seemed a hell of a lot easier and more respectable. But most people just wanted to be glorified and highly paid employees. Basically, a large number of us should not have gone to law school in the first place and if given the opportunity, will leave the profession in a heartbeat.

You can’t motivate these people. They want to escape. They want revenge or justice as they see it. They don’t want to learn the ropes on their own. They don’t want to observe court hearings. They don’t want mentors. They don’t want to go to networking events and probably can’t afford to go either. They are angry and bitter and in my opinion, rightfully so.

Exactly.

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You Want Some Advice, Law School Scam Bloggers? Get Off The Couch. It’s That Easy.

April 24, 2013
Maury is great. But he has no job for you.

Maury is great. But he has no jobs for you.

Alright, I’ve heard. There are too many lawyers and not enough jobs. Law schools painted a rosy picture about how much money first year lawyers make and how easy employment is to find. And apparently law students were dumb enough to rely solely on their law schools when deciding whether it is a good idea to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars and hand it over to them. Adding insult to injury, the young lawyers were left completely unprepared to practice law even after getting that fancy legal education, because most law professors have never practiced a day in their lives and are in no position to teach anyone else how to.

So now what?

Keith Lee over at Associate’s Mind said this:

If new lawyers cannot solve the problem of their own millennial malaise, how do they ever expect clients to trust them with their problems?

Of course, Keith’s post made a few millenials sad. MA (who?) was offended, and thought Keith try and help out, rather than, um, tell them the truth:

So the lucky few like Mr. Lee should try to offer real solutions to graduates. How did you find your job, Mr. Lee? How might your experience help others?

Pull up a chair, kids, it’s story time…

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Free Legal-ish Advice for Young Lawyers.

October 22, 2012

Great advice from Eric D. Anderson in a comment on Lawyerist. Young lawyers take heed:

Finally, for those younger/newer attorneys riling against the old guard, just do not do it. No matter how smart or talented you may be, there is no substitute for experience. Yes, they can be rude and condescending, but keep in mind how many rude comments or emails they may have already read by the time they get to you. Do a Greenfield or Tannenbaum have all of the answers right for you? No. But they, and those like them,have seen all of the questions. Even if an older attorney’s answers do not work for you, respectfully ask how they came to those answers. There is a value in learning that process and taking that knowledge. Had I done so, I would have realized my time spent in my local pub was more important than the time I spent listening to the opinions of others on my firm logo and letterhead (The former produced 5 paying clients. The latter produced 50 opinions and no money.) So show a little respect, please.


A Conversation I’ve Never Had

September 25, 2012

“Hey Mike, nice to meet you. Looks like this is going to be an interesting case.”

“You too, Jordan.”

“…so… where did you go to law school?”

Widener.”

“…oh. I guess it’s pretty hard to get into a good school. I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. Clients won’t hire me because I didn’t go to a T1 law school. They don’t care about my trial experience or my practice areas. Clients simply won’t hire me because I went to a T4. My friends and family won’t even retain me.”

“Man, I’m so glad that I went to Temple, a T2. That’s normally the first thing my clients do – they Google where my law school was ranked and then make a decision to hire me based on that. It’s great, because I can charge almost 3x the times of lawyers who went to a T4. Clients say that where their lawyer went to law school is the most important decision when it comes to hiring them.”

“…I sure wish I had gone to a T1 or a T2. It’s impossible to make it from a T4. I wish clients hired based on skill and reputation…”

“Speaking of which, did you see that Villanova dropped like 10 spots in the US News and World Report rankings????”

“REALLY?!?!? Oh man!!!! Those kids are so screwed! No one will hire Villanova graduates anymore!!”

“Seriously. Where a school is ranked pretty much dictates all of our hiring decisions. Villanova is practically a T3 now! Hell, I’d hire DREXEL graduates over them! Drexel is up and coming in the rankings. I bet it will be a T2 soon. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on it.”

“So do you think University of Chicago or Columbia will be ranked #5 this year?”

“Dunno, but I bet it will be close…”


Rockstar or Lawyer: Should I Go To Law School?

September 24, 2012

My little brother made better career decisions than I did.

Brian Tannebaum finally answered a commonly asked question by most potential law students: should I go to law school? If so, which school should I go to?

His answer:

If you went to law school to be an advocate and counselor, not just for the job you thought was supposed to be there at the end — if your goal was to enter a profession and represent clients, go to law school.

If you’re looking for a job in Biglaw, where you went to law school and your ranking matter. If you’re looking for a job elsewhere, no one cares. If you’re not going to Harvard, Yale, UVA, NYU, Stetson, or South Texas (I was kidding about the first four — (still no sarcasm font?)), it doesn’t matter where you go. Get the J.D. and pass the bar.

Are you considering law school? Wondering which school to go to ?

Ask yourself this instead – what do you want to do with your life? What’s important to you?

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Federal Judge: “Sure, their employment statistics are misleading, but if you are dumb enough to enroll in Cooley Law, you deserve what you get.”

July 21, 2012

On Friday, the court dismissed the case against Thomas M. Cooley School of Law for allegedly having misleading employment statistics. The Court pretty much took the position that “Sure… Cooley’s employment statistics are misleading. But everyone knows that, so if you chose to go to a 4th tier school, that falls on you.” According to the court:

Without question, the Employment Reports are inconsistent, confusing, and inherently untrustworthy.

Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable for Plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country. In addition, “[i]t is widely accepted that American law schools, Cooley included, employ all sorts of legerdemain to boost employment rates in a contracting legal market” (Pls.’ Resp. at 5); once again, Plaintiffs state that they had other reasons to not rely upon the Employment Reports. Furthermore, whether before or during Plaintiffs’ attendance at Cooley, it would have been unreasonable to continue to rely on the Employment Reports because of the economy’s massive downfall, which hit the legal business as hard as any.”

The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon. But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law school– caveat emptor.

While I would be a terrible juror in one of these lawsuits, I think it should have been allowed to proceed before a jury. I don’t have a strong opinion about Cooley, other than I think they are douchebags for filing a defamation lawsuit against an anonymous blogger. According to Marc Randazza:
This lawsuit is a heinous crime against free expression. May an even worse pox than the one currently afflicting it befall that institution for turning the courts into an instrument to beat down free speech and censor the reality that everyone – including many jobless and hopeless Cooley alumni – knows to be true: Cooley sucks.