Sole Practitoner -

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John in Lake City, Florida

81 months ago

I'm a 54 year old engineer with a business degree. I went to law school about 25 years ago, but switched to get my engineering degree instead.

In the years since then, I've come to realize how legal considerations are prominent and often determinative in much of the work I do, and I've thought of going back to get my law degree.

I had pretty good LSAT scores, and I'm sure I could get into a second tier school, but I couldn't really handle working for someone else for very long.

Is it even possible to strike out as a sole practitioner straight out of law school?

What specific skills/specialties would be
conducive to doing so?

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Diogenes in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

81 months ago

I have been an attorney since 1981, working as a public defender, a sole practitioner, and in administrative forums. A year ago, I lost my job, and have been unable to find anything but temporary work. After 27 years of legal experience, I am coding documents for relevance and privilege, when I can get the work.

Do not go back to law school. The cost is prohibitive, the interest rates usurious, and the potential benefit nonexistent.

If you are in the bottom 2/3 of the class, you will not be offered a job, and the only work available will be self-employment. While that can be lucrative, when you are on your own, everything takes so much longer because you have to learn, teach staff, set up forms, and write at the same time you have to be out socializing to raise business. And you can't take the money until the job is done, often 6 months later.

You may have better prospects offering your skills as a consultant, expert witness, or support staff to a law firm that does construction law.

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John in Lake City, Florida

81 months ago

Thanks for your advice. This was pretty much the answer I expected, and comports with what I've read in other forums on the prospects for legal careers. I guess I didn't want to believe it.

That's partly because I'm tired of being in a profession where the potential client pool is limited, at the same time the potential for self employment is restricted.

I'm contesting an estate currently, and I'm struck by how easy it is to find the latest copy of legalines on estates and then consult the statues to quickly get to the point where I feel like I know as much about it as my attorney.

Then there's the fact that he doesn't seem to have ascertained or digested some of the more salient aspects of the facts, to the extent that I'm scribbling 5 page memos so I can brief him on issues I think he should be aware of or perhaps examine for relevance, and I can't help but think I should be doing this myself, and maybe for others, because I'd damned sure do a better job than this guy.

And he's AV rated and runs a twelve attorney boutique firm dedicated to estate practice

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LFord in Franklin, North Carolina

75 months ago

Typical "Engineer Attitude" - no one can do anything half as good as he can!

The reason it seems easy, and you're so "on top of the case," is that it's novel to you right now, and it's the only case you have to work on.

If you were running that 12-attorney firm, you'd probably right in the same position as the guy you're complaining about.

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JLW in Penfield, New York

70 months ago

John in Lake City, Florida said: I'm a 54 year old engineer with a business degree. I went to law school about 25 years ago, but switched to get my engineering degree instead.

In the years since then, I've come to realize how legal considerations are prominent and often determinative in much of the work I do, and I've thought of going back to get my law degree.

I had pretty good LSAT scores, and I'm sure I could get into a second tier school, but I couldn't really handle working for someone else for very long.

Is it even possible to strike out as a sole practitioner straight out of law school?

What specific skills/specialties would be
conducive to doing so?

Since you are an engineer, and depending in which field. Have you looked into Patent agent or finish law school and become a Patent attorney.....

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whigrose in Augusta, Georgia

64 months ago

Well, this is very depressing for me to read. I thought at least the top half got jobs. I was right on that line, unfortunately on the wrong side of it though. For all intents and purposes, I was the average student of a top tier school. I did get a legal job after looking for a year and a half. I clerked for 3 years at the superior court. It was great experience, but poor pay. I found a new job, but it didn't work out, leaving me unemployed just as this stupid recession began. I've now been out of work for a year and a half again. Plus, I now live in a smaller town after relocating with my husband. I'm just not the type to set up my own practice, at least not yet. No capital and I'm shy, so getting clients would be very hard. Plus, I don't feel ready for that just yet anyway. I'm focusing on federal jobs, though of course I'm very discouraged knowing that the #1 search term on USA Jobs is 'attorney.' There just aren't any attorney jobs out here in private practice, though, and the legal community is very close knit. Sadly, I don't have an engineering degree to fall back on. I was an English major. Guess I'd better finish that novel. I'm on chapter 10, at least.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

Hey, Whigrose, if you were an English major - and you are now unemployed - do you qualify for teaching? With a JD I should think you qualify as an adjuct instructor. A little money is better than no money.

I am not an attorney. I was court reporter for ten years, then bacame a legal secretary, then a paralegal/legal assistant. Several years ago I got into an alternative teaching program in Florida, passed GKT, FTCE, English 5-9, English 6-12, Elementary Education. I did not get a job last year, and didn't get one this year. So I am preparing for the GRE to get into a Masters. And I am also working on my speed to get back to court reporting.

It's funny, we legal assistants have our own forums to complain about the attorneys. And I know attorneys do get fired (I have experienced it more than once), but we don't expect you to be here.

Whigrose, give teaching a thought. Maybe you can get an adjuct position for January at your local college. It will help with your shyness, give you some money, and some experience (at something).

Best wishes to you all.

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whigrose in Augusta, Georgia

64 months ago

Mary, I might try teaching down the line. Ironically, my original plan was to be an English prof., but I abandoned that in favor of law school. To get back into it seriously, though, I'd need the PhD and I'm just not up for it right now. I just want to work and get paid for a while without having to be a student going further into debt. Ah well, we'll see how it goes. Right now, I have an app out with the army base here in town and I'm just dying to get that job. I spent 30-40 hours on the application, focusing heavily on the resume. I've never had to do that for any other job, so I'm hoping it will really impress them. I do have some experience in one of the two areas of the law they're targeting--I spent 1 year interning at the EEOC. So fingers crossed this is my time at last. If not, I wasn't joking about the novel. At least I've had this time to do something I've always wanted to do by writing a book. I just don't want that to be *all* I have to my career. I miss having somewhere to go every day. I really miss it!

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whigrose in Augusta, Georgia

64 months ago

One more thing, Mary. Be careful with getting the Masters if your plan is to teach for the state. Yes, they have to pay you more, but that's kind of the problem. You cost them more, so without any experience teaching, it might be harder to get a job. The neighbor who used to live across from me here at the apartments had a teaching degree. She wanted to get a masters but said she was afraid to for just this reason. (Sadly, she was out of work too). Anyway, I'd ask around from other teachers before jumping into a master's program.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

64 months ago

Whigrose: You don't need a Ph.D. for college teaching. You can teach (I know at the community colleges) with a Master's. And since you already have three years of law school, they may waive that Master's for you.

Should you want a Master's - at the cheapest possible price - the University of West Florida has Master's programs online - everything is online; and since you're in Georgia, they might give you in-state tuition.

Thanks for the info about the Master's. I didn't even get my teaching certificate because it was an alternative course - (two weeks observation, one week student teaching). The teacher didn't like the alternative course, refused to sign my paper work, I finally put up a fit, so the director of the charter schools got involved - and they gave me a really bad performance. I have finally had to threaten in small claims court for the $3,500 I spent; so now the director of the alternative course is being a little more cooperative in coming up with a solution for me to get that certificate. Otherwise, I am going to file in small claims against the University and the charter school district.

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marker1 in Saint Paul, Minnesota

64 months ago

John - Solo attorneys can do ok right now, but I wouldn't expect a positive cash flow for at least 1.5 to 2 years as a solo attorney.

Most attorneys will join a firm, then leave while somehow taking one or two big clients with them.

My advice though is look elsewhere. There are WAY too many attorneys out on the market right now, and it's getting tougher and tougher for many attorneys to keep their head above water.

Plus there's about a 3 year glut of attorneys who just graduated looking for jobs - and there aren't any. So it's going to be awhile until they start hiring again.

Even when they do - expect only those in the top 10-20% of their class, from the top 10-20 law schools to get hired.

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Bored in Denver, Colorado

64 months ago

Wow, this is very depressing. I knew it's been going on, lawyers being laid off and the like, but it's always sad to see it in print, from others around the country. We here are doing ok but have laid off attys and staff. My firm basically trimmed the fat, got rid of people who weren't doing anything, and then they halted hiring early last year. I hardly ever see someone new start, and it's only if they are being forced to rehire (someone significant leaves).

I'm a legal secretary who was considering law school very recently and just this week decided against it. I'm registered for this month's LSAT but I'm not going to do anything more.

I'm grateful to have a good paying job right now and here is where I'll stay as long as I can. I hope things work out for the OP.

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Lindsey in Little Rock, Arkansas

30 months ago

All these comments are quite depressing, but somewhat true. However, it really depends on where are you are and what you want to do. You must be willing to adapt to what is available. Like my colleagues, I struggled finding a job out of law school. I usually discourage people from law school. The field is flooded. The pay is usually low, with little to no benefits. However, I struck out on my own, solo. I was shocked, and continue to be shocked, at how well I have been doing in my local community. I live in a small town in the south, in the state of Arkansas. There are voids to be filled, but you must be willing to relocate, or find them. I just happened to be blessed with a community where most of the local attorneys were around retirement age. There are small towns that need solo practitioners to fill those left by retirement. I was 25 when I started my own practice. Now, I am making 3X more than my colleagues at the same age. Don't be scared to venture out on your own! It was scary as hell, but well worth it!!

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Lindsey in Little Rock, Arkansas

30 months ago

All these comments are quite depressing, but somewhat true. However, it really depends on where are you are and what you want to do. You must be willing to adapt to what is available. Like my colleagues, I struggled finding a job out of law school. I usually discourage people from law school. The field is flooded. The pay is usually low, with little to no benefits. However, I struck out on my own, solo. I was shocked, and continue to be shocked, at how well I have been doing in my local community. I live in a small town in the south, in the state of Arkansas. There are voids to be filled, but you must be willing to relocate, or find them. I just happened to be blessed with a community where most of the local attorneys were around retirement age. There are small towns that need solo practitioners to fill those left by retirement. I was 25 when I started my own practice. Now, I am making 3X more than my colleagues at the same age. Don't be scared to venture out on your own! It was scary as hell, but well worth it!!

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