I had a small office of about 12 ft by 12 ft on the second floor near 15th and Walnut in Philadelphia. There were about 10 other lawyers, each with his own unique practice.
One of them now has a $5-million personal injury practice. He is probably a millionaire.
One is semi-retired .
Still another lost his license.
I am still practicing and last year my gross annual income was about $219,000.
I hope to do better this year. I am not a millionaire.
This book is not for the reader . This is guide a for the doer. It is supposed to inspire you and give valuable information. This is a handbook for those who want to start. This does not cover everything.
The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Take that step now.
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How to Start Your Law Practice in the Next 30 Days for $5,000 or LessA Guide for Lawyers who want to be doers, not dreamers.
By Allan K. Marshall
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Allan K. Marshall, Esquire, Attorney-at-Law
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDay 1
OFFICE SPACE YOU SHALL NEED
Your success will depend on the location of your office. The best way is to find an office where other lawyers are already practicing. So you will need to locate ten lawyers from the internet to find space for your office in your city. Try to rent an office close to the courthouse. Remember: location, location, location. Your location is integral to a thriving practice. Meet the lawyers who give you positive leads. Do not fall for a fixer-upper just because of low rent. Do not rent a walk-up; your clients will not want to walk up stairs. After finding a location that meets your needs, do not sign a complicated lease (try to keep it to a one-page agreement). For example, my arrangement with my landlord is based on a handshake and rent of $400 per month, and I have been at this location for the last eleven years.
Once upon a time, I had a beautiful office in an upscale building located five miles from downtown Philadelphia. I offered free parking to my clients. But my clients would not identify with the address, and free parking did not make a difference. They could not locate the office on their mental map. My business was abysmal. Four years later, I moved to downtown Philadelphia and changed to a "closet" of an office space. But it was on a prominent street—Chestnut Street—the fifth most popular street in Philadelphia. My rent was only $400 per month. The location was prominent, and I picked up two hundred and fifty new clients in my first year at this new location. At my previous location, I never had more than seventy-five new clients per year.
Never use a post office box as your address.
Remember, you will still need a physical location to meet clients, so keep looking for that perfect office space.
Compose your business card using memorable words that have impact.
Order business cards; include a two-to six-word slogan. For example:
I take sides—your side.
Call me before you need me.
Buying a house? Call me; I can go to an open house with you.
Starting a business? What kind?
I can set you free from the shackles of debt (If you practice bankruptcy law).
Want money? I will collect from those who owe you.
If she don't love you, close her account. (If you practice divorce law).
Sue those who trespass against us.
I am a new lawyer. But I am not a virgin.
I would rather say yes, than no.
1) Include your photo on the card.
2) Dress sharp, act sharp, be sharp.
3) Don't print your fax number on the card.
4) Don't print your cell phone number. Handwrite your cell phone number on the card before you hand it out.
5) Don't print your e-mail address on the business card.
6) Visit: VistaPrint website and compose your business card on line. 500 cards delivered to you for less than $10.
UPSCALE DRESS REQUIRED
This means you cannot wear casual clothes. No jeans, no T-shirts, no sneakers, etc. No "trashy" dressing. People will judge you by the way you look. Dress upscale every day, including weekends. Remember, you're always making an impression, even if you're not aware of it. If you believe that looking good is stressful, you need not practice law.
If you are a man, always wear a suit. No casual, no freedom Friday. If you can't wear a suit, get a job at Home Depot.
If you are a female, always wear a dress or a suit. Never a pantsuit. Impressions count. People say, "You can't judge a book by the cover." That is not true. The cover of a book tells a lot about the book.
Walk up to five lawyers inside the courthouse and introduce yourself: "My name is __________________, and I just passed the bar exam. I will be starting my law practice by the fifteenth of next month, and I would love to hear your ideas."
Where in the courthouse can you meet lawyers? Just about everywhere: outside, on the courthouse steps; in the parking lot; in the hallway; in the café; and also in the library.
Suggest you meet for coffee or lunch, and ask the other lawyer if he or she minds if you pick his or her brain for ideas. Most people are receptive to sharing information and knowledge, but keep in mind, lawyers have notoriously busy schedules, so be prepared to wait quite some time before getting a lunch appointment with this lawyer.
LEARN TO SAY YOUR NAME
This is more difficult for people than you might imagine. Practice saying it, with authority. Speak up, and say your name assertively—as if your name matters, because it does. Try it:
"My name is __________________."
If you have a name that is complicated or difficult to remember or spell, change it. I changed mine, and life has been much easier.
NETWORKING IS ESSENTIAL
Visit your local bar association office.
The bar association in your state will have at least one weekly meeting. Formally join your local or state bar association. Join your local Bar Association. Join the American Bar Association (ABA). Attend a committee or section meeting weekly. Introduce yourself.
Place your ad on Craig's List.
Your ad should read something like this (here's an example for divorce law):
Does she love you ?
Life without love is like a cup without coffee. An attorney can set you free from a loveless marriage.
Please call me, Allan Marshall, at (215) 569-1904 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM
Do not advertise your availability as 24/7. It is not believable.
FIND A MENTOR
Advertise on Solosez (the American Bar Association's website; http://new.abanet.org/divisions/genpractice/ solosez/Pages/default.aspx):
Your ad could be worded something like this:
"I am a new lawyer starting my practice and am looking for a mentor (must be a lawyer).
Please call Allan K. Marshall at (215) 569-1904."
Why would someone want to be your mentor? Because most people want to talk about their lives with someone who wants to know.
Visit a law school. Place an ad on the bulletin board:
"I am a Lawyer. I seek a law student for part-time internship. Please call me: Allan K. Marshall at (215) 569-1904. Proper dress required. No slobs, please."
THROW A MARKETING PARTY
Visit city hall, the courthouse, etc., and pass out your business card. Remember to always ask for theirs in return. Examine the card in front of the card giver. Say something positive about the card e.g. "I like the color."
Then say, "I am throwing a party this Friday at 8:00, and I would love you to come." Give the address, which should be your office or apartment or a restaurant.
If ten lawyers show up, you are on your way to success. How? Because some of these 10 will refer clients to you and can educate you. Give out twenty cards a day for five days, and you have given out a hundred cards—which means you have received a hundred cards. Only about ten lawyers need to show up at your party, and most likely they will.
VISIT UNCOMMON LOCATIONS
Visit a church and introduce yourself. Selectively and discreetly give out your business card. Ask for business cards from others. Ask and thou shall receive.
Start a "happy holidays" list with the names you collect. It's a nice gesture that will keep you in the minds of others.
Never leave home without your business card. Don't just give out your card. Ask for their card and on the back of their card, write the date and the place where you met. Don't wait for their call. You call in the next 24 hours.
GET A BUSINESS LICENSE
A business license costs about $100 to $200, depending on the state. In some states, you will need a business license to open your law office. Your license to practice law, issued by the state, is not enough for you to be able to open your law practice.
JOIN YOUR LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The cost is around $50 or $100. The advantages are well worth the expense.
Three major advantages:
Meet other lawyers Meet other professionals Form an instant network.
Obtain legal malpractice insurance. Call your local bar association for malpractice insurance agents and insurance companies. Or visit the ABA's website: http:// new.abanet.org/divisions/genpractice/solosez/Pages/ default.aspx
Open two bank accounts:
B. Escrow account (a.k.a. trust account)
Keep your money (personal) separate from your client's (trust account or escrow account) money. For example, if you get a check for a case you settled, deposit that check in your escrow account. When that check clears, usually in 10 business days, distribute the money in accordance with the attorney-client agreement. Take the remaining amount and deposit it into your personal account.
Start your law practice as a sole proprietor. After a year of practice, review to determine whether you want to change from a sole proprietorship to an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation).
START A SUPPORT GROUP
Advertise on Craig's List:
"New lawyers wanted to start a support group of those who started a law practice within the last twelve months. Meeting starts this Friday. Call me, Allan K. Marshall, at 215-569-1904 for more information."
VISIT THE FOLLOWING WEBSITES:
American Bar Association http://new.abanet.org/divisions/genpractice/solosez/ Pages/default.aspx Kidmate is a computer program for creating visitation schedules http://www.kidmate.com/ Legal research website http://www.fastcase.com/ Public Legal Research http://www.ilrg.com/ Washburn University Law School http://www.washburnlaw.edu/
Also visit Staples.com (or other office supply stores) to buy the materials and equipment you will need for your office.
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR YOUR $5,000?
It is possible to start your law practice with $5,000 or less.
Your goal should be to have a gross income of at least $1,000 by the end of your first week. At that rate, you would have an annual gross income of $52,000 the first year.
Your investment and cost:
1. Computer $600 2. Multi-function printer/scanner/ fax machine/copier $300 3. Business phone line, per month $100 4. Website, design, creation, and maintenance $100 5. Stationery (letterhead and envelopes) Price will vary, but let's say $200 6. Security deposit for office $400 7. Rent $400 8. Library fee (average) $120 9. Average cost to join the American Bar Association (dues will be) $100 10. and the state bar $250 11. Average cost of display ad in/on the bus $1,000 12. Cost of the wine and cheese party: $100
Total $3,770 In reserve $1,230
READ TEN FAMILY-LAW CASES FROM YOUR STATE'S CASE-LAW BOOK.
To learn how lawyers develop the issues and how the court resolves them. When I started my law practice, I would go to the library, randomly select a law book and read cases. Reading case law is the best way to become familiar with the issues.
READ TEN MORTGAGE-FORECLOSURE CASES
READ THIRTY BREACH-OF-CONTRACT CASES
READ TEN BANKRUPTCY CASES FROM THE WEST'S BANKRUPTCY REPORTER.
LEARN HOW YOUR OFFICE EQUIPMENT WORKS
Get used to your office equipment. Learn how to fax a letter. Learn how to scan documents. Learn how to use the copy machine. Learn how to copy, collate, make multiple copies, and automatically staple documents through efficient use of the copy machine.
Answer the phone in a positive, upbeat way. Bring excitement to the conversation. Don't be dull. Don't be a moody idiot. Always be cheerful. Put a smile on your face, every time you answer the phone. You can say, "This is a great day for you to talk to a lawyer like me."
Don't claim to be under stress. Never say: "I am under pressure." Don't repeat psycho-babble. Most of the babble is junk. Don't talk junk. It is your job to bring excitement to this world.
LEARN HOW TO SAY YES
You must teach yourself to say "yes." Your answer to most requests from clients should be "yes."
Take a walk, imagine your success.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Write a short article detailing your experiences of the past twenty-seven days. Submit it for publication to local lawyers' newspapers or on a website.
Make a list of thirty new things you are going to do in the next thirty days.
At the top of the list, include "I imagine my success."
Host a wine and cheese party in your office. Wear a New Year hat.
At night, read five opinions regarding the law about lawyer ethics. Read the "rules of professional responsibility" out loud.
Despite the internet and all the marketing plans, schemes, and gimmicks, the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line. Applying that principle to the marketing of legal services, the most effective marketing method is by a letter from you, the lawyer, to a potential client.
In February 1996, I was able to find and serve thirteen new clients who called me after they received my direct mail letter in which I outlined my services. These potential clients were named as defendants in various lawsuits (e.g., mortgage foreclosure, collection lawsuits, or accident cases).
I followed the following outline:
FOUR STEPS TO SERVICE:
1. I purchased addresses of defendants from a mailing list seller and sent each one a letter.
2. I timed the letter in such a way that within forty-eight hours, I was available to answer the phone, offer elementary advice to the client, and to meet the client within 24 hours.
3. I met the new clients.
4 After I reviewed their documents, I explained various options and presumptively offered an attorney fee agreement.
Some of them retained me. I felt good.
Over the years, in which I have used direct marketing to find clients, I have benefitted from the following points:
The best day to mail the letter is on Mondays and Tuesdays. This way, the letter will be received by the client by Tuesday or Wednesday. Do not mail any marketing letter on Thursday or Friday. This mailing will be delivered on Saturday, and even if your letter says, "It is okay to call me on weekends," many people will not call. They will postpone it until Monday, and by Monday, they will forget and your effort will be wasted.
Please: do not use a mailing house. Do your own mailing from your own office. You must feel enthusiastic when mailing the marketing letter. The more work you do for all aspects of marketing, the more connected you will feel with the client. I do many things by myself—from placing stamps to sealing the letter. This way, I am fired up from the first moment to the time the phone starts ringing.
Only use first-class postage: Send all letters by first-class mail; do not use bulk mail, because the savings are not worth it. You may save some money on postage, but the letter will not have the same impact, nor will you know the date of actual delivery. The actual delivery date of bulk mail or third-class mail is usually five to nine days after the date of mailing. A first-class letter is usually delivered the next business day if sent within a twenty-mile radius of your address.
Do not use mailing labels. People judge a letter by its cover. A mailing label gives the appearance of junk mail and will likely reduce the response. It is okay to use a window envelope.
Excerpted from How to Start Your Law Practice in the Next 30 Days for $5,000 or Less by Allan K. Marshall Copyright © 2012 by Allan K. Marshall, Esquire, Attorney-at-Law. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Day 1. Office Space You Shall Need....................1
Day 2. Business Cards....................3
Day 3. Upscale Dress Required....................5
Day 4. Introduce Yourself....................6
Day 5. Learn To Say Your Name....................7
Day 6. Networking Is Essential....................8
Day 7. Your Ad....................9
Day 8. Find A Mentor....................10
Day 9. Solicit Interns....................11
Day 10. Throw A Marketing Party....................12
Day 11. Visit Uncommon Locations....................13
Day 12. Get A Business License....................14
Day 13. Join Your Local Chamber Of Commerce....................15
Day 14. Insurance....................16
Day 15. Banking....................17
Day 16. Business Classifications....................18
Day 17. Start A Support Group....................19
Day 18. Visit The Following Websites:....................20
Day 19. What Do You Get For Your $5,000?....................21
Day 20. Read Ten Family-Law Cases From Your State's Case-Law Book....................23
Day 21. Read Ten Mortgage-Foreclosure Cases....................24
Day 22. Read Thirty Breach-Of-Contract Cases....................25
Day 23. Read Ten Bankruptcy Cases From The West's Bankruptcy Reporter....................26
Day 24. Learn How Your Office Equipment Workz....................27
Day 25. Communications....................28
Day 26. Learn How To Say Yes....................29
Day 27. Personal Reflection....................30
Day 28. Share Your Experience....................31
Day 29. Checklist....................32
Day 30. Networking....................33
Appendix A. Newsletter, September 2012:....................53
Appendix B. Reception for Pizza Shop Managers....................57
Appendix C. How to Distinguish Yourself in the Next Twenty-Four Hours....................59
Appendix D. Sample Office Lease....................61
Appendix E. Attorney Client Fee Agreement (Flat Fee)....................63
Appendix F. Attorney Client Fee Agreement (Contingent)....................67
Appendix G. Attorney Client Fee Agreement (General)....................71
Appendix H. How to Write an Eloquent Complaint....................75
Appendix I. Complaint....................79
Appendix J. Complaint....................89
Appendix K. Will....................95
Appendix L. Complaint Against Landlord....................99