A: Part-time law practice comes with its own set of challenges, but you can absolutely make it work — and it is a heckuva lot smarter than trying to have a law practice in your spare time. In fact, if you can balance the competing demands of a law practice and whatever you need to do with the rest of your time, a part-time law practice can be pretty great.
starting a law practice
A: Among lawyers dissatisfied with their current occupation (hereinafter “Evil Day Job” or “EDJ”), it is a popular fantasy that it is a good idea to start a law practice in one’s spare time. Undoubtedly, some lawyers have done so successfully. This does not mean it is a good idea.
The problem boils down to time and focus.
CPA/attorney and LAB member, Jeff Vandrew, on the difference between entity choice and tax status:
A single member LLC has a choice of the following tax statutes: disregarded entity (like a sole proprietorship), S-corporation, or C-corporation.
A multi-member LLC has a choice of the following tax statutes: partnership, S-corporation, or C-corporation.
A corporation has a choice of the following tax statutes: S-corporation or C-corporation.
The #1 concern of new lawyers considering starting a law firm is usually getting clients. At least, judging by the law students and lawyers I’ve met with over the years. It’s a perfectly reasonable concern, but for some, it becomes nearly all-consuming. These new lawyers starting new practices are so laser-focused on marketing that they are likely to get blindsided (“clever girl”) by the other essential parts of a law practice: lawyering and running a business.
The results are predictable: their practices usually don’t last long.
Starting a law practice is hard work, just like being a lawyer is hard work. There is a veritable horde of coaches, consultants, and gurus, though, who are peddling the fiction that you can build a law practice in four hours a week by “building a practice that works for you, not the other way around” and similar baloney.
Can you cut hours and take vacations in the long term (probably once you’ve taken on a small staff — virtual, if you like)? Absolutely, and you won’t need a guru whose only qualifications are owning a copy of The Four-Hour Workweek and reading that Esquire editor’s article about virtual assistants.
In the meantime, you need to work your ass off.
The practice of law has changed in a lot of ways in recent years. Technology has changed how lawyers interact with clients, it has changed the way we advertise, the way we bill and the way that we run our business among many other things. In nearly every respect, the practice of law is becoming unrecognizable. But for several reasons, it’s important for us to focus on the ways in which the practice of law has not changed.
Starting a law practice doesn’t have to be expensive. A few years ago, Sam added up the “necessities” (reasonable lawyers disagree on whether Sam left out some necessities) and came to about $3,000 for the first year. He’d be the first to caution that diving into a new practice with a hard $3,000 budget is a recipe for disaster, but it’s helpful to have a starting point.
Oh, and get the malpractice insurance. You’ll sleep better.
Looking for legal marketing & practice management resources? See if your state bar has a Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). Many lawyers complain that their state bar provides little to no information on business development and practice management. The state bar websites listed below paint a very different picture. In fact, several have comprehensive Law Office Management Assistance Programs. One that I find to be particularly informative is Massachusetts LOMAP. I encourage you to explore their site, watch the presentations, and listen to their podcasts.
Here are some more helpful resources that I was able to find: