Prosecutors and big firm lawyers have often asked how I started a successful solo practice. This is understandable. When a lawyer gets out of law school she has two things; a law license and a ton of debt. The first rung on the hierarchy of lawyer needs is a job that pays money. After that, meaning, autonomy, lifestyle, more money, etc become important.
Lawyers quickly become frustrated with the limitations offered by their current position and seek greener pastures. Prosecutors get tired of politics, “victims”, massive case loads, and stagnant wages. Big firm associates get tired of the legal fiefdom.
My motivation- necessity.The Kaufman DA realized that it was wrong to deprive criminal defendants of my services and quickly corrected the injustice.
I was the Chief Misdemeanor Prosecutor in Kaufman one week, I was Robert S. Guest Attorney at Law the next. Necessity is often the mother of solo practice.
Opening a practice is one thing, actually paying bills, taxes, and the mortgage is another. How did I grow my practice? Here is the Robert Guest guide to a profitable practice in 4 easy steps.
Step One- Broaden your horizons. At first I took cases no one else wanted. I talked to local attorneys and told them I was open for referrals. I bought a subscription to the Texas Bar CLE back catalog. I read hundreds of CLE pages and asked for help from more experienced attorneys. Fortunately, I am now able to focus on relatively few areas of law and refer the rest.
Step Two- Do good work. Having a small practice means meeting client demands, personally and professionaly. Wow your clients, and they will refer future clients. Disappoint your clients, and they will write ugly AVVO reviews about you.
Step Three- Reach new clients. I blogged to reach a wider audience. The law blog seems almost dead now. Back in the good old days a blog would set you apart on the interwebs. Today new blogs are prone to ethically challenged SEO companies and irrelevance.
Step Four, and this is the most important- Elizabeth. Elizabeth Chapman Guest is my wife and the CEO of Guest Law Firm PC. Upon opening my practice I quickly found out I could do legal work but I couldn’t run a great law office. Paying bills, getting paid, scheduling, emails, phone calls, appointments, insurance, office supplies, taxes, bar dues, communicating with clerks/coordinators/other lawyers etc were all things I needed help with, and NOW.
Fortunately my soul mate had a BR (before Robbie) career openings banks. She could turn an empty building into a model financial institution over the course of 72 hours. Elizabeth applied this same magic to Guest Law Firm.
Unfortunately for would be future solo practitioners Guest Law Firm has monopolized Elizabeth. Ergo, it may not be possible to open another successful solo law practice.
Tragic post script- Elizabeth was recently diagnosed with carpal tunnel and can’t type. Holy shit. You never think about all the things one needs to type in one day. Even texting is difficult. We are using antiquated technology likes pens and paper to communicate. I’m even considering that voodoo speaking/typing software to cope. We visited the doctor today and received a referral and a cortizone shot. Hopefully this can be fixed and our insurance company won’t fight us too hard.
Apple needs Steve Jobs, the Mavericks need Mark Cuban, George Bush needed Dick Cheney, and Elizabeth, Guest Law Firm needs you.