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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Just finished reading the above and it's a pretty good read. The author has a bit of that air of arrogance regarding how seemingly wealthy and successful he is, but that aside here are some good tips:

1. There's no such thing as a self-made man/woman (others around us are critical).

2. Create a personal board of advisors. This is one of my action points, especially as a sole practitioner attorney.

3. Those who are best at it don't network, they make friends.

4. Share your hobbies and passions with others.

5. Be a conference commando. I thought this was one of his better areas. He talks about all of the perhaps less obvious ways to benefit from a conference such as sort of creating a mini-conference within a conference with dinner/golf, ect.

6. Connect multiple peoples' networks together.

7. Develop a personal branding message.

8. Find mentors, find mentees, repeat. If you're not using some of the mentor programs through local bar associations you're a fool. Additionally, especially since I started my law practice, I really feel I am a good resource for attorneys considering doing the same thing and have been mentoring some other attorneys.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Get clients from law school!

I'm certainly not trying to be immodest or anything but I got a great client referral recently from of all places a colleague from law school in the class behind me. Sort of a friend of a friend needed local counsel in Chicago and now I'm in the case. Just makes me chuckle at a lot of the jerks from school and how they totally missed the boat.

Various good billing and collecting tips

There's a good series of postings at The Practice regarding client expenses, billing clients, and collecting money.

I agree with the post regarding charging clients for expenses. I do not charge for faxing, copying, mailing, ect. These are the costs of doing business and it's chincy to charge someone $.60 or something for a letter...get real! (I have worked at a firm that did charge for those items.)

On the billing issue, he suggests calling overdue clients personally. I agree for one shot. After that I go to my office manager and then collection agency quickly. I worry about my representation being impacted if I start to have ill will for a particular client. Obviously if they don't pay we'll get out of the case but I can't not represent them to the best of my ability simply due to my negative feelings because of an unpaid bill.

Last, I need to start keeping check copies for future collections.

Culver's customer service

My wife and I drove home from the upper-peninsula of Michigan yesterday having spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my inlaws. Driving back to Chicago we stopped at Culver's Frozen Custard in Manitowoc, Wisconsin for dinner (for any of you non-Midwesterners Culver's is a sort of fast food restaurant founded in Wisconsin which has expanded into MN and IL and nationwide...very good butterburgers and desserts). The food was good but what stands out to me is the customer service. An attentive, smiling employee is at your service immediately when you enter the restaurant. There are an abundance of willing and able employees. Further the food is taken to your table by number rather than waiting at the counter. Okay, it's just sort of fast food, but I so appreciate simple customer service where my needs are met and these places/people just make you feel good! Our law firm should have the same impact!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Keeping up appearances

Here's a piece from the November 2005 Illinois Bar Journal regarding lawyer marketing. Frankly much of the material is from the Illinois Bar Association list serve so I had seen some of it before. That said, there's some good good stuff in the piece. One tip I'm going to add to our website is outreach to potential clients or simply the general public regarding speaking engagements. I like to speak publicly and I think there is demand. I need to seize that opportunity! Second, the importance of being organized. This is your first order of business as a lawyer.

The correct level of specialization

I am struggling with an issue right now that I think is common among new solos...drawing that delicate balance between being specialized to an appropriate degree so that I have expertise in a particular area or areas of law AND the market reality of needing to bring in new clients to be a successful business.

I want to be a family and elder law attorney but I have taken on another couple of other trials mostly in the real estate area. So general trial work is fine but you sure feel it slow you down when various new issues need to be almost researched from scratch. I expect my membership in the LegalMatch.com family law section to really ramp up that portion of the practice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fast track partners, er...fast track lawyer entrepreneur!

Well since I'm already the sole owner (no partner sharing here...at least for now) of a law firm, I'm not all that interested on the fast track to partner status, but, National Law Journal (10/31/05) does have a useful piece on Fast-Track Partners. There's some very applicable stuff to practice building in general. These comments from the new partners stood out to me:

*Don't make an accelerated career a goal: If you do excellent, top-shelf work, people will notice.
*Find a practice you enjoy.
*Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take risks.
*Find out what organizations your clients belong to an join those groups.
*Volunteer; volunteer; volunteer...it will come back to you tenfold.

The skills of a lawyer

There's some good stuff in the November issue of Chicago Lawyer (no website) which makes me think I should stop throwing away my free issues. There's an article entitled Seems like everyone wants to write the great novel that caught my eye. It covers the story of lawyer-turned-author Laura Caldwell, a Chicago (former) trial lawyer.

Laura says that her success happened because she first pursued a career in law. She says that even the discipline of "billable hours" was crucial to her disciplined success as a novelist. Also the storytelling of a litigator has obviously been critical. In closing the author writes:

In the end, whether lawyers dabble in writing as a hobby or with the ambition of becoming the next big thing, it's great to know that the skills we learn as lawyers can lead to success in an entirely different career...

Sort of like my first job out of college teaching high school social studies and coaching football and wrestling.

Unpaid lawyer bills

As I enter my seventh month of independent (solo for now) practice I'm dealing with the practical issue of a fairly high rate of unpaid receivables. So, I am going to immediately begin using a third-party collection agency.

I recall a recent discussion between lawyer colleagues balancing using a collection agency versus just suing clients. I know the preference was using the collection agency. I think the main rationale is avoiding ARDC complaints or malpractice complaints from clients.

I'll tell ya how it works!

Illinois' preeminent elder law newsletter

Here's the link to the first issue of the Illinois State Bar Association's Elder Law Section Council newsletter where the emminent jurist Peter R. Olson has served as editor...http://www.isba.org/Sections/Elder/11-05.html. It's a volunteer position but boy is it a pain to get people to write articles! Anyone at all related to the general elder law field please email or call and WRITE!