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Solo In Chicago

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Developing a career plan

Read a nice piece from the Law Bulletin that I think appears every Friday called the "Career Question." The author Kathy Morris had attended a recent conference regarding career planning and shared some insight.

At a general level, we all need to be regularly asking: Where am I? Where do I want to be? How do I get there?

Some other suggestions included looking at other people's Web bios to see how they progressed, focus on talents/skills/capabilities rather than job titles, talk with others.

I think career satisfaction for the young attorney is tremendously difficult and you hear it all the time. The attrition rate for lawyers is ridiculous. I have been enjoying my career a lot more since I founded my own law firm. That said, I am still very much searching for that area of the law that I just love! I find a lot of the elder law and family law I'm currently doing very meaningful, but I don't think of some of the subject-matters as really true to who I am and what I love outside of my career.

What's the path to career fulfillment in the legal field?

Cook Circuit Clerk: new filing system

I used the new self-service filing system in Room 802 at the Daley Center today and it's a nice improvement. For those of you who haven't used the new system, there's now a time stamping machine with a drop-box in the various Cook Circuit Clerk offices. One need no longer wait in a line for any no-fee filings.

However, as someone who still practices a good bit in the probate court, it's still frustrating that the probate division is still the laggard.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Find your niche

A fitting piece from the Baton Rouge Business Report regarding finding a legal niche. It discusses a trend of large companies "pinpointing" their legal work with smaller, local firms rather than using the large global firms for everything. The piece goes on to discuss being "an inch wide and a mile deep," i.e. NOT a generalist.

That's my goal as we near our firm's first anniversary. Be a family & elder law expert...that's it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Be a better business person in 2006

The January 9, 2006 Crain's Chicago Business has a nice little Q & A with 10 Chicago entrepreneurs regarding their resolutions for 2006. It's enlightening and I always need to remember that's what I am as a small firm attorney...a business person and entrepreneur.

A few ideas I'm stealing from the article:

Employee evaluation and development. Creation of a clear evaluation system and also show employees how they can develop with my business. I have worked at law firms where employee evaluation was totally non-existent (including of myself).

Attract repeat customers. A spa owner talked about creating incentives to get return business. I have the same issue. We represent mostly individuals and need to get return business. I was thinking of creating some type of coupon for reduced real estate closings or maybe some type of coupon for a will or some of the basic flat fee services.

Create an advisory board. Find a group of individuals with various backgrounds to help us with strategic decisions. It gets lonely being a solo practitioner and I'm sure my thinking gets too narrow too often.

What are your ideas for 2006!!

How to open your own office and make it work?

This is a shameless plug for some continuing legal education which I'm a part of. It's the Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Young Lawyers Committee. I'm not speaking and I'm just a member of the committe. I have been a little involved in the planning. Here's the link:


It's January 31, 2006 from 6 - 9 p.m. in Arlington Heights.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Law firms and "part-time" predicament

Interesting piece from the National Law Journal on how law firms are dealing with the desires of various attorneys wanting to go part-time, particularly after the birth of a child. The story references law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham and its new "balanced hours" program. Their program allows an attorney who demonstrates a need to propose alternative working arrangements such as working fewer hours or telecommuting. A book entitled Solving the Part-Time Puzzle: The Law Firm's Guide to Balanced Hours is referenced.

The way I see it the solution to the problem is starting one's own law firm. When I have children I would expect to simply be working from home more than I do currently. I'm not sure why it doesn't seem like we've seen the same entrepreneurial explosion by female attorneys that appears to have happened with female entrepreneurs in the rest of the business work.

Chicago Bar Association CLE

Just a quick plug for CBA's new method of doing CLE now that we have mandatory CLE pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court. I attended the Matrimonial Law committee today for a talk by Judge Edward Jordan on fee petitions (very good presentation as an aside). All you need to do is swipe your membership card at the typical midday speakers and you get CLE credit. Maybe this mandatory CLE thing won't be so bad!!

I'm not sure what all the other bar associations are doing, but the quick one hour lunch at CBA with CLE credit is pretty easy...no full day out of the office or anything.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Contract Work

Very informative posting at Myshingle.com regarding contract work by new solo attorneys and attorneys in general. It's worth a read.

I tried to solicit contract work when I started my practice and I have not had success. Because Jay Foonberg in his book, How to Start and Build a Law Practice, also promotes contract work. These are the things I did and did NOT have success with:

  • Mass mailing to attorneys;
  • Paid advertising as a "coverage attorney" in Northwest Suburban Bar and Lake County Bar newsletters;

Sort of on the other side of the coin, I used a contract attorney for the first time recently when I had a conflict and needed to have someone defend a deposition for me. In calling around to some of the persons that had advertisements I was amazed at some of the low rates. I fully suspect that I will begin to use more and more contract attorneys for coverage of my cases when it's non-substantive stuff and simply when I can use my time more productively.