Tuesday, March 17, 2009
No Work? Become a Solo
Hi Tom, it's Skadden Farts - here is my JD Underground post with my thoughts on "going solo." Feel free to re-post on your site under my name "Skadden Farts"
Here's a nice intro for the new guest post that I wrote:
Remember in the "glory days" of doc review how many coders harbored the starry-eyed pipedream of one day "going solo?" Hell, some even passed out business cards on the projects for their little shitlaw "side practices", most of which were nothing more than a stack of flimsy Vista-Print business cards and a mail-drop address. In the restrooms and hallways of Biglaw, many a coder's cell phone hummed with $750 real-estate closings and other sad, bottom-feeding crap, hoping to supplement the pathetic $35 an hour shitrate with some real "lawyering" on the side. With doc review now all but gone, many may now attempt "the plunge" into solo practice full-time. It's understandable. For most former NYC coders the options are few and far between: boiler room craigslist "firms" paying south of 40 K, moving to Cleveland for $20 an hour, or simply committing suicide. One can't really blame these poor souls for the harboring the delusion of self-employment. But.....
Fact is, with 100 K+ of student loan debt, the typical "shingle hanger" will be hung out to dry.
Skadden Farts aka Law is 4 Losers
Going "solo, eh? Have your checked your local Yellow Pages lately? Just count the number of attorneys begging for rinky-dink auto accident, DWI, and divorce/wills/ general shitlaw crap. Then tack on even more lawyers who don't (or can't afford to) advertise in the yellow pages. Then, for areas like personal injury, count the number of television commercials on daytime TV from the "national" feeder/referral PI firms like Jacoby and Meyers et al.
See what I'm getting at? The saturation level is staggering; really beyond comprehension. Scratching out a living in solo shitlaw is like selling saltwater on a lifeboat: people are already surrounded (literally drowning in)an endless supply of a totally worthless commodity: SHITLAW LAWYERS!
Come on, how many DWI's are there in a given suburban county/town? Read the local paper's police blotter. In a whole week maybe 15-20 (a few more on holiday weekends like 4th of July etc).
How many of the 15 or 20 DWI victims have even $2500 to pay a lawyer (and that's the low end of the scale for DWI)? Many are unemployed for Christ's sake and that's why they're drinking! Any of the higher-class types probably already know a lawyer from their peer group or will Google something like "NJ DWI LAW" and get the "mills" that can spend enough for a high Google bump. With 150 K in debt from a shitlaw school and no experience to practice law anyway, why the fuck is anyone going to retain you in the first place? Even shitlaw areas are somewhat complicated and involve at least 98,357 pages of tedious hypertechnical make-work paper churning and hours of sitting in shit-court at 10 pm waiting to argue with a nasty part-time troll "judge" who himself is a nasty, balding loser and lords his Napoleon complex over the pathetic night-court riff raff to inflate his own sorry ego. "Your honor" my ass. That robe means as much as a kid's Halloween costume.
Same way with small-time criminal work. If a guy had $2500 to pay a defense lawyer, would he be robbing a 7/11 or prying someone's window open at 2 am to steal a DVD player he can pawn for $20 to score a bag of crack?
"Family" law? Pray tell! For every hedge-fund divorce there are tons of trailer-trash people who reek of kerosene and haven't a pot to piss in or window to throw it out of, much less money to pay a lawyer a retainer + hourly rate. Half these losers will just use legal aid or a form company like "We the People" and toast their newly-found freedom from Bubba the wife beater with a can of Keystone Light and some crystal meth. They didn't and won't need a worthless shitlaw "lawyer" to help with custody of their obnoxious maladjusted satan-children who will probably grow up and score a 136 on the LSAT and attend Cooley's night program, bringing "prestige" to their family when they earn $13 an hour on a doc review in Newark NJ in 2018!
Wills and estates? Ever heard of Legalzoom? They have the same shitlaw templates from your CLE books for ordinary (non-millionaire) folks to print out and take to a notary for $50. And at the rate of this meltdown no one's going to have much to leave anyone anyway. High-end estate & trust clients are all referred to their lawyer by an investment adviser. Any investment guy worth his salt already has a 92 year old gray-beard expert estate lawyer that he feeds all the referrals to. Good luck breaking into this niche area. Stockbrokers aren't sending their rich clients to a newly minted shitlawyer who doesn't understand the nuances of IRS Sub-Code 45-B(II)V with regard to bilateral spousal exemptions under revised footnote 567(b)9 of the 2005 semi-annual quantum stimulus updates.
And even doing a proletarian's shit-will you still have to meet the losers and make nice for an hour, then hire a moron to type up the needed shitpaper (or waste an hour cutting and pasting it yourself), then have 'em come back AGAIN and explain idiotic legalese shit like "per stirpes" and then find witnesses, etc while also pretending you actually did something worth paying for. A huge headache and hassle to make $200 or whatever shitlaw wills go for in your town.
Or you could try the nightmarish (and all but totally dead now) field of residential real estate closings. Have fun filling out 75,357 pages HUD-1 forms and other pointless God-awful dreck, balancing trust accounts, cutting 18,253 different checks, dealing with scumbag title agencies, and having people bicker for hours over a $15 broken light switch at 1 am the night before closing. All so you can get a FLAT FEE of $750 for 73 hours of grunt work while a bimbo realtor w/ a GED and big tits walks away w/ a 5 grand commission and laughs in your face.
See kids, you can't charge more than "market rate" in your area for shitlaw. People do price shop (esp. in real estate closings- these people often use a lawyer referred by the realtor who wants someone cheap so that the deal goes thru). No realtor is going to recommend an expensive shitlaw closing lawyer because any $$$ to the lawyer is more chance the deal might break apart. Even very good real estate lawyers admit the practice area is decimated. Lawyers in the 1970s and 1980s used to get a percentage of the sale price as a fee for a typical closing. Now the rate is $750 flat no matter how long it takes. That's law. You make practice more and more miserable and complicated, while simultaneously reducing lawyer pay to sub-poverty levels. Layers and layers of added shitpaper for a smaller pile of dough. Welcome to Law 2009! In inflation-adjusted dollars (hell, even in "raw" dollars) most shitlaw lawyers are doing exponentially worse than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago were. This trend cannot improve and indeed will get worse as the ABA accredits more schools and shameless liars like Pat Hobbs fill diploma mills like Seton Hall to the rafters with over-leveraged liberal arts losers.
Personal injury was for years the main revenue source for most "shitlaw" lawyers. A "wild card" of sorts. Those days are gone. Time was, every shitlaw lawyers could count on at least an auto case or two a month. Back then (1920 to about 2001)soft tissue auto cases used to settle pre-suit for 15-20 K. Now they settle for ZERO thanks to tough "threshold" laws. And even decent cases (like broken bones and surgeries)are harder and harder to get money on quickly, because insurance companies have lost billions in bad investments and tightened the screws on pay-outs across the board. Insurance defense "lawyers" are so cheap thanks to the oversupply that its easy to fight off the plaintiffs until they give up. And many have given up.
Check craigslist in your area under "Legal Services" and you'll see scores of lawyers "outbidding" each other to do the cheapest DWI or traffic ticket or real estate closing or whatever. Its a fact of life.
As the economy continues its meltdown, less and less "ordinary folks" will have the dough to pay even cheap lawyers.
Fact is, almost no newbie solo will be able to generate the volume of business needed to sustain a living. The numbers just don't work. Deduct paying your own health insurance (300+ a month), office rent, self-employment tax, malpractice insurance, etc. You have to get a relatively steady flow of PAYING clients just to break even, much less profit.
There is no way any rational person can "spin" a TTT law degree into a good investment, or any kind of investment period. It is a costly & worthless albatross that will be worth less tomorrow than today as the morbid oversupply of lawyers continues unabated and, sadly, accelerates. There is no way from here but down.