Friday, January 15, 2010

Solo Cheerleaders say we're "whiners"

Came across this post on good old Solo Practice U's website:

You really gotta hand it to the solo cheerleader shysters and their denigration of anyone not swilling the $595 "Solo Practice U" Kool-Aid! Who knew that forking over $595 for a bunch of YouTube clips of fellow solo losers was the fast-track to success?

Fact is, American lawyers cannot compete with a continent full of unlicensed third-world "lawyers" who will cut, paste and code the same slop-work garbage as us for 1/100th the pay. It's like a baseball game where one side gets 3 outs and the other 15. You cannot compete on a playing field that unlevel. And lest we forget, LegalZoom has stolen most of the makework garbage like LLC formation and wills, while the terrible economy and unemployment make it impossible for DWI and other shitlaw quasi-criminals to pay even modest attorney fees.

And if solo practice is so lucrative and fufilling, why aren't these people out there doing it? By their deeds you shall know them.



Anonymous said...

This sounds familiar.

Oh yeah.

Anonymous said...

There are people out there "doing it." Go to any large, mid-size and small city in this country and you will find solo practioners making a reasonable salary (and some making more than a reasonable salary) while doing interesting work. You are apparently not bright enough to notice it or unable to get you're head out of the "its either big law or shit law" line of thinking.

As for your "we can't compete," last time I checked, legal zoom and 3rd world attorneys can't go to court to represent you in a divorce, a real estate dispute, an ERISA claim, or most other legal problems that affect ordinary people.

I use to like this blog, and still do, but get your head out of your ass ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Sure, go solo. Enjoy all the risks of owning a small business starting out from $100K in the hole before you buy your first paper clip at OfficeMax.

It would have been better to just take that $100K and open a Subway franchise.

Nando said...

Good point! If mainstream economists are so smart, why aren't they running their own companies and creating jobs? If law is so great, why aren't law professors out there representing people? Instead, these two groups prefer the safety of academia, where they can indoctrinate their students with no consequence to themselves.

I read the industry cheerleader piece you cited. These people constantly harp about negativity and personal attacks by the law bloggers. Then THEY resort to childish name-calling, i.e. "whiner," "complaining over spilled milk," "crybaby," "sad sacks." Of course, I can't think of anything MORE pathetic than licking the industry's boots.

Here is something that should give you all a good laugh:

"Carolyn's [Elefant] law practice is focused on energy work."

What does that mean? Does she break out into chakras and measure her client's "auras"?!

The apologists' common refrain seems to be: (a) smile and the world will smile with you; (b) have faith that things WILL work out; (c) if you have been harmed, put on a happy face; and (d) whatever position you are in, it is your fault.

JM said...

While I agree that sitting at home being negative does not do anything to improve your situation, there is no doubt in my mind that the "negative law blogoshere" i.e. tom the temp, jdunderground, ATL (not all negative)etc....has done an excellent job in the past 5 years in lifting the lid on the legal profession. Specifically, regarding the realities of practice, the conflicts of interest and greed of the student loan/law schools, fraudulent and misleading law school stats, the poor pay and massive loan payments, the poor ROI for many law students etc...

To the extent that markets only work with complete information, this reality check is a welcome addition for students thinking about entering the legal profession.

Allen said...

Its almost like a zero-sum game where the seemingly most efficient take the entire pie. India is being used for much of the grunt work while legal software handles much of the drafting involved.

Apparently, the only way a shitlaw lawyer can survive in the U.S. is in the field of court room litigation and negotiation.

Problem with litigation is that potential clients simply don't have the money to pay and when it comes to negotiation, people often like to handle it themselves.

Anonymous said...

Its almost like a zero-sum game where the seemingly most efficient take the entire pie. India is being used for much of the grunt work while legal software handles much of the drafting involved.

Apparently, the only way a shitlaw lawyer can survive in the U.S. is in the field of court room litigation and negotiation.

Problem with litigation is that potential clients simply don't have the money to pay and when it comes to negotiation, people often like to handle it themselves.

JPM said...

Well I completely disagree with Susan's market analysis - because there is no efficiently working "market" in the law school "business."

For one, the law school gets paid up front. They have no skin in the game. Compare to a normal business ....If I buy a Honda and get terrible performance, service and maintenance, I will not buy a Honda again, and may bad mouth that company to my friends and family further hurting their business. Thus once I have paid for the product they(btw I love my Honda!) still have an incentive to be responsive to the consumer for repeat business, goodwill etc.....Law schools have no such market to shape their behavior......they already have the money, their grads are not going to be "repeat customers", they have the teat of federally backed loans, and I don't think there is any doubt that they simply massage (at best) and/or give downright fraudulent (at worst) income and employment stats to cover up the mess they leave.

Not to mention that with my car I could probably get my money back after paying if I got a "lemon"!

Allowing more law schools to open will simply mean lawyers......but the number of jobs is finite. With outsourcing and technology advances the number of legall jobs is decreasing. A point that has been made by Attorney Elefant. For example, to give an anlagogy, a relative of mine has been in the family photography biz for decades. Up until 15 years ago they would have employed 30 people at their office. Now with digital technology it's a one man shop!! Same applies with technology in the area. It zaps jobs. That's a a reality and no amount of positive thinking is going to change that fact.

When anyone with a pulse can get more than $150,000 in federally backed loans, then the "market" is not a market at all. The reason law school tution has gone through the roof in the past 20 years is because an efficient market has not been allowed to happen. Furthermore, as student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, there is no incentive for the lender, whether it be fed or private to make a proper assessment of the loan.

Susan, simply put, more law schools will not lead to lower tuition while we have the current loan system in place. If that was true, then the explosion in the number of new law schools in the past 20 years would have lead to tuition reductions. In fact quite the opposite has happened! We have more law schools than ever, and staggeringly high tuition that has way outpaced inflation.

There is no reason why law has to be the profession of the rich. Able students from modest or poor back grounds could and should be given grants from law schoools or the government to assist them. Law schools should also give generous loan forgiveness to students who commit to low paying but important public interest jobs. Only a few elite law schools do that right now.

Anonymous said...

If you are not being selected for doc review projects, and the short list if constantly the same usual suspects doing quid pro quos (or whatever) with the same recruiter, and if the HR departments of law firms are not really doing their job e.g. competitive bidding and candidate selection, you have no choice(f if income stream is the key, regardless of substantive) but to go back to Court and begin doing per diem or 18(B) least you'd actually be undertaking the practice of law, and frankly, that is much easier to transfer to a smaller market than is doc, guys, it really isn't a question of this India issue, it is a question of what you can do tomorrow, to solve the problem immediately of getting some return on your investment of three+ years....otherwise, you limit your options. I personally know attorneys who began as solos and started out small in smaller states, and then 10-15 years later were hired away (due to beginning with small matters) eventually in-house and in some cases ended up GC and or VP, International. One guy out there in fact is a GC of a major airline, and ran the biggest restructuring of a corporation in history of US. He started out taking BK cases, solo, in NH/VT...there isno formula to life is all serendipity, luck, chance, and making it happenb, not waiting...for someone to pull you up yourself...India and its attorneys are irrelevant......someone always has a creditors rights or probate problem> NOt glamorous nor sexy, but it pays, and it is bread and butter.

JPHM said...

One of the commenters says this and here is my response.:


"I contribute much of the dissatisfaction with the entitlement mentality that many recent graduates unfortunately possess. You have to realize, some of these folks, maybe even most of them, probably have never worked a 40 hour week at a “normal” job in their lives. They may not understand what it takes to get a foot in the door and to be willing to work hard, show eagerness for a chance, etc. Instead, some people expect not to look for a job, but are offended when they’re not recruited for one. It’s a sad day."

Utter tripe.

As we can see from clicking on your name that links to your blog, you are a "Jd to be". It appears that you have not even started law scool yet....yet you make sweeping generalizations which have no basis in fact.

So, frankly you are not in any position whatsover to be making critical remarks about recent law graduates.

I didn't go to law school until I was 30, so I had worked for 8 years before law school. This was more than most but I would say that about 50% had at least 2 to 3 years of work experience.

Even those who went to law school from undergrad were hard workers. Not everyone in law school is a brilliant legal mind, but most work hard.

This is the old strawman argument, where you try and paint law school grads as whiners, who are 100% to blame for their predicament. I know a number of very bright, hard working, proactive people that were laid off and have not be able to find gainful employment. These are people who did well in law school, have passed multiple bars and speak foreign languages. These are not lazy bums waiting for Sullivan and Cromwell to call them up.

Law school has actually worked out ok for me so far, but I understand the predicament grads find themselves in.

JJD said...

Solo Cheerleader Carolyn seems to think that if you a postive attitude and hang out a shingle, clients will line up at the door. They won't, even seasoned solo lawyers are having a hard time surviving now.A perky positive attitude doesn't pay the rent for an office, malpractice insurance and school loans and living expenses -clients do, and there aren't enough of them for the amount of lawyers out there.

JPM said...

"In today’s economy there are no sure things. There are no handouts. There are no free rides. The only lawyers who will succeed, BigLaw or solo, are those with fortitude, self-reliance and NO victim mentality despite too many law schools, too many graduates and false employment numbers."

Well there are some free rides. for law school deans and profs!

This is the Joel Osteenization of America...where you can "think it right" and with an "atttitude adjustment" you can magically make legal jobs appear.

Being positive doesn't change the fact that there is 1) too much easy loan money 2) too many lawyers 3) too few legal jobs 4) abysmal salaries 5) all time high debt/salary ratios, and 6) a declining US legal market with technoogy advance and outsourcing.

Anonymous said...

A lot of this "cheerleader" movement has roots in pseudo-spiritual nonsense like "The Secret" and "Prosperity Gospel". I find it distasteful.

The so-called "entitlement mentality" is actually perpetuated by people who believe this tripe, because all I ever hear from them are things like "think positive thoughts and u will be rich!!!". Bullshit. It takes hard work and a healthy marketplace, not wishful pie-in-the-sky thinking, to do well economically. You won't make it if you are lazy in a good economy, and you won't make if you are the hardest worker in the world, but there aren't any customers for you to get. That's just reality.

What is worse is that many of these "positive thinker" types are generally engaged in shady services like the solo university site, or are hawking goods through Multilevel Marketing schemes. I get spammed by this stuff all the time. There will always be snake oil salesmen. Fortunately, their outrageous behavior makes them easy to spot.

Anonymous said...

The Death of America's Middle Class Is Complete:

Anonymous said...

working for a small firm = shitlaw

solo practice = craplaw

6 of 1 and half a dozen of the other

Anonymous said...

Legal Zoom isn't destroying attorney jobs any more than the flowbee is destroying barbershops.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is if the diarist or any of the commenters here have either (1) started their own legal practice or (2) worked for anyone who has? I loathe Elefant and co. but I agree that a lot of whining goes on here. Yes, it's hard to start a solo practice. No, they aren't all terrible and a lot of them are quite profitable. I've got several friends from law school, a school you'd call a TTT, who have done this. They aren't making big law bucks, but they aren't despondent about waiting for the next call from Update either and they can pay their bills and enjoy life. It's not for everyone. I don' think I could do it. But it can be a viable route if you are willing to work.

Anonymous said...

These Solo Cheerleaders are so amusing. It's like they're telling me I need to lose my victim mentality, because it is my fault my husband beats me. I should just be grateful my husband hasn't killed me (yet).

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that SPU has helped a few solos here and there get launched. In that sense it is a good service.

However, the real horror is they way they are trying to turn it into another shearing station for newly graduated law student sheep.

Very few people can be successful as a solo, even after 10 years of practice. The vast majority of lemmings went to law school to get a job in a stable firm or company. They aren't creative or ready to start a business, that's why they went to professional school (duh!).

If they were entrepreneurs, they would not be going to law school.

So, just many other areas, this is just a small niche service that is being offered to the masses. That's the whole problem with the law as well. It should be an elitist profession, but now it is being oversold to morons who have no business going to law school. And these morons with $100k+ debt are less and less able to become solos straight out of the gate.

Thus, SPU is just an extension of this, striving to herd as many lemmings as possible through her doors so she can get rich and not have to work a real job.

She would have some credibility if she had actually been a solo for 10 years and earned her stripes. But, she hasn't and thus has the appearance of yet another greedy, opportunistic charlatan exploiting a bunch of already beaten down, desperate and essentially unemployable kids. It's unconscionable and just an extension of the law school scam.

Anonymous said...

Fuck starting my own practice, man!!

I want a cushy $300K gig in BigLaw where I can gossip on the phone all day, bill it out at $500/hr, and take all-expenses-paid junkets to luxury hotels in Singapore, Zurich and Crete, where my skillz as a "deal closer" are in demand!

nycsolo said...

"What I want to know is if the diarist or any of the commenters here have either (1) started their own legal practice or (2) worked for anyone who has? "

I've been a solo practitioner for 7 years now. It's not an easy life but it has a lot of positives too.

I guess you could call me a solo cheerleader. Still, I recognize that solo practice is not for everyone (just like law school is not for everyone).

Also, it would be really hard to hang a shingle with $150 or $200k in debt.

"She would have some credibility if she had actually been a solo for 10 years and earned her stripes. "

I'm not all that familiar with "solo practice university," but I'm concerned it's a bit overpriced. What does she teach you that you cannot learn from library books and surfing the internet? I don't know.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the ignorance of thoses who cling to the mantra that "small law = shit law." I have a small law office in suburban town in the northeast and I could not be happier with my professional life.

Following law school (yes it was a so called "TTT") graduation and admission to 2 state bars in 2000, I joined a small general practice law office making about $35k per year. Although it wasn't much money, I worked hard and learned a lot. Thankfully, I didn't borrow myself into indentured servatude to go to law school so I was able live very modestly and support myself.

After 3 years of learning the practice and winning the confidence of clients, I struck out on my own. Things got better every year. As of right now, I have 2 associates, a paralegal, a business manager, and 2 secretaries. We are busy as can be and I look forward to growing my firm even more. And oh yeah, believe it or not, the money is DAMN good. I pay myself a reasonable salary and I take a draw at the end of the year. Last year, I made about $750k and this year will likely be even better. I have made over $400k every year since 2006. My clients are pleased with the service my firm provides them and they send their friends and family to us. I enjoy my lifestyle and I really do feel like I control my own professional destiny. It didn't happen overnight and I still work my ass off.

If this is what "shit-law" is, I'll take it.

JPM said...

5.22pm what area of law do you practice?

Anonymous said...

5:22 - you are a fake. Sorry, but if you doing so well, you wouldn't be hanging around a message board for temp schlubs.

I call troll!

Anonymous said...

"Following law school (yes it was a so called "TTT") graduation and admission to 2 state bars in 2000, I joined a small general practice law office making about $35k per year. Although it wasn't much money, I worked hard and learned a lot. Thankfully, I didn't borrow myself into indentured servatude to go to law school so I was able live very modestly and support myself."

So mom & dad paid for your school. Thanks for sharing your secret for success.

Anonymous said...

I guess she figures if you're stupid enough to pay that much for a law school education, you'll be stupid enough to pay more money for this. A fool and his money are soon parted and all.

Fact is, if you're too stupid to figure out how bad of a deal this is, you're going to be too stupid to practice as a solo attorney. It shows you how far the legal profession has sunk that this type of thing exists.

There are get rich quick schemes in real estate and a few other areas. Generally these people have traditionally targeted the elderly and indigent. If you're a lawyer these speakers/places usually won't speak to you because they figure you're too smart to fall for their bs.

But Elefant has realized that most lawyers indeed are morons, and you can indeed take advantage of that stupidity. Apparently she's making enough money that she can keep doing this instead of actually working. I bet her ultimate goal is bar accreditation, which she will get knowing the ABA eventually.

jpm said...


What you don't disclose is important.

Are you married? How much does your spouse make? Did you go on his insurance? What was your monthly min loan payment?

You say "Thankfully, I didn't borrow myself into indentured servatude to go to law school so I was able live very modestly and support myself."

So did you get a scholly, parental support?

I'm not being critical. It's just that these solo success stories always leave out some crucial facts like connections, spouse with $$$, parents lend them seed money, worked in Biglaw for 5 years and saved $200k ( u didn't I see) etc.....

I doubt very much that people just "hang out a shingle" and the money starts pouring in.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:03 p.m.:

Another solo here, not the same as 5:22 p.m. I'll try to disclose as fully as possible while not giving away any identities.

Keeping debt down: I went to both undergrad and law school at night. Some fairly good schools have night programs: the one I went to was either top tier or high second tier (depending on the period in question and how these things are measured). I worked full time, ate a lot of rice and beans, and borrowed as little as possible. I was also an Army reservist so I was able to get $20K in GI Bill repayments. I graduated with $17K in debt, payments $270/month.

How I got started: I had a number of law-related jobs in law school, but ended up working for one of my professors who had a small practice on the side. I worked for him for 10 years (along with a few other odd jobs), started at about 60-70K, eventually became his law partner, and we built the practice to the point where his professorship was the job on the side. We developed a practice area where most of our work was subcontracted from other lawyers, so we had repeat clients, and it was an uncommon enough area (appeals) that we weren't facing crushing competition.

Since my partner died, the practice has been mine, and I've approximately doubled it from what it was at the time I took over. I have one associate and one paralegal who will soon be an associate, and while I don't do as well as a biglaw partner, I did better last year than most biglaw associates.

My advantages: low debt and a big connection, but I had a plan to keep the debt to a minimum and the connection was one I didn't have before law school. In a lot of ways, I got lucky, so my path isn't for everyone. I also wouldn't advise anyone to go solo right after getting the JD, because the client base that Professor X and I developed took a long time to build. I think that a non-traditional path is still possible, though, for those willing to pay their dues and put in the time.

Anonymous said...

6:47 is right... I call troll on this guy, too, because it's VERY doubtful he'd be on a website for temporary attorneys if he were making in the high 6 figures as he says he is... MAYBE if he's looking to assess the temp market because he's planning to hire one... but still really doubtful.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand what anybody gains by making up their stories and posting it to anonymous people on the internet. This is just as dumb as all those people that brag about all the girls they've had sex with when they've never even touched a girl, you see a ton of that from kids in high school or college posting on the internet as well.

Anonymous said...

I went to law school on my own dime. No loans. And no money from Mom or Dad. I sold drugs during college and made enough to get through law school. But the drug trade is .. ah .. dangerous. So I quit. But now I do criminal work (mostly narcotic defense work. Duh.) and my real life "experience" has been helpful. My brother just graduated law school and is doing contract doc review work and turned me onto this blog. A nice education on the fraud/greed inherent in the legal "sell" market. And I agree with 6:09pm. Law schools have no incentive, no need to shape their behavior. In my prior business however I relied on "repeat customers" so goodwill, good customer service were essential.

Flounder Gambini said...

I think it depends. I know some people who have done quite well going out on their own, but others fail miserably. It's a crapshoot.

Carolyn Elefant said...

I know that I shouldn't comment here because I am setting myself up for abuse, but what the heck! I wanted to clarify - I am a practicing solo attorney in good standing in MD, NY and DC. My "energy" work is, admittedly eclectic but it's not auras or what some other commenter said, but rather, focuses on FERC regulation, marine renewables (tides, wave and offshore wind power) federal eminent domain and appeals. I won't link to my firm website but you can easily find it online.
If you read my blog MyShingle you will see that I do mention the downs of solo and small firm practice - both my own practice and generally. Not frequently, but from time to time. And I have also tried to propose ideas for dealing with the very real contract lawyer conundrum - dead end job on the one hand, but real risk to losing income on the other. I did a post on it here:
Maybe my suggestions are ludicrous, but frankly, I don't see many suggestions here.

Carolyn Elefant said...

Just one more thing in the interest of disclosure. When I started my firm in 1993, I had been working five years and living frugally, paid off half of my $70,000 in school loans, which is the equivalent of at least $100k in today's dollars (I graduated in 1988). I also was married when I started my firm, but my husband was not a high earner (at the time I lost my job, I earned more than he did) and we'd just bought a house so I had a mortgage that was based on our combined incomes. I deferred my student loan payments for 4 months and took unemployment (again, not possible in places like NY where if you work 2 seconds, NY will dock your unemployment) and did a bunch of different things - short term contract assignments, court appointed work, taught a class at University of Maryland/University College, energy regulatory work for other attorneys and was able to start paying my loans after 3 months. Having a spouse who could pay basics helped, no doubt, and I have always been honest about that factor. At the same time, we were very frugal in the early years that I started my firm.

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