March 31, 2009

We've Moved!

You can now find Build A Solo Practice at our new home at Solo Practice University!  Come join me!

March 20, 2009

Come On In. The Wait is Over.


Solo Practice University is opening today at 12:00 noon EDT.

Join us!

March 09, 2009

Announcing Tuition at Solo Practice University™


We've announced our tuition for Solo Practice University.  Head on over to SPU and check it out!

March 02, 2009

We're Opening the Door to Solo Practice University™!

The door to Solo Practice University™ will open on:

Friday, March 20th at 12:00 noon EST

(12:00 p.m EST, 11:00 a.m. CST, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. PST).

This winter was dramatic for the legal industry and all legal professionals. So it seemed appropriate (and irresistibly corny) for us to open the door to Solo Practice University™ on the First Day of Spring, the beginning of a season traditionally associated with promise, rebirth, renewal and growth.

For those who remain unfamiliar with Solo Practice University™, it is a web-based educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students staffed with outstanding faculty ready to teach you how to create and build your solo practice into the 21st century. As Law is Cool noted:

The community will be composed of blogs, profiles, a messaging function, and interest-based user groups. SPU has already accumulated a faculty which rivals the size of some law schools, and is continuing to add to that number. It hopes to have a representation from a comprehensive list of professional fields by the time it is fully operational. Enrolment at SPU will be restricted to lawyers, law students, and recent grads; legal “outsiders” will not be admitted. Because the institution “is not a brick and mortar structure,” there is virtually no restriction on the size of both the faculty and the student body.

A very appealing quality of SPU is its thorough integration of social and professional aspects of legal practice. More than being just a “how-to” on practical topics, it will provide a means to network with other law students and lawyers, and will address issues like how to maintain a work/life balance.

We'll be posting more details including tuition costs as we approach our grand opening. So, if you are not already signed up to receive these notices, you can grab the RSS or drop your e-mail here.

Thanks again for your patience, your encouragement and your unbridled enthusiasm for what we are all going to create together.

Hope to see you on the first day of school at Solo Practice University™, Friday, March 20, 2009.

(If you'd like to see a video announcement of our opening, head on over to SPU right now!)

February 27, 2009

Going Solo; Confessions & Inspirations - Charles Cochran, Jr.

How I Went Solo and Rediscovered My Love of Practicing Law

Guest Blogger - Charles J. Cochran, Jr.

It was January 15, 2008 and I was driving downtown to attend a pupilage meeting of the Scanlon Inn of Court, a social group of attorneys and judges to which I belong. My days were full of thinking about the direction my practice had taken when my two major retainer clients had ended our agreements. One of them, a major source of my income, had been sold to a major chain. The other had been transferred to the children and I belatedly discovered that I did not have a good enough relationship with them. However things were looking up as I had taken a specialist exam with the Ohio State Bar Association, for labor and employment law, and I intended to market that certification to the best of my ability. I thought things were looking up.

It was rainy and overcast and luckily I was only driving about 55 miles an hour when a car spun over into my lane and I struck them. At the emergency room the doctors indicated that I had only ruptured two disks in my neck and that I was very lucky to have only suffered those injuries.

My life changed almost immediately as I found that I could not safely drive the 20 miles which I needed to go to the office every day. When I was almost involved in another accident within two weeks of the first, due to my physical problems with driving, I decided that driving to work was no longer a choice for me. Over the months that passed my physical condition did not improve and my partner was complaining of my absence from the workplace. A solo practice was born.

I guess you could say that my motives in becoming a solo were not “pure” since I really never had a choice. Over the past year I enjoyed the opportunity to work as a solo and I must say that it has been very interesting. I did not realize that I had not been taking time to really think about the practice of law. I had been responding to my case load but had never really thought about what the practice means or whether I was really satisfied in being an attorney. I had time to think and I am glad to say that I do like being an attorney.

I have practiced for the past year doing all of the work myself and I drew a great deal of satisfaction from that. In essence I intend to keep my solo practice because of the satisfaction which it gives me in working on matters without the interruption, costs, politics and travel time which you find in a normal office setting. It is amazing how much of the cost which is associated with having an outside office is not really necessary to do the job and do it right. It is very surprising to me but it appears my clients are not influenced by their need to come to my house now instead of the office. Further, I am surprised at the number of new clients who have hired me since moving my office home and it appears my new surroundings do not concern them either. The only real comment which I have received from any client is that it is very convenient to have an attorney who can meet with them in the evening or on a Saturday. I would not have provided this type of service before since I believe it would take away too much of my time with my family.

I still dress up when my clients come to call and when it is necessary to appear in public but I have found that it is not necessary to put on a coat and tie in order to practice law. I handled a Court of Claims Status conference, in a Vaccine case, just the other day over the phone and, dare I say, in my slippers.

While I cannot say that I am glad that I was involved in an automobile accident last year I can say that if it had not happened I would probably not have tried to become a solo and I would have missed out on a very rewarding experience.

by: Charles J. Cochran, Jr., Esq. and distilled from his blog Ohio Employment, Labor and Workers' Compensation Law Charles is based in Ohio and has been a practicing lawyer for 18 years.

February 18, 2009

I Might As Well Have Been Speaking Venusian....Why We Need Social Media Sherpas other week I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to guest speak at a small and intimate gathering of established small business owners and others (each one nicer than the next!) who sought me out specifically to address the subject "How to Attract Clients in a Down Economy."  I was flattered because only a third were lawyers, the rest in the financial field including trust officers at larger banks. This issue crosses professions. 

But a funny thing happened.  Somewhere along the way they started hearing Venusian. Let me explain.

If you are reading this blog then you are (maybe) already conversant in what a blog is, how to comment, have possibly explored Twitter and are trying to understand about differentiation and everything else I and others speak of on a regular basis. But those who are constantly engaged in social media get caught up in their social media bubble talking with others who use these tools.  As a result they forget we are a very, very, very small and distinct, yet progressive, minority within not only our profession but others. And to some degree we create an elitism with our 'knowledge' and quite often with our attitude.

The rest of the world just ain't talking our language....yet. And, as I keep learning, most are very timid and intimidated about learning the language of the internet and social media on their own.  They are looking for others who are reputable to help educate them.

As part of my responsibility to this group, it was requested I facilitate conversation on the topic. So I went around the room and asked each their business, their individual responsibility for attracting clients and if they had created a defined marketing plan to bring in new clients? Three quarters did not have any marketing plan, just felt a vague unease and mild concern knowing they needed to get new clients because they were seeing changes in their business.  They really weren't 100% sure if it was due to the economy.  But they still understood they needed to do something different, just did not quite know what. 

About two thirds had a static website, some were business card style.  One person had a website with a built-in blogging component which allowed updates but no commenting. He was the most advanced. Another was more creative and hands on attending trade shows and handing out a newly created educational pamphlet.  It was a very good educational marketing piece. They all understood the concept of education-based marketing.

When I asked if anyone used social media they looked at each other and asked collectively, "what is social media?"  This is the truth. And that's when I might as well have been speaking Venusian.  When I asked if anyone was on Facebook they suppressed some giggles. No one was on LinkedIn.

Only one younger lawyer was a little more familiar with social media and was actually on Facebook. I know this because when she heard I was going to speak she connected with me on Facebook and said she was looking forward to meeting me.  She is slowly easing into Twitter, too.  The person she works with showed evidence he is actively receptive to creating a blog and utilizing other social media platforms. He, while clearly intrigued by the concept, did not impress me as someone who would design his own blog and then spend the countless hours first figuring out the rules.  It simply would not be cost-effective for his business. He would hire a reputable sherpa.

But here is the other undeniable truth.  Most simply didn't know anything about blogging or tweeting or Facebook or LinkedIn and those who did were holding back because they were terrified of making huge and costly mistakes walking into an arena they simply have no familiarity with. 

The internet truly scares those who haven't learned how to use it beyond searching for a bookstore on Google. They understand it is about providing education to attract clients, something a yellow page ad can't do. And their goal is to attract clients, not entertain the masses with their witticisms or criticisms and sensational posts to drive traffic. They are the ones who seek out blogging and social media sherpas. 

Their goal is not to learn how to game the system, but simply to learn how to get in the game meaningfully without destroying their reputations or making huge missteps.  There is a difference.

Yesterday, a 10 year veteran solo practitioner who has an antiquated website told me he was ready to investigate pay-per-click programs to get his practice visible on the internet.  He then told me he and his wife didn't understand this 'fad' that is Facebook.  Is he 85?  No. He's 35 and stuck in the 20th century.

So, to all my new readers, who may not realize I was once a blogging newbie a very short while ago even though today I may seem to present to you as a veteran, I apologize. I've crossed the river with guides who helped me.

This is my advice if you are interested.

Do not be afraid to engage reputable sherpas who can guide you through the use of social media so you do not make costly professional mistakes.  Do not listen to people who tell you it's easy simply because it happened to be easy for them, or more interesting to them, or they are gifted writers and tripped over the finish line by happenstance and intuition.  Yes, some things come easier to others.  Separate fact from someone's personal opinion.  And know your own needs, where you want to go and then find the best way to get there that works for you.

Social media can be a minefield but to not get involved sooner rather than later can be costly in time, money and lost opportunity. Learn what you don't know from those who clearly do.  If you think hiring a good and reputable guide to make the journey a little easier is a smart move for you then do so.  Check around.  It is certainly easy enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is no shortage of people to ask. You still have to be the 'social one' in social media regardless the platform.  But at least you will learn how to do so with someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you are doing it correctly.  That's spending money wisely.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

February 16, 2009

"Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" - David H. Fuller

David H. Fuller is a solo practitioner in King County, Washington focusing on bankruptcy and criminal defense.  He's known as 'the tough times lawyer'.  Just open for six months he wanted to share his story. Most importantly, he also falls into the category of "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" because he did so within 18 months of graduation.  It is also a relocation story. So for those who want to understand how to relocate to a state where you know no one and still open a solo practice, Dave's story can help.

Guest Blogger - David H. Fuller

Becoming a solo practitioner meant practicing law as the sum of all my parts. I’ve been solo now for about six months. I practice bankruptcy and criminal defense in Seattle. My fear after two years as a paralegal in a large DC law firm, three years of law school, and a year of clerking for a federal judge was that the law sort of picked you up and put you in a compartment. If the compartment didn’t fit, you were out of luck. It seemed like who you were mattered less than how you fitted in to the legal world. I’d seen it with my friends and colleagues and I felt it during recruiting season at law school. What I discovered is that if you can tolerate the risk of being a solo, you can make your own comfortable place in the law.

I went to law school knowing three things: 1) if I was going to the trouble of law school, then this would be my career; 2) I knew the realities of a big firm life from being a paralegal, and 3) I really wanted to work with and help real people. I floundered for my first two years, not really knowing if law school was the right place for me and not wanting to work in Chicago, where the vast majority of my school’s alums end up. In my third year, I discovered bankruptcy law and began to form this crazy plan about working for myself.

I really thought that being a solo was crazy. I had never started a business before, I had never seen myself as an entrepreneur, I was deeply in debt to the federal government, and I didn’t have deep ties to any one place or legal market. I got lucky by getting a federal clerkship, which gave me a year to defer my decision.

During my clerkship, I searched for the kind of job that you get after a clerkship, which is to say a big firm job. My wife and I decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, but I found that in the foundering economy, hiring in Portland and Seattle had focused inward on graduates of local schools that had ties to the firms. The thing of it was this was a very half-hearted search. I did all the usual stuff, sending resumés and cover letters, phone calls, a couple of interviews, but I didn’t want what they were selling. I didn’t want hierarchy, document review, and the often futile fight for partnership.

When it became clear that no job offers were coming my way, I put my focus onto solo practice. I started working on a business plan, developing a practice plan, and trying to figure out how to be an entrepreneur. Along the way, I’ve had more than my fair share of missteps and made some cringe inducing mistakes, but six months in, I see a lot of potential.

Coming away from my first six months as a solo and my first six months as a practicing lawyer, I have one piece of advice: focus, focus, and focus. As a new lawyer and a new business owner I needed, and still need, to learn about a million different things. By centering myself on two areas of practice, I found that I was better able to pick up on the quirks of local practice, which gave me more time to figure out how to do things like file quarterly tax returns and find a good private investigator.

Being a solo let’s me be what I want to be, a lawyer. Everyday, I get to interact with people – some of them quite difficult – and help them make sense of their lives. Whether it’s a foreclosure or a criminal charge, I’ve been able to find at least one good alternative to abject surrender; and that makes me feel good.

I’ve come to believe that as long as I’m engaged with the law, engaged with my clients, engaged with ethics, and engaged with my community, my practice will succeed. I’ve always got my eye on the business side of things – money is nice – but I do believe that as long as I keep my eye on the law, strive to help my clients, then I’ll be a decent lawyer and make an honest living, and for that I am thankful.

David H. Fuller

1825 NW 65th Street
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 789-8751

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)

February 13, 2009

Going Solo; Confessions & Inspirations - Adrianos Facchetti

This is simply a great story of understanding you are a lawyer from day one after passing the bar and acting like one at every opportunity. 

How Ballet Made Me The Lawyer I am Today

Guest Blogger - Adrianos Facchetti

The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” – Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds

You probably read the title of this post and it immediately grabbed your attention. After all, what could ballet possibly have to do with being a lawyer? A lot—just not in the way you might expect it to.

You might be thinking that I’ll discuss the positive aspects of ballet and compare it to the practice of law. Or, if you’re more the imaginative type, you may believe that I’ll write about being a ballet dancer and how it prepared me to be a lawyer (tights and dance belt included).

Sorry to disappoint you ladies. Neither is true.

The truth is that ballet created the opportunity for me to start my own practice. How so?

Well, it all started in August of 2006 when my girlfriend invited me to a ballet she was performing in. At the time, to be honest, the thought of going to a ballet wasn’t at the top of my list of fun things to do on a Saturday night. What can I say? Attraction is a powerful thing. And so I went.

The ballet company held a mixer before the show to engage and attract donors. I went to the mixer and was introduced to an older gentleman who looked like a cross between Kojak and the Godfather. He spoke very deliberately and he asked a lot of questions. He took a liking to me and as we were walking into the theater he asked me a question that I’ll never forget, “Adrianos, I have a collections case. Can you handle it?” My first thought was, “no way! I have no idea what I’m doing! I just passed the bar and the thought of potentially going up against lawyers with 20 years or more of experience without a mentor or anyone to bounce ideas off of is out of the question!”

So I said “yes.” Why did I say yes, you ask?

Someone once told me that in business the answer is always yes. My response that day impacted my legal career more than any other before or since. That older gentleman became my anchor client, which allowed me to start my own practice. In fact, I am still handling cases for him, only now he introduces me to other people as his consigliere. I’m only 29 years old and look what I’ve done for this guy already.

  1. Handled all aspects of litigation in state court (including winning a trial);

  2. Appealed two decisions to the California Court of Appeals;

  3. Filed a case in District Court based on the Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act and other constitutional claims;

  4. Filed a Petition for Review to the California Supreme Court; and even

  5. Filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court

Working with this client has been wildly entertaining as well. One of his associates was an influential land developer and neighborhood political figure who insisted that we convene at Bob’s Big Boy for key meetings. Yes, the decision to petition the United States Supreme Court that I mentioned before was made over a Big Boy Double-decker!

Another time, after a particularly grueling mediation, opposing counsel squeezed my client’s hand so hard that he made it bleed. The attorney then turned to me and said, “kiss my ***” and stormed out of the room. A month later he offered me a job at his firm. True story!

My point is that you have to make the best of every opportunity and take action. Don’t be afraid! You never know what might happen . . . and let me just speak directly to the new attorneys out there. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m no dummy, but I’m not a genius either.

So go out there, make it happen . . . and support your local ballet company!

Adrianos Facchetti is an Internet defamation attorney in Los Angeles, California. He is Argentinian and Brazilian and speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. Born and raised in L.A., Adrianos is active in the community and is a member of the board of directors of the Media City Ballet.

200 North Fairvew
Burbank, CA 91505-3523
Tel:  (818) 636-8282
Fax: (818) 332-1255

Blog:       California Defamation Law
Twitter:   @adrianos

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)