NYC Virtual Office Lawyer, Vivian Sobers, goes from start-up solo practice without any clients, to employer, in less than two years by being available to referring attorneys 24/7.
We’re not talking about lucrative conflict cases from peers at AMLAW 100 firms, I’ve been taking the stuff that other solos and small firm lawyers are too busy for. The stuff that’s too small for them, or the problem cases that these attorneys, who have more established practices, don’t need to take any longer.
I take it all, and I’m grateful for the work.
Building a practice off the scraps of other firms is not new to the profession.
This certainly isn’t new to our profession. Some of my more pedigreed office-mates at Law Firm Suites have built lucrative 6 and 7-figure practices from work cast off from other firms. It’s how many of us, particularly those in the litigation game, get practices started.
My theory is that if I do right by a referring attorney on an appearance for a couple of hundred dollars, that the five-figure judgment enforcement may come next. And it usually does.
Being available whenever the opportunities come in gets you more cases.
For me, a Saturday or Sunday is just another day. And if you’ve ever been to lunch with me, you know that I will be sneaking off at some point, not to use the facilities, but to make sure that I don’t miss any calls or emails from my network of referring attorneys.
It’s really the most basic sales technique there is: beat your competition to the opportunity and you land more opportunities. It’s that simple, with the caveat that the opportunities don’t always come in during bankers’ hours.
When most other attorneys get to the point where I am in my practice, when work is coming in steadily every month, they would back off on some of these smaller projects, especially the appearance work, and they turn their phones off after hours.
But I know that between the networking I can do at the courthouse, and the goodwill I can create by doing a favor for the referring attorney when they are in a pinch, it’s as good as having money in the bank.
That’s why the other night when I was at night court in New York County, and I got a call asking me if I could cover an emergency appearance in Kings County that same night, I found a way to get it done.
To me, the smaller work is a loss leader into bigger projects, and I have no intention of slowing down in the near future.
But what about your personal life you ask?
Of course, being available to such a degree affects personal time, but I don’t’ mind the interruption.
I love what I do. I love my choice to be a solo. I love the law. I love the challenges. I love being self-employed.
I chose to be on this path in life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Problem is, there other people in my life — both personally and professionally — who do not share these same loves. Some of these people have even taken issue with it, which I have found to be frustrating. More on that next week.
Success led to a difficult choice.
This Summer, I got to the point where I had so much legal work to complete on account of being accessible, that it was was preventing me from being accessible for new work.
The all-to-common conundrum busy solo attorneys find themselves in at one time or another.
You’ve only got two choices, and neither is without risk. You can either pull back on marketing until you have breathing room, which means some fiscally lean times three months from now, or you can leverage the labor of others.
The former wasn’t appealing to me, so I took the leap into outsourcing some of my work to other attorneys in order to free up my time to continue to be available to my referral network.
Imagine that. Me, just two years into a solo law practice right out of law school…employing other lawyers. Not something I imagined possible when I was applying to dozens of associate jobs (without success) after graduation.
So this Summer I entered into this new phase in my career: lawyer, marketer and EMPLOYER.
I have to say, it was pretty satisfying.
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Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.