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TDot’s Tips: Your first 3 purchases as a n00b solo

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 14, 2013 in TDot's Tips

OK so the whole “hour a day for the business” thing has worked out better for the business than the blawg :beatup:

But there are now two (2!) entries posted within the past 30 days, so in a way the activity here has actually increased +100% :P

My still-sorta-hiatus has been the byproduct of the solo practice, which has somewhat-bizarrely produced more (paying!) work than I thought I’d have at this point.1

And that whole “Hey! T. hasn’t been evicted yet!” has in turn prompted some former classmates and law:/dev/null readers to ask for any insights I may or may not have on how they can get started themselves. Since I’ve been telling them all to follow the same first few steps — after paying your taxes of course — I’m throwing it into another one of these entries.

So are you a new or aspiring n00b solo like me?2 Here are the first 3 things you need to get started:

  1. Your own domain name:3 It’s 2013; the internet stopped being new years ago. There is now -0- excuse for you still using smartsexyesquire@gmail.com as your professional email address.4

    Domain names typically cost less than $1-per-month. GoDaddy in particular always has dozens of coupons you can find with a quick Google search, often letting you buy a domain name for $3 or less. I’ve got dozens of domains registered for my law firm that aren’t even being used yet, just because they’re cheap and I might find a use for them later.

    Finding a hosting provider (a company that gives you some hard drive space on a computer somewhere in the cloud, to which your personalized domain name will point) is cheap too. I’m currently paying $9.95 a month at DreamHost, which hosts all of my domains — including lawdevnull.com — and comes with an email server preconfigured.5

    So for a $11 a month and less than 10 minutes of startup time, you can have a much fancier smartsexyesquire@mylawfirmname.com. Clients expect a custom name over an Gmail / Yahoo / Hotmail email account, so don’t disappoint them. ;)

  2. Dedicated contact information: For clients to hire you, they first have to know you’re a lawyer. And for them to know you’re a lawyer, someone somewhere (probably you) has to tell them how to contact you.

    And the odds are good you don’t want to give them a home address or your mobile phone number, especially when they start referring others to you and those referrals refer other referrals. Before long you’ve got people from all walks of life knowing where you live, even if their legal needs and your practice areas don’t match up.

    Fix that problem before it starts by getting dedicated contact information for your law office. Lots of new attorneys use Google Voice for free and swear by it; I was one of the unlucky ones6 — folks who called my Google Voice number would sporadically get a message that my number was disconnected, which I discovered is a not-uncommon problem — but ported my Google Voice number over to Verizon Wireless and pay ~$20 a month for unlimited minutes using their Home Phone Connect service. Either way, a dedicated phone line is fairly cheap.

    Then you need an address. A Post Office box is fine starting out, and costs as little as $2 a month depending on where you’re located and what size you get. If you feel the need to get a physical office that works too, but until you get a stream of clients you’re usually fine meeting folks in a municipal library or a Starbucks or your client’s place of business (many clients love not having to go anywhere). The key point is not giving out your home address.

  3. Business cards: I don’t care what anyone else tells you about those .vcf files, QR codes, or whatever fancy new-fangled foolishness gets advocated as the latest “most awesome thing… ever!” for distributing contact information — nothing will ever beat the sheer versatility of business cards in your pocket.Keep a stack on you at all times, no matter where you are. Walking the dog? Have cards in your pocket. Going through drive-thru to get dinner? Have cards in your pocket. Filling up your car at a gas station? Have cards in your pocket.7

    On any given day you will visually cross paths with dozens of people, even if you don’t realize it. 20-30 people a day at least (unless you lead a very boring life). That translates to thousands of people you don’t know and have never met, somewhere within handshake-distance in any given year.

    500 of these raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    500 of these two-color raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    Now those folks might not even need a lawyer themselves; many of my cards get handed out to folks who just want to connect to talk about my alma mater or sports or my law school. But if just 1 of those thousands of people becomes a paying client, or sends a paying client your way, you’ve paid for your cards for the entire year.

    And they’re inexpensive too: you can get fancy raised-ink cards like mine from T-Rex Cards for as little as $10, or also-fancy full-color cards from Moo for a bit more.

Get these three things knocked out, and you’ll have everything you need to effectively market your nascent law practice :D

That’s it for this entry y’all — enjoy the rest of the week! :)

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Don’t confuse “paying” with lucrative of course — I’m still broke, I’m just not getting evicted or going deeper into debt at the moment :beatup: []
  2. And yes I realize it’s no longer hip to use “n00b” but (1) I don’t care and (2) I don’t care ;) []
  3. You’ll notice I didn’t say “your own website” — since the TGD Law site still hasn’t been substantively updated since I opened the firm back in October, I’m not entirely sold that having a fancy website is necessary to do well. Time will tell I guess. []
  4. Amazingly, I’ve actually been handed a business card (from a real lawyer!) listing “smartsexyesquire@somerandomdomainthatwasntgmail.com” as their email address. And folks think *I* have a big ego… []
  5. I’ve also started offering other attorneys a hosting plan through my law firm in case they’re intimidated by the geek-speak, using DreamHost on the backend. []
  6. Sound familiar? See here or here or here. :mad: []
  7. True story: I got randomly asked by another refueling motorist if I was an attorney just last week :crack: He saw the back of my car (which, admittedly, is bedecked with both NC State and NCCU Law stickers and a corresponding license plate cover) and wanted to know what area of law I practiced, because he advised entrepreneurs on how to start their businesses and they often needed an attorney. It was crazy. []

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“[O]ne hour a day for the business”

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 26, 2012 in The After-3L Life

Merry (belated) Christmas y’all :)

I know, I know — law:/dev/null‘s been dormant for over a month now. It’s gotten so bad the spammers don’t even care anymore, leaving me only 1 spam message to clean out over the past month :beatup:

But I’m working on getting that turned around (seriously!) ;)

A couple weeks ago EIC and I had lunch with one of my attorney mentors,1 and I got ribbed a bit because my law practice is still in about as much disarray as it was last month.

We’ve moved up to around 23 clients since opening and advanced to 11-0 in the adversarial stuff.2

Finally got my office decorated a smidge :)

Finally got my office decorated a smidge :)

But the TGD Law website hasn’t had any work done on it since I played around with it during my Thanksgiving trip to visit Nan and Pops, I still haven’t ordered envelopes or letterhead, and my QuickBooks accounting is a work-in-progress.

At least I got the office spruced up a bit?

Anyhow, so while I’m being teased at this lunch for the by-the-seat-of-my-pants operation of my law firm — and me arguing in rebuttal that my neglect of the business side of things is fine so long as I stay organized on the law side of things (which I seem to do quite well) — my mentor dropped one of those questions you just know someone’s going to ask because there’s really no rebuttal to it:

“Are you telling me you can’t even set aside one hour a day for the business?”

Aaaannndd after me failing to come up with something witty in response I of course had to concede that I could. Hence, resurrecting law:/dev/null. :D

[And yes, I fully realize you might have done a ::facepalm:: right then because my personal blog is not law firm business. I know. I’m setting aside an hour for the law firm too, plus time for NC SPICE.  I just figured since I’m going to make an effort to better-regiment my time, I might as well try to resume the enterprise I spent the better part of 4 years now creating ;) ]

Now I’m not sure yet how often law:/dev/null will be updated going forward. Daily is probably unrealistic, but at-least-weekly sounds doable. So take this entry as a heads up, cross your fingers with me, and hopefully I’ll talk with y’all more soon.

Until then, have a great night! :spin:

  1. I’ve been blessed to have a handful of these — in addition to my law school professors — and folks I tell you they are absolutely vital if you plan on going into solo/small practice. Vital. For srs. []
  2. Unofficially 12-0, but since the dismissal isn’t getting filed until January I won’t count it until then. God willing I’ll be 14-2 at worst by the time January is done… :surprised: []

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The Hectic Life of a Low-Wealth Entrepreneur

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 11, 2012 in The After-3L Life

I’m still here!

It seems like at least once a week I say to myself “I really need to start updating law:/dev/null regularly again”… I log in to the WordPress admin interface… clean out the spam comments and update outdated plugins…

…then promptly get sidetracked by something and never actually write anything down :beatup:

Life over the past month has been crazy. Certifiably nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many things going on simultaneously in my life. Ever.

The law firm’s been up-and-running for a smidge under two months, and I’ve had around 13 clients in that timespan. The crazy part is that I’ve represented those clients despite having no business cards, no website, no letterhead or envelopes or advertising — just my LinkedIn profile, an unpublicized Facebook page, and the Twitter account I barely use.1

I’m also 6-0 in adversarial proceedings, which is just downright surreal. Had you told me back when I got my license that I’d go my first two months without losing a case, I’d have called you crazy. But I’m now 3 foreclosures, 2 misdemeanors, and 1 breach of contract down without a losing client. I know the first loss comes to everyone eventually but I’m over-preparing in the hope I can delay the inevitable as long as possible ;)

Panorama of the new place right after moving in

Speaking of the law firm, I also migrated out of my apartment into a bona fide office. Trying to work from home was cheaper but incredibly inefficient between the dog and the lack of dedicated space for office-related work. The office is huge (~223 square feet), half a block to the Durham Courthouse, and cheaper than damn near everything in downtown Raleigh or Durham — and a testament to the utility of both networking and poker. :surprised:

How so? Well one of my friends from Student Senate connected me to a Raleigh attorney to talk about NC SPICE. I had lunch with him, and he recommended I talk with a particular Durham DWI attorney. I had lunch with him, and he invited me to join his friends at a weekly poker night they have on Mondays. After losing my entire buy-in one week and half my buy-in the next week, I randomly asked him if he knew any attorneys with spare offices they wanted to sublease.

Turns out he had two, including the one I’m in now :spin:

So I’ve got an office, conference room, full kitchen, lobby with receptionist, free parking, all right next to the courthouse! Plus the place is huge enough that I’m now splitting it with EIC, who’s getting ready to start her own practice as well.

And speaking of NC SPICE and splitting things, there’s been some developments on that end as well. I got a response from the Internal Revenue Service that it would take them 9 months just to assign our 501(c)(3) application to somebody for review, then that person would have 90 days to make a decision — meaning we’ll get no update at all whatsoever until June 20132 :crack:

So at our most recent Board of Directors meeting last week, the Board authorized me to cleave the group into two: the education-related components will stay in the nonprofit, and the office support services will get rolled into a new corporation. Since then I’ve lined up 4 investors interested in getting the program off the ground, and we’ve got our first in-person interest meeting and focus group slated for 12/12/12 at 6:00pm.

We’ve also got around 216 people following the NC SPICE Facebook page, and a hair’s breadth over 200 followers on the NC SPICE Twitter feed.

The only downside is that I’ve now gone from running one nonprofit 6 months ago to running a nonprofit, a corporation, and a law firm all at the same time :beatup:

A long overdue lifestyle change. Just 18lbs to go!

On the personal side, my quest to get back in shape is still on target with me down -27lbs since June 30th. I don’t think I ever wrote the original entry I meant to write on that, but during bar prep my good friend Tim Lipka (Mr. QC) from NCSU’s Student Government passed away from a heart attack at age 25. I’d just had drinks with him when I was in DC for the Howard Moot Court Competition back in February, and we’d talked on Facebook about grabbing lunch when he came to town before the DNC convention in Charlotte. His passing was coupled with an unexpectedly high blood pressure reading I got during a regular checkup the day before, so the two of those things combined freaked me out enough to get my life in order.

More exercise and less food has been the lifestyle change for the past few months, and I’m slowly making progress. My target weight is 175lbs so I’ve got a bit more to go but it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I imagined thus far — and my blood pressure is coming back down slightly, hopefully meaning I’ll be able to avoid medication.

Aside from my personal health, life is good. I’m still contributing semi-regularly over at JD Oasis. Samson is still happy and healthy. And even though I’m broke financially I know things are going to pick up as time goes on.

That’s all I’ve got for this entry, but hope to (seriously) have more some time soon. I hope all of you have had an amazing weekend, and enjoy the week ahead! :D

  1. Turns out my “no frills and no bullsh*t” reputation from years of overexposure in N.C. State‘s Student Senate, the UNC Association of Student Governments, and NCCU Law‘s Student Bar Association has helped with client development — which is odd considering those groups each had plenty of people in them who are now lawyers :crack: []
  2. I thought the purpose of us having to pay $850 just to apply was to ensure the IRS had adequate reviewers to look at these things in a timely fashion, but apparently I was wrong… []

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