Monday, June 1, 2009

Suddenly, my own debt load seems just a little less — and I do mean a little less — burdensome

Too Much CreditImage by Andres Rueda via Flickr

The debt I have is supposed to be the "good" kind. The kind taken on by entrepreneurs willing to risk their financial future on a dream . . .
Well, putting aside the goodness or badness of my debt, here's something that made me feel like a towering symbol of responsibility by contrast:
U.S. Debt $668,621 Per Household

No that's not a typo: that's the statistic according to USA Today. The folks over there have done some really great work this week with another interesting interactive chart attached to an article about the nation's debt. If they keep this up, I'll have to stop considering it a useless free newspaper I step over when leaving a hotel room. The numbers it reports are staggering.

Again, I wish I could include the interactive chart it shows, but it breaks down the $668,621 by various components of federal government debt ($546,668) and personal debt ($121,953). Presumably that means this astronomical figure does not even include state and local government debt.

Well, that passed quickly. I'm back to looking at the mountain of my personal debt.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Follow your instincts when a client gives you the heebie-jeebies.

A colleague once told me that "you make your money on the cases you don't take." What he meant, obviously, was to screen your clients and your cases to make sure you're not wasting your time on work that will not make you money commensurate with the time and effort involved in the case.
One of the worst things about being a starving solo is the tension between knowing that you should follow that very wise adage and your need to sign up a client — and, as it inevitably seems sometimes, almost any client — willing to pay. That need produces the temptation to consider taking on clients you would give a strong shove out the door almost immediately if you were not so desperate. That temptation is strong, strong, STRONG.
Don't cave in to it. For your own sake, I'm begging you.
I say this from bitter — and I do mean bitter — experience. Sadly, in many cases, I succumbed to the temptation to evaluate a case way beyond the point I should have cut the prospect loose. I can't even begin to tell you the hours I've wasted looking at documents to see if a prospect had a case, only to finally decide that I should not have wasted my time.
Keep in mind, I'm not necessarily talking about the merits of a case, though the issue often arises in that context. I'm talking about turning down even good cases if there are signs the client will be difficult to deal with.
There are some signs thrown off by client prospects that, in my opinion, mean you should run, not walk, away from them. If they're in your office already, shoo them out the door. If you're on the phone or in an email exchange, simply tell then you can't take the case. You get the picture.
Here are just a few of the things to look for:
  • The prospect has already been represented on the case (or, worse yet, the prospect has gone through two or more attorneys already).
  • The prospect represented himself before consulting you.
  • The prospect dodges questions on ability to pay.
  • The prospect takes a long time to sign the fee agreement.
  • The prospect doesn't let you get a word in edgewise.
  • The prospect says every other lawyer he has consulted says he has a great case.
  • The prospect says "but" to every point you raise about the merits of the case.
I'll expand on the rationale for each of these in future posts. Unfortunately, I can explain not only the rationales, but can also relate personal experiences that resulted from being so desperate I was willing to overlook the signs and took the client anyway.
If I can do it without causing too much pain from the flashbacks, I'll post later about some of the situations I encountered because I did not follow my instincts. For now, just take my word for it.
To those of you starving out there with a client prospect that appears willing to pay you but whose conduct resembles any of the above, causing a little voice inside your head to say "Don't take this client! Don't take his case!" I say: listen to that voice, and show that prospect the door as fast as you can. Then devote some time to pulling in a better client.
Again, I'm begging you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hot or not, you can become a starving solo

Ran across this at
Subject: ran into an incredibly hot former classmate of mine the other day. She is a starving solo.
May 10, 2009 - 2:59 pm

everyone says being HOT gets you a law job. I have to agree that looks is important in law.
However I ran into a really really hot former classmate of mine from my TTT law school. Young, long blond hair, and with a great great figure.
No job. Starving solo....
I'm nowhere near "hot" — not that I think things are the same for men in any event — but I landed a plum job at a prestigious firm right out of law school in a down market. I guess I was "hot" in another way — near the top of my class.
Now I'm a starving solo. Just like the hot blonde (blondes aren't my thing, but I'll take this guy's word for it). 
And to her I say: "Welcome and good luck. When you're starving, use what you've got. Consider a divorce practice.  A nice photo in your ads, and I'm sure you could line up divorcing men all the way around the block."
I don't have that advantage!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What a check starts to look like

An Asher State Bank Check, from 1910sImage via Wikipedia

I signed up a new client a couple of weeks ago. As ususal, it started with a phone call. One or two calls and emails later, and voila — we were meeting to formalize my engagement.

I liked how squared away she was. She did exactly what I asked her to do for the first meeting. She brought two signed copies of the fee agreement, a signed copy of the form for me to replace her soon-to-be former attorney, and . . . the check.

Ah, the check. It was hard to miss. It was attached with a binder clip to the neat stack of papers she had in front of her, and she was sitting just across the table from me. It was right on top, and it was hard to take my eyes off of it. I'm pretty sure I was drooling, because after a few minutes it no longer looked like a check, it looked like this:

Actually, it looked more like a ribeye with the bone in.  But you get the picture.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

Aaaauuuugghhhh! I can't believe I jinxed myself!

I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.

The day after posting my first ever post with a "successes" labelthe very next day — the one and only truly well-heeled client I've pulled in over the last few years pulled the plug on the work I was doing for him. He wasn't dissatisfied with my work, he wasn't angry at my bills. But the work I was doing was just part of the big picture for him, and it wasn't necessary to continue it now.

I remember thinking as I typed out the post, "I hope this isn't like saying that a pitcher has a no hitter going." Turns out it was. It's not like I was bragging or anything. I was just tired of the blog being a downer.

There's still a chance this client could restart the engines on these projects. I'm hoping so.

In the meantime, I've got some other prospects, so I'll just keep working to sign 'em up. Oh jeez, I hope that wasn't a jinx, too!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

Several high-profile law bloggers seem to have (and actually use) a Twitter account: Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage (among other blogs), Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle and author of Solo by Choice, and Susan Cartier Liebel of Build a Solo Practice, LLC. Those are some real heavy hitters.
But I have to say, I am totally lost as to how this has any potential to help in marketing. Posting and following "Tweets" looks to this newcomer like a colossal waste of time. (Heck, even the guy who wrote about lawyer marketing on Twitter warns not to get too caught up in it.)
Nonetheless, I signed up under both my real name and as "starvingsolo." Obviously, I don't expect the starvingsolo account to bear any fruit, because it's anonymous. The account under my real name? We'll see.
But I'm still afraid this might be the best advice about using Twitter for professional marketing and PR.

I'm still here . . .

. . . but not struggling so much, lately.  Knock on wood.
Just got my fourth paying client off the blog a day or two ago, and I've been busier than ever since the beginning of December.
I went soft there, just for a week or so, with a fat client trust account (fat by my standards, anyway), thinking maybe things will work out after all.  Now I'm back in hunter-seeker mode, trying to zero in on new prospects.