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Solos/Small Firms

New Solos Get Cheap Rents and Good Deals, But Will Clients Come?

Posted Dec 15, 2009 11:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Three Florida lawyers hanging out their own shingle say the bad economy makes it a good time to start a law firm.

Rents are cheap, and so is used office furniture, lawyer Maggie Jo Hilliard told the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record. Hilliard, a 2005 graduate of the Florida Coastal School of Law, worked as a prosecutor and in the private sector before striking out on her own last year.

Lawyer Elizabeth Oakes, who opened her own practice in October, told the publication she rented an office “for a couple hundred less than it was first quoted,” although the location does not allow outdoor signage. She also got a good deal on online legal research.

“I negotiated and researched different services, Westlaw, Lexis, Jenkins Law Library and Fastcase,” said Oakes, who is a 1994 graduate of the University of California Hastings College of Law. “My best advice is to hold out for as long as you can in negotiating price because the fee will come down.”

David Goldman, founder of the Apple Law Firm, said he wanted to open his own law firm ever since his first year at the Florida Coastal School of Law, where he graduated in 2006, according to the story. He practiced with another law firm after law school, and then rented office space from the firm. He also has previous business experience operating a computer and technology company.

His advice: “Always buy things outright and stay away from credit. It makes it a lot less expensive in the long run.” He also said lawyers need to keep an eye on the bottom line. “The biggest mistake people make is looking at cash flow instead of profits, how much money they actually have.”

All agreed the most difficult part of striking out on their own is finding clients. “Referral services are key,” Hilliard told the publication. “People you have worked with in the past, let them know you are out on your own and you’d appreciate anything they could throw your way.”

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