Some law students dream of a gig that involves litigating from day one; that usually means working for the government.
Government experience -- whether working for a city, state, or the feds -- is certainly valuable, but it's often a stepping stone in a legal career. At least, it was for Gregory Mouton, Jr.
Before starting his own practice, Mouton was a trial specialist with the New York City Law Department's Special Federal Litigation Unit. While Mouton learned from his experience with the City, he wanted more. So he started his own practice in New York.
"I went into business as a solo because I wanted to work for myself and have more control over my future in legal profession," Mouton said.
Mouton's public sector days were filled with civil rights claims, and just one client: the City itself. These days, he represents businesses and individuals in state and federal matters, which still include a large number of civil rights cases.
After earning a reputation as an aggressive litigator in the City Law Department, finding clients for his boutique litigation practice was easy: Referrals started rolling in from clients, former clients, and even adversaries.
Of course, leaving a government job for self-employment comes with startup costs. So what should a new firm splurge on?
Every practice is different, but Mouton suggests that solo-bound attorneys consider purchasing a printer, scanner, computer, external hard drive/file storage system, and additional phone line.
When purchasing hardware, Mouton recommends thinking about your practice's unique needs. A litigator, for example, might find a portable printer useful for hearings. For Mouton, the best tech investment was a Microsoft Surface tablet. "It is completely versatile, you can use it anywhere, it's easy to carry -- as a solo, you can be anywhere on any given day -- and it has most everything you need on it."
Then there's the issue of office space. Attorneys who aren't ready to lease office space could consider renting a virtual office. Some cities -- like New York -- even have startup incubators that offer budget-friendly shared office space for new businesses.
The good news is that a good attorney can start making a profit in a short time. Mouton, for example, dipped into his personal savings to start his firm in April 2012. Now, less than one year later, he says his boutique practice is operating in the black.
Does that mean that every jobless JD should hang a shingle? Not quite.
According to Mouton, new graduates need to have deep ties to the community where they want to practice if they want to start as solos. "Otherwise, they should seek to get the skills that law school should have taught them by getting a regular job."
- Practice Management Center (FindLaw)
- 10 Things You Should Know About Solo Practice Before You Start (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- What Incorporation Structure Is Best for a Solo Practice? (FindLaw's Strategist)