Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

First Year Solo Numbers

My name is Matt Bailey and my website is https://mattbaileyl mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Good luck chief. midlaw01/19/18
Congrats on going solo! Try networking with other attorneys guyingorillasuit01/19/18
Don’t be afraid to bill more for private pay clients. greenhorn01/19/18
And I thought the court appointed rate was low in my state. themapmaster01/19/18
Wait, I'm confused about your old firm, did you do appointme thirdtierlaw01/19/18
I was on salary at my old firm but did a mix of appointed wo mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
I should add I've turned down more private hires than maybe mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Not sure if your marketing strategy makes sense. Yes, you wa nighthawk01/19/18
"very crass and will give you the reputation of the unrefine aknas01/19/18
Low level, low paying work is fine if I can make around $120 mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Good luck. Two comments on the website - I think in you tttnoregrets01/19/18
Congrats! Also update your website and bios. It looks cl isthisit01/19/18
The website definitely needs improvement. Right now, I use mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Congrats on building up your practice. I like your website b cranky01/19/18
How much did law school cost? Hope your practice is succe taxman12801/19/18
I had a full ride but I took max loans for living because of mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Updating the website to a different theme. mattbaileylawdotcom01/19/18
Yo, Nighthawk, you want crass adverts? Try the Texas Law inho2solo01/20/18
I spent the weekend switching from wordpress to wix. Wix is mattbaileylawdotcom01/21/18
Dont use it myself but I see alot of ads for SquareSpace. isthisit01/22/18
I have been at this many decades. You will kill yourself wor boomeresq01/22/18
Also, by working so cheap and taking volume without having t boomeresq01/22/18
My original thinking with the $200 fee is that I could pull mattbaileylawdotcom01/23/18
I agree with boomeresq. You don't want to price yourself dow thirdtierlaw01/22/18
Or you take the 5k and kill yourself but ignore the cheap ca boomeresq01/22/18
Posting at 2:01 p.m. CT. I actually love the flow of your si joydboyd01/22/18
Yeah it looks fine, save the tiny headshots. Are you adding teddyruxpin01/22/18
I need to get professional headshots. Also, the template ha mattbaileylawdotcom01/23/18
Its always good to see another TN attorney on the boards. I dietcokecan01/22/18
As far as appellate work is concerned, I agree 100% that wou mattbaileylawdotcom01/23/18

mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 1:05 am)

My name is Matt Bailey and my website is https://mattbaileylaw.com.

I am a second-year attorney, first-year solo. Given how much I benefited from solo threads on this website when deciding to make the leap to solo practice, I decided that I would give back by documenting my first-year numbers.

I went solo in mid-August 2017. My practice areas are criminal, juvenile, and appellate law. When I'm feeling masochistic, I do a small amount of deeds, wills, and family law.

From mid-August to December, I grossed a bit over $13k. My expenses were a ridiculously high $11k. Most of that was paying my former firm for government billables that hadn't been received but that were guaranteed to come in. The situation seems more dire than it actually is. Much of the $13k was for appointed work before I went solo. During 2017 since going solo, I billed at a pace of $75-$80k/yr (if kept up for the entire year). Since January, I've billed at a pace of over $90k.

The Tennessee appointed rate is $40/hr with a 2000 hour cap. I take as many criminal and juvenile appointments as I can get my hands on. A case takes roughly 8 weeks after it closes to pay out. In addition, I have been very aggressive on my pricing, charging as little as $200 per appearance for general sessions criminal defense. My main goals right now are survival (obviously) and market penetration. Given that I have a fairly diverse set of appointments from different judges supporting me financially, it's allowed me to be unconventional with my marketing. Right now, I have a "fatninja.lawyer" domain and related tshirts on the way. I regularly use memes in my advertising. While these are funny, the main goal is clicks, word of mouth, and improved seo.

In addition to unconventional approaches, I've also started a blog focused on Tennessee courts, particularly the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. It also has a special domain - "tncourts.blog"

Anyway, that's all for now. I look forward to sharing my numbers with you and appreciate any advice you may have.

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midlaw (Jan 19, 2018 - 1:19 am)

Good luck chief.

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guyingorillasuit (Jan 19, 2018 - 1:28 am)

Congrats on going solo! Try networking with other attorneys and building cross-referral networks. Older people in your practice area may refer you "cheapie" cases, and younger people in other practice areas may refer to you in hopes that you refer back to them. Some people I know have a habit of going out to lunch at least once a week with either an attorney they don't really know, or one that they haven't done lunch with in a long time. It works.

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greenhorn (Jan 19, 2018 - 1:28 am)

Don’t be afraid to bill more for private pay clients.

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themapmaster (Jan 19, 2018 - 1:56 am)

And I thought the court appointed rate was low in my state. Figures a red meat state like TN would pay $40/hour for indigent defense. Yikes. . .

Thanks for sharing, OP. Godspeed and let us know when you start getting clients that would otherwise go to boomer lawyers.

If you can keep a really low overhead, sounds like you'll be fine.

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 19, 2018 - 7:24 am)

Wait, I'm confused about your old firm, did you do appointment work while your employed there and then left before you got a check? So you had to pay them that money? If so, didn't you only make $2k as a solo?

To second the other poster, I thought my state was ridiculously low for appointed work. But it is a necessary evil, especially if you're just starting out. You meet a ton of judges, attorneys, and court clerks. It gets your name out there and when the court staff and clerks like you it's amazing how helpful they can actually be.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 8:02 am)

I was on salary at my old firm but did a mix of appointed work and private cases. I had a bit over $6k in appointed work that I had billed but that hadn't been paid out yet. Since I worked those hours while on salary, it was their money. I could have waited for it to come in, but some of the cases may take years to close (juvenile cases).

I haven't ran the numbers but my guess is $4kish of the $13k are appointed hours from my old firm. So, I received around $9k of my own money from mid-August through December. While I've received roughly $2k/mo, I've billed over $6k/mo. (from mid Aug to Dec 2017). It's just a matter of waiting until the cases close to submit my hours. It takes awhile to ramp up because some cases take awhile to close.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 8:08 am)

I should add I've turned down more private hires than maybe I should. There is a lot of family law work, but I am trying to focus on criminal law and keeping the judges that give me appointments happy (by not missing their court dates). While I could take more private hires in other areas and possibly earn more money right now, I'm trying to play a longer game to make a living off the areas that I enjoy.

My goal isn't $200k+. It's more like $100-$120k while only doing crim, juvy, and appeals (my true fav area).

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nighthawk (Jan 19, 2018 - 8:10 am)

Not sure if your marketing strategy makes sense. Yes, you want clicks. However, using fatninja and funny memes is very crass and will give you the reputation of the unrefined lawyer. This will cause you to always get the low level, low paying work. Perhaps you need a better marketing strategy, before your reputation as the sleaze-magnet lawyer is cemented.

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aknas (Jan 19, 2018 - 9:48 am)

"very crass and will give you the reputation of the unrefined lawyer


Reminds me of discussions in the 1970's about paid lawyer advertising in the Phone Book Yellow Pages....

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 3:26 pm)

Low level, low paying work is fine if I can make around $120k/yr. Appointments can generate up to $80k/yr (granted, it's hard to hit the 2000 hour cap). If I can get 16-17 $200 hires per month, then there is the other $40k.

I'm sure my marketing strategy will turn a lot of people away. The question is whether I can capture a decent % of the low income criminal market.

There is also the theoretical question of what happens if a good lawyer prices and markets as a sleazy lawyer. Does the sleazy reputation stick even if the attorney works his ass off for his clients? Or, does it get around that even though the lawyer is cheap, he's actually pretty good. I don't know. Nearly all lawyers go with the traditional approach. Act as professional as possible, charge as much as you can get away with, and bide your time until the old crop of lawyers retire. This may be for good reason. I guess I'll find out.

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tttnoregrets (Jan 19, 2018 - 11:50 am)

Good luck. Two comments on the website -

I think in your bio you may want to remove bullet points under education. Education Awards are great for resumes, but I don't know how useful it is for your website bio and when I initially saw it I thought it looked cheesy.

Stick with cases, publications, memberships, etc.

Also generally speaking, if one of your focuses is the website and clicks you should put more time into it. You don't have to spend thousands on a professional web designer. You can use something like wix.com to build a awesome looking website that will give the young/tech savvy vibe. You talk about humor and creative marketing, but your website looks like it was done an old timer.

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isthisit (Jan 19, 2018 - 11:54 am)

Congrats!

Also update your website and bios. It looks clunky but without the charm.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 3:28 pm)

The website definitely needs improvement. Right now, I use a template from wordpress.com's personal plan. I've thought about upgrading to a premium or business plan. I've also thought about trying another service. I'll look into wix.com and would love any other recommendations.

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cranky (Jan 19, 2018 - 4:49 pm)

Congrats on building up your practice. I like your website but it could be jazzed up with a few photos. How about adding a photo of the courthouse or your office? You might also want to take off your years of graduation for law and grad school too, so people don't realize you just graduated from law school less than 2 years ago. Good luck as you increase business this year.

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taxman128 (Jan 19, 2018 - 4:56 pm)

How much did law school cost?

Hope your practice is successful.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 7:26 pm)

I had a full ride but I took max loans for living because of PAYE.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 19, 2018 - 9:09 pm)

Updating the website to a different theme.

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inho2solo (Jan 20, 2018 - 4:39 am)

Yo, Nighthawk, you want crass adverts?

Try the Texas LawHawk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmZiqwRnwtM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL3MxAH-kDI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n01Q_GYsEU

And my new favoritie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7uW1c42YY

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 21, 2018 - 10:49 pm)

I spent the weekend switching from wordpress to wix. Wix is a lot better for a newbie website builder like myself. It was just a pain moving 100+ blog posts and formatting them. Oh well, it's done.

It's probably going to show the old site for another 24-48 hours.

I'm also going to tone the crassness down a bit and eliminate some of the low price advertisements. I still intend to offer a low price, but I think it may turn away clients I'm trying to reach.

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isthisit (Jan 22, 2018 - 10:31 am)

Dont use it myself but I see alot of ads for SquareSpace.

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boomeresq (Jan 22, 2018 - 7:28 am)

I have been at this many decades. You will kill yourself working on a such a low margin and have nothing to show for it years down the road. I have seen your economic model develop since the late 90s. We got screwed by legal zoom and the internet. Who needs an attorney when the internet serves the purpose free or cheap?

What has happen is downward price pressure which does not support any professional. Minimum wage especially with health insurance and a 401k is more lucrative as sick as that sounds.

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boomeresq (Jan 22, 2018 - 7:36 am)

Also, by working so cheap and taking volume without having the ability to pay for staff to deal with client's and process the work, you put yourself at risk of cutting corners, avoiding client's you can not stand, missing deadlines. That exposes you to malpractice or ethics complaints. It is not worth it for a crappy $200 fee.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 23, 2018 - 11:19 pm)

My original thinking with the $200 fee is that I could pull a lot of work from the PDs (which they don't mind). It only covers general sessions, so I can't get stuck with a trial. It's basically go to court, negotiate with the DA, if you can't reach a deal, have a short hearing, and then it gets sent to the grand jury. With a few exceptions, I'm done with the case after it gets sent to the grand jury.

The client would need another retainer for criminal court representation, and I've priced myself at market rates for that.

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 22, 2018 - 8:46 am)

I agree with boomeresq. You don't want to price yourself down too low. It may get people in the door, but those are the clients that will push back and refuse to pay anything more once their retainer is depleted. But there is nothing wrong with undercutting the competition. If your local market has most criminal defense attorneys billing out at $250 an hour, you'll seem like a "bargain" at $230.

I understand the temptation, you are thinking no money is worse than a little money. But I've seen this too many times. You get buried in work where you're making an actual hourly rate of like $10/hr. Then someone calls looking for representation because they heard good things about you, the guy has a $5k retainer in hand saying this is just to get you started. You look at your schedule and realize there is absolutely no way you can take on another client. This original guy goes elsewhere and then trashes you to his friends.

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boomeresq (Jan 22, 2018 - 9:08 am)

Or you take the 5k and kill yourself but ignore the cheap cases to give more attention to the 5k case which should have been a 10k case. You are stuck again and can not generate a decent cash flow and you get in trouble.

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joydboyd (Jan 22, 2018 - 3:03 pm)

Posting at 2:01 p.m. CT. I actually love the flow of your site as of now. Glossy and professional. I may invest a bit in professional shots for you and your assistant though. Otherwise, keep at it, and good luck!!

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teddyruxpin (Jan 22, 2018 - 3:45 pm)

Yeah it looks fine, save the tiny headshots. Are you adding practice area pages back?

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 23, 2018 - 11:27 pm)

I need to get professional headshots. Also, the template has the pictures small. I didn't see an option to make them bigger, but I imagine there is one.

I'm not sure whether I want to add the practice area pages back or not. A lot will depend on SEO. In several smaller counties, I moved up Google's rankings fairly quickly. However, in Cookeville, it's taken forever to move from the 60s to the 50s, which is too far off for anyone to notice. One of my main goals is move up Google's search engine ranking for Cookeville. If I can ever make it to the first, or even the second page, I'll be able to tell how effective the low price strategy is. If it's not effective, then I'll just back up and do what most attorneys do.

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dietcokecan (Jan 22, 2018 - 10:34 pm)

Its always good to see another TN attorney on the boards. I am a PD in West TN. A few thoughts:

Appellate work is overwhelming difficult to get into. Most practitioner's would prefer to handle their own appeals (more $$ for themselves) or farm them to really good firms who have people who specialize in appellate work. Cutting against you is the fact that criminal and juvenile law are seen as low-skill areas. I also think that your cheesy, meme-based advertising will give you a less than sterling reputation with the bar, which would be your primary referral source for appeals. IMO, if you really want to make into appeals, seek an appellate court clerkship, lateral into a mid-size firm, and handle everyone's appeals before going out on your own.

I don't think its realistic to make 120k a year if two-thirds of that is appointed work. I think if you really want to consistently make 120k+ a year, you need to do family law/divorce. I am going to really honest - I think most criminal lawyers only make about 60-80k a year unless they are really, really well-marketed and skilled.

I think if you switch the numbers around its much more doable. The rate being raised will really help you too.

On another note, you may want to join TACDL. I don't find it particularly valuable, but others have had wonderful experiences in the organization. Given that your near Knoxville, you may want to bounce ideas off more established attorneys in the monthly round table.

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mattbaileylawdotcom (Jan 23, 2018 - 11:43 pm)

As far as appellate work is concerned, I agree 100% that would be the best path. However, it's not an option for me given my life outside of law (married, two kids that need to live near grandparents, etc.). So, I'll have to make do with spotting issues in criminal and juvenile appeals (although I have one interesting gun range statute appeal coming up).

I've done a bit of family law, but I'm not a big fan of it. I would rather make 60-80k doing criminal than 120k doing family law.

My $200 defense is an attempt to break through that 60k-80k barrier. It may end up being a failed attempt. But there are some private attorneys who will roll into general sessions with 10+ cases. If I could get 5 general sessions cases a week, that would get me to my goal (and I could probably raise my price some along the way).

I think there is a market among indigent clients who can't afford a private attorney but don't want the PD. As an attorney, I know this is crazy. Normally, the PDs are the best or close to the best attorneys in the room. But, clients don't always get that. If I could get my name out there among the criminal masses as an option to the PD, I could make the 40-50k needed to reach my goal.

I'm a member of TACDL. It's amazing. The listserv is great.

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