Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

My first month as a solo (an on-going journal...)

Greetings, all! I am just wrapping-up my first month as a so nycop04/24/19
That's awesome. I'm an immigration attorney in NYC. So I'm r isthisit04/24/19
Thanks! I’ll send you an email with my contact info! nycop04/24/19
Congratulations! jeffm04/24/19
Awesome. Congrats. How do you feel handling these things superttthero04/24/19
Thanks for the encouragement, all! To answer the questions nycop04/24/19
Thanks for answering. Good luck going forward. I wou superttthero04/24/19
Thanks, Supertthero. Are you in/near NYC as well? nycop04/24/19
Nope. I practiced immigration in Illinois for sometime but n superttthero04/24/19
Super good start. Very impressed. imoothereforeim04/24/19
Congrats! You seem very organized and proactive in marketin catwoman33304/24/19
Hi Catwoman, yes, FB has low quality calls! Mostly people lo nycop04/24/19
Re meeting clients in coffee shops, be wary of waiving attor ipesq04/24/19
Sounds great for a very first month! Appreciate that you' wutwutwut04/24/19
Nycop, have you also considered representing cops in police catwoman33304/25/19
Hi Catwoman, Most cases involving cops getting sued are ha nycop04/25/19
Sounds like you've got it all covered! catwoman33304/26/19
Too early to tell, but thank you:-) nycop04/26/19
nycop (Apr 24, 2019 - 9:36 am)

Greetings, all! I am just wrapping-up my first month as a solo and I'd like to share with you my experience. Before I do, I would just like to thank JDUers for giving me advice all these years--special shout-out to Greenhorn, who I meet-up with several times and got to shadow before law school.

Background: middle-aged career changer. I spent less than 40k for my law degree and graduated with 0 debt. I passed the bar in 2018.

Now, to my first month as a solo:

The launch: I announced my solo practice about a month ago on social media (Facebook). I have over 2000 "friends" and this got the word out quickly. I also created a website and another FB page for my firm. I had 1000 business cards printed and 2 weeks ago I spent ~$117 on FB ads. For office space, I have a Regus account--5 office days plus use of an address for $279/month. I plan on meeting people in coffee shops or their home first, if they want, to not waste the office days. If I sense resistance or think it would not be credible to offer a coffee shop meeting, I book the space. Total outlay (I'm pro-rating the website cost since it was a 3 year commitment) ~$600

Practice area: Immigration, Criminal Defense, and Wills/uncontested divorces--I am just outside NYC, but I target clients in NYC, primarily

Pros: some of the things I have going for me that might make it easier for me (I hope) that other new graduates do not have are a pension, knowledge of a 2nd language (though not Spanish), and a prior career I can hopefully lean on to tap for new business.

Results: ok, let's get to the numbers. After one month, my gross income is $3,700. I probably worked an average of 25-35 hours a week for this, marketing mostly. Breakdown is as follows:
$2000 for an immigration petition--referral from a prior contact
$600 to get certified copies of paperwork--got this from my free AVVO account
$600 for an administrative hearing--from a friend of a friend who saw me on FB
$300 to review a contract--client saw my business cards in one of the ethnic neighborhoods I marketed to
$200 for fighting a speeding ticket--from FB friend of a friend

Gross: $3700. Net ~$3100

Now, more details on the above and future commitments mined from my first month of practice: after the launch, 3 friends promised me work right away to do their wills or an uncontested divorce...none of them are ready yet since they are busy with other things, so this is potential work down the road.
I got 5-6 phone calls from the FB add, 5 of them was a waste of time/tire kickers and 1 might be engaging me on work that will cost $900. I also got phone calls from referrals (friends of friends) for wills and more immigration work.
So leads that have a reasonable chance of panning out on month 2, 3, or beyond that were developed in month 1 are:
$3000 for wills/POA etc from a few people
$3000 for 2 uncontested divorces
$2000 for immigration work
I'll let you know next month if any of the above commit. I also expect for more calls to come in from my initial launch. I am constantly posting on FB and answering a few questions here and there on AVVO.

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isthisit (Apr 24, 2019 - 10:12 am)

That's awesome. I'm an immigration attorney in NYC. So I'm rooting for you!

[email protected]

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nycop (Apr 24, 2019 - 12:47 pm)

Thanks! I’ll send you an email with my contact info!

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jeffm (Apr 24, 2019 - 10:24 am)

Congratulations!

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superttthero (Apr 24, 2019 - 10:26 am)

Awesome. Congrats.

How do you feel handling these things law school didn't teach? Also, and I mean this earnestly, not as a gotcha, do you feel your clients are getting a fair deal for their money?

On immigration, I'm sure it's come up, but the Kurzban book is a must investment. I'd say an AILA membership as well, but I appreciate that you are mercilessly trying to keep costs down.

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nycop (Apr 24, 2019 - 12:28 pm)

Thanks for the encouragement, all!
To answer the questions above:
The first 2 years of law school did not prepare me one bit for the real world of law practice. The final year was more useful because of clinics and internships.
I learned the basics of immigration law from an internship and post-graduation mentoring.
With regard to clients getting their value, I believe they are getting a fair deal. My limited immigration practice are somewhat simple cases—I don’t do or advertise removal defense. My 2k client was a marriage-based petition, so I-130, 485, 765, advance parole, and all the supporting forms, etc. I’ll also be representing them with any RFE (though I won’t be going with them to the interview).

I turned down/advised a potential client against filing for asylum since he did not have a good case; he’s looking to adjust from his student visa and is from a stable country. He had no history of violence against him, no credible threat other than a general fear of crime/terrorism, etc. basically, a weak case. I know some lawyers will sign him up anyway, but I don’t want to be that one. I did part with telling him that if he did decide to file a Hail Mary asylum application pro se and he wanted me to review it, I could for a flat-fee of $500-750.

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superttthero (Apr 24, 2019 - 12:39 pm)

Thanks for answering.

Good luck going forward.

I would brush up on deportation defense. In some ways it can be more straight forward, particularly vs. complicated petitions.

There are complicated removal defense cases that require a lot of work and experience, but for some of them it's not very different from a filling out a petition and handling a script in court.

- 42b cancellation of removal where the only issue is the hardship is relatively straight forward. You give your client the realistic odds and tell them you're providing them with a small chance and time to get their affairs in order. Unless there is a real extreme hardship that gives you a strong case.

- Cancellation for LPRs are generally can be very easy to win. For what it's worth, during my year of immigration practice I won every LPR cancellation case I had a hearing on the merits on, and lost every single 42b I had.

- Asylum I'd stay away from. It's a shyster practice or very difficult for legit cases. Once you do other types of cases, I'd figure out if you want these and which ones are worth your time.

- There is also money to be had in cases where you do most of the work in criminal or family court either through SIJ visas or through vacating an old sentence.

Don't shy away from deportation defense if you have ties to a community. Most people I know start in removal defense and try to move their practice towards a petition-based practice.

Again, good luck!

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nycop (Apr 24, 2019 - 12:49 pm)

Thanks, Supertthero. Are you in/near NYC as well?

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superttthero (Apr 24, 2019 - 1:31 pm)

Nope. I practiced immigration in Illinois for sometime but now I am in Florida--not at all involved with it.

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imoothereforeim (Apr 24, 2019 - 11:48 am)

Super good start. Very impressed.

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catwoman333 (Apr 24, 2019 - 6:01 pm)

Congrats! You seem very organized and proactive in marketing yourself and services.

You didn't ask for advice, but I've not found FB and Avvo very helpful in getting solid clients probably because almost everyone has those accounts now and they attract so many people who either want free advice or have weak cases (bad for attys like me who work on contingent fee basis). IMO, your best bet is to keep focusing most efforts on targeting past contacts or happy clients for referrals.

BTW, you mention you passed the bar in 2018. Just curious, how did you pay the bills last year before going solo now?

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nycop (Apr 24, 2019 - 9:30 pm)

Hi Catwoman, yes, FB has low quality calls! Mostly people looking for free advice or have no ability to pay. I have a $900 client who committed paying me fully this Friday. Not that great, but it’s a start (easy case, just basically writing a follow up letter and going over an RFE from USCIS). Once the referrals start coming in I’ll probably drop the low value clients from FB.
Right after graduation I did some security consulting work for a friend. The job paid a lot better than my first month, but then again I’m now my own boss, so no regrets!

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ipesq (Apr 24, 2019 - 7:56 pm)

Re meeting clients in coffee shops, be wary of waiving attorney client privilege. If others can hear your conversation, you might waive privilege.

Good luck! I admire your gumption.

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wutwutwut (Apr 24, 2019 - 8:20 pm)

Sounds great for a very first month!

Appreciate that you're taking the time to update us and hope you keep it up.

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catwoman333 (Apr 25, 2019 - 7:52 pm)

Nycop, have you also considered representing cops in police brutality or wrongful termination personal injury claims filed in civil court? It seems a natural fit for someone with your unique previous career and contacts. Just a thought...

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nycop (Apr 25, 2019 - 10:16 pm)

Hi Catwoman,
Most cases involving cops getting sued are handled by the city. It they don’t indemnity the cop then the union does.
The unions also handle the initial line of duty applications. Once it’s denied and final then they have to get their own attorney to do an article 78. I wouldn’t mind learning those.
I’m slowly advertising to active and retired cops/family of. I offer to do wills, POA, health care directives, prenups, etc.
On my website I list personal injury—if I do get any calls I have an attorney lined-up who will take it and give me a cut.

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catwoman333 (Apr 26, 2019 - 2:41 pm)

Sounds like you've got it all covered!

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nycop (Apr 26, 2019 - 2:53 pm)

Too early to tell, but thank you:-)

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