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Starting Your Practice on a Limited Budget: Hitting the Numbers

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On January 21, Rodney Dowell, Alan Klevan, Gabriel Cheong and I appeared together at a CLE Brown Bag presentation at the Boston Bar Association, which CLE was, by sheer coincidence (I know), titled as above. In taking the easy way out, as moderator, I was able to watch, as Rodney and Alan and Gabriel delivered just really tremendous presentations covering practice start-up on a limited budget. The thesis of the CLE program was, as follows: Finances are the 800-pound gorilla in the room for any start-up business, including law offices. Everybody would love to hit the lottery numbers and have a near-infinite stockpile of money with which to open their law firms. However, while it might not be the ideal circumstance, the fact of the matter is that most law firm start-ups will commence on a very limited budget. Is there a way, then, to get the most out of a shoestring budget, in the establishment of a law practice? Can a successful law practice begin at pennies on the dollar? I think that the clear answer is yes. Necessity breeds invention, and it is impressive what inventive people can do with a little bit of money these days.

Our program proceeded along the following outline: Take three start-up budgets: $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000, and have at it: create your own law firm, from scratch. Gabriel took the $10,000 budget, and led off; Alan received a fake check for $5,000 and was off and running; Rodney got something of the shaft, and received the paltry sum of $1,000, with which to create his new, ground-up law firm. Gabriel’s $10,000 established the baseline, really a ceiling, in this case, and Alan, and then Rodney, trimmed from there, to get to the point of most value at the halfway, and 1/10th, points, of Gabriel’s establishment.

In addition to smartly-crafted powerpoint presentations, and well-received larger discussions, there were several valuable insights from the panel members that I’d like to take a moment to share:

At $10,000 (Gabriel Cheong): Use resources made available to you by way of your bar association memberships, including specific member benefits and lawyer referral services. (We’ve written on lawyer referral services at the blog before, here, in particular.) Create viable business cards, and don’t pay overmuch to get them printed–look for deals. (For business card suggestions, check our post on the topic.) Create a unique and interesting logo. (CrowdSpring and 99Designs are good options for doing so.) Access as many discounts as possible. (We’ve previously posted, at the LOMAP blog, on accessible discounts, here.) Don’t use your entire budget, just in case. Make sure you still have access to a rainy day fund, when the rainy day man becomes you.

At $5,000 (Alan Klevan): When you budget, figure out what you need to subsist first. Your health and welfare is always primary. Work backwards, from there. Set your budget and subtract for most important purchases first. Use practice management software. (We discussed practice management program options at the LOMAP blog, late last year, here.) If you purchase one share of IBM stock, you can get the employee discount for a super-fast, and generally super, Lenovo laptop. (Check Alan’s powerpoint for more information; more on materials access later.) Once you start practicing, don’t forget to prioritize work-life balance; and, take care of yourself.

At $1,000 (Rodney Dowell): Remember how important it is to market your firm, and to network. Check out the LOMAP blog. (Hey, You’re on it!) Check out Rodney’s UnBillable Hour podcast. When considering your technology platform, start with your existing computer: just make it better–by buying more RAM. can help you to analyze your laptop, and to determine how much more speed you need. AVG is a free option for anti-virus protection; and, you can upgrade the product, should you need more power, for escalating fees. Generally, on a short budget, do what you can to get by for now, and become more sophisticated as you need to, as you gain more clients. And, if you have the money, more than a grand, that is, by all means, buy what you need.

Lots of good points, to be sure. And you can find many of these points, and much more information, at the program materials website, which you can access here. As to the “much more information” promised, there you’ll find all the program materials, including powerpoints, speakers’ bios, LOMAP’s Start-Up Kit and selected posts from the LOMAP blog. You’ll be able to download and save documents from the site.

Now, if you were unable to make the presentation, but wish you could have . . . you’re not necessarily out of luck. The BBA did record our presentation, and you can purchase the video through BBA CLE.

I’ll know that you’ve watched to the end of the video if you can tell me the precise point at which I broke down, and ate a couple of Fig Newtons (because I missed my morning snack, and was so damn hungry).

. . .

Liner Notes

When I write these “Liner Notes” sections, in order to keep myself sane, I usually focus on what music I have been listening to for the week, or whatever else pattternless drippings I can dredge up from my iTunes playlists. However, I should mention, now, that I also have a pretty decent stockpile of access points for material online, in my Favorites tab, on Firefox.

I’m something of a connisseur of the obscure, which you may have noticed . . . or which you may not have noticed . . . In my quest to know and understand more deeply, and to remember things that others have already deemed unimportant enough for their attention, I have a list of “Music” favorite on my browser, that I check back to from time to time. It’s sort of a potpourri of all things wack in popular music. I have informational pages, YouTube videos, videos on other platforms, lyrics, etc. Just a hodgepodge of downright dirty funk. I’ve got rarer versions of songs, and cool live versions of songs, and lots of them.

Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has just passed, and in the spirit of brotherhood, I would like to share some of those songs with you. Let’s start with the rarities.

(Funny story about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was in Charlotte for the
holiday, and I was walking around town. And, I saw a couple of road signs. One said E. Martin Luther King Blvd. and the other said W. Martin Luther King Blvd. And, I said to myself: “Self, Would those streets be named after Martin Luther King’s less famous cousins, Wilbur Martin Luther King and Ervin Martin Luther King?” Perhaps. But, the more like story is that the E and W stood for East and West, respectively.)

Longer Boats (Alternate Lyrics)” by Cat Stevens

But I Might Die Tonight (Deep End Version)” by Cat Stevens

Yer Blues” by The Dirty Mac

Trouble” by Eddie Vedder (Cat Stevens cover)

Millworker” by Eddie Vedder (James Taylor cover)

One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies (a pseudo-bluegrass version)

Sweetest Girl (Acoustic)” by Wyclef Jean, Niia and Jerry Wonda

Woodstock (Acoustic)” by James Taylor (Joni Mitchell cover)

Old Blue” by James Taylor (at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival)

A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress” by Richard Shindell

Tea for the Tillerman” by Chris Martin featuring Ricky Gervais (Cat Stevens cover)

Call Me the Breeze” by J.J. Cale featuring Eric Clapton (at the Crossroads Guitar Festival)

Lots of Leavin’ Left To Do” by Dierks Bentley featuring The Del McCoury Band (rehearsing for DelFest)

Should’ve Said No” by Taylor Swift featuring the Jonas Brothers

Billie Jean” by Coldplay (Michael Jackson cover)

Dark Horse (Demo)” by George Harrison

. . .

Trivia Question: What was the first album that featured printed song lyrics on the album jacket?

Trivia Answer: Next Week.

CATEGORIES: Law Firm Management | Law Practice Startup | Lawyer's Quality of Life | Marketing | Planning | Productivity | Technology

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