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cloud2010

Solicitor Solo AMA

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I started my own practice in June, and currently have 4 staff. I share 2 floors of an Office Building with 4 other lawyers. 

I did one of these when I was still an associate at a Mid-Sized firm. 

My practice area is mainly real estate and corporate law. I also have been doing a bit of Trusts and Estates.

Ask me anything.

 

 

 

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This interests me greatly (may wish to do the same thing some day). Thank you for starting this. I have many questions:

1. Jurisdiction (including size of market - GTA, small city, regional rural area, suburban, etc.)?

2. Year of call?

3. Startup capital required? Did you get a LOC?

4. Operating costs?

     a) related: do you share the four staff with the other lawyers, or are the practices completely separate but for the shared space?

5. Are you looking to specialize more over time? What's the long-term outlook for your shop?

6. Things you would do differently, things you recommend?

7. Are the other lawyers in your building solicitors? Are you able to get mentorship from them?

8. What programs do you use for estate administration (related: do you prepare estate accounts, or do you farm those out?)?

9. What do you use for practice management?

10. As a solicitor, how do you handle storage issues? Do you endeavour to be as paperless as possible, do you have onsite storage?

11. Do you also do Estate Planning, given it's a complementary practice area?

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How long did it take you to get the hang of doing real estate? Do you think it's possible to focus mainly on other areas of law (like criminal/civil litigation) but to occasionally (and competently) take on real estate files?

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5 minutes ago, Mountebank said:

This interests me greatly (may wish to do the same thing some day). Thank you for starting this. I have many questions:

1. Jurisdiction (including size of market - GTA, small city, regional rural area, suburban, etc.)?

2. Year of call?

3. Startup capital required? Did you get a LOC?

4. Operating costs?

     a) related: do you share the four staff with the other lawyers, or are the practices completely separate but for the shared space?

5. Are you looking to specialize more over time? What's the long-term outlook for your shop?

6. Things you would do differently, things you recommend?

7. Are the other lawyers in your building solicitors? Are you able to get mentorship from them?

8. What programs do you use for estate administration (related: do you prepare estate accounts, or do you farm those out?)?

9. What do you use for practice management?

10. As a solicitor, how do you handle storage issues? Do you endeavour to be as paperless as possible, do you have onsite storage?

11. Do you also do Estate Planning, given it's a complementary practice area?

1. Outside of the 416 but could be considered a big city. 

2. I guess I am a 3rd year call now (officially in June?).

3. I had access to a 15k LOC (my student loans were with Scotia, and they had a program where after you finish your articling, they can give a 15k LOC at prime + 0.5%). I ended up not really using this. My total start up cost  was about 10k including deposit for lease, computers, furniture, etc. Also when I first started, I only had one assistant (paying) and a few friends who volunteered to help me out (like things with IT, etc.)

4. These 4 staff are my own. The other solicitor also has 4 staff, and the litigators share two. Operating cost per month is approximately $20k (including my salary).

5. Possibly. Long term I want to get into more complex transactions. Basically my practice is about 60% real estate, and 40% corporate law and commercial real estate. I am planning to hire an associate to do my residential real estate files so that I can focus on my corporate work, and more complex real estate deals. 

6. I would not have used my PSLOC to pay for my wedding. Still paying it back to this day.......

7. Yes, and I left my old firm on good terms, I call my previous mentors and Partners occasionally for advice. I still receive good referals from them. 

8. I have Estate-A-Base (this is what I used at my previous firm), but I generally farm these work out. Same with Estates Planning. I currently only do it for certain clients (for example, developer/builder clients, brokers, etc.).

9. Clio 

10. I have access to storage in the basement of our building. Eventually I have to move excess files off-site. I do have a scanned copy of all the files I have opened. 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, neymarsr said:

How long did it take you to get the hang of doing real estate? Do you think it's possible to focus mainly on other areas of law (like criminal/civil litigation) but to occasionally (and competently) take on real estate files?

Not long. I had connections in the real estate business before articling, so I really hammered that with my principal during my articling term that I was keen to do solicitor's work. During the last 4 month of my articles, I pretty much worked as a law clerk for a senior associate doing real estate and corporate work. By the time I started as an associate, I was comfortable doing my own real estate deals. Eventually I had two clerks working for me (At the firm), so I had more time to focus on larger transactions.

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Thanks cloud, for your answers and taking the time. And congratulations - it sounds like your practice has expanded well in less than a year. I gather you incorporated?

If you don't mind disclosing, what is your monthly expenditure on staff salary? Are they all full-time? From the sole-solicitors that I have known, three assistants seems to be the magic number. Could you expand a bit on their duties?

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1 hour ago, cloud2010 said:

I started my own practice in June, and currently have 4 staff. I share 2 floors of an Office Building with 4 other lawyers. 

I did one of these when I was still an associate at a Mid-Sized firm. 

My practice area is mainly real estate and corporate law. I also have been doing a bit of Trusts and Estates.

Ask me anything.

 

 

 

how do you find clients?

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2 minutes ago, Mountebank said:

Thanks cloud, for your answers and taking the time. And congratulations - it sounds like your practice has expanded well in less than a year. I gather you incorporated?

If you don't mind disclosing, what is your monthly expenditure on staff salary? Are they all full-time? From the sole-solicitors that I have known, three assistants seems to be the magic number. Could you expand a bit on their duties?

Yep I practice through a Professional Corporation. I still need to do more research on how the new tax changes will affect me. 

My Office Manager/Law Clerk came with me to my new practice. She was my assistant at the old firm. I pay her the most. 

I have one other full time clerk doing real estate and another clerk who does mainly book keeping and reception duties. I currently have a law clerk student who works part time. She is still being trained. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Cherry said:

how do you find clients?

Already had a client base from my previous firm. Around the time I was leaving, 90%+ work I was doing was with my own clients. 

I started hustling during articling to get clients because I was in fear that I wasn't going to get hired back. This fear paid off.

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How much notice did you give your former employer? What steps did you take to help ensure you left on good terms?

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1 minute ago, Mountebank said:

How much notice did you give your former employer? What steps did you take to help ensure you left on good terms?

About 3 month. I discussed with my managing partner and some of the other partners after holidays. I made sure all clients leaving signed directions and had almost $0.00 AR. 

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Why did you decide to go solo? And, also, why did you decide to do it this year?

Edit: I guess, more properly, this question is more about the "how" of it than the "why".

Edited by Mountebank

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2 minutes ago, Mountebank said:

Why did you decide to go solo? And, also, why did you decide to do it this year?

Edit: I guess, more properly, this question is more about the "how" of it than the "why".

Going to be blunt, it was about the $$$. Basically it was going to take at least another 3-4 years before I can become a partner at my previous firm (i had entered into some talks with the Partners given how much I was bring in to the firm). I didn't want to wait that long.

I closed approximately 300 residential deals alone from June to September. In retrospect, I think it was a good move to go solo. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, neymarsr said:

How long did it take you to get the hang of doing real estate? Do you think it's possible to focus mainly on other areas of law (like criminal/civil litigation) but to occasionally (and competently) take on real estate files?

Do criminal and occasionally and competently take on real estate files?

No, I’m not seeing how that’s possible, especially in the early days of a criminal practice, nor am I understanding why you would want to.

Real estate is mainly about volume and it also relies heavily on an assistant/paralegal trained in the area. Why would you pay someone to do those files only occasionally when you don’t need that type of assistant in a criminal practice? 

As well, a criminal practice keeps you busy in court or at the jails whereas a real estate practice requires you to be in the office dealing with clients, banks etc so the scheduling is not compatible.

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2 minutes ago, providence said:

Do criminal and occasionally and competently take on real estate files?

No, I’m not seeing how that’s possible, especially in the early days of a criminal practice, nor am I understanding why you would want to.

Real estate is mainly about volume and it also relies heavily on an assistant/paralegal trained in the area. Why would you pay someone to do those files only occasionally when you don’t need that type of assistant in a criminal practice? 

As well, a criminal practice keeps you busy in court or at the jails whereas a real estate practice requires you to be in the office dealing with clients, banks etc so the scheduling is not compatible.

 

1 hour ago, neymarsr said:

How long did it take you to get the hang of doing real estate? Do you think it's possible to focus mainly on other areas of law (like criminal/civil litigation) but to occasionally (and competently) take on real estate files?

That's a great answer. Although I had some experience doing litigation and criminal work in clinics, and articling, there is no way I will take on any litigation work. 

Issues in real estate transactions always arise last minute, you have to be available. 

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26 minutes ago, cloud2010 said:

Going to be blunt, it was about the $$$. Basically it was going to take at least another 3-4 years before I can become a partner at my previous firm (i had entered into some talks with the Partners given how much I was bring in to the firm). I didn't want to wait that long.

I closed approximately 300 residential deals alone from June to September. In retrospect, I think it was a good move to go solo. 

 

 

I imagine that has to be among the most common reasons for someone to leave a firm and go solo (by choice, that is).

I'm in a good market for new solo solicitors and am very interested in following this path after I get a few years of employment under my belt (currently articling) to further my training and shore up my finances a bit. Thank you again for your openness and responsiveness to these questions.

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You also pay a lot more insurance to do real estate - if you’re going to pay that, you shouldn’t just dabble.

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2 minutes ago, Mountebank said:

I imagine that has to be among the most common reasons for someone to leave a firm and go solo (by choice, that is).

I'm in a good market for new solo solicitors and am very interested in following this path after I get a few years of employment under my belt (currently articling) to further my training and shore up my finances a bit. Thank you again for your openness and responsiveness to these questions.

Glad my answers helped! I lurk around these forums alot even if I don't post frequently. Free feel to PM me when you are ready to go solo with any questions.

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5 hours ago, providence said:

You also pay a lot more insurance to do real estate - if you’re going to pay that, you shouldn’t just dabble.

LawPro charges something like an extra $50/year for real estate coverage, and transaction levies just get tacked on to the fees you bill out

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1 hour ago, ericontario said:

LawPro charges something like an extra $50/year for real estate coverage, and transaction levies just get tacked on to the fees you bill out

There are discounts if you practice exclusively criminal law, as it is lower-risk in terms of claims. You lose that discount if you practice real estate also. I don't know if it's just a $50 difference but I get the impression it is significantly more than that. 

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