Jan. 23, 2018 - A panel of University of Houston Law Center alumni provided tips to current and aspiring self-employed attorneys on how to start and sustain a solo practice during a recent continuing legal education session, "So You Want to Go SOLO?" The opening speaker was Kimberly Dawn Levi '93, who managed her own solo practice from 1994-2013. She is currently a managing partner at Bill De La Garza & Associates, P.C.
Levi said it is important to have a list of goals once a lawyer has decided to practice solo. She advised the audience to brainstorm essential tasks when organizing a new business.
"Think about what type of business you're going to have, what type of practice you're going to have," she said. "Think about the phone number and try to make it a phone number you can keep forever if you could. Think about the name of your firm and how it's going to grow and expand. Think about logos.
"If you put these things into part of your business plan whenever you're beginning it, you really are developing a structure for yourself that can be more relaxing, which is what you want."
Matt Starosciak '98, is the owner of Proven Law Marketing, a consulting firm based in the Atlanta area. He discussed some common mistakes that beginning solo lawyers make.
"Don't overestimate the number of referrals you're going to get when you initially open up your practice," he said. "Work for referrals as hard as you can, but don't overestimate how much are going to come in because it's probably a little less than what you might think.
"Don't assume quality legal work is enough. I disagree that reputation is the No. 1 thing that dictates success. There are many lawyers out there who are not very good that are very successful, and there are some that are tremendous lawyers that are barely scraping by. You see firms outspend their bad reputation all the time in marketing."
The final speaker, Donivan Flowers '04, operates The Flowers Law Firm in Tyler and focuses on personal injury cases. He shared several time-saving methods to help small businesses.
"When looking for ways to improve my business so I wouldn't have to work so much, the first step I needed to do was eliminate. By that I mean if something is in the way of your stated goals, get rid of it. Learn how to say no to certain types of cases.
"If something takes you away from your profitable tasks – delegate or automate it. There are great services out there like virtual paralegal programs and virtual receptionist programs.
"If you have cases where clients have to go to court on a frequent basis, the one thing that scares lawyers is clients not showing up. I use a program called Lexicata that sets appointments on a calendar and sends three reminder emails three days before, two days before and a day before their court date. The more cases you have the more automated you need to become."
Attendees received three hours of Texas Continuing Legal Education credit, including a half-hour of ethics credit. Following the session was a networking lunch in the Hendricks Heritage Room.