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In response to Brian Tannebaum's Above the Law Post (or How I launched My Practice)

Home office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent post over at Above the Law, Brian Tannebaum addresses my recent post at the MyCase blog, What’s the Point of “Going Solo”?

First off, prior to replying to Brian's post and his subsequent comments thereto, I would like to invite anyone who reads this post to take a minute to learn about MyCase, a leading cloud-based law practice management system.

Now, on to his post. First, as Brian explains in the comments to his post, I did contact the editors at Above the Law regarding Brian's original statement in the first version of his post, claiming that I was a non-practicing lawyer. His statement that I am a non-practicing lawyer is simply untrue. As I'll describe more fully below, I am a practicing attorney and have been counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach since 2007 and continue to be to this day.

Although my workload for the firm has greatly decreased over time due to other job-related demands, including writing books and my duties as Vice-President at MyCase, I continue to be available to handle, on an as needed and as available basis, assignments from the firm. In fact, over the last few months, I handled a significant research and writing project for the firm, turned down a request to draft a motion to reargue, and currently have an outstanding project which I have yet to complete.

Now, on to the allegation that I know nothing about starting a law practice. This, too, is simply false. Everything that I discuss in my MyCase post about going solo is based on my personal experience of hanging a shingle for a home-based law practice in 2005. Hopefully, the description of my career path that follows, in addition to serving as a response to Brian's allegations, will be helpful to other lawyers who are thinking about starting their law practice.

In late 2005, I started my own law practice after a brief, self imposed 2-year hiatus from the legal field. Prior to opening my practice, I had been a Monroe County Assistant Public Defender for nearly 4 years and then had worked for another 4 years as a litigation associate at a Rochester law firm.

When I hung my shingle, because I had 2 young children, I decided to limit my law practice to: 1) handling research and writing projects for other lawyers and 2)  accepting court appointments as a mortgage foreclosure referee. I started my home-based practice using my computer and my cell phone (we didn't have smart phones back then).

Prior to hanging my shingle, I obtained legal malpractice insurance, purchased business cards and office supplies, signed up for an eFax account, and created a website (current version and 2005 version). I sent out letters to local attorneys announcing my practice and sent letters to various judges notifying them that I was available for referee appointments. To advertise my practice, I wrote free articles for the local legal newspaper, the Daily Record, and for the local bar association's newsletter. I also started my first blog, Sui Generis, which was targeted toward other New York lawyers and thus, at the time, my blog focused on New York legal decisions and legal issues. I also re-joined the local bar association and began to attend events. 

It was at one of these events that I encountered my Thomson West Criminal Law in New York co-author, who is a local judge and also practiced law at the time. She asked me to handle a few projects for her and, because she was pleased with my work, a year or so later asked me to join on as a co-author on our book. 

At about that same time, the editor of the local legal newspaper for whom I'd written a few free articles (as I discussed above) contacted me and asked me to write a regular weekly column. I accepted and continue to write my weekly column (which is distributed nationally across Dolan Media's newswire) to this day.

Shortly thereafter, I ran into Ed Fiandach, the owner of Fiandach & Fiandach, an attorney I'd known since the start of my legal career and he asked me to handle projects for his office. Over time, I handled an increasing number of projects for his firm and he asked me if I'd like to become of counsel to the firm. I accepted. I didn't renew my legal malpractice insurance coverage and allowed it to expire and changed my website to reflect that I no longer handled projects for other attorneys.

For approximately 2 years, I was extremely busy handling projects for the firm. Over time, however, I became increasingly interested in legal technology issues and my focus shifted to writing and speaking about these issues, both in my Daily Record column and elsewhere. I also started to write my first book, "Social Media For Lawyers," an ABA publication which was obviously a time consuming endeavor. After finishing that book, I then began to write my book "Cloud Computing for Lawyers" which was also time consuming. But as has always been the case, the firm was very flexible and reduced demands on my time accordingly. Our country was also in the middle of a recession, so I think that it made economic sense for the firm to keep more projects in-house. So all in all it worked out well for everyone involved.

The firm's flexibility continues to this day and is particularly important now that I am Vice-President at MyCase, which is a full-time, salaried position. As always, I continue to be available to the firm on a continuous, as-needed basis for assignments, depending on my ability to handle them at any given time. 

So, that's how I re-started my legal career in 2005--by hanging a shingle, just as I described in my MyCase post. My solo practice was a limited practice with a very specific scope, but it worked for me. In fact, I think it worked quite well. And I did it from my home-based office using only a computer and my cell phone.

It can be done and I'm living proof of that fact. I started a solo practice and shuttered it to become of counsel to a law firm and later pursued other opportunities that came my way--all as a result of starting my own, limited, home-based law practice. 

So, if I may say so myself, I think that my closing words in my post at the MyCase blog are really quite fitting:

That’s the beauty of 21st Century lawyering: increased flexibility and choices create opportunities never before seen. So to view shuttered solo practices as unsuccessful endeavors is short sighted and flawed. These lawyers are anything but failures. Instead, they are trail blazers in this new 21st Century frontier. They are the next generation of lawyering and they epitomize the very definition of success.