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tpcooper 01-30-2008 04:35 PM

Being a part-time lawyer feasible?
 
I've read stories about people starting law practices part-time before going full time, but the stories never give details on of what the practice consisted.

Has anyone ever seen this work personally?

I am a newly licensed lawyer who took a non legal job after law school, and actually likes it (8 months here now). The job doesn't take up all my time though, which is a lot of the reason I like it. There is something that tells me I spent a lot of money and time to become a lawyer, so I should be one. (Note: I did get hired in my current job because of my legal training, so not thinking I'm wasting anything)

The idea has occured to me to do some legal work part-time. I think there are some basic legal services I could provide responsibly in this manner.

This is really random, which is why I posted it on this forum on the site, but does anyone have any thoughts? I would need to spend some serious time making sure I was really competent to work with people, so it isn't something I want to undertake without serious thought and planning.

CuppaJoe 01-30-2008 05:16 PM

I work for an atty. in a city. I've seen this kind of thing go every which way, from failure to great success. Sometimes one lawyer will help another by giving him parts of a case (which would be off-site part time); I've seen two of those go on to work for other firms full-time; others go into partnerships. It might be very rare, but it wouldn't hurt to do lunch with someone who handles the kinds of cases you want. Good lawyers (IMO) don't turn down requests to discuss their practices.

kumquat 01-30-2008 05:23 PM

Why not, assuming you are a member of your local bar (or US equivalent). What little legal work I need (wills, incorporation, real estate transactions etc) I have done by a guy whose day job is a CA (US equivalent is CPA, I think). He knows more about tax than most general practise lawyers.

Martha 01-30-2008 06:00 PM

I worked as a part time lawyer for two years before I retired. This was after better than 20 years of full time practice. I had the advantage of working for a firm so I had back up support at all times. There are a number of issues with being a part time solo, for example scheduling, coverage issues when you are not available or ill, administrative burdens like trust accounts, malpractice insurance, tracking CLEs, billings, staff support (receptionist? typist?), and for a new lawyer, making sure you are doing your job right. However, I have seen a couple of lawyers do it more or less successfully, mostly in office sharing arrangements.

There are employment agencies which hire contract lawyers for one job or another. That might make more sense as all you would have to do is the work and collect a check. For example, ESQUIRE Legal Consulting Services - The Esquire Group

ChrisC 01-31-2008 07:58 AM

I work as a full-time lawyer who also does some part-time moonlighting, paid and pro-bono. I'm also married to a part-time lawyer, who's in semi-retirement status, who had a relatively successful stint for over 15 years in a solo practice.

I would not recommend that you launch yourself, as a newly licensed lawyer, into a part-time practice as a solo practioner. New lawyers really need some seasoning before they can competently handle work and law schools, except for specialized clinical programs, don't really train one in the actual practice of law. The seasoning one needs to be a decent lawyer takes places, generally, when newly-licensed lawyers work side-by-side with the old farts of the practice.

Sure, there are cases where newly-licensed attorneys, one day after passing the bar, open up their own practice and successfully operate as skillful and financially successful lawyers -- these are very rare instances, however. In your situation, there are simply too many things that can go wrong as a part-time lawyer, even aside from competency concerns, which Martha gingerly mentioned; the back office concerns drive most solo practicioners up the wall and clients are unpredictable. (That simple will you thought was so simple has now become a complex instrument that deconstructs your competency when the will gets probated and an heir claims the testator was manipulated by someone else, deranged when he signed the document, and didn't own some of the real estate that was devised under the will.)

I think you need to go real slow into the practice. Having a full-time, non-legal job provides you with a financial anchor. If you want to use your degree and license, try to incorporate your training in your current job, which doesn't seem to be a big leap.

Many local bar associations or legal service/legal aid groups will train lawyers in specialty areas, like landlord-tenant, child custody/guardian ad-litem work, employment discrimination, often after hours or on the weekends, with the pay-back being that the trained lawyer handle a few cases. You might be able to fit this pro-bono type arrangement into your full-time job schedule if you can convince your employer that this type of benevolent work might reflect nicely on your employer.

poboy 01-31-2008 09:50 AM

I think the Alabama legislature is full of part time lawyers.

tpcooper 02-06-2008 03:57 PM

Thanks for all the responses. I am actually meeting with a solo in town on Monday about helping him with some stuff. He also on his own proposed the idea of him providing some oversight if I tried to take anything on myself - so this could be a good situation if everything meshes right.

Don't worry; no reason to dance around competency issue. I know that is probably the most difficult obstacle. With the hours and flexibility of my current job, a lot of the other obstacles mentioned do exist, but are very conquerable.
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