An Important First Step in Hanging Your Own Shingle

stepNewer Lawyers Are Going Solo Earlier Than Expected

Most of us are acutely aware of the impact the recession has had on the economy. A perhaps unanticipated reality following the recession is that many young and newer lawyers have found themselves in the position of hanging a shingle a bit earlier than they might have anticipated in years, and economies, past. Others may have found a niche working as freelance independent contractor attorneys, and still others may have found that due to changes in the legal profession over the past few years, starting a solo practice made the most sense. Additionally, some newer lawyers find themselves working on a contract basis and sometimes assisting solo practitioners on a per-piece basis. The backs of bar news magazines have been replete for the past few years with lawyers advertising services on an independent contractor basis. Some of these changes in the profession may be here to stay. Those fresh out of law school may have taken more recent (and increasingly popular) classes on the business of law. Others may have had some law firm experience under their belts prior to endeavoring into a solo adventure. Either way, newly solo practitioners and independent contractor attorneys may be left wondering how to develop their businesses and what tools and resources may be available to use on a limited budget.

Tech Can Provide Solo Practitioners Solutions

Technology has tremendous potential to help lawyers with the business of law because, after all, it is a business. Most professionals today cannot grow their businesses without considering the impact of new technologies to help reach and serve clients. Technology is a tool that most new solo practitioners already have, but maybe just need to understand how to leverage. It can be implemented in different ways to improve how services are received and how clients’ needs are met. One low-cost solution to this problem is Casemaker.

Free or Low-Cost Legal Research Service to the Rescue

Casemaker is a free or low-cost legal research service that provides an alternative to other high-cost research tools; it provides case law, statutory law, case summaries and case citation services. Casemaker offers federal, bankruptcy, and state cases–including state cases dating back 100 years. It also offers state and federal codes with notations concerning future changes. In addition, Casemaker offers a service called “CaseCheck” that enables the user to confirm that the cases being used are good law. It also helps the user determine if there is any negative treatment of the cases being used by allowing the user to click a link directly to the language of any negative treatment of the case used as a citation. Some states and local bar associations offer a combination of Casemaker’s services free to members, otherwise the services range from around $200 to $1,000 annually. (Casemaker should be contacted for any specific price quotes). Members of the Washington State Bar Association, for example, receive nearly all the services offered by Casemaker free of charge, including a feature called “CiteCheck.” CiteCheck allows the user to upload documents to determine, within moments, if the case citations being used are still good law. Research can also be tracked by client and, through CasemakerDigest, summaries of recent cases  can be received by email or RSS feed. A free mobile app of the Casemaker service can be downloaded for an iPhone, Android or tablet. As the Economist recently reported in its January 18-24, 2014, issue, the “technology tornado” has seen work forces and economies change. If lawyers, including newer lawyers, learn to the harness the technology tornado of innovation it can lead to solutions to power successful businesses.