In 2008, everything changed. Markets around the world collapsed, and many people were driven out of work as a result. High unemployment meant loss of income, and that in turn led to far less spending back into the economy. In the legal field, an area long thought to be "recession-proof," lawyers were laid off left and right, and firms large and small downsized or disappeared altogether as billable hours dried up, as people and companies could not afford ever-increasing legal fees. The economy has since improved, but the survivors of the Great Recession were left to pick up the pieces and move forward.
I actually "officially" started my law practice late in 2010 by registering as a PLLC with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, and my basic website followed shortly thereafter. I recently purchased a book, Law Practice Strategy: Creating a New Business Model for Solos and Small Firms by Donna Seyle (the source of much of the background information on this blog post), when I decided it was a good idea to expand my online presence. I started by creating a Facebook page and Twitter account for my law firm and expanding my LinkedIn profile. I also started an online services page, which features do-it-yourself legal forms for fixed fees with options for attorney review. Furthermore, I created a profile on the legal and medical advice site Avvo.com and began answering questions there, linking my responses to Twitter and Facebook. Finally, I started this blog to write about law issues and my progress in establishing a solo law practice. I took all of these steps at a very low financial cost, with only the book and the online services being the only items where I had to pay any money.
Creating the infrastructure for my law practice was actually the easy part. I had a plan and followed it fairly quickly, and I was totally engrossed in the effort. Keeping up the momentum created by this process is proving a bit more difficult for me. Infrastructure is all well and good, but you need to add moving parts for it to be useful, and networking has become more key for me to get my name out into the industry. In the past, business cards and word of mouth were paramount, but in this age of growing Internet resources, more and more people are simply going online and trying to find answers at the lowest cost to themselves. To this end, I am seeking to increase my digital footprint by using my new infrastructure to expanding my name recognition. At this point, online networking means following other attorneys on Twitter, keeping the blog up to date, finding old and new contacts on LinkedIn and Facebook, and using Avvo and similar Q&A sites to provide additional substance to my cache, as well as gaining new knowledge for myself. There are many other low-cost networking possibilities that I will pursue, but at this point what I have is keeping my hands full.
Offline, I am doing volunteer work and doing pro bono intake, which sometimes leads to representation. While this does not lead directly to income, it provides valuable in-person experience and allows me to problem-solve. I have also joined local bar associations in DC, Arlington, and Fairfax, and seek to be on their attorney referral lists.
Overall, it has been an interesting month on the infrastructure front. Much more work lies ahead. But it's been fun so far.
This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.