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Research Resources

The Rutter Guides in Westlaw and the Matthew Bender Guides (as well as California Forms of Pleading and Practice) in LexisNexis both provide many excellent sample documents.

The San Francisco Law Library offers free access to Westlaw/LexisNexis in hour-long intervals.  It is an excellent resource and probably sufficient for an attorney just starting out.  I looked into plans with both Westlaw and Lexis.  Although I had always used Westlaw, I ended up getting a plan with Lexis due mainly to the steep discount they offered me as a new solo.

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Moving to the Cloud

I am in the process of moving all my software and data to a virtual server, which would mean that all my applications and data would run off a server in the cloud.  I like this solution because my data will not reside on a single PC or server and I would not need to worry about backing it up.  Additionally, working off a virtual server is ideal for a distributed/virtual work environment (i.e., where users are in different physical locations) and would obviate the need for me to purchase equipment for other users.

All a contract attorney, paralegal, assistant, etc., would need is an Internet connection and the software allowing that person to connect to the virtual server.  The IT experts at Centarus,Inc., based in San Francisco, are getting me set up. I highly recommend them for IT support.

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Sales and Marketing Software

If you are thinking of hiring someone to handle your law office’s marketing and client relations, consider Infusionsoft first.  You can use this powerful sales and marketing automation software to automate communications with clients and potential clients, create automated email “drip” campaigns based on practice area, attract potential clients with free reports, and streamline routine tasks. Taking full advantage of Infusionsoft’s powerful tools will save time, increase revenues, and improve client relations.

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Clio as a Law Practice Management Tool

I chose Clio after having heard stellar reviews from two fellow solos. Clio is SaaS, so there is never a need to update and it is available on any device with an Internet connection. Clio makes timekeeping and invoicing very easy, integrates with Microsoft Outlook, and includes lots of very useful features. And, it is a relative bargain at only $49.00 per month. Clio offers new users a free thirty-day trial.

After using Clio for almost five months, I think it is excellent and affordable, but I have been a bit frustrated by the QuickBooks integration. Clio supposedly integrates with the desktop version of QuickBooks. However, before you can actually download usable data (e.g., invoices and payments) from Clio, certain fields in the applications need to be mapped. (After my first unsuccessful attempt to download data from Clio, I ended up having to spend an hour on the phone with my CPA to correct all the mistakes caused by the fields not being mapped.)  If you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, you’ll need to hire an IT expert to help. Otherwise, Clio is a great option.

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Working in a Co-Working Setting

I began by renting workstation space in a shared office suite with a company called Intelligent Office. Their service is outstanding and includes live receptionist service with a personalized firm/company greeting, mailbox service, conference rooms and offices rentable by the hour, and a shared copy/printer/scanner.

The workstation arrangement worked out fine for the first couple of months. Whenever I needed to meet with clients, I just rented an office or conference room for the meeting. After I got busier, I upgraded to an office. I recommend working in a suite with attorneys and/or other professionals as co-tenants.  Fellow attorneys could be a great source of advice and referrals. Fellow professionals are potential clients.

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Where to Meet?

For someone with dedicated space in their apartment or house (and who is not easily distracted), working from home could be an option.  However, rentable space should be available somewhere nearby (i.e., outside the home) to meet with clients.

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Malpractice Insurance: The Strong Start Program

I originally looked into getting LPL with Marsh. Ultimately, I found a great plan with theLawyers’ Mutual Insurance Company (LMIC) called the Strong Start Program.

For a $300,000 annual aggregate/$100,000 per claim plan, LMIC offers a first-year rate of $500 per year for attorneys licensed for three years or less who meet specific criteria. The minimum policy typically includes $300,000/$100,000 coverage. Two factors to consider in choosing the amount of
coverage are (1) whether you practice in an area or areas (e.g., Intellectual Property) where LPL claims tend to be higher and (2) whether you have significant assets.