When I was planning the journey that is a solo practice, I realized the problem that is inherent in plaintiffs’ personal injury law: the money comes really late. The average small automobile collision case will not settle for at least five months, and if a lawsuit needs to be filed, it could be nine or twelve months before a resolution. Serious auto collisions and medical malpractice cases take much, much longer.
Some attorneys manage to pay their bills by dabbling in other types of work, often criminal defense or family law, where the lawyer can charge hourly or flat rate fees. I knew that I didn’t want to do family or criminal work but I still wanted to find a way to at least break even in the first year and pay rent for my modest Timonium office. So I starting writing web and blog content for other personal injury lawyers.
For the medical malpractice webpages, I try to do some research on what other lawyers are writing about, both so I don’t miss anything and so I can figure out how to be different. The one thing that stands out, more than anything else, is which medical malpractice firms get to the top of my Google search results page.
Sometimes the firms’ sites are impressive and the amount of effort put into building the site is clear. In some cases, though, the web content is poorly written, contains very little information and was updated five or ten years ago. How do those firms get good Google results? Perhaps they are following some of the “black hat” practices that Google is working on weeding out. But for most of them, the age of their website matters. Google and the other search engines have a higher amount of respect for websites that have been around for a while.
You’ve heard the saying, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” For lawyers or law students who want to get out in the world and start a practice, join a practice or who have no idea what to do, my recommendation is simple: start a website or two. They don’t need to be extravagant, they just need to have a domain name, some general content (with good keywords and phrases) about whatever practice area you think you are interested in, and an automatic contact form (for those who are licensed to practice).
If you’re not ready to take cases yet, you can refer them out. If your future law firm handles that type of law, you can use the cases you bring in to negotiate a higher salary. More importantly, if you go solo, you might have a ready-made revenue stream, or at least a website with some “stickiness,” when you make that move.