What that means in legal terms is changing or adding a different area of the law to your practice. Below is a reprint of an article I did in my former column as Philida, the Oracle for BIG NEWS FOR SMALL FIRMS, State Bar Publication. Good information here:
I opened my solo practice three years ago doing social security work which I had previously done as a law clerk. I would now like to expand my business in bankruptcy. Do you have any suggestions about how I can become competent in the field as I don’t have much time or money at this point.
Puzzled in Long Beach
And probably perplexed. This is like starting a new practice and holds all the good, bad and ugly parts with the additional piece that you also have to keep your other practice going strong.
My suggestions are: First, find a mentor. Look for someone, maybe in your Bar Association, who has been doing bankruptcy for a long time and doesn’t feel that helping an attorney will be competition. Or someone a little out of your geographical area where you wouldn’t be competing. Find out what it takes to set up a practice.
Next, make a list of your major expenses. One would be buying new software (find out from your mentor which is the best). Another would be a budget for classes you need to take and groups that you need to join. Also you will need some funds for advertising and marketing. This would include expanding your web site. Be realistic. Decide where this money will come from. Do you need a small loan? With interest rates so low right now, it might be time to go to your local Credit Union. They frequently have small loans available without collateral for small businesses. You will have to give them a business plan but that would be good for you to do anyway.
Find out what pro bono services for bankruptcy there are in your community. These are usually legal aid or other types of low cost legal clinics. Volunteer so that you can learn the fundamentals of the business and work on real cases with supervision. Your mentor, especially if he/she is very busy, may let you come into the office and work on cases pro bono ( or at a minimum rate).
Last, find out who are the “ players” in bankruptcy in your community. Go to your local Court and meet some of the lawyers and judges that work there. Sit in on a couple of hearings.
Gear up to spend considerably more time and energy on your practice. You may be working evenings and weekends for awhile but it will all be worth it as you have already proven yourself to be a productive lawyer and good business person if you have had a solo practice for three years. It is now just a matter of building on the skills you already possess. Also, you have picked a good parallel area to open a practice because your social security clients (old and new) will be a great referral source. When you are ready, be sure to do a giant mailing with follow ups to all of them.
Puzzle Solved ( how bold I am!)