i had a business idea

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Jena, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Jena

    Jena New Member

    so i was washing the dishes and had an idea. i wanted to see what you guys thought. so, i started my own very very small paralegal business when i left work 5 mos. ago now. I have only been taking work from one attorney that I had gotten from placing an ad. With summer and everything else going on with difficult child it was difficult to try to figure out how to market myself and how to get more attorneys' on board in order to increase my size. i've been making literally pocket change with this one attorney. i have two cases left that i'm in the process of finalizing now.

    so here's my thought. i thought of it in terms of getting attorneys as clients, and having them outsource to me. i charged way way too low, live and learn sort of thing. it's gotten to the point where the money i make puts gas in the truck and pays a portion of my very huge cell phone bill that went over the plan minutes due to constant client phone calls.

    initially i began this thinking i'd be drafting petitions, documents, filing doctor's in court, etc. yet it's turned more into me doing all the work meeting with the clients (his clients), taking their calls at all hours, sitting and listening to their concerns, etc. it's been alot of work for minimal money yet i have learned alot the past 6 mos more than i knew when i first started.

    so my thought was this, instead of marketing myself to the attorneys, i do it direct to the people. The reason i do this work is because i like to help people. i was able to do that alot where i worked for the city, made great money doing it yet as you all know difficult child's issues became too much for me to be so very far away from her everyday and for all those long hours. so i have to watch myself legally i have to make sure i do not give legal advice yet i give "procedural" advice. Yet here's the thing it would earn me a whole lot more money. ie...attorney billed client $1,800 for the work i had done. I made a fraction of that $ 400 approx. over the course of 5 mos.!! Also I would save the people money by allowing them to legally represent themselves with my help of guiding them through the process, my contacts ive made out here now in this court to facilitate things, and also filling out the forms, etc.

    so, what do all of you think? now i only know estate administration law and guardianship law so far. So i could assist parents in being appointed guardian of their children with either special needs, or other reasons. just as an example. problem for me is i'm not good at marketing.

    why would a lay person want to hire me as opposed to an attorney? Other than the solid background i have in the office i worked in that is well known? That's what i'm trying to figure out if i decide to move in this direction or just drop it after the two cases are finalized. I guess i could place ad stating why spend xxx amt of dollars on costly attorneys when you could represent yourself with my help and expertise of the surrogate's court adn it's procedures and laws?? also this is a time where many do not have money to spend and are watching what they spend and these attorneys beat people over the head.

    so maybe i would charge 900 for what an attorney would charge 1,800 for. i had to think though how would i even go about marketing myself, what areas or where would i go and advertise?? especially for those types of law.

  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Jennifer, this sounds like a great idea.

    I agree that you have to be very very careful of the legal ground you're walking on, but I think you could do well.

    You can pitch yourself as a Liaison or an Advocate.
    Market yourself the same way that those Self Counsel Press books do. Why pay a lawyer when you can do it yourself.

    Rather than arbitrarily setting your rate at 1/2 what a lawyer would charge, I would suggest that you come up with a fee schedule of sorts.

    For complex work, figure out an hourly rate that makes sense for the work you're doing ($35 / hr or whatever). For simple processing, figure out a reasonable lump sum ($350 for service x, $400 for service y, etc.)

    If your area of expertise is in Real Estate, you can advertise in the real estate listings section of the paper, distribute flyers to local realtors, connect with mortgage brokers, etc. who can pass your name on to potential clients.

    If you're looking at guardianship etc. then perhaps set up a little website and ask disability support organizations if they can add your site as a Featured Link or whatever they do.

    I like your idea of working for the clients rather than the lawyers, so you've just got to figure out the best places for clients to find you. Think about what people are likely to be doing in order to need your services, and then put yourself in front of their eyes there.

    Hope this helps,
  3. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    I like the idea......But....... if you do this, working for clients, you take on much of the risk that you may not get paid..... collecting the money is different than charging the money...... if you bill yourself with "Why Hire an attorney when I can do it for half"....... means if you ever decide to go back and work for an attorney any/all attorneys may think twice before hiring you..... marketing to get a business off the ground with little to no client base won't be easy..... And that in itself will turn into a full time job....... In other words you may spend more time drumming up business than actually doing business......

    Not trying to discourage you, but just playing Devil's Advocate......

    It sounds to me like you greatly underestimated your worth in the prior experience...... also most attorneys work billable hours, so I would easily think you would charge for your time by the hour instead of lump sum for the job..... (wasn't sure how you figured your pay rate) Any time you would deal with a client or client issues that's billable time and should be recorded as such. Not trying to sound condescending, just didn't know how you handled your last job..... Would think you could get into some dicey legal issues if you push into attorney areas......so just be clear to clients what you can and CANNOT do for them...... I'm not sure if most people even know what attorneys charge so they still may be amazed at your cost....... but don't feel guilty about charging a fair price....... I don't know that I would advertise that you charge half of what an attorney would cost, just state what services you can provide and your qualifications for a fair price...... Maybe stating that the first consultation is at no cost to the client......

    Okay, enough of MY cheap advice.......
  4. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hey Jen! Just to be the "bad seed" here, I'd like to caution you on something. Attorneys have malpractice insurance. Just like doctors do. I don't remember if it's malpractice or E&O (Errors and Ommissions Policies), but I would advise you to look into what it would cost if you did go into this type of business.

    If you missed a deadline for a filing or something for example, you could be held liable for the client's lost revenue, funds, settlements, etc. This could put you so far behind the 8 ball that you'd be paying it off for years.

    I'd seriously think about looking into it - as you know, we've become a truly litigious society - better safe than sorry!

    Sorry for sounding like an older sister! ;)

  5. Jena

    Jena New Member


    No, I like all the advice I knew i'd get it straight here and not sugar coated......why do you think i came to all of you?? lol

    yes I thought of that as well, right now i'm covered under the attorneys malpractice insurance because i'm working under an attorney. If i were to do it on my own i would have to go ligit open a llc, get insurance, also ein number the whole thing.

    I billed hourly for my time, and alot of attorneys' i'm running into now locally with small practices are doing a one time fee deal as opposed to the larger firms that bill out on 15 min. increments. There are certain laws pertaining to legal assistants and paralegals with whom enter into this field. I cannot give legal advice. I can only give Procedural advice such as ok this is what we need to do, these are the forms, here are the steps. I cant "sway" them in anyway by stating well i think you should do this or that.

    plus, the work i do is basic to be quite honest, as long as you know the steps, it can get hairy yet it's basically probating lwt's, filing petitions, filling out the petition, having client appointed as fiduciary of the estate and then walking them through the process, the only problematic area i can see is the return dates. I could go with the client yet i couldn't speak on their behalf at all, or advice them in court. i'd just be there as a grounding force for them. the guardianships are my true passion i worked on two this past 5 mos. helping people on that level, the parents it's unlike anything i've ever done before. going with them and their children to various doctor appointments, seeing their faces light up that for the first time in a long time someone is there to help them, stand by their side at the doctor's and talk to the doctors about the various affidavit's that need to be filled out and how. cases i've handled are children with down syndrome and simply exhausted parents. anyone can do anything here in new york on their own pertaining to any court. Yet they make the laws seem so complicated and the forms, and the process so they run to an attorney with whom overcharges for their time, etc.

    i saw it in my court alot. I often dealt with people abroad who stood to gain a financial sum due to a relatives passing, and they were bewildered with how to proceed. I got in a trouble a few times because i told them what to do so as not to pay an attorney here in new york to handle it for them.

    anyway good points from all of you. Trinity that was a great idea on how to market myself. I have to say I worked for a private law firm once, a rather large one i was there for four mos and than ran back to my oldjob begging to come back. i made the most money i ever made in my life, teh work was tedious and long, the attorneys were a horror. i would do the work and it would sit on their desks for days, literally until they reviewed it. than they would find one sentence that they'd decide they wanted different wording on (their own choice) and they'd bill the client for it. Every min. of my day was accountable for, even my bathroom trips. main aim was to see how much i could bill out on any given day. just for example my billable rate per hour there was $200 an hour/my pay was umm a fraction, very very small fraction of that billable hour.

    ok i ran on bigtime here. thanks for your thoughts and honesty
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
  6. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Honestly, I think you're treading on very thin ice. Attorneys have a habit of not liking non-bar members doing their jobs regardless of how good they are. They also are known for going after those who try to do it. If you cross over the line even a little and give one miniscule piece of legal advice, you're subject to practicing law without a license and not just ending up with a fine but with a prison record. Be very, very careful if you go this route. It is a hard one and fraught with many dangers.
  7. Jena

    Jena New Member

    ok you just scared me!! lol. your probably right though.
  8. Marcie Mac

    Marcie Mac Just Plain Ole Tired

    Whatever you decide to do, I would suggest you get Professional Liability insurance when you do it :) You could forget one tiny step, and it will be suit time..

  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Im with MB and Marcie. All this sounds so good in theory but practice is a whole nothing ball of wax. Stepping into the playground with lawyers would scare me without a law degree. Its like swimming with sharks with no protection.
  10. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    I agree with the others. YOu would be treading on thin ice. Practicing law with-o a license is a very serious crime.

    I think you could do just as good just contracting with- the attorneys just do more research on what you should be charging. Look around on the net and see if you can find out what others like you are charging not necassarily what the atty's charge the clients for your service.

  11. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    I happen to know, very well, some people that are running this franchise. It's gone national. You might want to take a look at this. This would be a great way to get your name out there and make more money as a paralegal. The one owner of this franchise is the very first paralegal in this country.

    Paralegals have to work under the supervision of an attorney.
  12. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Well, that or tell the attorney that you are raising your rates. He knows your worth and certainly can see the value in keeping you on verses training someone new.
  13. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    It sounds like a good idea and you have no idea how much I wish there were something like this around when I was in my child support mess! They do everything they can to DIScourage you from trying to handle it yourself.

    But ... you would have to be extremely careful of the legalities. A while back there was a company here that did something similar to that and they ended up in court and they finally went out of business. The attorneys will not like it that you are taking away business from them. They make a lot of money in fees from the things that people like you actually do! This place advertised that they ONLY sold the blank forms for people to use. If they had given any kind of advice to their customers at all, it would be considered to be 'practicing law without a license'! They didn't last very long.
  14. mom_in_training

    mom_in_training New Member

    Hi Jenn, It would be the liability issues that would scare the bejeebers out of me. Just a thought, But have you thought about becoming a Notary? You can provide your services to a number of different entities that require having any type of document that needs notarized. I have thought about doing this in the past. Here in Ca there are classes available for under two hundred dollars that can be done on a Sat that include everything that you would need as preparation for the test. With your legal background I think you could wing it with no problem. It very well could turn into something that could enhance your income, Be your own business and most importantly, You pick and choose your clients and schedule at your own convenience.
  15. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Great ideas here. I like the liaison/advocate idea.

    And possibly the Notary idea. (Or both?)

    Wish I could help more, but I can lend support. :)
  16. Jena

    Jena New Member


    You guys are the best!! I spent all day yesterday looking up stuff, talking to a few friends who are attorneys, etc. that's why wasn't on boards much wanted to get stuff done before difficult child came back home from dad's.

    the guidelines are thin, i'd have to truly watch my step. up until now i have only worked under an attorney. i wouldn't practice law without a license by any means, yet it would be procedural advice, mtg. with clients to explain forms, helping them fill them out that sort of thing. i was thinking like a Jen paralegal thing. lol

    anyhow i looked into it it seems a bit too risky. if i open a llc the company would handle any liability suits but it's a bit risky at this point. i have a few mtgs. lined up this week with my old employer and a few others to sit down and talk to them about it.

    i know i'd be safe in the queens courts, because i know everyone there from working there for years yet out where we live hmmmm i might get chewed up for taking their business.

    serves them right though lol