A newly admitted lawyer to the Massachusetts Bar, has several options upon receiving his or her license to practice law. They can apply for an associate position with a big firm, and conduct research for the next five years; they can apply to work in a small firm and do all the work the senior lawyers do not want to deal with; they can hang their own shingle. This article will take the perspective of the later, i.e., a recent law school graduate with an entrepreneurial spirit, a little cash on hand, and a desire to start his or her own practice.
Forget about the fact that marketing and obtaining clients is going to be the most difficult aspect of the new venture. Forget that the new attorney must choose an area of practice, for even a general practitioner can’t work in every field of law. Once the client walks in the door and the attorney wants to accept the case, the flood-gates of paperwork will open.
The first document a new lawyer must draft is a fee agreement. There are several internet sites out there that have these types of legal contract, as well as other legal forms, but those legal documents are very general in nature and likely do not satisfy the Massachusetts General Laws. However, a quick look in any Lawyer’s weekly will show a host of legal software companies who have created word documents drafted specifically for Massachusetts, or what ever state your practice requires.
Next is the whole process of filing a complaint or answer if a law suit is involved, drafting HUD statements if real estate is the issue at hand and so forth. One new Massachusetts Probate Attorney, recently said, “I didn’t know where to start before I had the direction of my document generation software and my online research tools”. She went on to state that, “but for the form generating software, I would have had to consult for hours the Massachusetts Practice Series and other form books”.
Once a case has been filed, the real onslaught of paper work and forms hits the fan – DISCOVERY. There are interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for medical records, requests for police reports, subpoenas’ for depositions, etc. There are motions for summery judgment, motions to compel, and so many more. A new lawyer who has never drafted these documents has virtually no where to turn, but to the form books for hours and hours of unbillable research time.
The biggest problem for new lawyers is they did not learn how to try cases in law school. Rather, they are more equipped to argue an appeal in front the The United States Supreme Court then they are to handle a simple will contest, or personal injury matter. The bottom line is, in order for a new attorney to be efficient, they can either purchase one of these up to date, form generating software packages, be lucky enough to have a mentor, or put their dreams and aspirations on hold for two or three years, while working for a small practice. In the case of the young probate attorney, she decided to purchase the software, and was lucky to have one of the premier real estate and probate attorneys in the state as a mentor. However, not all new lawyers are so lucky, and if you are going to spend 30 hours a week researching what forms are needed to follow procedure, you will be hard pressed to find time to actually represent your clients, let alone conduct legal work that can be justified as billable hours.
The gist of all of this is that it would be highly advisable to look into the technology that is available today if you are a new lawyer, and in fact, even if you are an experienced lawyer, this technology allows you to stay current with any changes in the law and procedure for state courts in your document library.