Hectic July

I’ve been a bit busy the past month or so.

I’ve moved into a new space. My share of the apartment is $325/month + about $30/month for electric and probably $50-$100/month for my share of the heat bill come winter time. Internet, cable tv and free laundry machines are included in the rent. It’s in a nice old building in a great neighborhood across from a park. I’m only about 1/2 mile to the train station for getting to my last year of law classes. There’s lots of interior space and two private decks to relax on. I’m quite happy with the place.

I also signed up for an intensive, 4-week EMT-Basic course which just ended today. I got a big discount on the course because they were trying to fill the last seat 2 days before the course was beginning. Working in public safety either on an ambulance, or as a firefighter or police officer has always been a bit of an interest of mine. I tried to get hired onto some police forces and fire crews before I got my job working as a utility lineman years ago. Now in law I’ve been leaning towards criminal law to get a taste of the criminal justice system. So when I saw the deal on the EMT class I figured I should jump at it.

The class was great. The instructor was amazing. I met some good personalities and I’m considering, once I get my state certification next month, of applying for some part-time work on an ambulance crew. I go back and forth on getting a job. But I figure I can afford to pay cash for about 2 more rental houses with my current savings. Working maybe 20-30 hours/week on an ambulance crew + collecting rents while I finish up law school would possibly get me enough cash to purchase a 4th place right around when I’ll be graduating next summer. The alternative would be to not work at all, just rehab 2 houses and focus on school. Graduate with 3 rental properties netting around $1,700/month from them, then try to scrape a little income together from a solo law practice once I get my bar card to get myself a couple more properties.

But I’d probably find the EMS work interesting, at least for a year or so. And I like the idea of being able to purchase a 4th rental property before I’ve even got my bar card next November in 2012. Four rentals would gross me around $3,200-$3,400/month and I’d be netting around $2,000-$2,500/month after paying property taxes/water bills and putting some money aside for repairs. Then I’d just need to save up and pay cash for a 5th property for myself to live in sometime in the winter spring of 2012/2013.

With a mortgage-free house and my frugal ways, $2k/month would be far more than I would need to be comfortable.

Now I just have 2 free weeks in August to lolly-gag around and explore my new neighborhood. I’ll be spending one week this month camping on Cape Cod with a couple of close friends. Then year three of law school begins. The summer has simply flown right by.

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  1. Stephen
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    I’m interested in the solo practice idea for a family member of mine. If you start a solo practice, how do you plan to get experience? Most people sign away to a firm or go the clerk route at least for a while, but I know of at least one person who started off taking jobs from a friend who had scheduling conflicts (two jobs with the same court date in different courts) and learning from him. You have to get the knowledge and/or experience somewhere to satisfy the ethics rules on being competent for practice.

  2. Rachel
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Yes, you need some experience before going solo, you have no idea what you will be doing otherwise and that is very dangerous. I presume you are doing the JD? That does not prepare you for practice at all and neither will the Bar exam. How are you funding law school?

  3. kate
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    One of the things you can do in a normal economy is get on the state and county court assigned counsel lists.

    In NY, for example, the courts make assignments in over thirty areas of law, the main ones being criminal defense and criminal appeals, and representation of parties in family court. But there are many other areas: worker’s comp., guardian, referee in disputes or sales, etc. I doubt Massachusetts is much different.

    Unfortunately, I bet many attorneys who would not do this work in a good economy are probably taking court assignments more often now. In NY, some of these lists are closed.

    Also, I think judges are inclined to help young attorneys get started. So, you might just talk to a judge you like about your plans. Judges can trump those lists, going off it to make assignments in many cases.

    Good luck! I think your plan sounds great.

  4. Posted August 6, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    @stephen I don’t think a solo practice is the best route for someone who wants to work full-time. Much better to just find a legal position if that’s your intention. My problem is there’s no way I could find a part-time job where I only have to put in <5-10 hours a week like I’d like to.

    @stephen and rachel I wouldn’t be doing a serious, full-time solo law practice. I’m thinking more along the lines of helping some family members, friends of friends, and taking over the legal work for a few of my uncles who own businesses. It’s just some transactional work that you hardly even need an attorney for. The max I’d make is maybe $5k to $10k/year off of it. I’ve already done much more complicated work as an intern.

    Plus, I have two close friends who are experienced attorneys, one works in government, the other is a solo practitioner, who could help me in a pinch.

    I have to take issue with the pervasive attitude that a JD is worthless as far as practical skills go. Coupled with my internship as a student prosecutor, being around lawyers all my adult life, and having done extensive pro bono work as a student already, I feel completely capable of counseling people through several legal processes. As a prosecutor I saw a couple of defense attorneys who I was confident weren’t as competent as me, even as a 2nd year law student. They couldn’t read the judge, they were unrealistic negotiators, and they didn’t quite understand rules of evidence, criminal procedure or trial strategy as well. (though this was only a couple of attorneys out of the dozens I went up against, most were very good.)

    I think that the attitude that a “JD doesn’t make a lawyer” comes from students and young attorneys who lack confidence and who didn’t make the most of their educational experience. Though, I’d agree it’s true for complicated areas of law. I don’t expect I’ll be negotiating large commercial contracts or facilitating international corporate mergers. But I can certainly navigate the local trial courts, DA’s offices and I can handle client relationships.

    @rachel I received a full scholarship to law school.

    @kate I looked into being appointed counsel. As you guessed, it is tough to get on the list now-a-days. Plus, Massachusetts is having a lot of hub-bub over it lately. The Governor wants to get rid of appointed counsel all together and hire a couple thousand more public defenders. Plus, they kind of want you to be passionate and work full-time in order to get on the list.