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The $75/hour law firm

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No, not joking.  Just a few days after my  two part series on the viability of a $99/hour firm, I came across this $75/hour business model, the Justice Cafe in Fulton County Georgia, offering a la carte family law service to walk in clients.  Lawyers staffing the Justice Cafe will work on contract and collect half of the $75/hour fee with the other going to overhead – or a gross salary of $55,000 working 30 hours a week.  That’s the rough equivalent of a  GS-11 salary, which is what most new lawyers starting out at the federal government earn.  Presumably, a contract position with Justice Cafe wouldn’t be long term, but rather a stepping stone to opening one’s own practice or joining a firm as an experienced attorney.

Michael Manely, one of the founders of Justice Cafe bills it as ” a way to serve people on Main Street,” and believes that the business model will attract new lawyers or those who don’t want to run their own shop.  Moreover, because the operation will have a physical location, it’s easier for the Cafe’s owners to keep an eye on younger lawyers to ensure quality control and competence.

Cafe photo courtesy of Shutterstock

  • But, since it is a “cafe,” can you keep a tip jar on the counter?

    It matters, you know.

  • myshingle

    As long as you don’t split the proceeds without consent and disclosure to clients, it is fine!

  • Sean

    Isn’t this article — and the prior one regarding the 99/hour services — a truly distressing sign of the deteriorating state of private practice?  Why would anyone, a young lawyer or anyone else, practice law for such a low amount?  What is the point? Am I missing something?  Why not just get a job driving a truck or something? Be a nurse.  Be a teacher.  Do almost anything else.  I am being serious.  It is well past time to start coming clean to anyone aspiring to be a lawyer that this is what awaits them — people taking advantage of them in this way.  In New Jersey, I just saw an advertisement for an assistant county prosecutor; salary was $50,000 “non negotiable” and they wanted someone with experience!   So, after seven years of higher education and experience in the field, you can make 50,000 a year.  Luckily your spouse, who had the good sense not to go to law school with dreams of “expanding legal access for the underprivileged” and instead became a cop or fireman, or started a landscaping business, can support you…  In New Jersey the sanctimonious powers-to-be are now proposing to force young lawyers to do a certain amount of pro bono work before being licensed.  So not only do you have no career prospects you are now considered a slave, obligated to serve lower middle class people who probably make more than you do.   When do we get the article about $25/hour legal services?

  • Is there anything like this in Philadelphia or in South Jersey that anyone is aware of? 

  • I agree, but there are few good opportunities for new lawyers.   Things have changed.  I received a number of offers from small law firms that paid only $30,000 to $40,000.  Even the mid-sized firm I received an offer at paid only $60,000 and had some of the highest billable hour requirements around.  So yes, a slave.  I went to law school for professional and personal autonomy — ha!  That’s funny.

  • Sean

    Wow, I am so sorry to hear about those low offers.  Isn’t it incredible what’s going on? And nobody seems to want to talk about it.  Law school promised a steady career, if not wealth, and it turned out to be a lie.  And at least you are in a position where you have gotten offers.  If you are experienced and outside of the ‘3 to 5’ years of experience that most firms advertise for, forget about it.  (The legal industry is the only one I am aware of that deliberately states in its classified ads that ‘older’ lawyers need not apply!; any other industry would be afraid to overtly engage in this type of age discrimination but not law firms!) And if I hear one more sanctimonious word about how all of us lawyers must ‘volunteer’ and ‘give back to the community’ and/or ‘expand access to legal services’, I am going to gag.  Friends of mine from college who make $200,000 plus (in the type of sales jobs that you or I would be judged overqualified for) don’t do ‘pro bono’; they take care of their families and contribute to the economic with their good salaries.  (Daddy, can I have a new bike? No, son, your father works to help the ‘disadvantaged’ and can’t afford to buy you one.) Or, better, they do do  volunteer work in their free time but it is on their own terms and because they want to; not because someone is holding a gun to their heads.  

    Can I ask, how many years of experience do you have?  If you are a new lawyer, GOOD.  Seriously, it means you can still do something else, and I would run for the hills.  I have 20 years of experience, and I would tell you go get out while you can.  In any other endeavor, becoming more experienced would be a good thing, but not in the law.  In the law, becoming experienced makes you unemployable (you are no longer the ‘3 to 5 years’), unless you have your own clients.  If you are a new lawyer, you have a lot of options outside the law.  Go back to school for a masters and become a psychologist; get a business degree, or work for a corporation.  I have a couple of friends who barely graduated college (and barely literate) who simply started temping for companies and now they have solid careers as middle managers — they’re not rich but they are comfortably middle class; they ask me if I am happy I went to law school…

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