Going solo may sound stressful, but it’s exciting! Having the freedom to live according to personal ideals and being creative with the building of a business is both satisfying and rewarding for many solo attorneys. Philip Mauriello was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug while working in the restaurant business, and after entering law school, he knew that utilizing today’s legal technology would allow him to practice law on his terms. New Solo host Adriana Linares talks with Philip about his path to solo lawyering, his methods for vetting legal tech, and his recommendations for products and resources that make life easier for solo attorneys.
Philip Mauriello is founder and managing attorney of Arete Law APC
Special thanks to our sponsors, Clio, Nexa, Lawclerk, and ROSS.
Brand New Solo: Legal Tech and Business Tips from Philip Mauriello
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need a plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Okay, it’s time for another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am Adriana Linares. I am a legal technology trainer and consultant. I help lawyers and law firms use technology better.
I am back at the San Diego County Bar Association again so I am going to interview a new solo, and when I say new, I mean new, but he is smart and sharp and he is going to tell us a bunch of things that he has learned on his path to becoming a solo practitioner.
Before we get started, we want to thank our sponsors.
Nexa, formerly known as Answer1, is a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for law firms. Learn more by giving them a call at 800-267-9371 or online at nexa.com.
Thanks to our sponsor Clio. Clio’s cloud-based practice management software makes it easy for you to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at clio.com. And that’s clio.com.
I want to make sure and thank our sponsor LAWCLERK. LAWCLERK is where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. Visit lawclerk.legal to learn how to increase your productivity and your profits by working with talented freelance lawyers.
Thanks to our sponsor ROSS, ROSS Intelligence, the legal research platform that leverages AI to get to the heart of legal issues fast. Go to rossintelligence.com for a 14-day free trial.
Okay. Hey Philip.
Philip Mauriello: How is it going?
Adriana Linares: It’s going pretty good. Thanks for coming in today.
Philip Mauriello: No problem. Thank you for having me.
Adriana Linares: But you are here a lot.
Philip Mauriello: I am here a lot, yeah. I try to when I need to get work done downtown or come to the court, that’s always — I spend the day here at the County Bar.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I want to talk about that just real quick, because if you remember, for those of you who are listening and not members of the San Diego County Bar, or if you are a member of the San Diego County Bar and just don’t know this, the offices are a beautiful workspace for lawyers who either need a quick place to hang out, make some copies before they go to court or like Philip, who is going to talk to us a little bit more about this, use this basically like an office, right?
And I should also put a pitch in for myself. I am the Human Member Benefit. So when you join the Bar, you get my technology consulting services for free. Otherwise, you have to pay me my hourly rate, which isn’t that bad, but it’s not free unless you are a member of the San Diego County Bar.
So when you come here Philip, you have got — you bring your laptop, you bring your business needs, there is a copier, a printer, Wi-Fi, coffee, snacks.
Philip Mauriello: I get you dragging me into tech meetings and giving me breakfast, that’s always good.
Adriana Linares: I am glad you come to those. I mean they are kind of helpful, right?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, they are interesting. I like hearing other lawyers’ perspectives on what they use or how they use stuff or sometimes they bring up questions that you are like oh, I never thought of that, so it’s just good because technology is important.
Adriana Linares: It is. And I will explain real quick, so on top of the regular programming that I do and content development when I am here one week out of every month, I have a sort of open breakfast with the Member Technology Officer or lunch with and it’s an open session, and one day Philip was sitting in the lobby and I said hey, do you want to come join us, there is free breakfast burritos, and I love it because they do come and ask me questions, but what I really like is how the lawyers help each other, like you just explained.
All right, so let’s go back to you. You are a member of the San Diego County Bar and you are a new lawyer.
Philip Mauriello: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Brand spanking new.
Philip Mauriello: Still got that new lawyer smell.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. How relieved were you three months ago when you passed — when you heard that you passed the Bar?
Philip Mauriello: Well, this was almost a year, 2018.
Adriana Linares: 2018 you passed the Bar?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Then why did you tell me you have been a new solo for three months?
Philip Mauriello: Because I worked at a firm after I passed the Bar last year for a little bit, but I went solo three months ago.
Adriana Linares: Okay, but that’s still like really fast to go solo fresh out of law school, basically fresh out of law school.
Okay, so you went to law school here in San Diego.
Philip Mauriello: Thomas Jefferson, yeah.
Adriana Linares: Great. Where are you from?
Philip Mauriello: New Jersey originally.
Adriana Linares: Why did you pick to come to San Diego?
Philip Mauriello: A couple of friends from college who lived here, I had brought up that I wanted to go to law school and they said well, why don’t you look at coming out to San Diego. So I looked at San Diego and Thomas Jefferson at the time when they had the big beautiful building blew me away and I said well, yeah, this looks great. They gave me a good scholarship. I liked the faculty and I loved it. I loved every year that I was there and it was a good experience for me.
It was either that or New York and I was tired of winters and scraping ice off my car.
Adriana Linares: Right, yeah, I was going to say certainly the weather is a draw.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, the weather helps as well, yeah.
Adriana Linares: Which for the record, it’s always cold here, so remember I am from Florida, New Orleans and I think it’s always cold, although the Santa Ana winds we have been having.
Philip Mauriello: It’s been brutal.
Adriana Linares: See and now you think it’s hot.
Philip Mauriello: That’s another added benefit of the Bar Center is air conditioning if you have an apartment that doesn’t have air conditioning like I do.
Adriana Linares: Oh, right, another member benefit, we should put that on the member benefits list.
Philip Mauriello: Air conditioning.
Adriana Linares: Air conditioning. Okay, so you went to a firm, was it a big firm or a small firm?
Philip Mauriello: It was a medium-sized firm here in downtown.
Adriana Linares: And had you always had the aspiration to go out on your own or did you decide — did you come out of law school and you are like I am going to go to work for a law firm forever, or did you say to yourself I am going to go work for a while at a law firm and then go out on my own? How did it happen?
Philip Mauriello: I had always had the vision to go out on my own. Before law school, me and my family, I worked in the restaurant business, because I graduated college right around 2008, so the economic downturn and depression or whatever you want to call it, so there was no jobs out there for college grads and I sort of just stumbled into the restaurant biz, I was interested in it, worked there for five years. Me and my family opened a restaurant for four years.
So I think I got bit by the entrepreneur bug and really kind of being your own business owner and realizing that even though it’s stressful, it’s exciting having that freedom to kind of do what you want and be creative with how you build your business.
So when I got to law school, I started to always think I wanted to continue my own business or be my own boss and throughout law school I always planned and I was that nerd who would sit on demos.
Adriana Linares: Excellent.
Philip Mauriello: And webinars about this program.
Adriana Linares: Really?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. I was that guy who would just sit there on webinars and learn about different legal tech and is this program better than this program? Okay, if I were to open my own firm, what would I use? So I sat on all the demos for Clio and Rocket Matter and Smokeball, and what’s the other one, PracticePanther.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, MyCase, Zola, there are so many of them, right?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I went through every single one of them, saw which one I liked, and when I got out I went into working for a firm because I wasn’t quite ready to go out solo and this is sort of where freelancing comes in. I have been able to freelance on the side to save money as startup capital for my own firm. So after a while I was able to have enough to say okay, I can do this and go out on my own.
Adriana Linares: They didn’t encourage you to do this research and this sort of looking into practice management programs and technology in law school, did they?
Philip Mauriello: No.
Adriana Linares: Oh rats. I was hoping you would say yes, they did, that was part of my impetus, but it sounds like you just had it in you to get smart and start thinking about how to do that.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I think once you start to get down the rabbit hole of legal technology, I mean there is a lot out there and you can spend a lot of time figuring out which is best and which is sort of a waste of time or which is really efficient. So that’s I think sort of how I started, it was always well, what practice management software would I like and then you look at research tools and then you look at other tools like virtual receptionists.
Okay, well, if I were to start a small firm and I didn’t want to pay for a receptionist, you start to — it becomes like a hobby of looking for what are the solutions to start a firm efficiently without spending way too much money, especially as a new solo.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and it’s so doable these days. I say it all the time on this podcast that 10 and 12 years ago I was having very different conversations with solos and it was always in the thousands of dollars. Now it’s like barely in the hundred, a couple of hundreds.
The reason you and I got to talking other than the fact that we are Bar friends and I try to help you and you try to help me when I have got questions about what it’s like to be a new solo is that you had mentioned that you freelanced, which you referenced a moment ago and you used LAWCLERK as a resource for freelancing. So you were the contracted attorney that someone might hire.
Philip Mauriello: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Before you tell me about LAWCLERK though, on the side, you mentioned earlier that you are comfortable with the gig economy because during law school you also did freelance work but through Upwork.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, Upwork was the main one. I would try to do as much contract work as possible. People always told me in law school, I was sort of the hustler who was always trying to figure out how to make money.
Adriana Linares: Good, sounds like it worked.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, it worked. So I used Upwork, they were pretty good, but if you have been on Upwork, you know it’s all sorts of things and it’s sort of pick and choose, hopefully there is something on there that you could get in, and I got some good projects off of it, but LAWCLERK has definitely been more consistent.
Adriana Linares: Well, now that you are a licensed lawyer and you can actually do legal work as opposed to legal research and sort of paralegal like work through Upwork, you are actually able to do legal work.
Philip Mauriello: In LAWCLERK I only started really getting into it maybe, I think I started right after I passed the Bar and I was doing freelancing right after I passed the Bar and it didn’t really pick up for a while, but I was doing it on my own as well. I had my own website and stuff like that, like that was my business, Freelance Attorney for Hire.
Adriana Linares: Do you still have it?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Still there?
Philip Mauriello: Go check it out.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, cool.
Philip Mauriello: It has my rates and everything I do, shameless plug, but okay.
Adriana Linares: No, that’s why you are here, that’s great.
Philip Mauriello: So then it became more, I get a lot of stuff through LAWCLERK now, which is nice, because the way LAWCLERK is set up is they have to fund the project before you can start a project, which is a peace of mind if you are the contract attorney. You don’t have to worry about — I have had horror stories of, when I didn’t use LAWCLERK and I went out on my own, you would have to chase someone down for money and they would give you an excuse after an excuse and then you are just kind of waiting on big invoices.
But LAWCLERK makes it nice, so you know that the money is there and as soon as the project is over and it’s all complete, they are going to disburse the money to you.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. And you obviously get to pick and choose the projects that you want.
Philip Mauriello: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Okay, good. What type of law are you practicing?
Philip Mauriello: Mostly business and estate planning.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. And then when you take — so you have your private practice too.
Philip Mauriello: Correct.
Adriana Linares: And burgeoning law practice that I know is going to be very successful, so you have got that and you have got LAWCLERK and you have got your website, where you might still get some work from. Any other resources you want to make sure everyone else knows about or ideas for how to continue to grow your business and get experience and make money?
Philip Mauriello: No, those are the two things. And I did freelance for a couple of reasons. One because I think it’s a good way if you are a new attorney to get experience under someone’s tutelage with like low pressure, and I would say that’s one of the hardest things about when you go solo is all the pressure is on you to figure out how to do things, and when you do freelance, you have the comfort of knowing I am doing a project for someone, they are going to look it over and I can learn something as well.
So I have had projects that I have taken on that I was just genuinely interested in the project without question and this was recent and I was talking to the attorney about, I was like yeah, I mean it was just interesting to learn about this subject, low pressure, it’s not my client.
But also, if you are a new attorney it’s a great way to make some money on the side, and if you are looking to start your own firm, it’s a great way to pay your bills in the sense, so that your law firm isn’t so hamstrung for oh, every dollar that comes in, I have to pay out to myself in salary, otherwise I can’t make rent this month. So that helps a lot as well and that’s been — it’s been a nice symbiotic relationship, where the freelance frees up the law firm for other investments such as advertising and marketing or virtual receptionists or something that helps build your business.
Adriana Linares: Oh, that’s great. And are you concerned at all about the new AB5 Rule?
Philip Mauriello: No, I am not because –
Adriana Linares: Hold on. That was a softball for me, so explain real quick, I did not know what that was obviously, but Philip brought it up to me, so I pretended like I knew, but you can explain it and then answer it.
Philip Mauriello: So AB5 is a new law that was just signed in, based on the Dynamex decision about independent contractors in the State of California and they came up with a three-pronged test.
But the big one is the second prong, that is really going to screw up a lot of things, and it basically says that if you — you can’t hire someone as an independent contractor if they work in the same ordinary course of what your business does. So when you look at it through that lens, it’s very hard to figure out who would be an independent contractor and how would that affect your business, but luckily AB5 exempts people with licenses from the State of California. So if you are a freelance attorney, you don’t have to worry about well, if I hire this contract attorney, do I have to treat him like an employee under AB5? Well, you don’t have to worry about that.
Adriana Linares: Oh wow, that’s very helpful.
Philip Mauriello: Like Uber drivers on the other hand, that will be a whole different issue, but at least freelance attorneys, we don’t have to worry about that.
Adriana Linares: Okay, you are safe for a minute, until a new law comes along. No, but that’s good. Okay, that’s very helpful, because I am sure — like you said, you actually mentioned to me people ask you that all the time when you say I am a lawyer with my own practice and I do freelance work, so that’s super helpful.
Well, cool, before I ask you about the technology that you ended up picking and the infrastructure for your firm, let’s take a quick break and listen to some messages from some sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: Okay, so that was pretty exciting for me to hear that you did all that research while you were still in law school. For me a lot of lawyers, especially new lawyers come to me once they are done and got their license and then, what should I do, where should I hang my cloud hat, so to speak? So what did you end up picking and what does your infrastructure look like, because you are pretty tech savvy?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. One of my goals is definitely to make sure, and this is sort of a piece of advice for all solo firms is, and I think I read it from a book put out by PracticePanther, be ready for when the business starts to pick up, because it’s hard to figure out what to do afterwards when you are so busy with work.
Adriana Linares: So true.
Philip Mauriello: It’s better to say okay, well, when this comes up and I have this many clients or this much business, what’s my next step, what’s the next thing I am going to implement.
So I made sure — I sort of had a list of different tech things I would go with. First off was obviously Smokeball. I looked at all of them and Smokeball for some reason just blew me away. Especially as a solo small firm, their document automation, the time tracking is great. I love the fact that whenever I open a document, it tracks the time, whether I bill the client for that or not.
Adriana Linares: You are still tracking the time.
Philip Mauriello: It’s just nice to know and you can at least see where your time is being spent on stuff.
It’s also a nice benefit when they see all those emails that you could be billing, you write them off a nice criteria, well, I don’t bill emails for you and they see the value in that.
So Smokeball for me. I did have to switch, I was a Mac guy before that and that was the biggest thing that held me up about Smokeball for the longest time. I was like, you know, I have a Mac laptop, I have an iPhone, I was completely in the Apple universe and I was like man, I really don’t want to switch. And then finally when I went solo, I said all right, I am going to get a Surface Pro and I went with that and haven’t looked back.
Adriana Linares: That’s such a funny discussion that I have with lawyers all the time, because when you are Mac, you want to stick to Mac, and when you are PC, you want to switch to Mac, and there are very few programs that are quite so specific toward a platform, Smokeball is one of them, NetDocuments, that I love and tell all the time, is much better on a PC than it is on a Mac.
So I have had a couple of attorneys that switched to PC because it’s important to your business. I mean that’s the thing. I guess that’s the message I am trying to send is, I get that you are a young lawyer, a young man and Mac is everything and that’s the world you knew, but I really applaud you for just looking at the resource and saying I have got to make this switch, it’s just the smartest thing to do.
And maybe someday you switch back or Smokeball makes a product that’s viable on a Mac. I will tell you I cannot stand when somebody tells me they are running parallels on their Mac just for one specific program or their main program. I mean why go through all that? It’s a computer, not a wife.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I was just going to say you could — I have used Smokeball on parallels, it’s all right, it’s not as fast and the switching back and forth becomes a pain.
Adriana Linares: It’s awful.
Philip Mauriello: You are opening up a thousand different windows and what window am I in.
Adriana Linares: It’s awful.
Philip Mauriello: Are you opening Microsoft Outlook on your Mac, or are you opening it in your Windows parallel, so going Surface Pro and then just getting a couple of external monitors made it that much better to create a workstation.
Adriana Linares: Good advice and I am glad to hear it, because it’s just — I just say to lawyers sometimes, wow, you are making this really hard.
All right, so you have got a Surface Pro, which I also have and I absolutely love, so you like it then?
Philip Mauriello: I love it, yeah, it’s great. It’s the lightest laptop I have ever used.
Adriana Linares: Awesome.
Philip Mauriello: It’s nice and portable to bring with you into court, into meetings.
Adriana Linares: Do you ever use it like a tablet with the pen?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I have used it like that. If I am sitting on the couch I will use it as a tablet and review documents or I don’t know, look at other things I need to, low effort stuff that I can do at night.
I have taken it into client meetings. I have taken it into seminars and written down stuff. And I have always been a handwritten guy, for as much as I love tech, I was the old school guy who sat there with my fountain pen and actually wrote out all my notes.
Adriana Linares: In law school?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, in law school, because I read that the research is, and this is a tip for all law students, handwrite your notes because there is a better brain hand connection and you will actually remember the information better.
Adriana Linares: I have always heard that too and I have always heard that dictating, which a lot of young learners don’t think to do, don’t want to do, also makes you just a better orator and communicator.
And I will give a tip that I gave to someone today that I think is critical for any business person, regardless of what level you are in, but this is one of those things where I just want to send so many young lawyers, actually not even young lawyers, even older lawyers that I see giving a presentation or talking, go to Toastmasters.
I went to Toastmasters for seven years when I was a little younger. I wish I was still going today. I have told someone here at the Bar that we should create a Toastmasters Chapter inside the Bar because it’s just such a great skill.
So, that whole idea of not being completely tech focused all the time can really create some great skills and some good habits.
What other technology tools do you use that are important to you?
Philip Mauriello: I just started with Smith.ai.
Adriana Linares: Oh, you did?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: I liked them.
Philip Mauriello: The comfort and just the ease of — it also feels really cool when you have a receptionist taking your calls.
Adriana Linares: Tell us what it is?
Philip Mauriello: So Smith.ai is a virtual receptionist.
Adriana Linares: And the website is Smith.ai.
Philip Mauriello: Smith.ai, and you can sign up for a free trial; that’s what I did and I just rolled it into a full plan. But yeah, they take your calls, they screen your calls as well, so you are not paying for every single call, which is nice. So if it’s a sales call that wasn’t prompted or anything, they won’t charge you for that.
But it’s nice, they take a message, they send you an email. If it’s important, they will patch you through, and it’s nice to know that you are not dropping any calls and especially as a solo, it can be burdensome to always have to be picking up the phone.
Adriana Linares: Even as a non-solo it can be burdensome.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. And it just sounds more professional when someone picks up and says, hello, welcome to, thank you for calling Arete Law, how can I help you? And then they say oh, there is a receptionist here, okay, and then they say something or they want to schedule a consult, Smith.ai can do that as well if you use Calendly.
Adriana Linares: Excellent.
Philip Mauriello: They will go right into your Calendly and schedule it, and that’s always a nice little surprise when you see like, oops, new consult popped up and it’s already been taken care of, they took care of all the notes and stuff like that.
So virtual receptionist, if you are a new firm, like definitely look into it.
Adriana Linares: I failed to ask you to tell us your last name, which I don’t think you did.
Philip Mauriello: Mauriello.
Adriana Linares: So Philip Mauriello. And your law firm is called?
Philip Mauriello: Arete Law.
Adriana Linares: Which I asked you about that before, so I am going to ask you to tell our listeners where that came from.
Philip Mauriello: Arete Law; well, Arete is a Greek philosophy for excellence in everything that you do.
Adriana Linares: A-R-E-T-E?
Philip Mauriello: Correct.
Adriana Linares: So it’s aretelaw.com, your website.
Philip Mauriello: arete.law.
Adriana Linares: Oh, got it, okay.
Philip Mauriello: And it was a personal philosophy of one of my heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, who was my favorite president. So I read about Arete in one of his autobiographies, so I was like yeah, that would be a good name for a law firm, and it’s a good philosophy as well to kind of put forward as a business model.
Adriana Linares: I see. And as far as having chosen a cool name for your law firm and you mentioned marketing earlier, did you get some marketing help building your website, do you have a logo, tell us a little bit about either what you did or where you are with that?
Philip Mauriello: Well, my logo I believe I used Fiverr.
Adriana Linares: Okay, cool.
Philip Mauriello: And I know a lot of people like to downplay Fiverr.
Adriana Linares: fiverr.com.
Philip Mauriello: I can never remember if it’s two Vs or two Rs, I think it’s two Rs.
Adriana Linares: Try both.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I used Fiverr and I got a nice logo out of it and yeah, I had worked on that sort of also during law school, came up with the logo, but I also designed websites and helped some attorneys with SEO in law school as sort of a side gig.
Adriana Linares: You did? Oh yeah, you are a nerd-and-a-half, it’s okay.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. So I learned it for myself at least so I didn’t have to pay someone else to do it and then I started helping other attorneys do it.
Adriana Linares: Did you do it in WordPress?
Philip Mauriello: I used Wix.
Adriana Linares: Oh, okay. I want to go to your website, but it keeps spelling it wrong, Arete?
Philip Mauriello: arete.law.
Adriana Linares: Oh yeah, very cool. Oh, and I like those colors. This looks lovely. This looks good. Oh, and you have got a chat; okay, tell us about your chat service, who does that?
Philip Mauriello: So that’s through Wix as well and that’s another integration I haven’t opted for yet with Smith.ai, you can actually have them respond to your chats.
Adriana Linares: Oh, excellent.
Philip Mauriello: As of right now it’s just me responding to the chats.
Adriana Linares: That’s okay, baby steps man. Okay, so you have got Smokeball, Smith.ai, PC, what else?
Philip Mauriello: I am trying to think of anything else.
Adriana Linares: Are you Office 365 or G Suite?
Philip Mauriello: Office 365.
Adriana Linares: Okay, great.
Philip Mauriello: Outlook, all that.
Adriana Linares: And like little add-ons that you like, do you use a Password Manager, do you use any of those grammar tools?
Philip Mauriello: Grammarly.
Adriana Linares: You do? Did you pay for it?
Philip Mauriello: For a while I did.
Adriana Linares: I think I paid for the year subscription, mainly because for me, and I have said this before on the show, so sorry if you have to hear it twice or maybe three times, when I type it’s very free flow, I don’t want to think about apostrophes and sometimes capital letters and stuff, so afterwards when I go to reread it, if it’s long, I like the way Grammarly fixes those simple things. I mean I don’t necessarily — I mean although it does do a good job of recommending better verbiage sometimes.
And then how about resources outside of technology? You are a solo practitioner and a big complaint that I hear from solos is they miss the camaraderie of being in a big firm or being able to walk down the hall and ask another attorney how this or that. So do you do that here in the Bar?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I chat with some of the other attorneys, because you start to see — if you hang around here enough you start to see sort of the same people who come here, so you start to get to know them and they get to know you.
But one resource that I use, because I work out of my own home office is this thing called LawyerSlack. I can’t remember, is it LawyerSmack or LawyerSlack?
Adriana Linares: Oh, I think it’s LawyerSmack. I thought it was the Associate’s Mind, but maybe that’s Keith Lee’s. I will look it up right now; maybe that’s his Twitter handle.
Okay, but tell us about it while I am pulling it up to make sure we send people to the right resource.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, I think it’s LawyerSmack. I get confused because it’s housed, if you have ever heard of the app of Slack, it’s on Slack, and it’s a resource where it’s a big chat room with attorneys all over the country.
Adriana Linares: It’s the leading private community for lawyers and you are a member.
Philip Mauriello: I am a member, yeah.
Adriana Linares: And do you remember what it costs?
Philip Mauriello: I think when I — I got a 20% discount when I signed up. I think it’s $135 a month — no, $135 a year. Sorry Keith, I don’t want to scare people off.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I was going to say wow.
Philip Mauriello: $135 a year and I think it’s totally worth it.
Adriana Linares: That’s what I was going to ask you, so one, that’s not that much money and then it’s totally worth it. So what does that mean? What makes it worth it? What are you doing there?
Philip Mauriello: I first started using it as sort of like a LISTSERV, sort of like here with the San Diego County Bar, whenever you have a question, you always kind of just shoot out an email, can anyone help me with this, has anyone encountered this before, so that’s how I first started using it. Because they have all these different channels for all different practices and they have a solo small firm channel, which is very active, where you can go in and say hey, I have a question. How would I do this? Does this look like a good client? And it’s good to just have that resource to bounce off of people.
I will go in there and say hey, this client contacted me and they have — this is their story and then I will have responses of like, run very far away, drop that client or whatever.
But it’s also good. I call it like my water cooler, because there is all different channels, for food or music or one call Chitchat, which is just you chatting about anything. There is a good California channel, which is very active for California attorneys. So it’s my water cooler, and if you work solo and you just kind of want that camaraderie of people to talk to, that’s what I mostly use it for is just to chat with people.
I still use it to bounce ideas off of people, and in fact, this past weekend was the Clio Conference and a lot of them came out, and because I live here and I was able to show them around and because we had chatted so much through this program, once you met them in person, it was like oh, just seeing old friends again and hanging out with them.
Adriana Linares: I love that.
Philip Mauriello: So it’s a great resource if you work by yourself to get out there and meet other attorneys.
Adriana Linares: And obviously it’s a good advice. I mean it can’t always be good advice, there might be occasionally bad advice, but you have got a place to go to get advice.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. And they are very, like what did you call them, angry young lawyers.
Adriana Linares: Sorry Keith, yes, but I said that to his face over the weekend.
Philip Mauriello: They are super nice.
Adriana Linares: Angry young lawyers, but you are not, I know, it’s a joke.
Philip Mauriello: I think I had a question the other day and I just prefaced it with this is totally a noob question, but they were very helpful and they were like, don’t worry about it, it’s a complicated issue and they are always willing to help and they are always willing to give advice.
Adriana Linares: I love that. I love that about lawyers. I find lawyers are very generous with their knowledge and their time, and especially if you actually put it out there, so many lawyers don’t have a place to put those questions, so I am glad to hear about that.
So I want to go back and ask you a couple of more quick questions before we close this segment, just money-wise. So $135 a year, so let’s say $11 a month for LawyerSmack is what you paid or paying. $8 a month for Office 365, I take it.
Philip Mauriello: Correct.
Adriana Linares: Smokeball is about?
Philip Mauriello: I got a deal because I whittled them down to $99 a month. I think they are like $130 a month.
Adriana Linares: All right, so $100 a month-ish for practice management.
What do you do your time billing?
Philip Mauriello: Smokeball.
Adriana Linares: In Smokeball, okay, so it does time billing, case management, document assembly, document management. And you are paying Smith.ai?
Philip Mauriello: They are about — they are a little more expensive now because they handle, I don’t know how many calls they handle now, but they gave me a plan that’s like $200 a month, but when you compare that with paying a receptionist 9-5 to sit at your desk or sit at a desk, it’s I find better.
Adriana Linares: It is a hard thing. That’s a conversation I have a lot with lawyers. They are like $250 a month? I am like what are you going to pay a human? I mean you are not going to get a human for $250 a month at your desk all the time and what if you don’t want to have a desk, like you, you want to be mobile.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, that’s the one thing I would — I mean I have only been out for three months, so I am not an expert by any means, but maybe this is the business entrepreneur in me that says, you have to look at your time and how much it’s worth. So even if you are billing — you are a new attorney and you say oh, well, I only want to be like $200 an hour. You have to think of everything that you could be doing to make money and make those billable hours or you are going to be wasting time.
So if you want to look into like a virtual assistant or a paralegal or someone who can contract that work out, if it’s cheaper to pay someone $50 an hour as a paralegal to draft and file a complaint, it saves you how much time to go make money elsewhere.
So I think that’s one thing that, it’s tough, because in the beginning you are thinking well, I want to save all this money and I don’t want to spend money, but you sort of — and the old adage is true, you have to spend money to make money.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, no, it’s totally true. Well, let’s take a quick break, listen to message from some sponsors and then I am going to come back and ask you a few more questions.
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Adriana Linares: Okay, we are back with Philip Mauriello of Arete Law. Philip was just telling us kind of a rundown of your monthly costs for running your solo small practice and we were at under 250, I think — no, it was 200ish for Smith.ai, which is your virtual receptionist and you think it’s worth every penny.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: About $100 for Smokeball, totally worth it, helps you get every — keep everything in one place. Office 365 is a few bucks. Do you have Acrobat or anything for Adobe PDF manipulation?
Philip Mauriello: I just signed up for Acrobat because I have to edit some document for e-filing.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, so another $13 or $15 a month for that. So you are running your whole practice let’s just say for under $500 a month. And are you easily covering that in billable hours?
Philip Mauriello: Oh yeah.
Adriana Linares: Good.
Philip Mauriello: It’s not that bad when you look at it, especially if you work out of your own home, plus professional liability insurance, $50 through Lawyers Mutual.
Adriana Linares: No kidding. Everyone complains so much about how expensive it is.
Philip Mauriello: No, there is a program called Strong Start, so it’s $50 a month for new attorneys and solo attorneys.
Adriana Linares: Oh, great, awesome. Very good advice. My next question was going to be, where do you meet your clients?
Philip Mauriello: Where do I meet them?
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you don’t have an office; you said you work from your home office. This is a question I get all the time, especially someone who doesn’t — who wants to go out on their own, but that’s a big concern they have, where do you meet your clients?
Philip Mauriello: I meet them at this lovely Bar Center.
Adriana Linares: So true. Not everyone has a Bar Center though. I have to say San Diego’s Bar Center and its member lounge and it’s meeting rooms are really amazing.
Do you have your mail delivered here?
Philip Mauriello: I don’t.
Adriana Linares: You know it’s a free service?
Philip Mauriello: I do.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So that’s great, so you meet your clients here, maybe a coffee shop if you must or wherever you meet them. And how are you getting your clients?
Philip Mauriello: It’s mostly referrals right now, but I am starting to see more traffic to my website, which is nice. I am starting to see — I just had a consult through someone who contacted me through my chat. And the nice thing about Wix is you can set it up that if you book — I think you have a page that is booking online, so you can set it up and they go into your calendar. So I booked a consult.
I just started with Convert IT Marketing. They are a Google PPC company for attorneys. So we will see where that goes. They just started a week ago, so PPC takes a while for it to kind of —
Adriana Linares: About six months before you can see results.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. It starts to like gear up for a little bit, doesn’t happen immediately. So yeah, referrals, a little bit of marketing. Website is huge; make sure you have a good website that people can find and it looks really nice, so nice and professional.
Adriana Linares: That’s critical.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah. And that’s basically the main sources. I mean I am sure that’s the main sources for every attorney.
Adriana Linares: And when you talk to another young lawyer and they say well, how did you do it or what’s the one thing you didn’t know that you wish you knew now; I know you are only three months in, but you are pretty sage for having three months of soloness behind you, what are some of the tips or advice that you would — I mean you have given us a lot of great advice, know where your money is better spent or your time — know where your time is better spent, put the right technologies in place even if it means making an uncomfortable switch at first.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, definitely have phases set up for when your firm starts to build and build quickly, because you don’t want to be caught flat-footed and you don’t want to not be prepared or miss a case or miss a client because you weren’t ready or you weren’t ready to take stuff on.
Have a lot of that stuff waiting in the wings, you don’t necessarily have to pay for it, but you can say this is a resource that when I hit X amount of clients or X amount of revenue, I know I am going to tap into. So that if I have extra work, I will just assign it over here and I will get it taken care of, things that will make your life easier.
And the other big piece of information, and this actually was because I listened to one of your episodes about the Eight Commandments for Getting Paid.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, with Marco Brown, that was a good one.
Philip Mauriello: And it’s hard for new solos and I know it’s really hard, you don’t want to hear this, but get money upfront, get a retainer, it makes it a whole lot easier when it comes to client relationships. And I think Marco even talked about that. It’s bad when you have to start chasing clients and looking for money. So I would say that.
It also gives you the peace of mind that you know the money is there and it’s coming in. And don’t be afraid, this was something someone in LawyerSmack told me, you make more money off the cases you don’t take than the ones you do, and I have turned down a fair amount of kind of duds in the past month alone of clients that you look at and say okay.
Adriana Linares: Your gut tells you.
Philip Mauriello: Your gut tells you they are not the right client, it’s not worth pursuing, they are not sure what they want, so you don’t want to try and just chase the money. Yeah, so those are hard things I know for solos to hear, turning down money or asking for money upfront, but.
Adriana Linares: It’s the smart way to go.
Philip Mauriello: It’s the smart way to go.
Adriana Linares: Did you have a business plan when you started, I mean an official one? I know you had a business plan in your mind and you had worked on it really hard, but did you actually have an official business plan?
Philip Mauriello: I did. I had like financials.
Adriana Linares: You did.
Philip Mauriello: Like vague financials.
Adriana Linares: Wow.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Lawyers don’t do good math.
Philip Mauriello: No, I know, they are not known for math. I am not known for math either. My sister is the CPA, so I got the lawyer aspect, she got the numbers aspect.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome. Another question for you, you plan to grow or do you like being solo and you think oh, I am going to stay solo forever?
Philip Mauriello: No, I plan on growing. That sort of was in my business plan of, I think there is, and I am not trying to be facetious or overambitious, but I think there is a better way to practice legal and especially marrying technology with the legal world right now, you can do law a lot better and I am starting to see there is great law firms here in San Diego that are doing it really well.
So yeah, I want to grow it eventually to start hiring people and find a nice office space and be a firm that’s established, well-established here for many years to come.
Adriana Linares: I love that, very ambitious, it’s going to happen.
Philip Mauriello: I hope so.
Adriana Linares: So I was thinking maybe you will come back in like six or so months and we can see how far you have come.
Philip Mauriello: Sounds great.
Adriana Linares: Doesn’t it? Okay. Anything else you want to make sure and say before we call it a podcast?
Philip Mauriello: No, just freelanceattorneyforhire.com, if you want to learn more, if you ever want to reach out to me, that’s my freelance site, and then arete.law is the firm website.
Adriana Linares: And are you on any of the social media? Do you use social media at all?
Philip Mauriello: I do.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Philip Mauriello: That’s another tool I use, later.com, that’s my Instagram scheduling.
Adriana Linares: Later?
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: For scheduling posts and stuff.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: And what’s your Instagram handle?
Philip Mauriello: It’s just @arete_law_apc.
Adriana Linares: And what about Twitter?
Philip Mauriello: I don’t use Twitter as much, because I feel like you are just kind of shooting tweets off into the abyss.
Adriana Linares: Right, until you have got a following.
Philip Mauriello: Yeah, until you have a following. Instagram is great, mostly because of how much traffic it’s getting right now and how much people are interacting with stuff on Instagram and you can really create a brand there and geotag it and all that stuff. It’s just the best social media out there right now.
Adriana Linares: We all like pretty pictures.
Philip Mauriello: We all love pretty pictures.
Adriana Linares: So simple.
Philip Mauriello: I don’t remember the last time I logged into Facebook.
Adriana Linares: I am not a good Facebook user. I keep it there. I will tell you the reason I use Facebook more than anything or keep it I should say, because I don’t really use it, and it’s a sad reason is, when there is some sort of disaster, I like knowing that my friends are safe or that their kids are, so that’s really the only reason I keep Facebook. And usually the only reason I go on is to, so and so, mark themselves safe. In Florida we have a lot of hurricanes and stuff like that.
Philip Mauriello: They should have mark safe from the Santa Ana winds.
Adriana Linares: Yes. Oh my God, you people don’t know of heat.
Well, although I have learned that man, those Santa Ana winds is what kicks up all those fires or a lot of the fires, it’s really interesting. For me as a sort of cross-country hopper, the whole natural disaster, you know, you come to California like oh, no hurricanes and no tornadoes, and I am like what, was that an earthquake?
So anyway. Well, thanks everyone for listening. And Philip, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your very sage advice with us, very much appreciate it. Everyone knows how they can find, friend or follow you as I always say.
So thanks again for listening to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. If you like what you have heard today, give us a good rating on iTunes and subscribe using your favorite podcast app, whether it’s iTunes or not. We will see you next time.
And remember, you are not alone, you are new solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.