Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 22

"
Courtesy of Ava Benach

I handle cases in which
things have gone
wrong, in which people
have made mistakes or
the government has
made mistakes -
something that can't
just be on the standard
conveyor belt of
immigration law.
AVA BENACH
Benach Collopy LLP

FLYING SOLO
Not all solo or small firm attorneys start their own businesses because they
can't find work at a Big Law firm. Some, like Allen Orr, leave large firms on their
own accord. Before launching Orr Immigration Law Firm P.C. in 2010, Orr
worked at Baker McKenzie as an immigration lawyer specializing in business
compliance. "I decided to leave because of the overhead, which was keeping
me from becoming partner," Orr says. "It's hard to do a niche practice at a
large firm unless it generates huge fees that are compatible with the other
components of the firm. For instance, at Baker McKenzie a tax attorney could
bill $800 to $1,000 an hour for a case, whereas that would not be a sustainable
fee in immigration law."
Because of his long tenure at Baker McKenzie, Orr had stronger financial
footing and more client prospects than others when he went solo. He also
wisely used resources available through the D.C. Bar's PMAS, which holds
free courses and seminars for Bar members on marketing, managing bank
accounts, and legal ethics.
When Orr started his practice, he had offices in both Washington, D.C., and
New York. The former was in a suite shared with other attorneys; the latter
was a brick-and-mortar office that he rented for three years. "I literally had
exactly two clients walk into that office. So, it wasn't a good use of money,"
Orr says. "In the type of work that I do, I'm mostly onsite going through
clients' documents."
Ava Benach is also an immigration lawyer who worked in Big Law before
co-launching her firm, Benach Collopy LLP, in 2012. Prior to that she was at
Maggio + Kattar for seven years, and then at Duane Morris LLP for three.
Benach, who has practiced immigration law her entire career, dreamed of
starting a firm that better represented her ideals. "I wanted to create a place
that was consistent with my character, which is warm, generous, kind,
creative, and thoughtful," she says.
22 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

APRIL 2019

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Those traits serve her well in immigration law. "I handle cases in which
things have gone wrong, in which people have made mistakes or the
government has made mistakes - something that can't just be on the
standard conveyor belt of immigration law. Most of my cases involve problematic issues in deportation proceedings and [immigration] applications
such as green cards and citizenship. I deal with asylum and advise people
of the consequences of pleas in criminal proceedings. Those are some of
my niche areas."

DEVELOPING BUSINESS SENSE
As solo and niche practices continue to grow, so does the need for attorneys to master their entrepreneurial skills, one of the biggest hurdles for
many. Mills says the common personality traits of lawyers such as being
very independent, urgent about their work, cerebral, and skeptical don't
translate well in the business world. "These personality traits make us great
at analyzing and solving our clients' problems," Mills explains.
"To start a law firm, you want to use those personality traits that are baked in,
but you also need to set those traits aside when you start thinking about
starting and growing a business. If you start applying those traits to the
business side of running a law firm, you will kill it because you will overthink
it." The good news is that some law schools are now teaching students how
to be entrepreneurs, Mills says.
When it comes to executing cost-effective marketing, Ben Glass, a Virginiabased personal injury lawyer who started Great Legal Marketing, LLC in
2005, advises against trying to compete dollar-for-dollar for print, radio,
television, and digital advertisement with Big Law firms. Instead, he
suggests creating information-based marketing pamphlets, books, and
downloads that touch upon various aspects of attorneys' legal expertise.
That way they can better attract potential clients still mulling over whether
they need a lawyer.


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Washington Lawyer - April 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - April 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
DC Bar Practice Management Advisory Service feature
Niching Down to Build Up feature
Going Small feature
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 12
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - DC Bar Practice Management Advisory Service feature
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 15
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Niching Down to Build Up feature
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Going Small feature
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 47
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - 51
Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Last Word
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Washington Lawyer - April 2019 - Cover4
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