Today we’re continuing with the latest installment in our series connecting with attorneys from the Rocket Lawyer On Call® network. As we’ve done with our last profile, we’re meeting with attorneys in our network to discuss how they’ve made the most of their practice. Read on!
When you are an associate in Big Law working late nights and regularly showing up in the office on weekends, it’s easy to idealize life as a solo practitioner. But if you find the courage to make the move, you’ll discover solo practice is an even harder row. As Clearwater, Florida-based attorney Mike Ziegler explains: “Don’t go into solo practice thinking that it is going to give you more vacation time. You’ll have less. I probably work twice as hard now.”
Mike knows what he’s talking about too. After graduating from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville in 2008, he began working at a nearby Legal Aid office. The experience made an impression on him. Indeed, he described the position as a “natural fit” for the skill set he brought with him such as a knack for understanding other people’s problems. In fact, it was there that he discovered his calling as an attorney working in debt relief: “Someone comes into the office and has been hit hard by the debt crisis. They tell me how strong their income used to be, they used to be able to manage their debt, and that isn’t their situation right now. They don’t know how to address it. To be able to take someone from that level of uncertainty – just looking at their emotional stress levels – and being able to help them, that is very rewarding.”
Indeed, for a number of reasons, he discovered that he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at the Legal Aid office. For example, Mike enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside talented attorneys who were already recognized for their work. Those colleagues have provided him invaluable mentorship and have been a valuable source for referrals.
After leaving the Legal Aid office, Mike spent time working at a private practice. While he was there he learned how to translate his litigation and legal skills into the business of law. Regardless, he was eager to launch his own practice: “I wanted the autonomy to be able to give my clients what I felt was the full range of services. When you work for someone else there is always a limit on what you can do. I wanted to take off those handcuffs.
In his solo office, Mike’s primary focus is to turn “debt crisis into debt relief,” through foreclosure defense, bankruptcy, fighting creditors in court, and by filing creditor harassment claims. “The art in what I do is in tailoring the recommended legal remedy to an individual’s personal circumstances. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.” He also practices in business litigation, landlord/tenant, and breach of contract claims.
Like many of his colleagues, Mike initially faced many of the same uncertainties that confront any new solo practitioner: “When you start with zero clients, no matter how prepared you are, there is always the fear ‘What if this doesn’t take off’ and ‘What if I don’t gain the traction I hope I’m going to gain.'” His business comes from a number of sources ranging from referrals (“I was lucky to have a number of attorneys recognize the quality of my work.”) and also from using services such as Rocket Lawyer’s On Call program. Although he uses various online referral networks, Rocket Lawyer has been the strongest referral source for him. He adds that there is a “sense of confidence” for both him and the clients he meets through Rocket Lawyer: “They know that I’m going to do everything I can do help them.”
Ultimately, solo practice has been proven to be a rewarding experience for Mike. He works hard but he feels like he can make a true difference in the lives of his clients while building a life for himself. After all, Mike explained: “Working twice as hard for yourself is twice as rewarding as working half as hard for someone else.”
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