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Why practicing Threshold Law is so dangerous to a solo lawyer

Legal Marketing Mistakes – #2 Practicing “Threshold Law”

threshold lawWe are getting ever so much closer to the number one legal marketing mistake that young lawyers and new solos make, but today we are going to talk about “threshold law” and why it is so dangerous to your practice. Yesterday we discussed legal fees and how to charge an appropriate amount. Threshold law goes hand in hand with failing to charge a sufficient legal fee.

When I say threshold, I am referring to the doorway to your law office. When a lawyer engages in “threshold” law, they are willing to accept any prospective client that walks through the door, provided they are willing to pay that lawyer money (and it usually doesn’t matter how much).

Some common examples of threshold law

When young lawyers are just starting out, the pressure on them to get clients so that they can pay their bills is overwhelming. Trust me, I’ve been there. You are willing to take just about any client with a heartbeat. So here’s how it starts.

You take another lawyer to lunch – a perfectly legitimate marketing strategy. That lawyer wants to help you out and send you some business. Sounds great so far, right? So they send you an “old friend” of their’s that has a landlord/tenant issue – they need to evict a tenant – but they have limited funds. Could you help? The only problem is, they don’t have a lot of money to pay a lawyer – but this will be a great experience for you (say’s the referring lawyer). Don’t bite – this is a trap. Run as fast as you can the other way. The only thing this case will do is sidetrack you from your goals of having a successful law practice.

Here’s another common situation – and it starts with you offering the free consultation that I warned you about. You will start filling your days with consultations, but none of these clients has the funds together to hire you just yet. Sound famaliar? Who doesn’t want some free legal advice? The problem is, when they don’t pay you for it, there is no value to them. I tried free consultations for about a month and then quickly started charging a minimal amount for a consultation. Now I charge a flat $250 for a 60-90 minute meeting. No exceptions, and I have my assistant gather the payment up front (I’ll save the reasons why for a later post, but you can probably guess).

How practicing threshold law can doom your practice

As soon as you take a client or two that are not a good fit for your practice, you start to lose focus on what is important to you and your practice. Your risk of committing malpractice goes up. One practice area is hard enough to learn as a young lawyer – trying to do more than one is downright impossible.

So do me a favor – please be careful about the clients you are willing to work with. Be selective. Limit the number of cases you are willing to take. You will thank me for this advice later on.

Questions or comments about this information? Please feel free to post below!

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