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Why Cleveland Might Be the Best Place to Start a Law Firm

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According to a recent article in the Plain Dealer, Cleveland is quickly becoming an ideal place for young lawyers to live.

The affordability of Northeast Ohio, coupled with a large legal industry, makes Cleveland an attractive place to live for attorneys. When comparing the buying power of Cleveland residents to New York or California, Cleveland wins hands down. Northeast Ohio is also in a better position to catch the demand for legal services because it charges lower fees than Chicago and New York.

Andrew Renacci said purchasing power was a big reason he returned home to go to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law after getting a bachelor’s degree in public policy at the University of Michigan.

“Cleveland’s on the rise,” said the new associate at Squire Sanders, who is the son of Congressman Jim Renacci. “It provides a big city atmosphere with a not-so-big-city cost of living.”

So prove it you say? Let’s start with this…

According to the National Association for Law Placement, the median starting salary for a Cleveland lawyer is at $104,000. The catch is that these figures typically represent “BigLaw” jobs. A more accurate estimation may be closer to $50,000 to $70,000.

While Cleveland certainly has its share of large firms, finding employment at these larger organizations is getting fairly difficult, nationwide. If you read the comments after the Plain Dealer article, you quickly notice that some graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to find a job, let alone a well-paying one. And that’s no surprise, since overall employment rates for recent graduates across the nation are down 6% since 2007.

But there is hope.

Although law firm employment is down nationwide, there’s a sharp increase in hiring in solo and small firms versus large firms, according to NALP. “Starting with the Class of 2010 there was a sharp reversal, with jobs in small firms outnumbering those in firms of more than 100 lawyers for the first time since 1997.” Data from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law indicates that over 57% of their 2011 law graduates that entered into private practice were employed in a solo or small firm.

The ‘Death of Big Law” represents rebirth in small law. And Cleveland may be the perfect place for lawyers looking to start their own firm.

Opening your own law firm may sound scary, but the barriers to entrance in the legal market are lower than ever. In the past, sophisticated IT systems were reserved for only the large firms that could afford to spend thousands of dollars on servers, computers and practice management systems, however, dramatic changes in accessibility and affordability has changed the game. Armed with the right tools and practices, a solo or small practice can easily thrive in today’s environment with minimal investment.

And for attorneys that think they are unable to generate enough business, Tom Wallerstein, a Partner at a California law firm, has advice for you.

“…necessity is the mother of invention. It is truly amazing how quickly business development skills can be learned when feeding your family depends on it.

“Sometimes it is not until you launch your own practice that you discover that there really is no magic to business development and that anyone can be successful if they invest the time (provided, of course, that they offer a service for which clients are willing to pay).

So if you’re thinking about starting your own law practice or looking for a new job, Cleveland might be the place for you.

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Sources:
http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/01/young_lawyers_find_cost-of-liv.html#incart_river
http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/10/post_106.html
http://www.nalp.org/0712research
https://www.law.csuohio.edu/careerplanning/employmentstatistics
http://wisconsinlawreview.org/wp-content/files/1-Ribstein.pdf
http://abovethelaw.com/2013/01/from-biglaw-to-boutique-mother-of-invention/

Abbie Hosta
Abbie Hosta
Abbie Hosta is the Marketing & Operations Manager for Accellis Technology Group, a national legal technology consulting firm specializing in the legal industry. Abbie manages the day-to-day operations and the firm’s marketing & communications efforts. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts from Baldwin-Wallace University in Marketing and Human Resources.
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