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Solo Incubator to launch in San Diego

This article originally appeared in The National Law Journal.

   Recent graduates of Thomas Jefferson School of Law who want to launch solo practices will soon have some extra
support from their alma mater.

The school is the latest to start a solo incubator — a post-graduation program intended to provide affordable office space and mentoring from law faculty and alumni to help graduates gain experience and learn how to run their own practices.

The City University of New York School of Law was the first to create such a program in 2007, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Pace Law School have followed.

“We don’t take part in their law offices, but we’ll provide mentorship and support,” said Thomas Jefferson professor Luz Herrera, who is spearheading the initiative. “We’ll also have a listserve that will put them in contact with more experienced attorneys.”

The school will start taking applications for the program in July, and expects to have between six and eight participants initially. They will spend between 12 and 18 months in the incubator. Assisting them will be MBA students at San Diego State University, who will research the solo practitioner market in the city to help identify unmet legal needs and suggest prices for their services, Herrera said.

New solos must realize that their competition comes from do-it-yourself providers such as LegalZoom, and not from other law firms, she said.

Fred Rooney, who developed CUNY’s solo incubator, traveled to San Diego to help Herrera and other Thomas Jefferson faculty to help develop to the program. He said he has been fielding requests from many law schools for information and ideas.

“As more solo incubators are conceptualized by law schools, each one is going to be unique,” Rooney said. “I think the Thomas Jefferson model is going to emphasize cross-border matters,” given that San Diego’s close proximity to the Mexican border.

Thomas Jefferson will start a solo practice concentration within its curriculum next fall to prepare students who want to go that route. The school has asked local bar associations and practicing attorneys to submit proposals for what that curriculum should cover, Herrera said. The preliminary plan calls for a series of practicing attorneys to lecture on topics ranging from how to market yourself to how to maintain good relationships with opposing counsel.

Early interest in the solo practice concentration has been high, she said.

“San Diego is a small-firm city,” she said. “We have some larger firms, like Luce Forward, but most firms here are five attorneys or smaller.”

May 16, 2012 | Namati