Law school solo incubators—programs designed to help recent graduates launch their own firms—are catching on.
Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Thomas Jefferson School of Law are the latest to launch incubators, both of which are slated to open in November.
At Chicago-Kent, the seven participating graduates will receive office space at the law school; training in client intake, billing,marketing and case management; and access to the law school’s library, Lexis and Westlaw. Each solo will work with a law school clinician and a practicing attorney mentor.
The incubator is designed to offer a softer landing for new solos, who traditionally have had to figure out on their own how to make a practice work, said Chicago-Kent dean Harold Krent.
“They will learn from professionals,” he said. “There will be someone right down the hallway, so if issues arise in their practices, they’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of. Secondly, they’ll be in a group, so they can learn from each other and help each other out.”
The solos will learn how to manage their resources and size up potential cases, Krent said. Participants must bill at least 10 hours per week for the Law Offices of Chicago-Kent, a teaching law firm that incorporates clinical education for students and legal services to the community, and must carry their own malpractice insurance.
“We asked everyone who applied to the program to write a business plan, which sent the message that this was serious,” Krent said.
The City University of New York School of Law was the first to launch an incubator, in 2007. The idea really began catching on in 2010 and 2011, as it became clear that the path into law firm jobs was narrowing. The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Law began incubators. Pace Law School followed suit soon afterwards.
Thomas Jefferson School of Law unveiled plans for its new solo incubator this summer, and itproved popular with recent graduates. “We had more people apply for the incubator than we could accommodate,” program director Lilys McCoy said. “We had to turn people away.”
The solos, all of whom have been out of law school for three years of less, must perform at least 50 hours of pro bono service for the Family Justice Center Alliance—an organization that provides legal services to victims of domestic violence. The solos will work from the Alliance’s offices, and participants are scheduled to move in on November 1. They will be required to meet with their mentors weekly and attend weekly trainings that cover how to run a law practice, McCoy said.
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