For some lawyers, practicing law is the final stop on a well-traveled career path. Oftentimes, lawyers who choose the law after working in other fields are the most content with their choice, and as a result, success follows. Matthew Johnston, who provides virtual counsel for small, medium, and growing businesses in Frederick, Maryland and surrounding areas, is one of those attorneys.
From the Navy to dry land
Matthew began his career in the Navy, then moved onto government relations and lobbying. It was at that point that he began to consider a career in the legal field, in large part because he was drawn to the idea of problem-solving for a living. “I always liked solving problems and the fun thing about practicing law is when you’re solving problems they can be big or small ones,” he explains. “That’s why my favorite part about being an attorney is helping a client achieve whatever goals they’ve set. So if it’s forming a business, I can do that. Or for other clients I help them resolve problems with contracts and move forward from there.”
From law school to solo practice
Matthew graduated in from law school in 2005 and his first job was as an associate at a small, 6-lawyer litigation firm. Although it was a good place to start his legal career, he eventually realized it was time to move on: “It was all litigation all the time and in that situation it seemed I never meet anyone on a good day. Another issue was that I wasn’t really learning a substantive area of the law, so while I became very good at processes, that wasn’t very satisfying.”
That’s why he ultimately decided to hang a shingle and start a virtual solo law practice. He operates out of a co-working space, a decision that made sense when he initially launched his firm and one that continues to work well for him today. “I work in a co-working space with marketing, PR, and computer tech types, which is a little unusual,” he says. “It was done as a cost measure at first, but has turned out to be one of the key factors to my success. I learn so much from the people I share space with in my day-to-day interactions and that knowledge helps me communicate better with my clients.”
The path to security in the cloud
When he decided to open his own law firm, there were a lot of decisions to be made. At first, he used a motley assortment of free tools to run his practice, but quickly realized that he needed a better, more secure solution: “When I started out, I was very cost sensitive so I was using a lot of free tools. As a result, I was already operating in the cloud and was using consumer online storage tools to handle collaboration with clients. Soon I began to look at legal practice management software since one of the biggest concerns for me was security, including security of communications, documents, invoicing and accounting, and more.“
After researching his options, he discovered MyCase, and his search for the right law practice management software for his firm was over. “When I was researching legal practice management software, one of the main concerns for me was security. I was focused on the security of communications, documents, and billing. It was particularly important for me to ensure that I could communicate securely with clients.” He continues, “Because MyCase offers bank grade security and people obviously rely on the security of their banks, that gave me–and my clients–an extra level of trust. This is important. Although lawyers sell legal services, what clients are buying, in large part, is trust, comfort, and security.”
MyCase offers an efficient, all-in-one solution
But it was more than just security; MyCase was the perfect fit for his virtual law firm. It offered all of the features that he needed in a user-friendly interface. “MyCase was intuitive and fit well with my workflow so I didn’t have to change much with my internal processes in terms of handling documents and communicating with clients. The all-in-one concept was important to me. With MyCase, I was able to integrate everything into one place, including my firm’s digital files and all of my communications with my clients,” he explains.
“MyCase makes my day-to-day life easier and my billing a lot faster. I couldn’t live without batch invoicing. That’s what helps me zip through things. It used to take me all day to invoice clients and now I can do it in less than an hour. That cost-savings alone makes MyCase worth every penny I pay for it.”
Advice for solo and small firm lawyers
Now that he’s an experienced solo attorney he’s able to look back and reflect on what helped him launch a successful firm. His advice to lawyers thinking about making the leap is to focus on a few specific practice areas: “From the very start, make sure to identify what you want to do and who you want to work with. It’s easy to get caught up with the notion of taking any client who walks in the door, especially when you have bills to pay. But the key is to make every effort to be specific with the kind of law you want to practice and the clients you want to work with.”