Entrepreneur Profile: DUI Law Firm of Seattle, WA

duilawfirmwa.com

Becoming an attorney requires a lot of education and hard work, and can’t be achieved with the same kind of speed as many start-up business models. However, upon graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, practicing lawyers have a very interesting dilemma to face: Join an existing law firm and get the benefit of stability, or take the entrepreneurial approach, and start a private law practice. Today we’re speaking with M. Varn Chandola of the DUI Law Firm (www.duilawfirmwa.com) of Seattle, Washington about his story and thoughts on the pros and cons of launching an independent law firm.

When you first came out of law school, did you immediately want to start your own law firm or did you work for an existing practice first?

When I first came out of law school in Arizona, I really did not know what to until my mother suggested that I just begin my own law office. Soon after opening my own law office, I had the opportunity to work at other legal institutions, but since I had begun to get clients through government contracts to represent individuals in criminal cases, I decided to keep my office going. Approximately ten years later, when I later closed down my practice and moved to Washington State after my former spouse accepted a job in the Seattle area, I once again was not sure about what work to do. I briefly tried some new things and also worked as a lawyer for an organization, but soon began to yearn to once again begin my own practice. Based on my criminal law background which involved representing clients in DUI cases, I decided to open DUI Law Firm to serve clients in the Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma, WA area.

What lessons did you learn there that helped you to start and successfully manage your own firm?

My experience in briefly working for someone else reinforced my belief that working for yourself was unbeatable. When you work for someone else as a lawyer, you must not only be successful in representing clients, but also exert time and energy in maintaining relations with your boss, colleagues and staff. Upon returning to private practice, I could once again center my attention solely on my clients.

What motivated you to start your own law firm?

When I launched DUI Law Firm in Seattle and Bellevue, my primary goal which is common to many solo practitioners was to be able to represent clients where you are only accountable to them and no one else. By having my own law firm, I am not obligated to impress a boss or staff, but only my clients. I can therefore operate during hours where I can work when needed. For example, I could be researching a client’s case at 8PM at night rather than worry about getting to the office at 8AM simply to impress my boss that I am working during the standard accepted business hours. I view my work in terms of 24 hours a day which is both client centric and offers me the flexibility to structure my time as I see fit.

Were there specific market forces that drove you to choose DUI law? Did you notice a higher demand for lawyers specializing in DUI law?

Practicing as a criminal defense attorney can be emotionally taxing. You often communicate with individuals who are facing serious offenses and do not have the funds to hire an attorney. Those who are unable to afford the services of a private attorney are usually represented by a public defender who provides either free or low cost services. Unlike most other criminal offenses, individuals charged with DUI come from a wide variety of backgrounds including diverse income levels. Regardless of a person’s race, gender, ethnicity, income level, etc., anyone who drinks and drives risks the possibility of being charged with DUI. Based on the large frequency of arrests each year for DUI, the market for DUI attorneys is good.

What are some of the challenges associated with managing your own law firm as opposed to just working at an existing law firm?

The main challenge of working for yourself is that you are responsible for everything related to your practice. Because nothing is already set up for you, you must set everything up. Also, while the assumption is that solos have greater flexibility and control over when and how long they work, because they cannot just rely or hand over their work to someone else, solos’ schedule is very dependent on how much work exists at any given time.

What are some of the important “Start-Up Costs” associated with starting your own law firm that need to be considered?

While office space along with any costs associated with hiring staff will be a large and very challenging expense for any attorney starting a practice, with the advent of virtual law firms which are often served by virtual support staff, such overhead costs can be substantially minimized. However, expenses associated with obtaining and maintaining your professional state bar license and continuing legal education (CLE) are mandatory costs that every actively practicing attorney will face. Also, attorney malpractice coverage and business licenses are other basic expenses that attorneys will likely incur.

How did you generate clients early on in the business?

When I first started my solo criminal law practice in Arizona, I relied on government contracts to represent low-income individuals in felony cases. Considering that I was not only a new entrepreneur, but also a fresh law school graduate, it would have made more sense if the government had required me to first take on a contract to represent persons accused of misdemeanors (minor offenses) instead of felonies (serious offenses), but I worked in reverse order by first representing felons and then adding misdemeanor contracts to my practice. Now that I have well over fifteen years of experience in representing clients especially in DUI cases, my extensive law practice experience is a valuable asset. With DUI Law Firm, I am relying on strengthening my online presence to communicate with the widest possible audience and prospective clients.

How has technology changed the way that lawyers try and attract clients?

It is increasingly becoming vital to DUI attorneys to have not only a solid on-line presence, but to create a mobile friendly site so that prospective clients can easily find them during a smartphone search. Statistics indicate that an increasing number of DUI clients immediately look for an attorney on their smartphone upon being stopped or arrested. It is therefore not sufficient to simply have a website which looks good online, but to also possess a user friendly site which is specifically geared for smartphone searches. In addition to the business impact that smartphone usage has on DUI attorneys, technology generally helps attorneys like other professionals in getting work more efficiently done which then allows them to take on even more clients.

What are some important traits or qualities for aspiring lawyers that want to start their own firm?

Independence, confidence, and patience are probably the most important qualities for solos. A solo is unlikely to hit the ground running in the beginning, so he or she needs to be prepared to build the practice for the long-haul.

Where do you see the DUI Law Firm in 5 years’ time?

An obvious goal is to be the leading DUI law firm in the Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma region. However, as an entrepreneur, for me it has never been just about the bottom line, but also about achieving higher goals such as being a voice for legal reform, education and innovation within and related to DUI law. I, for instance, maintain the DUI Law Firm Blog and YouTube channel which are intended not just to attract clients, but to educate people on various aspects of DUI law. While my blog articles and videos cover the nuts and bolts, they also provide commentary on contested and controversial topics related to DUI law. I therefore see DUI Law Firm as not only being the top DUI law firm in my region, but also a leading state, national and even international legal voice.

Awesome Varn. Thanks for your time and insights!

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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