When Chicago attorney Kendra Spearman started law school at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law, she was passionate about civil rights and knew she wanted to be a solo practitioner one day.
But upon graduation in 2016, she realized that she didn’t have the necessary resources to get her practice off the ground.
“I was lacking pretty much everything,” Spearman said, from marketing strategies to tips on client management and pricing services. “We don’t learn that part in law school.”
She heard about Chicago-Kent's Solo & Small Practice Incubator, a program that offers mentorship and resources for recent graduates looking to build their solo or small partner firms. She applied and was accepted into the 2016-17 cohort.
Can Incubators Help Lawyers Start Their Own Law Firm?
According to the American Bar Association, more than 60 existing or planned legal incubators can be found in 33 states and four countries. These programs typically offer training in business basics, such as bookkeeping and marketing; mentoring from experienced attorneys; and free or discounted office space. The Chicago-Kent incubator is just one of two legal incubators in Illinois.
Through a collaboration, Spearman was offered a year of complementary office space with Chicago-Kent's partner, Amata Law Office Suites — Chicago’s first legal community of more than 700 attorneys and Class-A downtown offices — and its premier legal support services. During that time, she made meaningful connections, including experts, who created her business cards and built her website free-of-charge.
“It’s been a tremendous experience and the highlight of my practice,” she said, adding how Amata’s legal support services allow her to be selective with cases. “I really don’t know where I would be without Amata and its partnership with Chicago-Kent.”
Once the yearlong incubator ended, Spearman permanently housed her firm, Spearman Law, LLC, at Amata. She also went on to establish the Justice Renewal Initiative, a program geared toward helping young men and women transition out of the criminal justice system. Amata CEO Ron Bockstahler now sits on the Board of Directors.
“I grew tired of watching young attorneys fail,” Bockstahler said of his decision to collaborate with the Chicago-Kent incubator. “Many new attorneys leave school with tons of student loan debt and have to compete with thousands of other graduates for jobs. I wanted to give them a leg up as well as an opportunity to gain experience and build a practice while avoiding many of the traditional pitfalls and stresses of the legal industry.”
Finding Help, Finding a Home
Like Spearman, business law attorney Jawad Fitter participated in the incubator last year and now operates his firm, Fitter Law, LLC, out of Amata. He took advantage of various opportunities through the incubator, such as Amata's live receptionists and networking with fellow attorneys, and implemented a new approach to practicing law.
“It was a huge benefit to work with Amata while I was working on building my law firm and building my client base,” Fitter said.
The program also advised him on pricing structures for his firm’s services. Rather than charging prospective clients for each meeting, he instead offers a monthly billing structure and unlimited business consultations. He looks forward to watching Amata’s collaboration with the Chicago-Kent incubator grow in the coming years. He has even discussed mentoring others in the program.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “The program really helped me focus and figure out what’s important for my firm.”
Struggling to get your solo or small partner practice off the ground? Call us or visit our website and take an online or in-person tour of one of our Class-A law firm office spaces. Join the Amata community and find out how we can help you launch your practice.