The 18-month program is a State Bar initiative to close the access to justice gap and is the first statewide legal incubator in Texas. The TOJI participants are provided hands-on skills and knowledge they’ll need to establish their own law practices serving low- and modest-income Texans. The cohort follows the inaugural group of attorneys who began with TOJI’s launch in April.
“Solo practice lawyering—especially when you are just getting started—can be a very lonely, insulated experience,” said Austin-based family law and criminal law attorney Eugene Haller. “I wanted to be in a group where we bounced ideas off one another, worked together, and referred each other clients.”
Haller has already begun collaborating with TOJI cohorts, with plans in place to second chair trials with three participants, develop video marketing with one, and co-write an article for a local publication with another.
The cohort started their 18-month journey with a three-week boot camp focused on establishing a business and getting and retaining clients. The lessons included discussions on setting retirements goals and considering expenses that may get in their way.
Russell Sloan, a Florida State University graduate, moved to Austin in early October to work in business and employment law. Sloan pointed to first-day discussions such as alternative billing methods versus flat fees for clients, as an example of how TOJI can guide him as he opens his own firm in the upcoming weeks.
“I want to help someone out who says he or she wants to open a food truck but doesn’t know where to start,” he said, adding that he wants to assist his clients with tax information and defense work.
Participants sent applications online to TOJI Director Anne-Marie Rábago and her staff, who select a new group of attorneys every six months. Each cohort has a maximum of 10 attorneys—at one time, including all cohorts, there is a maximum of 30.
Family law attorney Kristina Chung, who applied to TOJI after receiving an email from Rábago, said the program can steer lawyers away from pitfalls like wasting money and will point them to new resources and services, such as Fastcase and Casemaker, and different CLEs. Even more important, she said, TOJI allows her to see similarities in how other attorneys run their firms, offering them a safety net to make mistakes.
“I think it’s a very diverse group of people,” Chung said. “It allows you to fail without thinking, I’m the only one.”
TOJI will begin accepting applications in November for the third cohort, which will begin in April 2018. For more information about the program and how to apply, go to txoji.com.