The third cohort of the Texas Opportunity and Justice Incubator, or TOJI, started March 1, with its newest participants getting introduced to ways to run a successful solo law practice.
TOJI is the first statewide legal incubator in Texas and aims to close the access to justice gap. The program teaches attorneys with fewer than five years of experience the finer points of setting up their practices, with a focus on the legal needs of low- and modest-income Texans.
The participants TOJI draws are entrepreneurial and enthusiastic about being successful as solos.
“I’m an independent woman and I like to have my own things and I want something to be passionate about,” said TOJI participant Chantelle Clark.
Clark, a first-year attorney who focuses on business law, applied to TOJI after hearing about the program through a CLE for solos in Houston. She said being surrounded by other like-minded attorneys can be helpful since they may be knowledgeable in areas she isn’t and can teach her
Clark said the program will help her learn the ins and outs of sustaining a practice like a business and becoming the best lawyer she can. Her motivations for practicing solo: going to bat for people getting starting in business or who are in disputes with business partners while maintaining the flexibility to take off time she needs to take care of her family.
Attorneys in TOJI start off the 18-month program with three weeks of boot camp. The first week they form business plans and attend pointed lessons that cover topics such as malpractice insurance policies—participants are required to carry a policy at their own expense—business banking, and business entities.
Recalling the TOJI mission of serving low- and modest-income Texans, the attorneys are required to provide at least 100 hours of pro bono legal services during their first year in the program. They are encouraged to do in pursuit of their desired areas of practice.
TOJI Director Anne-Marie Rábago and her staff receive applications online, and each cohort has up to 10 attorneys, with a new group selected every six months. Including all three cohorts, there are 28 participants.
Leo De La Garza applied to TOJI after searching State Bar programs online and being told about the incubator by friend and second cohort participant Eugene Haller. De La Garza, who practices immigration law, said solo practice can be lonely in the beginning but that TOJI provides a healthy support network of attorneys.
“The better my business model the more effective my marketing and ability to help people,” he said.
TOJI will begin accepting applications in May for the fourth cohort, set to begin in September. For more information, go to txoji.com.