The organizers, Matt Wetherington and Kurt Kastorf, say the Georgia Legal Accelerator will offer firsthand experience and advice for those starting their own law practice.
Trial lawyers Matt Wetherington and Kurt Kastorf are starting an incubator program for lawyers who either want to start their own firms or become shareholders in one, which they say will be unique in offering firsthand experience and advice.
“There’s a difference between telling attorneys how to run a business and sharing how I’m running a business—the decisions I’ve made and how much they cost,” said Wetherington, who just opened his own plaintiffs firm in August. “This is a law firm ride-along.”
Wetherington, 34, spent five years learning the ropes from his former law partner, Mike Werner, before starting his firm, which already employs two associates and three staff.
The one-year incubator program, which the two organizers have dubbed the Georgia Legal Accelerator, will be a mix of small group meetings, CLE-style presentations on aspects of running a law firm and one-to-one mentoring. There is no cost to participate.
While the two are not getting paid to run the new incubator program, they believe it will give them a big payoff. Kastorf said it will be well worth the time if he develops a few new relationships and fosters good mentoring.
“I expect I’m going to learn much more from these people as they grow their careers than I have to give them,” Wetherington said. “The next big idea is going to come from this group, and I get to be part of that success story.”
The two envision a group of 15 to 25 lawyers, and the deadline to apply is Oct. 1. A short online application is available at whetheringtstg.wpengine.com/gla.
Kastorf, 39, emphasized that the program will be a collaborative effort between themselves and the other participants. He has been a partner for two years at The Summerville Firm, a five-lawyer litigation boutique, after a decade in Washington, D.C., working for the Department of Justice and then Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.
“One of the things that impressed me most about leaving a massive firm and now working with attorneys who are primarily in small firms is how they band together and share resources,” Kastorf said, explaining that the Summerville Firm frequently co-counsels with other firms to take on complex cases.
“That is something I think we can bring to our legal community. There is more sharing we can be doing,” he said. “The very successful trial attorneys are not just great attorneys—they’ve gotten very good at identifying a network and working with other firms.”
The Georgia Legal Accelerator is for lawyers with any type of practice—not just trial lawyers. “The basics of negotiating or having a happy and productive staff don’t change from practice to practice,” Wetherington said.
‘Make or Break Decisions’
Kastorf said the two checked out numerous state bar programs that advise lawyers on how to start a law firm and run a legal practice before concluding there was an unmet need for a legal incubator program that offers firsthand experience from practitioners who are still figuring it out themselves.
“I think what’s missing from these programs is that firsthand experience. I’m in the middle of making what most firms consider make or break decisions every day. Now is the perfect time to document and share that information,” he added.
For instance, just one month into running his own shop, Wetherington has already tried out eight time-tracking software programs. “I’m testing them all, so I will know which one to pick,” he explained.
After participating in the one-year program, Wetherington and Kastorf hope, the 2020 class for the Georgia Legal Accelerator will become mentors and advisers to the next group.
“The Georgia bar has a long tradition of collegiality, but things have become more fragmented. We want to bring that back,” Wetherington said.