If you came up to me 10 years ago, and asked me what I thought I would be doing with my life, law firm owner and practicing attorney probably would not be my answer. Yet, here I am; heading into my fourth year of practice and running my own law firm for almost six months. I have to tell you, it’s exhilarating. Being a business owner is so rewarding. It makes work fun again. Some people love working in a traditional law firm setting; it gives them a sense of security and stability that a lot of people need. A lot of the attorneys I’ve spoken with have said to me that they value “having a paycheck.” I understand that feeling. I used to be one of those people that needed to “know” where their next paycheck was coming from. But in all honesty, that feeling is somewhat of an illusion.
Let’s look at the facts for just a minute: 1. Traditionally, attorneys join a firm with the intention of someday making partner; 2. Becoming partner is conditioned upon you being able to attract clients and build a book of business; 3. If you can’t build a book of business, you are not excellent partner material. I learned early on in my career that I had a great sense of people and was able to attract clients. I thought this would make me great partner material. But, ultimately, I was not happy working in a firm setting. So, after three years with a firm, I decided to set out on my own to try my hand at business ownership.
This is not to say that I do not believe my law firm experience was crucial in developing my skills as an attorney and business owner. Practicing law in a firm helped me understand traditional industry practices, document drafting, and courtroom practice. Moreover, my previous firm encouraged each attorney to act as though they were an autonomous practice group, responsible for their own invoice review, client contact, and case management. Without this type of training, I believe I would have very likely gone on to another firm.
But, here I am. 28 years old, a 2010 graduate (passed the July 2010 bar, but didn’t swear in until February 2011 due to the terrible job market), and working my “dream job.” I’ve shaped my practice around the skills I developed at my previous law firm. Currently, I focus on providing outside general counsel representation to businesses that need counsel, but cannot afford to hire a full-time in house counsel. More often than not, I handle employment matters, general business matters, and intellectual property matters. Prior to my employment with my last law firm, I worked as a clerk and then as an attorney for a TJSL graduate that practices trademark law. Without her guidance and tutelage, I likely would not have as strong of an intellectual property understanding as I do.
Not only am I practicing law, but I was also honored by my alma mater, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, when they asked me to come on board as an adjunct professor in the intellectual property department! I’ve now taught in the intellectual property practicum, and I will be teaching in the Spring Intro to IP class as well.
Because many of my clients are internet businesses and startups, I have developed my internet law practice area out of necessity. Being able to shape your practice around your ideal client is incredibly fun and rewarding. I’m incredibly fortunate to be doing exactly what I want to do only a few short years out of school. I would encourage those considering solo practice to talk to other practitioners and get their insight. Having a network and group of people to rely on is essential. You don’t want to live on an island!
I’m excited for what the future holds, and I’m looking forward to taking on my first law clerk in 2015! He’s a TJSL student with a wonderful family and a ton of tenacity. I only hope I can give back and contribute to the success.