By Arianna Halper
Upon entering law school most of us dreamed of a salary, 401(k), and the bragging rights that accompany your name on your very own office door. When we left law school, those dreams were smashed in the wake of the financial crisis reality that made the contract attorney the new associate.
Salaries were replaced with an hourly wage, employment benefits were replaced with, well, nothing, the private office with your name on the door was replaced with a cubicle, and those bragging rights you thought you’d have were turned into a sheepish half-smile in response to the inevitable question of, “what do you do for a living?” This new reality has created a sea of new lawyers that are dissatisfied with their temporary jobs and tired of the endless interviews. The question is, if not this, then what? Well my fellow baby lawyers, I cannot provide you with a solution or even a concrete answer, but I can tell you what I have done.
Instead of remaining the ever-patient contract attorney who waits for something to happen, I picked myself up by my conservative yet fashionable stiletto work pumps and decided I could be patient no longer. I decided to take the plunge and open my own practice. Although this path was not my first choice, I felt like it was my only choice in the end. While I still do not have a 401(k) – or a regular salary for that matter – I have the ability and freedom to control my days and my future. Slowly but surely I am building a new life for myself. My doors are open, I have a website and business cards, and as of two weeks ago, I even have office furniture.
I am aware that this option may not be the right choice for everyone, as it takes money and know-how (both of which most new lawyers find themselves short on). And I won’t go into how to go about opening your own practice as there are already countless blogs/books/articles on the same topic. The point of this post is to say that despite the difficulties and the incredibly heavy weight of fear, new lawyers can free themselves of the hourly wage and be entrepreneurs. I promise you that it can be done. My advice is to do the research, find the financial and emotional support, and really dedicate yourself to your new life. If you are going to be impatient like me, you have to work hard to shape your future. This path is not an easy one and may take years to pay off, but at least the only clock I punch now is the one with the alarm on my bedside stand. So I say if you are tired of feeling embarrassed when people ask what you do for a living, change the answer.
Hang in there. I myself took the plunge a year ago. It is true that it doesn’t come easy. But, if you hustle, really hustle, it starts to take shape.
Hey, I know that we are not super close friends or anything, but still, I am proud of you. What you are doing takes guts.
I truly hope that it works out well for you!
hey yah, likewise, im proud of ariana too of what she does makes senses to me. may she receive lots of blessing from god..
tc, more powers
The best advice I ever received from the attorney who helped me gain experience as a practicing lawyer is to never trust an attorney (I add to that: trust yourself). The problem with that logic is that someone just leaving law school will have an extremely difficult time gaining experience. To do the work of an attorney, in addition to the work of a marketer, IT department, administrative assistant, you will find yourself needing to work, to be competent in most legal fields, 100 hour weeks minimum. What they don’t tell you in law school, and what I believe has changed dramatically since a 4th law school opened, is the fierce competition for clients. Expect to cut your hourly wage, and assume that the next lawyer your client hired did the same. You will find that you are working harder than you ever have, yet you are earning a minimal living, quite possibly comparable to what you could earn as a retail store manager (especially considering adding benefits). Luckily, it sounds like you have friends and family with deep pockets, now you just need to find some that are getting DUI’s, committing assault, domestic violence, selling drugs, etc. Best wishes!!!
Real Life Lawyer has a great handle on it. I have my own practice for almost 5 years now and only now am I seeing that the decision to be on my own was a good one (financially).
I remember when I first started how shiny my desk used to look … because it was empty – no files. lol But slowly a referral from here and there, some pro bono work came – little things led onto bigger things and suddenly well … you no longer see your desktop.
Having control over your own time does not always translate into a positive thing – when you’re building a practice, you naturally want to spend all your time there (if you want to succeed).
Your personal life also comes second, birthdays, special events, holidays/vacations are easily missed/cancelled or you can’t attend because you have court the next day or a looming deadline the following week. You’re always tired … getting home late.
I litigate and have a heavy corporate portfolio as well. My practice is very demanding and extremely rewarding BUT NOTHING can beat the autonomy that you have over your work and time. If I don’t want to do a matter … I don’t have to.
There’s a sense of ownership – Everything starts and ends with you.
That being said … I’m a single female and haven’t been able to find a guy who can tolerate the demanding nature of my practice. (Phone calls late at night – emails coming in at all hours – waking at 4 a.m. to get some work in before I get to work etc)
It’s extremely difficult to find someone that understanding and the time would come when you ask yourself – is it really worth it?
But just as you begin to ponder that question – an email pops up / an urgent phone call / a client pops in without an appointment etc and well … you get back to business. lol
It’s a great life – try not to miss too much of it. Remember to keep striving to be ‘balanced’ (you may not ever be balanced but its always good to aim for that).
OH and STOP EVERYTHING and have lunch. Even if it’s for 15 mins at your desk – eat a proper meal look at a u-tube video or sth but allow yourself that daily luxury. Lots more to say BUT I’ve got some stuff to attend to.
Success is there for you – just put in the work one day at a time.