On Your Own: Raise a Glass to Freedom!

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You made the leap to your own solo practice or small firm. You decided the fish have manners, they’re coming with you, and you’re going to start something real. See Jerry Maguire, Sony Pictures (1996). So, what are some of the benefits of your newfound freedom?

Flexibility.

I have a hard time working in a regular office setting. It creates too many distractions for me. I found myself working longer hours because much of my time from 9 – 5 often felt wasted or non-productive. Instead of really getting things done, it often seemed that time was spent either managing down or up. Now, if I want to roll out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and work on a brief in my home office until the evening, there’s no organizational pressure standing in the way. The pandemic has probably let a lot of lawyers in on this secret.

Favors.

You can make the call on who you do favors for. When your well-connected friend has what may be a silly issue, you have the discretion to send the angry cease-and-desist on your letterhead. Or you can go advocate for them in conciliation court. Doing favors for the right people and the right reasons is never a waste of your time. Firms should value allowing their younger lawyers to do reasonable favors for their friends and families. It builds clients and experience.

Fees.

Cutting your standard fee to get your foot in the door can make great business sense. Like performing favors, this may be an opportunity to develop good will with people who can help your career. Maybe that company is just a start up now, but 10 or 20 years from now it could be a juggernaut. You want to work with older business partners who show at least some semblance of caring about what your personal practice looks like after they’ve moved on.

Friends.

Creating the right co-counsel relationships can be important in launching your career. On the plaintiff ’s side, these are professionals who can send you cases, or who you can bring in to help finance and staff larger pieces of litigation. One of the biggest opportunities I’ve had in my career came from agreeing to be local counsel on a difficult case that likely had little upside. But I did it because I saw the limited risk in serving as local counsel and the potential value in establishing a relationship with a large national firm. You want to be at a firm that lets you make friends. You do not want to be at a firm that only values its senior lawyers’ relationships.

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