Just over six years ago, I made the decision to leave the cushy confines of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and open up my own solo practice in the field of criminal defense. I was questioned by friends and colleagues alike. DAs quipped, “Oh, you’re going to the dark side?” Others asked why I would give up a government pension and benefits. Truth be told, I saw my transition as just that, a transition — from one team to another.
It’s quite rare in modern sports that a player stays on the same team for the entirety of his or her career. A basketball player, for instance, may enter free agency, force a buyout, be dropped or traded. The same can be said of the legal profession. Lawyers change firms, merge into larger firms, go in-house, or switch practice areas. The reasons for changing are also vast and myriad. A lawyer will switch firms for financial reasons, greater opportunities to excel, for commuting purposes, or to spend more time with their family. My switch was a combination of all the above.
I greatly enjoyed the five years or so that I spent with the District Attorney’s Office. During that time, I was fortunate to meet some terrific prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and law enforcement personnel. I worked in different courthouses that saw different types of crime (i.e., Malibu and Compton!), tried dozens of cases, and gained a unique perspective on issues that you just cannot get through private practice or law school. Most importantly, I was introduced to another deputy DA, who eventually became my wife. As life changed and new avenues opened, I began to itch for a change. I took a long hard look at my position in the DA’s Office and what the future held. I considered the ramifications of leaving behind a steady paycheck with benefits, and weighed the stress and difficulties of running a business. I was tempted by the ability to make my own schedule and work my own hours, but at the same time weary of having to work during vacations and essentially always be on-call and managing clients. Ultimately, the choice was clear, to make my own mark on the legal profession and be my own boss, I would have to spread my wings and venture out of the nest.
Setting up my own law practice was a daunting task. My wife and I just had our first son, a new mortgage, and here I was starting a new business. I felt like a player in a new locker room in a strange new stadium. I had to set up a corporation and banking options, lease office space, design a website, and, of course, find clients. Similarly, a new player must look for a new home, learn a team system, find new places — like dry cleaning or car repairs — and hire new people to help. It requires work to be sure, but in the end, stepping onto the field or into the courtroom — its game time! Athletes and lawyers share a certain dedication to their craft that allows a transition from one team or side to another to work seamlessly. Neither accepts failure, and both compete at the highest levels to achieve maximum results.
As difficult as the switch from prosecutor to defense attorney might’ve seemed, it paid off. I’ve been able to provide for my family, establish some niche areas of defense, a great network of fellow attorneys to assist and lend a helping hand, and a rewarding working relationship with many of my former colleagues. The greatest reward has been helping people and families. The ability to transform and improve a client’s life, and in many instances, offer a fresh start on an otherwise troubled past, gets me out of bed every day and fuels my energy to practice law. Feeling good about what we do is paramount to building a long and fruitful career. Athletes must feel energized and motivated every time they step onto the field. The same is true for attorneys. We don’t always win, but we fight hard. My move from one team to another was one of the best decisions I ever made. Sure, I miss my old team at times, and fondly remember my days on the other side of the counsel table, but no matter what team I am on, I’m just grateful to play this great sport called law. Jacob Glucksman