Via Stephanie West Allen, I learned about this article, Who Says Being A Lawyer Has to Suck? from a recent issue of San Francisco Magazine. The article describes how Gen Y lawyers are making “lawyering something that doesn’t bore everyone to death at a party?” And guess how they’re doing it? By starting their own law firms.
Consider the case of one attorney mentioned in the article, former firm associate, Joshua Ridless. From the article, here’s his story:
“Before I started my own firm, I was depressed, overweight, and didn’t have time for a personal life,” he says. Now, Ridless spends almost half his time doing something he’s always wanted to do–advising clients on their business plans. He complains if his work is interfering with the hours he needs to spend each day training for triathlons, fulfilling his duties as president of the Barristers (a group for lawyers who’ve been practicing less than 10 years), or doing pro bono work for local community centers. “I have time to do everything I want to do,” Ridless says.
Two other biglaw expatriates, Kassra Nassiri and Charles Jung also started their own firm, litigating “multimilllion dollar cases.” And they’re doing even more good by hiring stay at home moms who found life at biglaw too demanding to allow for a decent work life balance.
Still, the question remains: should these lawyers have bypassed biglaw
entirely and started a practice straight out of school? I say no, and
the article supplies some evidence for my position. The first time out
as a solo, Nassiri’s firm failed, and he nearly went bankrupt. So he
retreated to a large firm to regroup, before jumping ship two years
Had Nassiri not worked at a large firm before going solo, he’d likely
have never had a chance to return. When you start a firm, you
shouldn’t plan for failure, of course. At the same time, if you have a great
opportunity waiting after law school, be it a prominent judicial clerkship or a position with a well known firm, there are some advantages to taking that kind of position for a couple of years to keep your options open. You never know when you
may need a biglaw credential on resume.
I’m not implying that these kinds of credentials are necessary for success as a solo. As I’ve said many times, anyone can succeed at solo practice from any background, so long as they’ve got determination, resourcefulness and passion for running an independent practice. At the same time, just because you decide to go solo, doesn’t mean that you should abandon conventional advice about keeping other options open, if they’re available to you.