Though you don’t find many solos practicing in areas like environmental law, that’s Walter D. James expertise. Walter focuses his practice primarily on environmental counseling and environmental litigation, which includes civil enforcement and cost recovery litigation, criminal defense and toxic tort/property damage matters. Though the law firm is located in Grapevine, Texas, the Firm’s practice involves work at a variety of locations across the United States. Visit his website at www.jamespllc.com and his blog at http://www.environmentalblog.typepad.com/
1. What kind of law do you practice?
I practice environmental law, including, regulatory, civil and criminal aspects.
2. When did you start your firm and why?
I started my firm on March 1, 2004. I was tired of the BIGFIRM mentality and practices.
3. How large is your law firm?
I am a true solo; I have an office assistant as well.
4. What was the biggest challenge that you faced in starting your practice and how did you address it?
The biggest challenge was overcoming the fear of not having enough work to make a living and feed my family. However, I was counseled that (and this will sound corny – but it is not) “put your trust in the Lord; you are a good attorney, the phone will ring.” And so I had faith
5. Is there a lawyer whom you consider a mentor and if so, how did you find each other and how has he/she helped you?
Not really a mentor; however, there were three lawyers, who are very good friends, that inspired me to strike out on my own – Lloyd Landreth, who practices in Tulsa, OK (who is also a BIGFIRM refugee); Andrew Sher, who practices in Houston, TX (and who is a plaintiffs’ firm refugee); and Marshall Jones, who practices in Shreveport, LA (and has been a small firm guy for twenty years).
6. What do you find (a) most challenging and (b) most rewarding about your practice specialties?
The most challenging aspect is staying up on all the issues that you need to stay up on just to practice in the area. The most rewarding thing is knowing that what I am doing is, in a small way, helping our environment.
I am committed to my client’s needs. I do not take my self too seriously. I do take the client’s issues seriously.
8. How (if at all) has your practice evolved since you started, and where do you see it headed over the next decade?
When I first started practicing, legal research was just being computerized; now there is on-line research (most of it is free) and on-line filing. The practice will continue to be driven forward by technology so it will be important to stay up on the latest technologies in the market.
9. What do you regard as a major problem in the legal profession or with lawyers – and how would you change it?
The single biggest problem I see is two-fold: first, the seeming need to chase down every rabbit trail in search of THE answer for the client – sometimes there is not a clear answer; second, and as important, the loss of collegiality fostered by the so-called “Rambo” litigation style.
10. What advice do you have for young lawyers entering the profession today?
Two things: remember, you are not really smarter than anyone else, you just have a different skill set; and be nice to people – the people you climb over on the way up are the same ones you will fall past on the way down.