Editor’s Note: It’s one thing to leave a biglaw firm for solo practice – that kind of thing happens all the time. But what happens if the firm that you leave is one that you built yourself? That decision can be much tougher – but as this week’s guest poster Randall F. Rogers shares, it can be done with great reward.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for the freedom of being on your own and succeeding or failing based on your own work.
One of our Founding Fathers said, “He who is willing to give up a little liberty for some security will find himself with neither.”
In my case, that was so true. While it is scary for me on my own and to have to survive as a solo practitioner in the law field, I am so grateful for the blessings that have come my way and I am grateful for the immense liberty that I have been granted in order to build my own security.
How It All Started
My law career started as a detour, believe it or not. In college, I was surrounded by pre-med majors and tried to follow the crowd. As graduation approached, I began to have doubts about entering medical school, so I took some graduate level science courses and worked as a scientist for a couple of years. I thought long and hard about my career choices, along with my own strengths and weaknesses. My father is an engineer who worked as a professional witness, spending a lot of time in court. Law school was more suited to my strengths of verbal reasoning and analytical writing, so I went that route. And overall, I am glad I did.
As I went through law school and began the practice of law, I discovered I really loved litigation, and over the years, found myself working for a handful of medium to large firms handling insurance defense. After practicing law for about five years, the opportunity came to build a firm alongside a couple of partners.
A Fork in the Road, I Took It
Our firm was doing well; I was a named partner and was gaining a foothold in personal injury law, having successfully tried several large cases. However, at one point it became clear that my partners and I were on opposite sides of some of our cases and that the firm was heading in a different direction than I had envisioned. The firm conflicts had to be resolved: corporate clients or serving individuals.
I had developed a real love for helping individuals in personal injury cases. Having such a direct effect on the lives of my clients was something I took real pride in doing, and it was paying off. In partner’s meetings the topic of using our social conscience to drive our business was not popular. Our firm had contracted to represent several area hospitals and insurance companies and those large corporate clients allowed the firm a lot of security.
I had put my blood, sweat and tears into building what had become a well-regarded firm and now I had to decide if I should I branch out on my own.
What did I choose? Well, I have been a solo practitioner for over fifteen years.
Just as my clients are on their own, fighting battles against insurance companies, doctors and hospitals, I was now on my own, fighting the fight with them. I broke free of the firm and decided to go into a solo law practice.
I gain real satisfaction from being a voice of protection for those who need it. Being able to express compassion for real people who have been harmed has been a bigger joy to me than I ever imagined.
But being “a voice” for these individuals was not easy. And in fact, my voice didn’t come right away. I went from the security of billable hours paid by large clients to contingency work, where I am only paid if I collect for my clients. I started out on my own accepting whatever cases came through the door and worked my way into a personal injury practice.
Learning and Growing
It took a while to figure out how to manage a firm on my own. It was very different not to have partners to help with firm management or to have their expertise from which I could bounce ideas. I had to make it my own and build a practice organically; most personal injury clients are not repeat clients but they do talk to their family and friends. No matter what case came through my door, I wanted to provide service that was excellent and personal.
I have always believed in being kind and honest with others, and so I have adopted those traits into my practice, attempting to take time for anyone who calls my office. We hire staff members who share these same values.
Over time, respect for my clients has blessed me and my practice in ways I could never have foreseen. Not only do I have a sustainable solo law practice now, but I can say that I have a purely personal injury law practice. Some of my favorite cases involve medical malpractice claims which are of particular interest to me. I love studying the medicine and medical practices in question in these cases, referring back to my science background for technical discussions with medical experts and defendants. For me, practicing law doesn’t get any better than this.
I’m very grateful for the progress I have made in my community and I am excited about what the future holds.
Now that I have gone through the risks, struggles and rewards of being a solo practitioner, I hope I can impart some guidance to those who might be considering a similar course. As always, I could have made some of my decisions differently that may have made my practice-building better, but I do not regret anything I did. I hope my story encourages and inspires others to go their own way and create a path you believe in. I agree you can’t always have both security and liberty, as the notable Founding Father said. A law firm can provide security, but being on your own provides the freedom to have the direction you feel is right for you, your community and your country, servicing individuals as an attorney and a citizen in ways in which you are proud.
You may be solo, but you are not alone. I’m right here with you in spirit.
Randall F. Rogers is a personal injury lawyer that practices in the small suburb of Marietta, outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Originally working at a large firm, he left to work on his own, so he could work closely with individuals and help them seek justice. When not walking to and from the court house, he can be seen discussing gardening with the community or reading a book from his favorite author Henry David Thoreau.