Do you remember your first?

For me, it was an accomplished older gentleman who had worked for various contractors on marine-related projects and now hoped to start a non-profit organization to support educational activities on ocean thermal energy.  We met at a lunch that I hadn’t intended to attend – the venue was an hour away by metro and I was feeling under the weather and mildly depressed. 

Still, I donned my bright red business suit and trekked over to the event hoping for the best. I arrived late and frazzled and grabbed one of the few available spots at a crowded table. After the speaker, the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation and when I mentioned that I was an attorney, things clicked: he took my business card and promised to call. A week later, after a meeting in an impressive conference room overlooking Pennsylvania Office in my virtual office shared suite, I secured my very first client for the princely fee of $100/hour which was my billing rate back in 1994.  I was so green I didn’t even think to accept advance payment.

Fortunately, my first client was a dream. He paid his bill on time and didn’t dispute the cost.  He made me part of his team, inviting me to board meetings staffed by some former government higher-ups for the non-profit that I’d formed for him. He also had a penchant for fine dining, and during the two years that we worked together, I enjoyed some delicious expense account lunches at some of D.C.’s finest establishments.

Without clients, a law firm isn’t much more than a dream waiting to happen or an idea unexecuted.  That’s one reason why that first client is so special — because they transform those dreams into a reality.  That first fee – whether it’s more money than you ever earned at a job, or will barely cover your bar dues – feels more valuable than any coin you’ve ever received because you produced it entirely through your own effort.

Some lawyers start with business waiting for them.  But others – like me – wonder whether you might ever find a client.  Let me assure you that you will – and it will be easier than you think.  Once that first client comes through the door, you’ll be on your way.  

But as far as you travel, you’ll always remember that first time; that client who made you a real law firm owner.


We’re gearing up for next year here at MyShingle by celebrating beginnings.  Check out Instagram at @theoneinamillionlawyer or www.facebook.com/myshingle for daily inspiration on new beginnings.  And whether it’s finding Client No. 1, or getting a new law firm off the ground, MyShingle will be announcing a surprise offering later this week, and new programs for 2021. Stay tuned by joining the mailing list here.