Associates in law firms can be faced with the dilemma of whether to go out on their own or to stay put. Certainly, no two people have the identical situation, but most have similar issues that should be considered when deciding whether to start your own practice.
One of the first issues is your financial status. Are you married? Does your spouse have a stable income? Does your spouse have certain benefits, like health insurance, retirement and sick leave? Do you have children or other dependents? How many mouths do you need to feed on a regular basis? Do you have student loans? What are your monthly payments? Do you have a mortgage? Car payment?
Another consideration is whether you will have cases on the first day of your new venture. Will you have cases that are ripe for negotiations/settlement/trial that will provide you with an instant stream of income? If you leave a firm, will you be taking a caseload of work with you? What will be your fee-split agreement with your former employer?
The biggest thing to consider, however, is whether you have the ability to market yourself and bring in business in the (very) near future. Do you have a vast network you can reach out to for potential business? This is where your neighbors, friends, family, network of former co-workers and employers and members of your extra-curricular organizations come in.
After a month of envisioning, planning, and acting, I opened up my own shop in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. I have been practicing law for almost six years but my networking career started during my various undergraduate internships, continued through eight law school internships/clerkships, two jobs as a lawyer and thrived with several active bar association memberships.
The news spread like wildfire when I told my network of friends and colleagues about my decision. (A social media announcement also helped get the word out, too). I received congratulatory texts, emails and phone calls. I was fortunate enough to have worked at numerous jobs in my 30 years and was even more blessed to have left each job on good terms.
A piece of advice to young lawyers and law students: Even if you are at an internship or job you do not enjoy, make the most of it and give it your all. You never know when those connections may come back to help you — or haunt you.
Last Friday marked my first full week at my new job. I was in the office over the weekend and spent about 10-12 hours per weekday at the office. But every morning, I am eager to wake up and go to work. I’ll have to get used to the new boss but I think this job is a keeper. Sandwiched between a florist and a furniture shop, across the street from a family-owned grocer and deli, and in a building filled with psychologists, I look forward to this new chapter in my life.