I met Glyn Cashwell at a recent continuing legal education event through the Bar Association of Baltimore City. Unlike other solos who have written in this space, Glyn’s practice is only his part-time gig, as he explains below.
I did everything I could throughout law school to ensure that I would get a job at a big firm after I graduated. I finished second in my class of 187 students, I passed the Maryland bar on my first attempt and I passed the patent bar.
The biggest hurdle I experienced in applying for jobs was lack of experience, however. I worked as a research assistant for three years while I was in law school part-time and while working a full-time job in another field. I also added an externship with the Center for Health and Homeland Security to my schedule to get some more relevant experience. Unfortunately, I did not get a single interview from any of the many big law firms where I applied.
So I ended up starting my own law firm to get experience. This appealed to me because I could keep my full-time job and I could devote as much time as I wanted to my own firm by deciding how many clients I would accept at any time.
Looking back on it, I do not think working for a big law firm was for me — I hate the idea of working excessive hours to make partners rich, especially given the slim prospects that I would ever end up in a partner position. I also liked the idea that I had control over my destiny, that I did not have to work in a cutthroat environment, that I could work wherever I wanted and that I could decline cases I might have otherwise been pressured to take.
Shortly after I started my law firm, I got a full-time job doing compliance work that has been a great fit. It is flexible; I only work 40 hours a week and am getting some law experience. The externship at the Center for Health and Homeland Security and my research assistant jobs proved to be very valuable in getting my position. The center also offered me part-time employment that has helped me grow as an attorney.
After I passed the bar, the Bar Association of Baltimore City, among other organizations, offered me free time-limited memberships. Going to BABC events has been really helpful, as many who attend are eager to help newer attorneys, and the organization provides great networking opportunities. BABC also provides CLE opportunities in various areas of law.
Volunteering with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland was also useful. The organization pairs newer attorneys with more experienced ones during events and provides training in exchange for doing pro bono work. Working with someone else the first time you do something is definitely a lot easier than trying to learn everything by yourself.
Honestly, starting my own firm has been overwhelming, but I think it will be rewarding in the end. The best advice I could give is to have everything in place before trying to get clients. As obvious as it sounds, go through the formalities of creating an entity (if applicable); have your workspace straightened out; have malpractice and general liability insurance in place; get your website set up; and have as many forms/templates complete before taking that first client.