As J.T. stated in our first blog post, we have been planning to open our law firm right out of law school for the last two years. That means we have two years of experiences in planning our firm to catch up on in order to fully outline the steps we have taken to open our firm. Here is a brief summary of what we have been doing in the last two years to start our firm. In all likelihood, we will write more thorough blog posts on each of these individual topics. For now, this is what we have been up to:
First discussions: When J.T. and I first sat down to seriously talk about the idea of opening our own firm, we started off with what our interests were in the law. This is important as it will guide you towards who you should meet, what area of law you should strive to practice in, where you should locate your office, what sort of starting capital you will need, etc. We also discussed what goals we have and what we hold important. By doing so, we could guide the development of our practice to achieve our individual and mutual goals. From this first discussion, we assigned different tasks to each other, including:
- Is our idea feasible?
- Who has done this in our area in the recent past? Will they talk with us?
- Are there any programs in the law school, town, city, or state that run programs to help attorneys start their own firms?
- What resources are there for new attorneys hanging their shingle?
Discuss with Loved Ones: After J.T. and I made some goals and really felt that this was something we wanted to do, we both met with our families to see if this was something our families were willing to support us on. This step was (is) crucial. Both J.T. and I our respective familial obligations and responsibilities that come well before law school and starting a law firm. Thus, it is extremely important for both of our families to know what we want to achieve so that we could have their support. Have this conversation with your spouse, parents, children, partner, etc. early and often. The more they know about your decisions, the more they are able to give input and feel comfortable with the risk/reward of starting a small business.
First Professional Advice-Talk to a Practicing Solo/Small Firm Managing Attorney: Early on in the decision process to start your own law firm, it is important to meet with as many practicing attorneys who started and manage their own solo or small law firms as you can. Preface the meeting with an introduction that explains where you are in the process of starting your own firm. This will allow the attorney to gauge and prepare what to discuss with you at the meeting. Prepare for your meeting by making a list of questions.
Also, prepare for the attorney to use descriptors such as “crazy” or “risky” or even “stupid” when describing your idea to start your own firm. Unfortunately, some attorneys have been jaded or simply have different backgrounds than you may have, making them less than eager to tell you all of the advantages of owning your own practice or help you on your path. You may even have an attorney tell you to forget your “dream” and obtain a judicial clerkship with the 7th Circuit. Although pursuing a judicial clerkship is a noble and rewarding pursuit, it is not every law students’ ambition to do so. If you find yourself in this situation, let it soak in and motivate you to pursue those ambitions.
Do not completely ignore this attorney and remain steadfast in your resolve…starting your own firm is possible and there are many attorneys out there that love being a solo/small firm owner/practitioner and are excited to help you do the same. One thing that we dedicated ourselves to from our very first meeting with a practicing attorney was to debrief after the meeting. We routinely take a few minutes after any meeting to chat about what went well and what was difficult. It is at times a stretch, but we make it a habit to take away at least one piece of positive advice from every meeting we have. Sometimes it requires seeing the flip-side of a negative comment, but we strive to build and take from the vast range of experiences that the attorneys we meet with have to offer.
J.T. and I continue to meet new attorneys, and through the law school we met two attorneys in particular, Brandon Tate and Kevin Bowen of Tate and Bowen, that have helped us walk in their footsteps of starting, owning, and operating a small firm. If you have any questions related to this post or any particular topics you would like us to write about, please comment on this post.