When my mom found out that I was opening my own firm, her response was classic. She said to me, “I knew that it would happen one day, because you don’t play well with others!” Thanks Mom! But it was the truth, and not necessarily in a bad way. You see, many attorneys, me included, are “Type A” personalities, or control freaks. And, control freaks want to be able to control their worlds as much as possible.
Starting my own law firm was not something I ever envisioned doing. Honestly I didn’t want to deal with the business side of the law, I only wanted to focus on the law, the individual cases, and the clients themselves. However, after several years of working as an associate at a small firm, I realized that the business side was just as much a part of the practice of law as was researching, writing, and advocating for my clients. Once I accepted the fact that the business and practice of law were inseparable, I started seeing my job, and my legal career differently.
As an associate attorney, you answer to your senior partners and go about the business of law in the way that they set up their business. They control the cases you take and how much you charge for a particular case. They dictate your work schedule and whether you can take time off. Depending on the firm, they also can dictate how you handle a particular case. After a while, you start to see that there are other ways to do things. Not necessarily that your boss’s way is wrong, just that if you were in charge you might have taken a different approach to something. But as long as they are the boss you follow their lead.
I entered law school as what is called a “non-traditional student.” That was because I had not taken the direct path from high school to college to law school, which allows some people to pass the bar and start practicing law as young as 24 or 25. Because of my meandering stroll through the world, I entered law school at the age of 32 and passed the bar when I was 36. What this meant was that I had much more experience than most, a different view of the world, was at a different stage in my life, and had different expectations regarding my professional life than most “traditional students.”
So, at this point I have a clear picture of who I am and how I want to live. I have a clearer understanding of both the business and practical side of the law. And, I have fully embraced my “Type A” desire to have full control over how I handle all aspects of my cases and clients.
Now that I understand all those things, I realize that the only way that I can have the control over both my personal and professional life that I want is to be my own boss and open my own firm. With that knowledge, and after considerable discussions with my wife (which illustrates that I will still have a boss), we decided that it is time for me to take a calculated risk and put as much faith into my skills as both a businessman and attorney as my clients have done.
Hopefully when Boss’s day rolls around next October, I can take myself (and my wife) out to lunch to celebrate!