You haven’t billed your 7.5 hours today and you still have to go home to get ready for your friend's birthday (and you’re already late). But it can’t be a late night because you have so much work to do. You may work all weekend and miss your husband’s soccer game.
Above = me last year. Then I started blogging and advocating for international students and then I had an epiphany….should I just start my own firm?
Just the thought scared me half to death.
The unknown was terrifying – would I fail miserably? Would I make money? Would I get clients?
Here are my 7 top reasons why starting my own firm was the best decision I ever made.
Having my own schedule is the number one reason I love being the boss. My husband works shift work and now I have the ability to clear my schedule to take a day off (during the week) to hang out with him.
I’ll admit - it is not common that I can do this. As I’ll get to later, being on your own means you work many (many) hours. But I try to take time off when I can and it is always an option. I’ve been sick and headed straight home from the office to lie down. No need to ask for permission.
2. Hard Work Doesn’t Scare You
Work. It’s a four letter word but when everything falls on your shoulders, it can be crippling. Suddenly you are the: Office Manager, Admin Assistant, IT Support, Bookkeeper, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Marketing Manager….oh and Lawyer.
There is a paradox between saving costs and saving yourself from having a stress-related heart attack. Working 24/7 is exhausting and in my second month I was already overwhelmed. At the beginning, if you start with 0 clients (like me), the last thing you want to do is add to your overhead.
There are really cool programs offered by the legal community to help. One is the Osgoode Internship Program, which offers a free law student for two months in the summer. Another is a career coach offered by the Law Society. Also, my group, NCA Network, is always open to volunteer opportunities available for students.
The most important person you want to “add to your payroll” is a bookkeeper – as you must reconcile your books by the 25th of the prior month and the Law Society audits all new lawyers within the first year.
Probably the first thing I realized was that I needed help. I have the most fantastic bookkeeper, receptionist, and law student. They are lifesavers.
3. Willing to Learn
I’m not just talking about the law. There is so much to learn about running your own practice. How to do your accounting, how to manage your time, how to keep track of potential clients.
Then of course, there’s the law, which includes making sure you are taking the right steps in a file.
All of it is hard, rewarding, and fun! You won’t know everything, and you aren’t expected to. I recommend picking a specialty and staying in it. I practice estate litigation and I truly enjoy it. Estate litigation is when someone passes away or loses capacity and issues arise. For example, I have worked on will challenges, claims of a common law spouse when their partner passes or executor/estate trustee removals. Plus, I want to delve deeper in this practice area to become an expert. Is there one area that speaks to you?
Hands down you have to hustle. There is nothing handed to you on a silver platter. This brings me into my next point…
5. Love for Networking
Coffee meetings, lunch, events…even if you hate coffee (I only drink decaf coffee and herbal tea) – socializing is important. People want to know YOU. Business relationships are built on trust. Can I trust you? Do I like you? If you don’t put yourself out there, it is hard to develop strong relationships.
Get out there and meet with lawyers in your practice area. Maybe they’ll have a conflict or a file that is too small for them. Meet lawyers in other practice areas. Maybe you can cross-refer work to each other.
6. Ride the Highs and Lows
Oh there are days when you want to throw in the towel and move to Tahiti. Other days, like when I won a case in court a few weeks back, I was on Cloud 9.
The roller coaster of emotions and the unstable income can get really old really quick. What keeps you up at night? Some of us sleep better with a steady income and work routine. Some of us sleep better building something to call our own.
7. Being you
My favourite part of having my own firm is running a file how I want to run it. I instill my own personality and honesty into my practice. I can be my true authentic self and I keep learning more about who I am.
I like explaining the law to my clients in a way they can understand. I only do things on a file to save them costs. I tell my clients the truth - even if it’s not what they want to hear. What is your style? How would you run your file if you had true autonomy?
I think the hard knocks truth is to look deep within yourself. We are all built differently and we all want different things. Not a fan of the billable hours? Maybe you would want to work in-house. Think you’re ready to take the plunge? It’s never too late to start your own firm!
Author: Kim Gale Kim Gale is an estate litigation lawyer and principal of Gale Law, an estate litigation firm in Toronto. She can be reached at 416-868-3263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author and creator of the blog Law for Millennials — The Complete Beginners Guide to Law and is co-founder of diversity and inclusion group NCA Network.