Friday, April 28, 2006

Office (virtual, shared or otherwise)

I've been spending the last few days thinking about where and how I will set up my law office:

Home office - least expensive, but I'm prone to distraction. I also have three kids, and not sure clients would be OK stepping over the Legos to get to my office, or the occasional shout out from the living room to fast forward the program because SpongeBob SquarePants went to commercial.

If I end up working from home, I'll probably find a place that will let me rent a conference room now and then for client meetings. The Contra Costa County Bar Association offers this service, or there are plenty of places around offering virtual office setups which also include phone answering and mail delivery.

Leasing an office has some pluses too - a nice quiet place to work, 24x7 access, and a professional appearance for clients. Having an "office" is very formal and some people will feel more comfortable going to an "office" and not just a house. Although cost is a real issue, strangely enough my #1 concern about this is the isolation of working alone all day long. I've worked in cubicle farms my whole life, and this would be a real culture shock. I'd probably have to sublease an office to another attorney, or see if I can lease a vacant office at an existing firm, just for the company.


Got another client referral today, for a matter involving an employment contract. Three clients in three days - I'm officially declaring this my best lawyer week ever. Hopefully the record doesn't stand for long. ;-)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Another Letter

"Thank you for your interest in [firm name]. We enjoyed reviewing your resume and wish to compliment you on your achievements thus far. Unfortunately, we do not have a position at this time which matches your educational background and work experience. We do, however, wish you every success in the future."


Met with my second client in two nights tonight, and I have started to realize that I enjoy talking about legal issues and the law. I am excited to meet with clients and help them with their issues. The other day I about had a panic attack while planning the business side of my practice (advertising, budgeting, etc.), and I had to take a step back and think, just focus on helping people and the rest will take care of itself. I know that optimism alone won't pay the office rent, but it helps me focus my energy in a positive direction. Hopefully this will help me grow the practice.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bonus Post - Another Rejection, but A Silver Lining

Got this letter in the mail today - short, sweet, and to the point:

"Thank you for submitting your resume and related information for consideration. We were impressed with your strong credentials and accomplishments; however, we are unable to extend an interview invitation at this time."


On the bright side, business is picking up with my solo practice. I have two new client appointments this week, and waiting to schedule a third. Not bad.

The Status Quo

First, let me welcome anyone who wandered in this way from my friend Lee Rudnicki's Blog 7 site. Thanks to Lee for the kind mention. Lee and I both work with the San Francisco Renegades Drum and Bugle Corps, and I'm sure Lee would appreciate me mentioning the Renegades' upcoming Loud Music Symposium concert on April 30 at the Heritage Theater in Campbell, CA.

OK, the pleasantries are out of the way. Now please step back a moment while I rant about something: I am really bothered by the concept of the "status quo" in the legal world.

Law is a great and noble profession, with traditions that date back thousands of years. For all the positives that come along with that, there are also a lot of negatives, not the least of which can be a blind adherance to the past just because that's the way things have always been done.

Some things that irk me:

The prestige issue, or "don't bother applying if you didn't go to a name school." I mentioned last time that very few JFKU Law grads work in medium/large firms. I think there is a reason for that - the law school attended is often what makes the difference between getting an interview and getting a rejection letter. No one ever gets questioned for hiring a McGeorge or Boalt grad, but JFKU? Well, guess what...neither of those schools had a 100% first-time Bar pass rate, so I fared better on the Bar exam than at least one person from each of those schools. And isn't that supposed to be the "great equalizer" - we all passed this bastard of a test?

Age discrimination - even people who graduated from name schools can have trouble getting jobs if they are "too old." Apparently 49, or even 40 - yep, 40 - are "too old", according to a recent post on TechnoLawyer's Fat Friday newsletter. Why the prejudice? Conventional wisdom says firms want to work new associates to death and they know that older lawyers have families and lives outside the firm that may inhibit their willingess to work long hours. Yeah, but they also have lots of real-world experience that can make them better lawyers...ah, that's just me being naive again.

The unwillingess to train - there are very few real entry level positions on the market today. Almost all openings require a minimum of two years' experience - it's the rare exception that will hire directly from law school and provide on-the-job training. The jobs are probably there, they are just not advertised...I'm guessing that they are handled off the books, and given to lawyers who interned for the firm in law school. This is probably a great commercial for internships, if you can get them.

You might get the idea from this that I am becoming bitter - not so. I am still very optimistic that, given the right opportunity, I could be a great associate in a law firm setting. I am just tempering that enthusiasm with reality, so I will not be too disappointed if it does not happen. And, as a result, I am planning for the future that things may be different when I become successful, take on partners, and am on the other side of the hiring equation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Job Search Continues

The resumes started going out the door last week. So far I've already received one very polite rejection letter: "Our Firm is in the fortunate position this year of having a large number of highly qualified applicants for our associate positions. As a result, we must often make difficult decisions that eliminate from consideration candidates possessing the potential for becoming successful attorneys. For this reason, we regret that we are unable to offer you an interview with us at this time."

I am starting out in a hole because my law school is neither ABA-certified nor prestigious. Despite the fact that it is a great program, it's not a "name" school so I'm sure that keeps me off the first-round draft pick list. This point was driven home big time when I searched the Martindale-Hubbell lawyer database for JFKU Law grads & found almost all of them are in solo practice.

Where to look: in addition to (as mentioned previously) I have been searching and county websites for government jobs. I am on the fence currently about for-pay sites like Law Crossing and Legal Authority, but might start leaning in that direction if the well is still dry a few months down the line.

I know this blog is about starting a private practice, but I'm writing about what is going on in my legal career right now. I figure this might be of interest to others in the same boat, so here it is in print.

In the meantime I'm still taking clients in the evenings and on weekends, but part-time law just isn't satisfying me. If I don't find a suitable associate position out there in the next few months, then I will likely go solo full-time. To prepare, I've purchased a copy of the bible of solo practitioners everywhere, How to Start & Build a Law Practice by Jay Foonberg. The book showed up today, so I'll be reading it in my spare time to get some idea what I'll be up against if I solo.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Marketing Myself

Some updates on various marketing items:

WEBSITE: About a month ago I purchased a domain name ( and parked it with InMotion hosting for some day down the road when I decide my solo practice needs a web presence. That time came sooner than expected, as I talked myself into letting InMotion build a site for me. The cost was $899 ($299 + $50/month for 12 months), which beat all of the dedicated law marketing companies by thousands. Most of them wanted $2K and up PLUS the monthly fee for as long as you keep the site. The quality of the site is great - plus they claim to help with search engine optimization, which should increase my local awareness. Definitely recommend this company.

BUSINESS CARDS: Tried one of the "free" offers from VistaPrint. They still charged shipping, plus I upgraded to a glossy front, so the order came out to around $20 for $250 cards, which is still quite a bit cheaper than what other printers charge. I didn't like the standard templates they offered, so I tried to create a custom one myself in Microsoft Publisher...but VistaPrint doesn't take native Publisher (.PUB) files. So I exported it as a PDF - which they do take - but couldn't get the size right, despite the Distiller settings VistaPrint lets you download right on their site. I'm not a desktop publishing whiz, so maybe you can figure this out, but it was too esoteric for me. Blah. Anyway, fell back to a pre-built template, and even though I'm not in love with the result, it'll do in a pinch. Later when I hit the big time I'll go with a more custom look.

RESUME: As I hinted in an earlier column, I'm testing the waters to see if I can find a full-time law job, so I hired the good people at to rework my resume. I bought the full package, including 3 format resume (Word doc, keyword scannable and ASCII) plus a cover letter. The resume looks good, but if I had it to do over again I would skip the cover letter - it was far less polished than the resume, plus it is something that I will want to tailor to each company I'm applying with anyway. FYI, as soon as I posted my resume online, I got an email from a company called Attorney Resume that appears to target legal job applicants directly. Since I already spent my money, there's no point in me checking them out, but passing along the link in case you might be interested.

MONSTER.COM: So once that resume was finished, it went up on It's been up a week now, and other than the occasional marketing company like Attorney Resume (above), I've only received one hit - from a telecommunication company wanting me to interview for a project management job. Not exactly what I'm looking for. But I'm keeping the credentials out there to see if I get any nibbles.

Everything is on the table as far as the career possibilities go. I'm developing the solo practice at the same time as sending out resumes to small/mid-size firms, so if the solo stuff takes off I may decide to quit my job and go solo full time. I also still have at least one iron in the fire with my company, so there might be hope to stay on there. Hopefully things will start developing over the next few months that will really shape the early stages of my law career. It's an exciting time!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Can you practice law part-time?

For the past five months I have been leading two lives. Not exactly Bruce Wayne/Batman stuff, but technical project manager by day/lawyer by night is still a mouthful.

I've read and heard a lot of opinions on part-time law. Almost a half-year into my practice, I'm still not sure where I stand. On the positive side, since my "day job" pays all the bills, I can afford to offer my clients very affordable rates. Also I offer night and weekend appointments - because they're the only times I'm available. Still....

Many people say it can't be done, and I can understand why. A law practice is a business, and running a business takes time. There's marketing, business planning, budgeting, training, paperwork, bills to pay, and that's not even counting the part where you actually get to practice law. In addition, by not spending 8+ hours a day, every day, immersed in your practice area(s) you are not learning as much as someone who practices full time.

With things not "taking off" as fast as I had hoped I am considering my options. That may mean cutting the cord and going solo full-time...or taking a job with a law firm or government agency. Could be some big changes ahead in the near future - stay tuned....


Notes: thanks to my friend Lee Rudnicki for recommending "How to Get Clients", an excellent marketing book for lawyers or other professionals. Go to and buy it now.

Lee is an entertainment lawyer in L.A. and once gave me this advice when I was threatening to move down to Tinseltown to get into his line of work: "Bring nuclear weapons." You can read some of Lee's musings on life, the universe and everything on Blog 7. Consider yourself warned.