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Pulling the Trigger on my Law Firm

I’ve probably made the biggest decision of my professional life thus far – I’m opening my own law firm. As Sam Glover told me, there’s no reason to wait to go solo.

I would have preferred to get some experience at a law firm, but I didn’t find one that was hiring that could have been the right fit. And in this economy, there are no legal jobs for most neophyte attorneys.

cc Mat Honan from Flickr

Over the last few years, I’ve accepted that I don’t want to work at a traditional law firm. I don’t want to work 80 hours a week, doing work that clients will refuse to pay for, have no life, develop severe chemical dependency problems, and have a heart attack or nervous breakdown before turning 40. I want to love what I do and be happy.

I am probably what Emily Leach calls genetically unemployable. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m lazy or that I don’t want to work. It means I can’t work my ass off for someone else’s dreams. I have my own dreams. And if I don’t go after them now, then when?

Once I have my law license, I’ll be officially trading in the certainty of a paycheck for the freedom to set my own hours, choose my own clients, and to try to live the life I’ve always wanted.  I want to foci of my law practice to be business formation, intellectual property, and internet law. I’m hoping that striking out on my own will also give me the freedom to write books and be a regular public speaker.

I’m taking Rachel RodgersFreedom Is The New Rich Teleclass and learning about how to operate a virtual law office. Essentially, my office will be wherever my laptop is. This year, my friend Brian Shaler has been essentially homeless because he’s been traveling all over the world. He works for himself so he can work from anywhere with an internet connection. Following his adventures has inspired me to travel more when I have the means.

Opening my own law firm has been exciting and petrifying. I’m sure I’ll have portions of the ethical rules memorized by the end of my first year because I feel like I have to consult it before doing anything. I’m grateful that I have incredible mentors helping me along the way. It’s comforting to remember that opening a law firm is relatively cheap and the ongoing overhead can be kept very low. I don’t need anything super fancy. I just need a system that works for me and my clients.

For now, I’m formulating what services I want to offer, determining where I’ll find clients, considering my rates, and what I want my website to look like while I wait to clear character and fitness. Oh yeah, and working my three jobs that are paying the bills until I become self-sufficient.

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22 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Like most of your friends, I can totally relate to how you feel right now. We’re very fortunate, you and I. In our circle of friends, what you’re doing is considered normal, not crazy. It’s a rite of passage. It’s a scary but necessary leap into the unknown. The more I meet people in other cultures, even close to home, the more I realize that almost everyone in the world would consider this is a crazy and reckless move. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, most people believe the shadows cast on the wall are real, true, and right. Your friends, however, are the ones who are there to drag you up and out of the cave to see things as they really are.

    Bring sunglasses.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Shaler! I’m so glad we have people who have already taken the leap and proven that it’s not a guaranteed professional suicide.

  2. Jay Thompson says:

    Freaking AWESOME Ruth, and good for you! You could almost replace “law firm” with “real estate brokerage” in your piece and slap my name on it.

    Not saying our jobs are similar, they are very different. Well, we are both in service industries, they may be all that different at a base level…

    You’ll do just fine. There will be “what the hell was I thinking” moments. But I’ll bet you a free consultation on Internet Law that in a very short time you’ll realize you made the right decision.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Jay! That means a lot coming from you. I love that you’ve built a successful business and made it fit your personality.

  3. Evo Terra says:

    Best of luck to you, Ruth! Here’s to keeping idiots like me out of legal hot water with our antics!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Evo! It’s people like you who reaffirm that my ideal clients and my preferred niches exist.

  4. Bryan says:

    Good luck. I have been rooting for you since I first heard you on Evo at 11. Take it from me that running your own law firm is exciting, empowering, stressful, and fear inducing, all at once.

    Good luck and let me know if you ever need help in Illinois.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Bryan!! I appreciate the support! I’m excited to get my firm off the ground.
      And it’s awesome that you learned about me on Evo at 11.

  5. Ari Kaplan says:

    Wishing you the very best of luck!
    Ari

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Ari!

  6. Brian says:

    Good luck with your firm. My dad wasn’t truly happy until he opened his own business later in life. Are you aware of how your classmates are doing in the job market?

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      According to the rumors, some of them have jobs but others are struggling to find temporary jobs in retail.

  7. CWaterhouse says:

    First, congratulations on passing the bar! That, in itself, is an amazing accomplishment. Second, congratulations on taking a step to fulfill your dreams. Sometimes, that first step is the hardest, but now you have a village to surround you and keep you accountable (and support you when needed). We’ll celebrate at #evtm (if you’re not too busy!)

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thank you! I don’t know if I could do this without the support that I have from the real world and online communities. I’ll definitely make another appearance at #evtm.

  8. Emily Leach says:

    What a compliment to be mentioned in your blog post, can’t wait to watch your journey! There is no normal, it’s what you make it … this is your life – what a treat to get to see you take charge a create your dreams!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I fully embrace the fact that I have never been and never will be normal. The majority of the professional successes I’ve had in the legal community have come when I’ve had the courage to follow my own path and groove to my own beat. I’m grateful to people like you who show me that following your dreams works. I watch your Ignite video regularly to remind myself of that risking failure is required to risk success and that i have the skills and the drive to make my dreams a reality.

  9. If you are not the leader, then your life will be spent looking at someone else’s ass.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      That is a visual I will never get out of my head. I love it! Thanks!

  10. Perri Collins says:

    Ruth, I think you are quite inspiring.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Awh, thanks Perri! I am lucky to be surrounded by people who encourage me to follow my passion.

  11. Elise says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I found your blog through an article on “The Girl’s Guide to Law School.” I relate to you so much in this blog post of yours that I had to write you. I am a 3L, but I have been preparing all throughout law school for going solo after I graduate. Whereas my classmates have been focusing only on their grades, I have juggled several different law clerk and editor jobs to gain experience and professional contacts, joined an inn of court, and made sure all my professors and classmates know what area of law I am going into (IP law). Anyways, good luck to you with your law practice, and congrats on passing the bar!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Elise! I’m glad you’re laying the foundation now to set up your own firm after graduation. Best of luck to you!