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Lawyerist

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 Rodgers’ Freedom 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.

Business Cards for Law Students

Lawyerist recently wrote a great post about why lawyers need business cards. They are a simple yet effective tool to have when networking.  You never know whose hands your card will end up. The same lesson is true for law students, and law students have more freedom to design cards that fit their personality.

Every law student should have business cards. Over the last year, I’ve picked up a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to selecting and designing a personal card. Every card should have the following information:

  • Your Name,
  • Your School,
  • JD Candidate,
  • Class of ______,
  • Your Phone Number, and
  • Your Email Address.

There are three main options for cards.

Option #1: School Business Cards
Many law schools give their students the opportunity to purchase business cards. These tend to have a simple and clean look. Students customize their cards with their personal information.  This is my friend Stephanie Green’s card.

Stephanie's Business Card - Address & Phone Info Removed

She realized after she had them printed that she shouldn’t have put her address on them because she’s moved twice since then.  Additionally, you might not want to put your home address on your card because you never know who will end up with that information.

I was happy when my school offered business card for sale; however, I cringed when I saw the template.  It was way too plain for me.  All the white space was a turn off for me.  I needed something with more personality and color.

Option #2: Personalized Business Cards
Vistaprint and Moo have many options for people who want more colorful and creative business cards. Vistaprint has many templates for free business cards that are suitable for law students. These companies make business cards for businesses, and the templates are designed to make the company the focus and not the individual. My classmate input his information exactly as the template suggested, and the result looked similar to this.

Bad Business Card

This design was perfect for his personality, but his card looks odd because you focus on the school and not him. Students who opt to have more personalized cards must remember that templates suggest where you put certain information but you can chose what information you put on it and where you put it. If I had this card as a law student, here’s how I’d do it.

Good Business Card

I think it’s better for students to put a non-school email address, because the information will continue to be current if someone wants to reach them after they graduate. However, the email address must look professional – something like YourName@gmail.com.

Option #3: Untraditional Business Cards
Some people are extremely creative when it comes to their business cards. Jason Tenenbaum got his business cards from Moo. It has a picture on the front and a QR code on the back that links to his information.

A divorce lawyer has a sassy business card that’s perforated in the middle with the same information on both sides. It pushes the envelope on appropriateness, but it makes me laugh. It’s a great gimmick.

In some industries, it’s common to have MiniCards – half sized business cards. I considered getting these instead of business cards, but I changed my mind when I showed a MiniCard to a young up-to-date lawyer, and he couldn’t understand what it was. In the future, I think I will have both standard business cards and MiniCards and will let the setting determine which one I use.

Along with business cards, every law students should have a business card case.  Without a case, the corners of the cards will become bent and dirty in a wallet or pocket. Reasonably priced ones are available from Amazon and VistaPrint, and more exciting ones are available on ThinkGeek and UncommonGoods.

Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

I joined Twitter about 16 months ago.  I originally joined to keep in touch with my friends while I was in Missouri with the U.S. Army JAG last summer.  Since then, it has become one of my primary networking tools.  It is the easiest way I know to start a conversation with someone.  I’m surprised by how few students at my law school are using it.

Free twitter badge
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A few months ago, Twitter helped me break the ice with Sam Glover when he spoke at my school.  Recently, it helped me create a connection with Tim Eigo and Arizona Attorney Magazine.  I don’t know how he found me, but he started following me in August and said that he liked this blog.  I went on LinkedIn and the Arizona Bar Association website to confirm his identity and then started a conversation with him.  That led to a lunch and hopefully this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Twitter has given me the ability to connect with a vast number of people, entities, and information that I otherwise would not have the time to seek out on my own.  It is the main way that I keep up with developments in the legal profession.  It also helps me stay informed about what my friends, local businesses, and celebrities are doing.

Online Best Colleges.com and Rasmussen College published their lists for the Top 100 Legal Twitter Feeds.  These are all wonderful people to follow.  Like them, I also want to acknowledge some of my favorite legal people and entities on Twitter who consistently post informative and entertaining content.

I also want to give props to Erin Biencourt, a 2L at Arizona State University, who is new to Twitter.  She claims that she needs me to give her Twitter lessons because she’s still figuring out how retweets and replies work.  She’s doing better than she realizes because she’s already overcome the biggest hurdle just by becoming part of the conversation.

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Appearance on Kade Dworkin’s Meet My Followers

My friend, Kade Dworkin, started a new podcast this month called Meet My Followers.

Kade Dworkin

Each show is a 20-minute interview with one of his followers from Twitter.  I was impressed when I saw that he’s challenging himself to release a new show every weekday morning.  So far he’s had some awesome and interesting guests – including me.

I met Kade in November 2009 when we were both presenters at Ignite Phoenix #5.  He spoke about “The Art of Misusing Stuff,” and my presentation was “Frosting the Law.”  Since then I’ve stayed connected to him and his adventures on Twitter and Facebook.  When he announced that he was starting this podcast and was soliciting guests for it, I immediately said I was in.

Kade asks all of his guests who they follow on Twitter.  I had to gush about some of my favorite people:

  • Lawyerist: @lawyerist, one of my favorite legal blogs
  • Eric Mayer: @ericlmayer, one of the best attorneys and courtroom advocates I’ve ever seen.  He’s new to Twitter, and his blogs are very thought-provoking.
  • Evo Terra: @evo_terra, my friend that I love for his intelligence, humor, and the fact that he just tells it like it is.  I’m also a fan of the occasional guest tweet from @jmoriarty.  Evo’s podcast is one of the highlights of my week.

We also talked about why I decided to go to law school and my aspiration to practice intellectual property and internet law, and to keep the crew at Improv AZ out of jail.  I’m glad that there are people like Kade who work in this area who remind me that there will be plenty of work for a neophyte lawyer in this area after I graduate.  You can listen to my episode of Meet My Followers on iTunes or on the show’s website.

Thank you, Kade for having me on your show.  I had a lot of fun and I look forward to hearing who is going to be on your show next.

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Targeted Networking

When I first moved to Phoenix in 2004, I didn’t have a job. Catherine Marsh, a woman who was a leader in the financial industry back when women leaders were a rare occurrence, told me that 85% of getting a job is who you know, not what you. This has been true in every profession I’ve encountered, especially when you’re the new guy.

Despite my adventurous attitude, I’m a fairly introverted person. I don’t like big crowds of people, especially when I hardly know anyone. The idea of going to networking events makes me groan. I much prefer to meet one-on-one with people or in small groups where our gathering has a purpose. I have, however, found a few ways to network that seem to work for me.

I prefer to avoid big dog-and-pony-show networking events. I prefer panel discussions and guest speaker events instead. I usually bring my laptop with me, and if there is someone I want to meet afterwards, I look them up on the internet. Most older lawyers don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account, but many of them have LinkedIn profiles. I’ll request to connect with them, while the event is going on and say how much I’m enjoying their talk. If they have a Twitter account, I’ll follow them. I tend to stay away from people I don’t know on Facebook until I have established a dialogue them unless they say, “Find me on Facebook.”

Last semester my school had an awesome panel of lawyers who are on the ABA’s Legal Rebels list. Since I am not a traditional law student, I was excited to see my fellow non-conformists. Sam Glover from The Lawyerist was particularly interesting to me. I remembering sitting in the audience thinking, “I need to meet this guy.” I hopped on Google and searched for him. By the time he was done describing what he does in his professional life, I was following him and his blog on Twitter and I had tweeted out how much I was enjoying his talk. I was so grateful to hear from someone who was making their law degree work for them in a way that complimented their personality.

While the other presenters were sharing their stories, I watched Sam tinker with his cell phone. I giddily hoped that he was checking his Twitter and saw that I was following him. After the event was over, a handful of people gathered around Sam. As I approached the group Sam looked at me and said, “You must be Ruth.” I was elated. Since then we’ve connected through this blog and Twitter. He’s been a great resource for me.

Targeted networking is a strategy that seems to work best for me. When I hear someone or hear about someone I want to meet, I look for ways to connect with them either online or in person. It’s much less stressful and often more successful than going to general networking events where I may not meet anyone who shares any of my interests in the legal profession. Most lawyers I’ve met are happy to help the neophytes coming down the pike, but usually I have to initiate the conversation.

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