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Sam Glover

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.

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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.

Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

The bar exam is tomorrow!  I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.  I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.

I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.  I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.

“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel

Bring it on!

Image by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

“Trust your preparation.  I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).  If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.  That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.  In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.  Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.  Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog

“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.  If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel

At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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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.

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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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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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