I had a conversation with someone yesterday, the implications of which have been raging around in my head since. I was talking with another attorney in solo-practice (Y). Y has been practicing for many years, we just met recently and he thinks he knows how, if at all, I should have started my practice. He doesn’t.
I called Y to ask one question I was sure he would have the answer to, he didn’t. But he had a lot of other things to say or “teach” me. During that one hour conversation, he advised me that I should not have started my own practice without having gotten “experience” first. I should have worked for someone else or a firm and “learned” the business so to speak. But, if I were going to start a practice without such “experience” I should have started off with “closings, wills, contracts” and such, but certainty not civil litigation.
When I responded with my record so far in civil court-housing part, immigration court and my successes in employment law and other general civil matters, he was decidedly unimpressed and in fact stated that neither landlord/tenant nor immigration law rose to the level of “real civil litigation— his area of expertise.
He then focused on the question for which I called him. It concerned a recent case of mine involving my representation of a large group of shareholders in a cooperation matter. Y told me among other things, that clients are generally liars, ignorant, and that my clients in particular, are very litigious. I told Y that I did not agree with him and that I did not come to this place the same way he did. That I believed something different and that he and I were on a different path. At the end of the conversation, he said “we believe the same things and we are a lot alike.”
When I got off the phone, I felt really sad. That sadness turned to anger and that anger soon became indignation. Y was clearly troubled or perhaps insulted by what he seemed to perceived as insolence, arrogance and audacity.
I don’t remember when the training wheels came off my bicycle. I don’t recall who taught me how to ride or if I taught myself. I know that when my tires got a flat, someone would help me fix it or get it fixed. I also know that if I ever fell off, no one would tell me I couldn’t ride or to stop riding.
When I decided to change careers and become a lawyer, my first goals were to get in & then out of law school with my sanity and personal life in tact. I did that. I graduated into an economic tsunami that transformed my student loans into a subprime mortgage. With each new day, week and month, my confidence in finding a job, much less the “right one” decreased exponentially with every new cover letter and “selling myself” became a conquest of will.
I made the decision to start my own practice on the autumn equinox. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I will never regret it. And by any reasonable standard it is, so far, a success. The secret of my success is not just my audacity, of which I am not ashamed. My secret lies in the other people who believe in me, the ones I trust and know I can always call for help and to keep me going.
I have no delusions about the difficulties I face in maintaining this practice. And, not a day goes by when I don’t doubt some decision I make in a case or feel some anxiety about some thing or another.
But, if my practice closes it will not be because I should not have opened or because I should have somehow obtained more “experience” or should have started with “simple” things. If I fail, it will be because I stopped believing.