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Your’s Is Not To Reason Y.

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.

Comments (13)



I know what you are saying. I also opened my practice right after the law school/passing the bar. I focus only on Immigration law which can be very complex, as it's not only "filling out the forms" but making decisions that can have your clients deported and banned from the USA for life (a life sentence... abroad).

I think you have a right attitude. You also practice immigration law which is technically a "civil" matter, but wrong advice could be more devastating than a criminal conviction. It's definitely "above" the level of the regular civil litigation, or it's in a different "dimension".

Take it easy. Maybe he meant well, and was just sharing his experience. Your experience lies elsewhere and you should be proud of yourself, your determination and success.

Good luck!



Others believe in you. Your integrity, intelligence and moral diligence are inspiring.


Hi Luba, good to hear from you again. Thank you for your comments.

How is your practice going? What do you think about the "papers/profiling" situaion in AZ?

ps: If you have kids, Happy Mother's Day!


Thank you Anon, very appreciated. Are you a Gen.Solo also?

Right on...


Hello CJ:

I have a younger sister, whom I adore and admire. What I admire most about my sister is that she’s always had the ability to claim what’s hers in life, while showing up as the person that she IS, without first requiring a process to locate, recognize or hone her talents for the project at hand.

When we were much younger, I often wondered how she continually realized her accomplishments at first blush. As we grew older, I realized that she did it because she just did it. My sister would always say, “Tone you have to hit while the iron is hot”. For which I would retort some dilettante statement about needing a process on board to first locate my strengths. I often wondered what was the source of her awareness and drive as well as why she didn’t appear afraid to take life by its roots. By the time I’d get my answers, she usually realized her goals and was starting new projects. My sister taught me the meaning of Carpe Diem and for that I am grateful!! I think that you too may have an admirer!!!

"as within, so without."
~eckhart tolle


Tali Philipson:

I just participated in this morning's Webcast of "Open Your Own Firm" and heard you speak about your practice. I found you to be truly encouraging and inspiring. I have a small practice just doing something within my cofmort zone but would like to expand into other areas of the law that are unfamiliar to me. I can't tell you how many people have told me to just stick to what I know. Its nice to know that there are other lawyers out there that think otherwise.


Dear Tali, thank you for your comments.

The truth is, fortunately I have not had many people tell me not to do something because it is too hard, too soon, too late or because I am too something or another. Most of the people in my life are encouraging and supportive.

That being said, given my lack of flying experience, not to mention my motion sickness, neither I or anyone who knows me, thinks I can land a jet in the East River. That is just too hard.

But, had I listened to those few who discouraged my ambitions, ostensibly for good reason or my own good, I would have accomplished little, been very unhappy and would probably never have failed— which has been an essential ingredient to my success.

Tali, believe in yourself, build a network of colleagues and friend you can depend on for guidance and support and “don’t let the bastards drag you down.”

If you are in the NYC area, call me and join my Potluck Legal Network.


Hey there Tony, thank you.

Your sister sounds like my kinda gal.

I also most certainly agree and believe that how we see others and view the world is a reflection of what is inside us— "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
-Anais Nin

Carpe Diem...


Success is a function of choice and opportunity. You have made a choice and i firmly believe the opportunity will follow.

Keep moving forward.



Hey Shaun, thanks for the comment. I plan to keep moving forward & one of the ways I do is remembering the path that lies behind me.


I just saw this article I think I know how you felt after that conversation. I have had many attorneys and others "marvel" at my audacity of (1)taking the NY bar after studying and practising in the Caribbean and then (2) starting my own practice. I do not know if they mean well when they tell me I should work for someone to gain experience or worse I should become a paralegal. I had no expectations of a high clientele in my first year but I am doing better than I expected and I go above and beyond to help my clients. I have clients who have moved from the big firms because (as the clients say) they lack the 'intellectual curiousity' or dedication to help find a solution for the case. I believe that once you have faith in your ability to learn, you will do well. I beleieve law school taught me how to teach myself. I am confident that even if I don't know it now I will learn it. This keeps me optimistic about my practice and its future.


Hey Carmelita, two of our greatest assets are our willingness to "go above and beyond" and our optimism. Keep hope alive! Hey remember to join my Linkedin group- "Potluck Legal Network." See you at the next meeting.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 8, 2010 5:06 PM.

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