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April 24, 2008

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Jeremy Reed

This new attorney, Jeremy Reed, graduated law school in Denver, Colorado and knew he wanted to open a solo practice.  While in law school he made friends with Matt Margeson.  They each committed to a partnership parlaying their individual strengths and weaknesses into a solid team.  I invited both Jeremy and Matt to write a guest post for Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle and this is Jeremy's wisdom.

Guest Post - Jeremy Reed

In October of 2007, I finally passed the bar. Mind you, I only took it once, but that was more than plenty. After the months of intermittent worry punctuated by bouts of certainty that I had failed, I finally found out that I had passed. And I could start working.

I had made the decision to open my own practice during my final semester of law school. One of the reasons that I had enrolled in law school was because I knew that there were many lawyers who ran their own practice and did well. I wanted to work for myself, and although my initial plan was to work for someone else for a few years and then start my practice, things don’t always work out the way we planned.

As I started to know more people who were working first year associate jobs, I found that for the most part, they were not getting much in the way of good experience. I made the decision to go out on my own because I could not stomach wasting two or three years working for someone else. My now business partner was a law school friend, Matt Margeson, and we made the decision to partner up and open a practice.

One of the first (and best) decisions I made was to find a mentor who could help us to open the practice. She helped us to understand how our practice could work, and helped us to identify our ideal clients.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing about this process has been what I would call easy. My paycheck (when I get one) is smaller than those of my peers. But that is temporary. As we look towards the future, I can see clearly that by continuing on the path we are on, this firm will be financially successful, while providing me the personal satisfaction I desired.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my advice to someone who is thinking of hanging a shingle straight out of law school.

1. Think about why you want to do this. If it is only because you can’t find a job, that is not the best reason but sometimes it still works. If it is because you want to be autonomous and want to see something you created grow, then jump at the chance. I couldn’t be happier with what I am doing. (Okay, I could have a flood of clients willing and able to pay $100,000.00 retainers, but give me a little time!)

2. Don’t listen to the naysayers. There will be an endless flood of people telling you that your crazy, that opening your own firm is career suicide, that no one will hire you, and on and on. Don’t listen to them. Find people that see the potential, who know that this can work. (Although the naysayers won’t admit this, there are lots of attorneys who have already hung a shingle right out of law school; find a couple of those, I can guarantee that most if not all will be very supportive, and will lend a hand when needed.)

3. Work hard. Hard work is the key to success in most endeavors, and this one is no different. The hard part here is that the payoff for your hard work will take a little longer to develop. Keep the long view of things, and recognize that by sacrificing some income now, you are making more for yourself later. And even though you should be working hard, have fun. Being a lawyer can be fun, and you should enjoy yourself.

4. Relax. It is scary. It should be. Lots of scary things are worth doing, and this (in my opinion) is one of them. If you do the right things, your business will succeed, and so will you.

So if you are thinking of starting a firm, and aren’t sure what to do, call someone and talk about it. If all else fails, call me, I am happy to talk with anyone about their plans to start a firm, and will help anyone that I can.

Jeremy Reed

Margeson & Reed LLC

800 Grant Street Suite 330

Denver, Colorado 80203

Tel: (303) 731-6593

Fax: (303) 648-5756

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Comments

Frank

First, thank you for the post! I am approaching graduation this May and I am 90% sure that I will be hanging a shingle this fall when I get sworn in. Second, my question for you is about starting off with a partner. Do you enjoy the fact that you started with a partner? I am pretty sure I want to start a practice with someone not because I want someone to cover for me or JUST to share the start up cost. But, because I think it's going to be a wild and sometimes uneasy ride, and I think it would be great to have a partnership where we can help motivate and support each other. Thoughts?

Elizabeth

Thanks for this post! My husband and I have opened our own practice since graduating from law school in May '08. Like Jeremy suggested, finding a mentor is critical. We've been lucky to find one who has been amazing. We're still finding our way, and have yet to find that elusive client, but we love it and would not change places with many of our peers who hate their firm jobs, or worse yet, as still looking for firm jobs.

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