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

March 27, 2008

"Passed the Bar (Almost) - Hung A Shingle" - Janus Research, LLC

This post is a little different then the norm.  This is not about one lawyer who has taken the plunge into the solo practice of law.  This is about four current law students who have created a legal research business.

I was so impressed with these four students who have yet to take the bar that I wanted to introduce them to you.  And also to let you know there are many ways to utilize your law degree, hang a shingle and be an entrepreneur.  The front man, the writer of this post, is Joseph Jacoby.  These students discovered their life plans included creating lives for themselves without the traditional time restraints the actual practice of law requires.   And the way to make it work is to pursue their real twin passions, research and writing.  And rather than go it alone, they realize entrepreneurship is in their blood but they need the strength of their mutual commitment to their goals and this gave impetus to the creation of Janus Research, LLC.

Joseph Jacoby, Janus Research, LLC

I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, though I would never have thought that I would be using my adventurous spirit to pay the mortgage. Conversations with close friends had always caused me to think “could I do it?”, but being a solo practitioner never seemed an option.

About halfway through this past summer, I woke up. I was putting in hours working on incredible cases for a well-respected firm. I was hard at work drafting briefs, motions and memos till my fingers were falling off, when a friend called me to meet up with him and a fellow member of our study group.

Sitting on the patio of a favorite local pub, we enjoyed a couple beers, joked about how little law school had taught us about practicing, and discussed what it would take for us to start out on our own. All three of us soon realized that we did not desire to work for a big firm and that the drive for us was to have careers we loved but would not control our personal lives. Most importantly we came to the conclusion that practicing law was enjoyable and had its perks, but the real thrill came with research and writing. I felt inspired, like a lightbulb had been switched on and I could clearly see that this was the path to take. My entrepreneurial spirit was stirred. Research and writing would give us the chance to learn about many areas of law, network with countless attorneys and build an incredible working knowledge of many practice areas.

We met weekly for the rest of the summer, discussing everything about business ideas and where we would want it to be in one, two, five and ten years. The conversations were candid and empowering. Fall came and our conversations became more involved. School was a priority, but felt more and more like work. Our meetings were invigorating feeling more like the pursuit of a passion. The realization soon hit that the only guaranteed path to a balanced life was our self-made path.

That is when the rubber met the road. We started to get the appropriate forms together, build an internet presence, assign tasks, draft an operating agreement and add one last member. The conversations that had taken place over the previous summer and fall semester proved to be of immeasurable value. We knew where we were heading and all of our decisions and discussions became streamlined because of it. Eventually we were a unit, a company, united by a desire to work with each other and for each other so that we could be free from slaving for a senior partner’s bank account.

We became Janus Research Group, L.L.C A group that will allow lawyers from any size firm to outsource research, writing document review and other “grunt” work, leaving the lawyer to make rain or take a breather from the daily grind. We are quality legal research, on demand. The hope is that all of the legal profession will benefit from our services by having help on demand and that solo practitioners can grow their practice without having to take on an associate or partner.

Janus Research Group will allow us to do the work we love; research and writing. It also will act as a foundation for when we expand beyond research and writing into a law practice of our own.

The initial response we have had to our business has been incredibly encouraging. Professors who have done this work before have been willing to step in and offer their input, former employers have stated their interest in using our services, and classmates have even been asking for jobs.

I know that it is not typical for graduates who go solo to quickly associate with others because of the added expense and logistics, however, that is where we get our strength and stability.

I am more at ease now than I have ever been in life. I know that my success and my company’s success rests on the shoulders of people I know and trust. More importantly, my success is directly tied to the work that I do. I do consider myself a member of the “solo practitioner” community, I am just doing things with a “twist”. I appreciate the legal education I have received, but the real value for me is the fire that I have within myself to pursue the unknown.

In August, following the July bar exam, we will officially open our doors and accept new clients. One of our members will be in Boston, while the remaining three will be in the Southeast. No BMW in the garage or corner office, but that is not me. I am a husband, a photographer, a sailor and soon to be a lawyer. I am proud to be entering into this profession but I take more pride in the entrepreneurial spirit that Janus Research Group is built upon because of Anthony, John, Jessica and myself.

Joseph Jacoby
Managing Partner
Janus Research Group
Phone: 1-877-786-2618
Email: [email protected] (Preferred)
Post: PO Box #131310 Ann Arbor, MI 48113-1310

I'm really impressed with these four students because they have discovered while in law school a different way to practice law.  However, I recommend they start following the wisdom of the Queen of Legal Research and Writing, Lisa Solomon at Question of Law, because she knows how to successfully capture a market with her high-quality research and writing and has the ability and desire to teach others how to emulate her own success.

March 06, 2008

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Gabriel Cheong

I really love what I do!  This solo, I believe, is very representative of many new lawyers, the passion, the commitment and the circumstances of today's new law graduate.  Gabriel is emminently relatable.  Let's cheer him on!  (Note:  his site will be live the week of March 10, but I wanted to give him a running start.)

Guest Blogger - Gabriel Cheong, Esq.


I've been reading your blog, "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" and was inspired to tell you my story.

I graduated law school May, 2007 and passed the MA bar on November, 2007. I opened up my solo practice the day after I passed the bar exam.  This decision came out of both necessity and determination.

I went to law school at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.  They really helped to prepare me for my solo practice work through their mandated coop program.  Their coop program is an internship program that is worked into their 3-year curriculum.  The first year of law school is a traditional, 2-semester course work load.  Beginning the second year and continuing to the third, students rotate between going to school full time and working full time at an internship of their choice.  The school year was broken up into 3-month quarters so courses were tightly packed and summer vacation was non-existent.  All in all, during my 3 years in law school, I worked at 4 different places ranging from corporate taxation at the Department of Revenue, clerking for a federal judge, divorce and advocacy work for victims of domestic violence, and lastly for a solo practitioner.

Upon graduation from law school, I quickly sent out what seemed like a million resumes to firms all around Massachusetts.  I knew early on that I did not like the Big Firm environment because I wanted to practice family law and litigation.  In a big firm I would never get the opportunity to litigate or even meet with clients, which is part of why I wanted to  become a lawyer - to help and relate to people. So I sent out resumes to mostly small and solo firms.  It was at this time that the economy started to take a turn for the worse and many small firms were not hiring new lawyers.  Some that posted for job openings were only willing to talk to experienced attorneys practicing 5+ years.

I was discouraged by the bad economy but eventually landed a job with a solo practitioner.  I worked for this attorney for less than two weeks before I was let go.  I'm not sure if it was a lack of need for my services, ill performance on my part, or personality conflicts, or even a combination of those things that led to me being let go.  I realized a few days into the job that I did not fit in and it was for the best that I was let go.  It was at this time that I gave practicing on my own serious thought.  I kept repeating to myself during this time and still do, that if others won't give you opportunities, you have to make them for yourself.

So I made up letterhead, got my own liability insurance and started out on my own.  I worked out of my home but rented an office space with the solo attorney that I had interned for in law school.  It was about 2-months into my solo practice that the solo attorney I had worked for decided to close down shop.  It was a personal decision on her part, not a financial one so I decided to purchase her firm and take it over since it was an LLC.

During this time, I had gotten referral work from that attorney because she needed to off-load her family law cases and I was also getting some work on my own.  I am about to close the deal on the business in a weeks time and I hope that my solo practice will continue stronger than ever.  My new firm is called Infinity Law Group and I practice primarily in the areas of family/divorce law and estate planning. 

I am still confronted daily with doubts on opening my own firm, both from myself and also some of my family who doesn't believe I should've gone through with the decision.  But I learned that I have to do what makes me happy and success and money will follow only if I am happy with what I do.  Even though I'm just starting out and work is not as steady as I'd like it to be, I wake up everyday (including Mondays) loving what I do.  That feeling of happiness alone keeps me going.  Many of my peers in law school still have no found permanent work due to the poor economy and some that do have work have expressed disinterest and loathing for what they do.  Even though they make a steady paycheck and more than I make (right now) I'm glad that I went through with going solo.

Gabriel Cheong, Esq.
[email protected]
Tel.: (617) 273-5110
Fax.: (617) 273-0136

February 27, 2008

"Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" - Michael Bace

Today's guest blogger, is Michael J. Bace, a brand new solo practitioner who didn't even wait 24 hours after being sworn in to open his doors for business.  And coming from a family of entrepreneurs, this is not surprising.  Here's his story and philosophy about practice which should be uplifting for everyone.

Guest Blogger - Michael J. Bace

Okay.  Here goes. I graduated in May of 2007, took the bar exam in July, was sworn in on November 26, 2007 - and was ready to accept clients on November 27, 2007!

I took one year off between undergraduate school  (Univ. of  New Hampshire) and law school (New England School of Law, Boston, MA).  I think my decision to go solo probably had a lot to do with my father.  He has been a self-employed general contractor for as long as I can remember.  I guess he and I both have difficulty taking orders from a boss, and prefer to be solely responsible for the quality of our work (whether it's banging nails or representing clients).  Further, I have no mortgage and no children and somehow was able to convince my wife that now was the best time to give it a shot!

When I officially decided to open my solo practice, I was given a multitude of discouraging opinions.  I heard that it would be "malpractice per se" to attempt to practice law after passing the bar exam.  Colleagues frowned, or suggested I practice for a firm for a few years to gain experience.  Recently, I was actually told that handling even a simple criminal defense would be the equivalent of a "medical school graduate performing brain surgery for the first time."  Do not listen to the negativity. 

The fact is, when you pass the bar exam in your jurisdiction, you are licensed and qualified to practice law.  You may not be as experienced, but you possess the skills to become competent in almost any area of the law given the proper research and preparation. 

More importantly, a solo practitioner is in a position to provide a number of services that large firms are not.

Flexibility & Customization -  Large firms are often inflexible, stuck in their procedures, and tend to operate for the benefit and convenience of their members, and not for the benefit and convenience of their clients. A large law firm, like any huge corporation, is eventually slowed by its own policies. A solo practitioner is not subject to this issue and, therefore, can provide service that is more responsive.  Solo practitioners can often change policies, customize forms and procedures in order to better serve the client.  As independent practice attorneys, we can adapt and change on the fly.

Efficiency - At a typical larger firm, documents and the clients attached to them are often repeatedly passed along by layers of associates, senior associates, partners, before getting the attention of a senior partner. This is a slow, inefficient, and worst of all: expensive process. The large firm can not be as sympathetic to client needs, because that is one of the ways it makes money: the billable hours of its staff. Independent practitioners cannot afford to delay or push paper. Any client is a big fish to the independent attorney. In a large firm, many clients will find they are small fish in the firm's pond, and are treated accordingly.  A solo practitioner has no small fish in his pond. Because repeat business is so desirable, and referrals are so vital, every client is important and is treated as such.  Solo practitioners are in a great position to take advantage of new technology.  We can be sitting in a coffee shop, with a laptop and access to every document in a client's file.  When the client calls our office, the call can be directed to our cell phone, the documents can be reviewed, and emails/faxes can be sent with the click of the mouse.  That's efficiency.

Personal Attention - Unlike large firms, my office is happy to have clients contact us, day or night. Clients may contact us via mail, fax, e-mail, Web site, and cell phone. Calls to my office are automatically re-routed to my personal cell phone. I strive to be accessible almost anywhere and anytime. If you use a larger firm, the chances that one of the attorneys is going to encourage a client to call them at home or on a cell phone is extremely slim.

Value - A small firm can give the client a lower cost for equal work, which is an incredible value. A knowledgeable, hungry, and motivated solo practitioner can often perform legal tasks in far less time than would be required by a law firm and its team of staff members. Large firms can give their staff a lot: beautiful mahogany offices, high salaries, yearly bonuses, catered food at meetings, golf outings at expensive country clubs, limo service home for anyone working past 5:00, in-house cafeterias, in-house gyms, expense accounts, etc. All of these amenities need to be paid by the clients. Solos do not have to pay for that kind of fixed overhead, and can pass the savings along to their clients.  Solo practitioners feel pressure to make a sustainable living, but are not bound by billable hour goals from managing partners. 

So the next time someone attempts to discourage you from entering the exciting and entrepreneurial world of the solo practitioner- tell them you think there is a real need for the kind of customization, efficiency, personal attention, and value that only you can provide.

Michael Bace

Law Office of Michael J. Bace
245 First Street, Suite 1800
Cambridge, MA 02142
[email protected]

August 16, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Cullen Geisler

The newest addition to "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" is Cullen Geisler who is practicing in Michigan.

Cullen P. Geisler, Esq. - Law Offices of Cullen P. Geisler, PLLC

My name is Cullen Patrick Geisler and I graduated law school from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI in May 2005 I was sworn in November 2005 and started my firm The Law Offices of Cullen P. Geisler in March 2006. 
Its been an interesting ride and I have learned a tremendous amount.  I started my firm out of necessity because I was laid off in Feb 06.  I will never look back. I really think in Michigan the practice of law is changing and small firms will be the wave of the future. 
I feel I have learned and gotten so much experience in the last year and a half which I could never have gotten working for someone else.  Being laid off young without any responsibilities (children or family) I am blessed. 
Unfortunately law school only teaches you how to read and research like a lawyer and form a theoretical argument. Upon reflection, this past year and a half has been worth more than my 3 years of law school.  Negotiating, dealing with judges, and managing a case are not taught at all in law school and that is a shame.
I have also met many young shinglers in my area who have given me work because they were so busy! This has also led to many new friendships.
It hasn't always been easy but I have learned much about the power of the internet and its ability to bridge any gap there may be between myself and other established firms.  Thank you for the support and inspiration your blog provides.
Cullen P. Geisler, Esq.
The Law Offices of Cullen P. Geisler PLLC
28175 Haggerty Road
Novi, MI 48377


(248) 488-8623

July 26, 2007

Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle - Stephanie Caballero

Surrogacy lawyer, Stephanie Caballero, never intended to go solo, but life took her to a new city and voila, she's a solo.

Stephanie Caballero, Surrogacy Lawyer

I actually never intended to go solo. When I passed the Bar in December of
2003 I was working for Blue Cross of California in Woodland Hills,
California. At best, I would be in-house counsel for BCC and if not, work in
some sort of regulatory capacity. But then, life happened and in 2004 my
husband got a job in San Diego, so I quit my corporate job, packed up the
kids and the dog and moved to the land of eternal sunshine.

Now what? I had a successful marketing career but no legal experience.
Lawyers, I found out, weren't really interested in talking to me, despite my
marketing skills and I didn't really want to work in marketing when I had
worked so hard for my law degree and license. So, I got creative and
contacted a local surrogate and egg donation attorney (I had had my own
experience with the process) and offered to intern for him. Having gone
through it myself, he thought it would be a good idea. It was, except for
one problem: I didn’t know that I couldn't live where I live and make it
back in time to pick up my kids from preschool. The work was great, but the
drive was killing me.

So, I decided to take the experience I learned in two months and open up my
own practice. It was the best decision I ever made. I used my 10+ years in
marketing to develop my brand and website and then I hit the road marketing
my practice to the physicians and lawyers in the field and I talked to other
new solo attorneys for advice (I'm forever in Cindy Jones's debt). I have
been in practice a little over two years and I have a thriving legal
practice, which includes a paralegal and an assistant. I do attribute my
success in part to my marketing background. I don't know many lawyers that
can say they are first in the Google rankings (try searching "surrogacy
lawyer" and see whose website comes up) after only two years.

As you can imagine, though, the attorney that I interned for was not happy
that I was now his competition. Well, at first he wasn't. Now that he sees
me "everywhere," (his words not mine. He recently told me at an industry
conference that he wanted to give me Sodium Pentothal so he could figure out
how I did it) we now work together and refer clients. But, the best thing
about my practice is I get to help couples and individuals from all over the
world have babies. What's not to like about that.


Stephanie M. Caballero, Esq.
Law Office of Stephanie M. Caballero
1225 San Elijo Road
San Marcos, CA 92078
P (760) 798-2265
F (760) 798-4255
[email protected]

July 19, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Lawrence Burroughs

This Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle(r) started a part-time solo practice right after passing the bar, something I'm sure most new lawyers believe they would feel more comfortable with.  Lawrence D. Burroughs II didn't take this path deliberately. Here's his story.

A little over a year ago I passed the bar and hung a part-time shingle. I didn’t, however, set out travel this path from the outset. In the beginning, I found myself being offered “jobs” at a few local firms in areas of law that were not particularly appealing, under conditions that felt oppressive and demeaning on some level. I’ve worked cubicle jobs in several mega-sized companies and understand what it feels like to be a number in some statistical output performance report. These firms tended not to have any mentoring program in place and were mostly looking for a willing drone to accumulate billable hours without too much drain on existing resources. I discovered I wanted something different but I knew I needed to gain some legal experience in the process.

             I started working in the Office of the Public Defender in Norfolk on a part-time basis to get my feet wet and it turned out to be more like trying to sip water from a fire hose. Realizing I’d have to supplement my income to help make ends meet, I started my solo practice part-time in Virginia Beach. With three daughters in a three bedroom condo, a home office was not an option for me. I needed a place with a door in relative peace and quiet. I leased a small space on a month-to-month basis I found on craigslist just after accepting the position with the Public Defender’s office and negotiated away the deposit requirement. I was also fortunate to find work as an adjunct professor at a university, teaching mostly on local military bases to adult students in law enforcement and government jobs.

             All was going well until I started taking on a few too many felony cases with the Public Defender’s Office. It was no longer a couple of interviews and a court appearance in a twenty hour workweek handling misdemeanors and appeals. It was, instead, approaching near thirty to forty hours of preliminary hearings, trials, continuances, and sentencing. Again, all wonderful in the experience department but it was challenging to say the least on my wife and three daughters. Between teaching, working in the Public Defender’s Office, and my growing solo practice, I was working no less than sixty to seventy hours per week. This didn’t include the time it took to prepare for teaching a college course for the first time or working on the “business” side of my solo practice.

             Needless to say, I was nearing a point of no return. I was offered a full-time position with the Public Defender’s Office at the same time Saint Leo University was asking me to take on a few more courses. My practice suffered only from the lack of time and attention I allocated to it by virtue of my other obligations. Well, just shy of four months ago, I made my decision. I spent some time revisiting my business plan and started fine tuning my marketing efforts for the upcoming year. I gave one month’s notice with the Public Defender’s office and started the process of winding up my remaining cases. I retained a few remaining cases for sentencing rather than pass them along because I had developed a relationship with the client and the judge in each case would expect nothing less.

             I’ve since moved from my one-room office in an awkwardly located suite to a larger space in a more central location for roughly the same cost in overhead. Being in the office more has opened my eyes to the missed opportunity I’d not taken advantage of, namely, answering my phone. What I thought wasn’t worth the money in advertising was apparently working quite well. I’m still spending endless hours wading through the drudge of business management and marketing, but I’m now being paid nicely for my efforts.

             The move from hardly part-time to a full-time practice has so far been a rollercoaster ride, which is fine because I tend to enjoy the thrill of letting go a bit and taking a well-calculated risk on occasion. After all, isn’t that a large part of what being a solo attorney is all about? Take a seat, pull down your restraint, and prepare to let it all out.

Very truly yours,

Lawrence D. Burroughs II

Attorney and Counselor at Law

Burroughs Law Office, P.C.

3500 Virginia Beach Boulevard, Suite 421

Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452

Tel: (757) 363-0077

Fax: (757) 363-0092

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.burroughs-law.com

Adjunct Professor

Saint Leo University

1481 D. Street, Bldg 3016

Naval Amphibious Base

Norfolk, Virginia 23521-2498

July 05, 2007

New Inductee - "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - N. Bob Pesall

New Inductee into "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle"  N. Bob Pesall

Although, Attorney Pesall states he is just a little outside the window of eighteen months, when you read his story you will understand it was okay because he relocated back home to a small town in South Dakota.  His story is interesting for all those who want to go back home to a small town and make the decision to be a generalist to service the community versus a specific area of law.  Several months ago I wrote a post called Going Solo in a Small Town on the mindset of the small town lawyer and now Attorney Pesall is letting everyone see first hand how and why the decision was made and how he has faced the challenges.

      I've been a fan of your blog since its inception, and a solo practitioner for six months.  I am slightly outside the 18 month window for the Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle club, but I hope you'll consider me anyway.
      A native of South Dakota, I graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law in may of 2004.  My wife (of four years now ) was a classmate of mine.  We got married in law school, and upon graduation we were both hired by an old and very respected law firm in western North Dakota.  This firm had about eleven lawyers in total, and a practice that stretched out over several states.  My wife and I sat for the North Dakota Bar exam in 2004, and the South Dakota bar exam in 2005.   I learned a lot during my short stay in western North Dakota, both about the practice of law and about life in general.  But I stayed a South Dakotan at heart.  In the end, there were three factors that made us decide it was time to move back home.  First, distance was a problem.  Our family and friends all lived seven hours away.  Second, fitting in was a problem.  When you move to a new town, you lack the common frame of reference held by everyone who grew up there.  This makes it hard to communicate, and hard to really understand your clients' needs.  Finally, my wife did not like practicing law in the courtroom, and we both wanted to try something new.
      In September, 2006, opportunity knocked.  A bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota offered my  wife a position as associate counsel.  It was close to our family and friends, and it came with health insurance.  We bought Foonberg, did some market research, and we came up with a plan.  The town of Flandreau, South Dakota was only 40 miles away from Sioux Falls.  It was under-lawyered, and I had family there going back six generations.  We bought a house exactly half-way between the two cities, and I put up my shingle.  My office is about two blocks away from the house where my great-great-great grandparents lived.
     These days, I do quite a bit of court-appointed criminal defense work.  I am also building a practice in real estate, estate planning, and election law.  But the fact is, I work in a small town.  Flandreau has a population of about 2,400 people and true specialization is unrealistic.  Small towns need generalist lawyers.  If a case beyond my abilities comes in the door, I refer it to my specialist friends in the big city.  In turn, they refer me cases which are outside their specialities.  I like it this way.  I get variety.  I get interesting clients.  I get the satisfaction of helping keep the town on the map for another generation.  And I don't get in over my head.
   Going solo was probably the best decision I could have made.  (The seond best decision I ever made was to buy doughnuts for everyone in the Clerk of the Court's office on my first day.  If the Clerk likes you, life gets a whole lot easier.)
N. Bob Peasall, Attorney at Law
(605) 573-0274/Fax (605) 573-0275
809 West Pipestone Ave. Ste. 11
Flandreau, SD 57028

June 28, 2007

New Inductee - "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" - Anthony M. Wright

(UPDATE:  7/4/07 Attorney Wright has made the news for his court appointed work in a high profile criminal case.  Congratulations, Anthony!)

My name is Anthony Wright and I am a lawyer in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sin City is my home town and I have seen it grow from a population of 200,000 to a metropolis of 2,000,000.  Essentially, I grew up with the city.

In 2004, I graduated from the William S. Boyd School of Law in Las Vegas which is Nevada’s new and only law school.  It became accredited in unprecedented time thanks to Dean Richard Morgan and good students who gambled on a Las Vegas law school by enrolling even before it had provisional accreditation.

I became a solo-practitioner in 2006 within months of passing the bar exam. My entrepreneurial nature required me to control my own schedule, have full accountability over my cases, and determine whom I represented.  For a year before hanging my own, I worked as a clerk and then as a lawyer for other attorneys.

Bosses breathing down my neck about minimum weekly billable hours made me want to give up the ghost every day. I would drive the freeway to work in my 1982 Toyota Carolla half wishing one of those Semi-trucks that barreled down on me from behind would run me over.  In short, I hated life while working at other firms.  I felt like my employers were psychic vampires draining me of my enthusiasm for life.  I was not about to throw a way all my years of hard work by dwelling on such negativity, so I exited that environment and began my own practice on a shoestring budget.

The weekly billables employers required made them rich and I could easily have become wealthy on half of what I earned for them. I could not rationalize making another lawyer $7,000 per week while only earning $5,000 per month.

My boss would give me a three-foot thick file and tell me to prepare a trial brief.  I would spend ten or twenty hours getting up to speed but my employer would only give me credit for maybe two hours and then complain that I was not meeting my weekly quota and that I had neglected other cases. I was putting in a good seventy hours a week but often found that I was short in my quota after hours were cut.

Since going solo, I dedicate full attention to my clients and am not distracted by an employer’s need for greed or the sadistic pleasure an employer gets from torturing a rookie.  I may work even more than the sixty or seventy hours a week I used to put in, but it does not feel like work now, it feels like living.

Furthermore, the risks of opening a business and the pressures involved paled in comparison to the feelings that a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde boss could put me through.  Imagine a “superior” praising you one minute for doing a good job and cursing you out the next for making mistakes that any greenhorn attorney would make. I am a person who is eager to please others and I take mean-spirited criticism very hard. Now I answer to myself and my clients alone—and sometimes the court.

I’m an employer now myself and would never treat my greatest assets the way I had been treated.  I also cannot imagine treating my clients the way my former bosses wanted me to treat their clients. 

In the last 18 months of business, I have had experiences that I would never have had working for other attorneys.  I have met with innumerable clients, something that was denied me elsewhere.  I have seen cases from beginning to end, instead of being thrown in medias res. I have gone to trial twice, winning both times.  Oh, and the greatest joy is being able to get up at 8:00 AM instead of 6:00 AM and taking days off when I feel like it. Hah!

I must thank my ever-loving and patient wife for standing by me through it all and helping me to recognize my potential. She is the most wonderful person I have had the pleasure to know personally.

Anthony M. Wright, Esq.
425A S. 6th Las Vegas, Nevada
420 N. Nellis Blvd. Suite A3-150
Las Vegas, Nevada 89110
(702) 809-6904
e-mail: [email protected]

June 19, 2007

Casting Call for "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle"

Another casting call for "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle."  If you are a newly minted lawyer, graduated and hung a shingle within the past 18 months, I would love to feature you in a blog post.  For consideration, please submit a brief (no more than 500 - 700 words) description of yourself, where you are located, year of graduation, areas of practice, contact information and how you decided to be a solo and why solo-ing was the right choice for you.   Everyone enjoys reading these stories and you will be blogrolled in good company.  You may even make new friends and professional contacts!