May 31, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Kimberly DeCarrera, Esq.

A new inductee into "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" is Kimberly DeCarrera of Atlanta Georgia.

Why did I choose the solo route, especially out of law school?  Looking back over the past several years, I can say that I was always on this path.  From the beginning, I knew that life in the Big Law firms was not going to suit me.  I have family friends that are partners and some are associates in several of the biggest law firms in Atlanta. I saw what they went through on a constant basis.  it was not for me, and I knew it.

During my first year of law school I did all the normal interviews with the major law firms.  It was quickly apparent to me, even during those initial 10-15 minutes interviews, that what they expected was not what I wanted.  My personality does not fit in the big law firm culture.  I admit that I have a fiercely independent mentality and attitude.  Do no tell me that I cannot do something!

Since I knew BigLaw was not for me, I spent my second and third years figuring out what I did want.  At the end of my second year, I clerked for a solo in Atlanta and loved it.  I interviewed for some small firms towards the end  of law school, and I had a few offers.  However, it was difficult finding a small firm where I liked the people, the practice areas, and the pay.  Several firms were also afraid because I was open about the fact that, eventually, I wanted to start my own practice after I get enough experience.

I continued to look while I was studying for the bar exam and while I was waiting for the results.  In the meantime, I worked in the family accounting business and found out that I loved it as well.  The accounting firm has never been better.

I can distinctly remember the day that my mother (the CPA) walked in after a meeting with a client and I told her that another client was completely caught up.  The work for this client was never caught up.  At that point she said, "Stop looking for a job.  Work for me and start your own practice when the bar results come in!"  I thought it over for a little while and my mother sweetened the deal by offering to pay for a Masters in Taxation so that I could get my CPA.  So I decided to take the leap. 

I had worked for a solo for a year and a half, learning a lot about the way things should and should not be run.  I had the support of my family and close friends, including a very successful solo attorney with thirty years experience in the same building.  My old boss supported me wholeheartedly and even serves as my mentor for the Transition into Law Practice Program (Bridge the Gap in some jurisdictions) that Georgia mandates for all first year lawyers.

So, now, here I am.  My law office is at the same location as the accounting office - keeps expenses down and it has a built-in client base.  Many of my law clients have come from the tax and accounting side or from referrals from those clients.  The accounting and the law firms have very complimentary services and client bases.  My website ( is up and running, although by no means complete (of course, no website ever is!)  Straight out of the gate, I have not made as much as some of my classmates have at BigLaw, although I have made as much as the ones in small practices. I am building something for the future, something that is my own.  I am having tons of fun, both personally and professionally.

Five months after we all received our bar results and I started practicing law, a classmate got married and the reception was a mini-reunion of sorts.  I had not seen many of my classmates since the bar exam and everyone was envious of my decision. So many were already miserable at their jobs and a couple more had already changed jobs.  Although occasionally I have my moments of doubt, I can say that as of right now, I feel that I have made the right decision.  Even if a couple of years down the road, I decide that it wasn't the right decision, I'll have this experience and a CPA to go with my law degree.

Kimberly DeCarerra

DeCarrera Law, LLC

400 Perimeter Center Terrace NE Suite 900

Atlanta, GA 30346-1236

PO BOX 467280

Atlanta, Georgia 31146-7280


May 24, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Ann McDonough

In this episode of "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" we meet Ann McDonough, another later in life law student who immediately opened up shop upon passing the bar.  The interesting twist to this story is her husband will now begin attending law school so they can practice together into their golden years, determing their own futures after very satisfying previous careers.

I decided to attend law school at the age of 50 because I did not want to return to my prior profession once my children no longer needed me to home educate them. In my former life, I was a public school teacher.  To test my ability to handle legal classes, I took the legal assisting post-baccalaureate program at Columbus State Community College, and did very well in the program. Thus, I was convinced that I could handle the subjects taught in law school.

I took the LSAT, scored pretty high, but not high enough to compensate for a very old (1974) undergraduate GPA, notwithstanding straight "A" is graduate school. Another sidebar: I studied education at the graduate level at East Texas State University and Eastern Michigan University, emphasizing philosophy and social foundations of education.

I applied to nearly every law school in the state of Ohio. No law school wanted me. I was on the wait-list at Capital School of Law, but was never admitted.

One school was willing to take a chance on me: Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. So, I traveled to Lansing every weekend for three years of law school and took 4 classes every weekend. After the last class on Sunday ended, I drove back to my home in Pickerington, Ohio. I listened to CD's law school subject matter, and enjoyed nearly every minute of the commute.

I participated in a number of activities while at Cooley Law. The Federalist Society, Law Journal of Practical and Clinical Law, and Moot Court were the most important to me. I participated deeply in these organizations and was on a National Moot Court team.

Upon graduation, in May 2006, I decided that I needed to finish all the applications to prosecutor's offices in Ohio. I had already decided that I did not wish to be in a large office (prosecutor or law firm) because I have only two decades to practice law and I like litigation.  Upon receiving 62 rejection letters, and upon passage of the bar exam, I opened my law office in November 2006, directly after being sworn in as a member of the bar. 

There are times when I wonder whether I have been rejected by the prosecutor's offices because (1) I am 54 years old, (2) I went to an out-of-state law school, or (3) because I was only in the top 34% of my law school class. Only one of those reasons constitutes discrimination, and of course, no one says WHY they do not choose a particular applicant.  That is a question for another time and another person to answer.

So, I started my business with court-appointed work in my home county.

My criminal defense business has grown slowly. I am currently carrying seven criminal cases. I think I could handle two or three more. The pay is terrible. But the clients are more kind and useful to their cases that I had ever imagined. I will continue to do criminal defense work. I like felony work!

My appeals business has just begun: I am appealing the sentence of my first criminal defense case. I may have found a legal argument that will turn the tide of sentencing appeals in my appeals district. Perhaps.

All in all, I am glad that I have a solo practice. Of course, there are those times, like several times last week, that I wish I had some shoulder to lean on, a colleague to help me through my self-doubt. I do wish someone could lend me their spine when I am conducting plea agreements with prosecutors!

As usual, my husband comes to the rescue!  He has decided, notwithstanding watching me for the last four years, that he will attend law school. He has been accepted to the same school that I attended, and will take four years to complete law school. He is an IBM consultant and he travels 100% of the time. We will not see much of him over the next four years.

Thus, we will casually practice law together until age . . . 100+.

Ann Allen McDonough

1209 Hill Road North, #287

Pickerton, Ohio 43147

May 17, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Susan L. Beecher, Esq.

There is a significant number of law students that will be graduating over the age of 40.  They go to law school for many reasons but the big one seems to be, "I want to work as long as I want to work without someone telling me I have to retire." 

This week in "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" we are introducing Susan L. Beecher, who graduated at the age of 52 and immediately went into solo practice.  She brings a wealth of business experience to the profession and concentrates in that area of law, helping small business owners with every facet of their operation.  Most importantly she states:

I also understand that a business that will not innovate will not grow. The law does not forbid innovation, and neither should lawyers. I believe my responsibility as counsel for developing companies is to work hard to find lawful and ethical ways to help them achieve their objectives, and to avoid the phrase, "You can't do that" whenever possible.

Meet Susan L. Beecher.

Law has always interested me, but I never seriously considered becoming an attorney until my late 40’s. I had been running my own freight forwarding company for twelve years, but realized that market and regulatory changes had made the field inhospitable to small participants. Law, on the other hand, still warmly welcomes the solo and small firm. So I sold my company, and fortunately made enough to put myself through law school and have something left over for the startup.

I attended the University of Washington, where many of my professors encouraged me to consider working for someone else for a while. By graduation, I acknowledged that I had the full complement of blank spots that law school inevitably leaves in one’s education, but I decided to take the leap anyway. Too many of my classmates, especially those "of a certain age" (I was 52 when I graduated) were having too much trouble lining up that first job. I decided I’d rather spend my time puzzling out court rules than sending out resumes.

The next piece of advice I decided to ignore was the accepted wisdom that says a new solo should keep costs low by starting out practicing from home. I rented a reasonably priced office in a building with eight other lawyers. Professional appearance and separation of work from home were both factors, but mainly, I sought mentors. I was fortunate to find several attorneys who were quite willing to offer the advice and guidance that a newly minted lawyer would normally look for from a supervising attorney.

I’ve never regretted going directly solo. I make it a point not to look back and not to look down. When I feel overwhelmed by some mysterious task that was never even hinted at in law school, I remind myself that I knew there would be days like this, and I know there will be more in the future. I can take all the time I need to figure out how to do the job correctly, and only bill the client for the amount of time it should have taken, because no one cares if my billable hours do not reach an expected level.

I’m enjoying myself and, less than six months into practice in business and employment law, I’m already able to pay myself. I’m not making what my classmates at Big Law are pulling in, but I suspect I’m much happier in my work

Susan L. Beecher, Attorney at Law

8407 South 259th Street, Suite 205

Kent, Washington 98030

Phone: 253-856-0239

Fax: 253-856-0413

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April 26, 2007

"Passed The Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Kristen Garlans, Esq.

The newest inductee into "Passed The Bar - Hung A Shingle" is Kristen Garlans, a Connecticut solo who graduated from law school at 27 and opened her solo practice right after passing the bar.  Here is her story.
" I never intended to be a lawyer.  My dream was to be a police office, and I left business school at NYU to study criminal justice instead.  However, I had some wonderful teachers in community college, and they inspired me to change course yet, again, to go to law school. So, while I was finishing my bachelor's degree, I looked for an internship with an attorney.  I wanted to make sure that I actually liked the practice of law and was lucky enough to find a position with a wonderful solo practitioner who, for the first time in twenty years of practice, needed help.  It worked out so well that I ended up staying there for several years, right up until I finished law school learning a lot about the actual practice of law as well as real estate and real estate transactions.
By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to work for myself.  I had spent a year studying at a law school in Finland, and I wanted the freedom to be able to travel back there as often as possible, and ultimately to move there.  So, I dove in headfirst the day after the bar exam (didn't actually practice until I passed the bar) and started my own practice.  I've been doing a variety of work since then - whatever I can find that will give me experience.
I've been fortunate enough to stumble upon a large class action case (for which I did find excellent co-counsel) and which provided another invaluable lesson.  My client was given the opportunity to have her case handled pro bono by a white shoe law firm with full access to all their resources.  I told her she may be better of with them given the enormity of the case and knowing that I was new and not financially in the position to handle her case pro bono.  She said she preferred to stay with me as a paying client because I returned her phone calls and she knew I cared about her case.
I've also done some family and real estate work and have recently become very interested in a niche practice of real estate which will be developing rather rapidly because of the economy and the subprime lending fiasco, the short sale.
My practice is growing at just the pace I want it to but we should all dream beyond.  My ultimate goal is to build up a 'virtual' pracitce, providing research and writing services to other attorneys.  Having my own clients now gives  me a better understanding of the needs of other lawyers, and I have enjoyed the work.  But, when the time is right, I hope to be living back in Finland more or less permanently, and thus I have been picking up more steady contract work in an effort to develop that end of my practice.
It's been a pretty interesting ride so far and I'm glad I decided to go solo....most days!
Kristen Garlans, Esq.
Garlans Law Offices, LLC
15R Hartford Avenue
Granby, CT 06035
161 Dove Lane
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 834-1518

April 19, 2007

New Inductee - "Passed The Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Gregory Napier

The newest inductee is Gregory Napier, a second career attorney who graduated and got his J.D. at the tender age of 40.  I am finding this more and more common and loving it.  Enjoy his story and check out his blogs (which can be found at the end of this post.)

Gregory Napier, Esq.

"The reason I became an attorney:  The quest for justice intrigued me as far back into my youth as I can remember.  “That’s not fair!” has oft been my battle cry as it has been for all of us at one point or another.  Finally, maturity and experience channeled that nearly primal desire for justice into a career as a counselor at law (that, plus getting burned out as a social worker)  Rather than allowing the frustration of seeing so many unanswered injustices in the world keep me disheartened, I decided to make the pursuit of that elusive justice the bedrock principle of my practice of law.

Now that the attempt at eloquence is out of the way (eloquence being nearly as elusive as justice at times) I would like to introduce myself.  I am Gregory A. Napier and I am a licensed attorney in the beautiful state of Kentucky.  I graduated cum laude from the University of Kentucky College of Law (currently ranked 60 in Tier 1 but was ranked a bit higher before I left – coincidence?  Surely not!) in May 2006 and passed Kentucky’s bar in October.  More importantly though, my wife and I remained married through law school and even had our third daughter after my 1L year ended (fellow law students will appreciate that feat more than a high class rank). 

I landed an associate position in a “biglaw” firm in Louisville, Kentucky, and stayed three whole months.  This being a second career and turning 40 during law school, I experienced a pronounced disconnect in the big firm culture.  Even though the firm promoted itself as very family friendly during the interview process, in the orientation for new lawyers one of the partners said, “If you aren’t billing 40 hours per week, and you aren’t working on Saturdays, you aren’t working hard enough.”  Clearly we had misunderstood each others definition of either “family” or “friendly”.  One other interaction convinced me the big firm life was not for me.  We were invited to a lunch with one of the professional liability insurers who was a major client.  This involved driving a few hours to Indianapolis to be told face to face that they did NOT settle claims.  What they wanted from us were creative defenses.  I did just what they wanted, I got creative and created my own exit.

Now, I have come full circle from my first career in mental health counseling and child protective services.  My core practice is in family law which includes adoptions, custody issues, divorce (but with an unusual perspective) as well as issues affecting family finances.  The family finance areas include estate planning, employment issues and small business law.  In other words, I am building a general practice with some emphasis areas. 

I really enjoy the best of both worlds.  I joined up with a solo practitioner (his partner is really of counsel) who provides resources, mentoring and referrals, but I am essentially building my own practice and relying entirely on myself to generate income.  One of the surprising joys of being a solo/small firm attorney is the necessity of emphasis on marketing.  Through some initial foreways into the internet for marketing purposes, I discovered that I loved to blog.  My favorite blog is not for marketing purposes and can be found at  My marketing blog is" 

April 05, 2007

Newest Inductee "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - David Sandy

We have a new inductee into "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" - David Sandy, Esq. of Memphis, Tennessee.  What is refreshing is Attorney Sandy's total candor and unvarnished honesty in his representations on his website.  Nothing is held back.  The utter simplicity of the site yet the laser focus on the most important questions is stunningly on target and in some ways I was taken aback by the 'letting it all hang out there' approach.  Although there is some rough language (needs some cleaning up typographically and grammatically) it is a site you should visit and probably learn from. 

But what I would suggest ahead of time is this, clearly Attorney Sandy's personality, one of frankness and complete transparency, comes through on his site.  Each professional site must reflect your personality otherwise it won't work.

This is also the first time I have seen a site with published pricing on a variety of services, no apologies, no giveaways, not even free consultations, and I was told it has been extraordinarily effective in terms of low receivables and collection issues.  Clients deem him honest because he 'lets it all hang out.'

In a separate e-mail Attorney Sandy told me part of his charm is a certain low-key 'arrogance'  about his advocacy skills.  Don't confuse this with condescension towards his clients but this slight edginess seems to give his clients a certain comfort in his knowledge and ability to advocate which seems to put his clients at great ease..brings it to an 'everyman' conversational level to which most can relate. There are no punches pulled and to date he has been extraordinarily successful in court. So, without further ado I will let attorney Sandy introduce himself:

David Sandy, Esq.

"I went to Washington and Lee University in Virginia after growing up in Mississippi. After graduating from Washington and Lee I worked in New York and Florida as an equity trader and stopped working when the
market crashed. I had always thought about going to law school and I thought I could use all the accounting credits I had to go be a tax professional. So I ran back home to the University of Mississippi.

Continue reading "Newest Inductee "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - David Sandy" »

February 08, 2007

"Passed The Bar - Hung A Shingle " - New Inductee, Shalem Shem-Tov

We have a new "Passed The Bar - Hung A Shingle" inductee, Shalem-Shem-Tov.  In Hebrew, his name means,  "the good name."  I will let Shalem introduce himself.  Congratulations, Shalem.

"I graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in May 2006 and passed the July 2006 bar exam.  Before law school, I spent two years in medical school in Boston, and after leaving that program co-founded a medical software company.  I really became interested in the law while starting that company.  Various legal issues came up, such as HIPAA compliance, corporate formation, intellectual property issues, etc.  For me,going to law school was simply an extension of medical school.
I chose Case specifically because of its superb health law program. Athough I remained interested in health law during law school, what I found particularly interesting was business law, and more specifically intellectual property.  I wrote a Note entitled "Analog Laws in a Digital World - Are Copyright Laws Keeping Up with Technology?"  This was just before the US Supreme Court decided the Grokster (file sharing) case. During my third year of law school I was in an intellectual property clinic where I had the opportunity to counsel real clients on business and IP matters.
I am now starting my practice in Cleveland, concentrating on business and IP law.
In addition, I will also be doing estate planning and medical malpractice work."
Shalem Shem-Tov, Esq.
Shem-Tov Law Firm, LLC
13938A Cedar Road, Suite 286
University Heights, Ohio 44118
(216) 916-6745 / (866) 654-9407 fax

February 01, 2007

"Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - New Inductee, Chris Sevick

A new inductee into "Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - Chris Sevick.  Although, technically, not opening his solo practice within 18 months of graduating law school, in the three and a half years between graduation and hanging a shingle he did not practice law so I believe that qualifies.

I'll allow Chris Sevick of Ypsilanti, Michigan to introduce himself. Congratulations, Chris!

More info can be found in his biography

"I graduated (Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan) in 2002, passed the February 2006 bar and opened my office in July without having practiced before.  I spent from 1999 to 2006 in Property Management, for the nation's largest property management company,, and real estate sales, as a licensed Realtor & Associate Broker, for a local 250 person, 10 office regional real estate company, My childhood was spent involved in real estate investments while growing up as my parents owned and operated several small rental communities and flipped several houses.  As a result I focused on real estate in law school with the intention of opening my own practice focused in real estate and estate planning.  I couldn't be happier about my career choice and the clients I serve. 

From my background of 8 years in real estate I have developed a growing practice area .......

Continue reading ""Passed the Bar - Hung A Shingle" - New Inductee, Chris Sevick" »