Had you asked me in law school if I would ever litigate (let alone start my own firm) I would have answered with a definitive “never”. It was not until halfway through my first year as a lawyer that I realized I could open my own practice one day. I made the jump in my second year.
Choose your partner(s) carefully.
The most important lesson I learned was to pick your partners wisely. They should have:
- the same work ethic
- the same view on work-life balance
- the same ambitions and direction for the business.
These shared views are essential for a successful partnership. Without them, you will be in a constant battle to enjoy your work environment.
My own first attempt at a partnership failed. My second is in Year Two and going strong. This is largely because it was built on an existing working relationship I had with a fellow lawyer and friend. We created Court Coach LLP. We provide full litigation services for family and child protection cases. We also offer unbundled legal coaching and drafting packages for self-represented litigants in need of direction.
While both of us litigate regularly, we prefer the coaching and ADR side of our practice. Our formula for success is to provide a unique set of services while doing the work we prefer to do. However, we did not achieve this success without help.
The second important lesson I learned is the importance of a mentor, or partner, or colleague in the field. Someone to bounce ideas off of, ask questions of, and seek help from when life’s emergencies interrupt your practice. My partner and I have both had wonderful mentors who shared their knowledge and experience, and also continue to send us client referrals. As a member of the Legal Aid family panel, a year of mentorship is a requirement.
When I could not readily find the answer to a question I had, it was helpful to be able to contact an experienced lawyer for their opinion. I also participated in the Advocacy Club. The guidance with respect to questioning and witness preparation was very beneficial. It provided me with skills I still use. Attending family law Bar and CAS defense Bar meetings allowed me to meet other lawyers and build a strong network of colleagues. Many have contributed to my personal growth as a lawyer, and our growth as a firm.
Yes, we can.
Yes, we can!
The anxiety and initial fears when hanging out your shingle wane rather quickly. With an organized practice and the support of others in your field, you can create the firm that allows you to work the cases you want, and run a business on your own terms.
by Meagan LePage, Advocacy Club Member
Meagan’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org