When did I receive my wakeup call? I was sitting in my office. My student loan summary was resting on my desk showing over $150,000 in student loans, my Rutgers Law degree plastered on my wall, and several publications displayed on my laptop screen talking about the latest legal news in my practice areas. I had to set all of this aside and focus on what seems to actually matter in this industry; networking and knowing how to handle people.
As a self-employed attorney, it’s not about what law school you went to or what your GPA was…It’s about who you know and how you present yourself. I have met some of the most brilliant attorneys in New York City who are struggling because of a lack in their public relations department. At the same time, I have met very successful attorneys who don’t know a thing about law. Their success stems from their vast exposure in the public.
This last year as being a newly admitted attorney, I have asked myself one thing: why didn’t law school prepare us better for the business side of owning a law practice. I have tasted the bad side of this industry – harassment from attorneys and clients, threats, and a thieving business partner. This certainly not a complaint. I am still blessed to know I have a strong foundation in legal knowledge because of my education, and a satisfied constituency of clients who I have remained friends with long after their legal issues were resolved.
Some advice I have to current law school student and recent law school graduates is this:
- Learn how to run a business. Always have partnership agreements and retainers in place.
- Always run to the opportunity of making a new contact. Attend as many legitimate social events as you can. You never know where your next client will come. The more people you keep contact with , the better your chances are of getting a referral.
- Remember tomorrow is always a new day. Perhaps you lost out on a client today or you got hit with a financial loss. There is no need to stress. Learn from your mistake, never forget your mistake, and move forward. I have lost count how many mistakes I made from a business stand point this past year, but I haven’t forgotten the lessons I have learned.
- Be professional at all times. Attorneys are forgetting how prestigious our industry actually is. Take pride when you come into work every day. As a lawyer, you are a problem solver, a closer, and a defender of people’s rights. Always work on your craft and take advantage of every chance you get to build up the reputation of yourself and your practice.
My advice is simple if you want to make it in New York City as an entrepreneurial attorney ; stay passionate, stay informed, and stay hungry. This industry has its ups and downs. The only way to have the make up to survive it all is by learning to love the good and bad.