When starting a law practice there are no guarantees of success, and going solo is a huge risk. Keeping another job while starting a part-time practice can allow you to lay the foundation for a thriving law practice while maintaining the security of a steady paycheck and benefits.
That’s exactly what I did for the first year of my practice. Before becoming a lawyer, I taught high school science for 10 years. When I realized that most entry-level attorney jobs were paying less than my teaching job, I decided to open my own practice while I taught for another year.
Here are 5 of the biggest benefits of starting a part-time practice that I experienced:
- You won’t be desperate. One of the biggest mistakes new lawyers make is accepting clients and cases that end up losing money and creating headaches. As new lawyers, we’re tempted to accept everything that comes in the door because we are desperate for paying clients. Having a steady income from another source means that you won’t feel a need to accept every potential client that walks in the door.
- You have something to talk about at networking events. Whenever I started talking with other lawyers at networking events, I would talk about my other job. This made our conversations more memorable, and they always started asking me questions about how I managed to do both. In fact, at one event, a lawyer that I had never met came up to me and said, “You’re the guy who’s both a teacher and a lawyer. I’ve heard about you.”
- You’ll have a great referral base. When people look for a lawyer, they usually look to someone they trust. Most of my clients during my first year were my coworkers and their friends. They already knew me and trusted me, and whenever their friends or family asked for a lawyer, I was their go-to lawyer. If you continue to work in your “day job,” you’ll keep getting referrals from your coworkers.
- You’ll have a steady paycheck with benefits. Do I really need to say anything else about this benefit?
- You’ll have time to put together a good plan for when you do quit your day job. I recognize that keeping two jobs is probably not a good long term plan. You’ll eventually want to decide if you’re a lawyer or something else. Working at another job can help you take the time to develop a solid plan. I was able to slowly develop a marketing plan and experiment on a small scale before making huge marketing investments. It takes time to design business cards, set up an office, get supplies, design a website, etc. If you work another job while starting your firm, you’ll have the freedom to build up your practice without the fear of losing everything.
Does it make sense for you to work as a lawyer and as something else? For those disillusioned by dismal job prospects and daunted by the risk of hanging out a shingle, a part-time practice might be the way to go. But it’s not for everyone. In my next post, I discuss the drawbacks of starting a part-time practice.
Think you’re ready to start a full- or part-time practice? CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook will help you handle cases in a wide array of practice areas. For attorneys in their first five years of practice in CA, CEB offers a free year of OnLAW and other discounts!
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