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When you reach the stage of finally being able to say that you’re a lawyer, called to the bar and able to practice, then it can feel like the end of a long road. This is the result of years of work, effort, and sacrifice– and your legal career can now begin in earnest.
You will quickly discover that your years as an early associate will make your student experience seem like halcyon days. New lawyers work hard; law firms in all areas of law push and test new employees to see if they’re made of the “right stuff”.
Or at least, that’s how it used to be.
Outside of the occasional midlife career changer, the majority of new lawyers are millennials– a generation that values a good work/life balance. While it may once have been standard to work yourself into the ground in the early years of your career, that might not feel acceptable to you personally– and you’re not alone. Millennials are a generation of entrepreneurs, with a “why not try it?” attitude; for new lawyers, now more than ever, that means they may be tempted to run their own firm as a sole practitioner.
This might be an idea you have considered, too. After all, why should you dedicate your life to making money for other people? You’re not afraid of hard work, but you want to be able to enjoy the rewards of that hard work… so do new lawyers really need to join a firm at all?
YES: New lawyers are inexperienced; you need the guiding hand of a reputable firm. You’re still learning the law, never mind learning how to run a profitable small business as well.
NO: There’s no more guarantee of success working for a firm compared to starting your own. You’ve qualified, so you’re clearly capable, and any advice you need can be obtained from the legal community, friends, and even mentors.
YES: You may be a qualified lawyer, but that doesn’t mean you know what goes into running a law firm. Do you know how to find clients? How to choose between cloud computing solutions for businesses of your size? How will you obtain offices? How will you fund your startup? Knowing how to practice the law is one thing; running a business is something entirely different.
NO: Everyone has to learn sometime. If you’re business minded, then why not jump right in and do it for yourself? There’s plenty of advice available for new businesses, and there’s almost certainly a venture capitalist out there who will see the potential of a young lawyer trying to make a mark on the world.
YES: New lawyers have always joined established firms. They may want to branch off into their own practice in the future, but that’s just not the way things are done.
NO: Why not break the mold and branch out from day one?
Ultimately, the choice is all yours. However, it’s important to remember that you do have a choice, and you don’t have to just do what everyone has always done. The way we work is changing, and while the idea of going it alone might seem outlandish now, it might be the new-normal in the future. Why not be at the head of the curve?