How to Build the Practice of Your Dreams – Listen to George Harrison, Not Rachel Rodgers

Since I’m usually mean to Rachel Rodgers, I will start by saying something nice about her (even though she blocked me and Leo on Twitter. And Leo’s not even a jerk like I am.) Rachel’s branding is very polished and her website looks great. Last week she wrote an article about technology that gave me some ideas to implement in my own physical, as in, not virtual, practice. I wasn’t even dumber after I read it.

This week Rachel is offering a class: 8 Steps to Building a Profitable, Kickass Virtual Law Office. Rachel is offering:

8 Live, High-Impact Teleclasses where you will learn how to identify what your ideal lifestyle truly is, how to create a financial plan to support your new life, how to create a profitable virtual law office in a desired niche area, how to set up your practice, how to obtain a steady flow of your ideal clients and more.

What Rachel is selling is essentially this – you won’t have to work all that hard if your law practice is “virtual.” Rachel will provide you:

No more 100 hour work weeks.

More time with your family, friends and for doing the things you love.

All while earning enough money to support your ideal lifestyle.

If you’re ready to become the innovative, freedom-having lawyer who provides awesome service to clients while also having an amazing lifestyle, join me.

Sounds awesome. Rachel will teach you how to do all this if you pay her a fee of just 2 monthly payments of $264, or 2 monthly payments of $598.50 for the deluxe package. Who wouldn’t want to pay just a little over $1,000 to not have to deal with all the stuff that sucks about law, right? I’d sure like to stop working so much and spend more time having fun.

Why should you buy advice from Rachel? She graduated law school in (2009? 2010? her website doesn’t say although she was admitted to practice in 2010) and couldn’t find a job that would indulge her every whim. So she started her own practice, but it’s virtual and that’s like super hip. And now she is going to teach you how to start your own virtual practice. Yeah, you read that right, Rachel’s biggest accomplishment is starting a virtual law practice a couple years ago, and somehow it makes her qualified to teach you to do the same. Her bio says nothing about jury trials, appellate advocacy, or published peer reviewed articles. Nope, she passed the bar exam started a practice. That’s it. But don’t worry, she is “super passionate about helping people have an amazing work life that supports an amazing overall life.” Cool.

Now, right off the bat, the concept of a “virtual law office” is a strange one to me. I have never represented a “virtual client”, nor have I ever argued a motion in a chatroom or tried a case over the internet. In my world, court is held in an old physical building located at Broad and Market Street. I have to take the subway to get there and wear a suit. There is no “virtual” or “internet” law, either – it’s all state (and sometimes even county) specific. Perhaps most importantly, the people I represent have real, physical things at stake such as their money, their children, their house, or their freedom. At the end of the representation, no one gets more klout, a shorty award, or a “Like” on Facebook.

But this seminar isn’t about clients and what’s good for them. This is about what’s good for you, the lawyer, and your own lifestyle. Because who cares about what’s good for clients, right? Remember, you are the most important, special unique snowflake ever, and as a member of GenY, the world exists to serve you! It revolves around you and what you want.

So, that aside, I guess this is all about me, so let me tell you about my ideal lifestyle. I would like have an unlimited amount of money somewhere in the Caribbean in a little house with my wife and our two cats. We would sit around in the sun all day, float in the ocean, and drink pina coladas. (yeah, the cats would float in the ocean and drink with us.) Occasionally we would travel to somewhere like Bar Harbor Maine, eat lots of fish, hike, and spend the evening at my favorite bar ever, the Finback Ale House. I would also have a television system in all my houses where I could catch any Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, Villanova, or Temple game outside of Pennsylvania.

That is my ideal lifestyle.

Too bad it’s not realistic if I want to practice law.

Like Rachel, I am a big fan of Tim Ferriss and I’ve read the 4 Hour Work Week. I also share a belief that people should try and break the mold and pursue their passions instead of just showing up to work and punching the clock. Me and Rachel have that in common. What actually attracted me to Carolyn Elefant‘s book is how bold the title is: “How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be.” (it’s a great book if you haven’t read it).

I think I’ve kind of followed Ferriss’s advice, and hopefully Carolyn’s advice, but not in the same way Rachel does.

Believe it or not, Leo and I have a practice that I love. We built it from the ground up. Our office is a block from both of our houses in a refurbished warehouse, where interestingly enough, Leo’s grandfather once worked. Many of our clients are neighbors and friends. Our practice affords me the freedom to get involved in neighborhood activism, run this blog, and be involved in the Fishtown community. We’re doing things our way in the place we want to be. The perks are that I get to listen to terrible pop music while I work, and there is no billable hour requirement. I will never show up and be unemployed unless all our clients decide to go somewhere else. Most of our work is interesting. No one monitors my internet usage. This is all good stuff.

I consider what I have going on here to be the “practice of my dreams”, in some sense, even though it’s not run from the Caribbean, but instead from my neighborhood in Fishtown. From a place with walls, telephones, computers, and filing cabinets.

While the professional freedom is great, I have very little personal freedom. My days often begin at 6:00am and end long after midnight, as the practice of law is a jealous mistress. It’s not always pretty and sometimes the practice of law in general starts to beat you down. It’s certainly not conducive to having a lot of money, at least not right now. Plus, when you’re young and on your own, you need to thoroughly research every issue that comes across your desk. And although I’m physically closer to home, having my own practice has resulted in working far longer hours than I did at my old job.

And let me also tell you this – every cent I have ever made has gone into our practice. All of my savings, all of the money I got from my wedding, every dime I have ever had went into getting this thing started. And truth be told, our practice might not even be viable at the end of the year. I may find myself calling my former employers and saying “Hey man, any chance I could come back to the firm?” If that happens, I will have wasted my life savings. That would not be cool, but it’s a risk I decided to take.

Right now, the Caribbean and Bar Harbor feel very far away, buried under a sea of unread emails and upcoming deadline dates. Hopefully I will get a week off and take a vacation this year. That will depend entirely on if I have coverage and enough money.

That is reality.

So here is my beef with Rachel. She fails to mention one kind of important thing in her sales pitch:  practicing law is hard. Starting your own practice is extremely hard, costly (both personally and financially) and it’s risky. If you want to serve your clients like they deserve, rest assured your practice won’t afford you the “lifestyle of your dreams”, if your dream lifestyle is sitting around on the beach, having fun, and being rich. Law is a huge amount of time and dedication. It just is. Running a law practice, any law practice, will take up most of your personal time. Period.

Though Rachel says “freedom is the new rich”, you should know that your own practice will also cost you a lot of freedom. Who fixes the printer when it breaks on a Saturday? Who runs into court on an emergency hearing? Who makes sure all client calls are returned by the end of the day? When you’ve got a cool trip planned, but the court schedules something that interferes with it, who has to suck it up and go to the hearing? When something is due at midnight and it has to be filed, who is going to be at the office making sure it gets done?

You, that’s who.

Starting a law practice is much more difficult than firing up your laptop, moving to an exotic location, throwing up a cool website, and letting the dollars roll in because you’ve got “Esq.” next to your name. When your name is on the door, you’re responsible for everything that happens. Even if it’s inconvenient, not fun, and will totally ruin your weekend. (which would be like, such a bummer). You don’t just wake up a good lawyer, either – it takes years of dedication to the practice and personal sacrifice.

I wish wish it were as easy as Rachel says, but it’s not. And anyone who tells you differently is either lying or trying to sell you something.

Oh, and isn’t that funny, Rachel is trying to sell you something…

So, I do have a little advice, dear reader. I won’t even charge you for it:

If you want to build the practice of your dreams, don’t listen to Rachel Rodgers. Listen to George Harrison…

“It’s gonna take money, a whole lotta spending money, it’s gonna take plenty of money, to do it right child. It’s gonna take time, a whole lotta precious time, it’s gonna take patience and time. To do it to do it… to do it right.”

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One Response to How to Build the Practice of Your Dreams – Listen to George Harrison, Not Rachel Rodgers

  1. [...] Philly Law Blog run by Fishtown lawyers Jordan Rushie and Leo Mulvihill. In a recent post ‘How to Build the Practice of Your Dreams – Listen to George Harrison, Not Rachel Rodgers‘ Jordan Rushie reckons building a law firm is more about hard graft and money than technology [...]

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