The Hustle – A Week in the Life of a Young, Self Employed Lawyer

charlie

“Oh, get a job? Just get a job? Why don’t I strap on my job helmet and squeeze down into a job cannon and fire off into job land, where jobs grow on little jobbies?!”

Along with running my law practice, there are other things that I do in my spare time. Believe it or not.

To name a few, I am on the Board of Directors of the Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA), along with the FNA Zoning Committee. FNA is the registered community organization (RCO) for my neighborhood, meaning that we are responsible for providing community input to various legal bodies about proposed development. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Fishtown Area Business Association (FABA), which is the entity responsible for representing the interests of business owners in the Fishtown, East Kensington, and Old Richmond areas of town. Sometimes my involvement in these organizations involves real legal work, like when I represented a few neighbors in an effort to save historic Kensington bank buildings, which was successful.

I’m also active with the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Specifically, I serve on the Federal Practice Committee, Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, and the Civil and Equal Rights Committee. Through these committees, we as a bar association take positions on various legal issues and proposed legislation.

This week has been crazy. It looked like this:

Monday: Confer with FNA Board to discuss PTSSD grant, which involves a significant amount of money coming into the neighborhood for civic projects
Tuesday: 6:30pm – 9:00pm – Hosted an FNA Zoning community meeting to take a vote by the neighbors on a large scale residential development proposal.
Wednesday: 12:00pm – 5:30pm – Testified before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on behalf of FNA about proposed development along the Delaware Avenue Waterfront (the largest development ever proposed in Philadelphia), and its impact on the Fishtown neighborhood.
6:30pm – 9:00pm: Hosted a Fishtown Area Business Association meeting, which was attended by over 60 local business owners to discuss happenings in the neighborhood (and drink a few beers).
Thursday: Attend FNA General Membership Meeting to discuss happenings in the neighborhood with the community, including all of the things that happened earlier in the week.
Friday: Quizzo in my local watering hole, Luke’s Bar.
Saturday: 1:00pm – 3:00pm – Station table at the Trenton Ave Arts Festival for FNA.

In the interim, I am also volunteering for the PA Bar Association’s Federal Practice Committee to discuss and take a position on proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Procedure. Oh, and I am getting inducted into the First Amendment Lawyer’s Association this summer thanks to Marc Randazza. (along with some other big news I’ll save for July).

Keep in mind none of this is paid. I haven’t been home until after 9pm every single day this week. I even missed my favorite TV show, NBC’s Revolution. (thankfully the new episode is available online).

In the past week I have given out a significant amount of business cards, and we’ve already started getting calls from new potential clients. Oh, and between doing all this fun stuff, I have found time to do real, actual legal work and sign up new clients.

I’m not trying to grandstand here, but there are many opportunities to showcase yourself in your community. Like Eric Turkewitz wrote:

Being involved in the community isn’t a bad way to have people learn who you are and what you do while also providing muscle, brains or perhaps some financial support so that kids can, for example, take part in the national pastime. It’s the same approach used by generations of professionals and businesses of all stripes.

That’s right, this year’s winner of the best marketing technique is the same one I discussed back in 2010 when I got disgusted by all the marketeers pimping the “leads” they could get me for new cases from their attorney search services.

And oh, I know. Your parents lied to you when they told you more education guarantees more money. Then your law schools lied to you when they told you there are countless jobs, all of which pay a lot of money.

You’re right.

Now get over it.

You want specifics? Write an article for your bar association’s publication. Start a blog (this blog cost me nothing to start, and it costs me nothing to maintain). Ask the local newspaper if you can write an article about something legal related. Join your state or local bar association and get involved in a committee. Join a civic association or two. Coach Little League like Turkewitz does. Take on a case pro bono concerning an issue that is important to you. Show up to a business owner’s association meeting. If one doesn’t exist, consider creating one. Email a lawyer who focuses on a practice area you are interested and take them to lunch.

Anything you do that gets you in front of people and increases your network will increase the likelihood that people will think you’re someone worth paying attention to and hiring. This will help your job prospects, and prospects of picking up clients. You are more valuable to a potential employer if you’re someone people actually care about, and potential clients want to hire. It won’t happen overnight, though.

Admittedly, I can’t name anything specific that will get you a job. But to quote Scott Greenfield, there is one size fits all advice: no one will ever improve their lot by sitting on the couch in their parents’ basement, munching on Cheetos and playing Mortal Kombat, whining about their life and cursing others for their misery.

Or, there is always this:

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8 Responses to The Hustle – A Week in the Life of a Young, Self Employed Lawyer

  1. keithrl says:

    Plus it’s fun. I serve on a number of committees as well. Plus I regularly get out and support local organizations for a variety of matters – completely unrelated to our practice. It’s great – you get to meet new people, be exposed to new ideas, try new things.

    Too many people who went to law school want to be worker bees. Have someone tell them how to do everything and where to do it. There’s a line in Kill Bill v2: “That’s you, trying to disguise yourself as a worker bee That’s you tryin’ to blend in with the hive. But you’re not a worker bee. You’re a renegade killer bee.”

    If you’re going to be a new lawyer – whether in an established firm or in your own practice – you’ve got to be a renegade killer bee. Worker bees by their very nature are replaceable. Renegade killer bees are rare. They are valuable. People (firms and clients) need them. If you’re just a regular worker bee, wanting to come in and punch the clock, don’t be surprised when you don’t get a job or clients.

    • Oh, I love it. I wish I had more time to devote to it, and less to the practice.

      I’ve met such awesome people through civic engagement. Artists, developers, other lawyers – an incredibly diverse and interesting group.

      I left my former firm because I can’t be a worker bee. I have to be a killer bee.

  2. Turk says:

    You’re going to make it in the law, kid.

    And this is important for your readers: The time to start doing all this is stuff is when you’re young, before the spouse and kids come along. You have more time to do this now then you ever will in the future.

  3. shg says:

    Will those who complain they can’t find a job understand and appreciate what you’ve written here? Probably not, or they would be out doing it. Renegade killer bees don’t need to be told to be renegade killer bees.

    And they will hate you and Keith for reminding them that they are merely worker bees. Of course, no one forces a young lawyer not to decide that as of today, he’s going to stop being a worker bee and start being a renegade killer bee.

  4. Chad Murray says:

    As a relatively new dad, I cannot emphasize enough how much I agree with Turk about starting early. I didn’t – it took a little while to really sink in. Now there are not nearly enough hours in the day to do everything I need/want/would sort of like to do.

  5. Joe Carson says:

    Keep up the hard work while you’re young because you won’t be able to do all of this when you get older. But good job so far!

  6. Rachel says:

    Love the article. It’s always a hustle in any industry. Lawyers are the best of them all and some of the smartest!

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