He had quite a bit of advice, but I ignored the parts of our conversation that made a legal career sound anything but fun and lucrative. That was a mistake.
For what it’s worth, I remembered some of that advice and figure it might do some good to pass it along. So, here goes.
- You can make a good living practicing law, but there is no way to be successful if you’re not willing to put in a lot of hours. The one glaring exception to that rule is that a good number of attorneys get by just fine working 40 hours a week for government agencies. For those opening their own offices or working for established firms, a 40-hour week is a rarity.
- Every law student should work as a legal clerk as often as possible. It is very difficult to know if you will like practicing law until you work for some attorneys and see if you enjoy what they do for a living. The thing about being an attorney is that you will either love that career or hate it. Figuring out which camp you fall into before becoming an attorney is a mighty good idea.
- Want to open your own office? Setting up in the town where you attended law school might not be the best idea. This little rule is very obvious in northwest Arkansas, as a lot of law students graduating from the University of Arkansas fall in love with Fayetteville and figure on practicing there. The result? A lot of attorneys in that part of the world and a lot of competition. Practicing law in your hometown isn’t a bad idea because you’ve got a lot of contacts and that can help generate work when you are getting started as an attorney. Looking at opening an office in a smaller town that isn’t saturated with attorneys is a great idea, too.
- Speaking of friends and family, remember that you have to make a living. You will be surprised at how many people will want free legal advice from you and how tempted you will be to give it. It is fine to give discounts to friends and family, but always remember the only thing you have to sell is your time and that does have value.
- Thinking about entering into a legal partnership? Just because you were friends with someone in law school does not mean you want to go into a legal partnership with that person. Such a business arrangement might work out just fine, but how easy will it be for you to tell your old law school friend there’s a problem if he’s not pulling his weight? Law partners should be chosen wisely.
See? That was some advice worth taking to heart. I do believe I managed to violate every one of those points except the first one, thus learning in a hurry that the lawyer gave me advice knew his stuff.
This column was authored by Ethan C. Nobles and originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2014, edition of the Daily Record in Little Rock.
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