Words of Advice Based on My Paltry Legal Career.

Because @stevecady asked. Hopefully, this helps.
  1. Bit of Advice #1: Don't immediately jump into a type of law you want to practice. Be patient, and find out what you like to do. This is based solely on one's work experience.
    For example, there'd be people who'd say in their first week of law school: "I want to be a trial lawyer." No one knows what they want to do, nor should they know off the bat.
  2. I learned in my second year that I did not want to practice criminal law. I wrote criminal appeals for the Fourth District. I was very good at getting people out of jail. It was emotionally difficult, as we were dealing with some really, really bad people that probably deserved to be in jail. I threw up everyday. I barely slept.
  3. However, what I learned from that place was the following bit of advice:
  4. Bit of Advice #2: Don't "reinvent the wheel". Find a system in practice that utilizes existing materials with maximum effect.
    My boss (appellate guy) had created a system where he had saved every possible legal scenario from every brief he ever wrote. That way, all one had to do was select the scenario based on the facts, and Shepardize the case law for any changes. It's efficient and saves the client time and money. We still use this philosophy and do this in practice to this day.
  5. Bit of Advice #3: Economic pressures and options - if you have school loans and have to work at a giant mill, do what you gotta do. If you are lucky, don't have to worry about money, and want to work at a smaller firm, go for it.
    However, here's the caveat:
  6. Bit of Advice #4: Pros and cons of working for "the man". I worked as a paralegal for an abestos defense litigation law firm. It was the largest law firm I have personally ever seen. They owned three floors of a building. I was intimidated as all hell, but they were throwing gobs of money at us, and we couldn't say: "no".
    We had student loans to pay, and my mom was really sick. Working for the "man" gave us a healthy boost in our bank account.
  7. However, here's the drawbacks: a. I found it stressful as all hell to hold myself up to a 60+ billable hour rate; b. You barely got advice or help from anyone; c. You had to practically beg partners for assistance; d. You were expected to bill until your eyes bled. You were to have no life at all beyond billable hours.
    After my mom died, I lasted about six months and quit.
  8. Bit of Advice #5: What to do if you don't pass the bar exam - keep trying. You can't give up. Not ever.
    However, and I caveat this:
  9. Bit of Advice #6: Don't be afraid to take a "tactical retreat" in your career. I quit the workers comp place before I found out my bar exam results (I didn't pass) and worked for Macy's for two years.
    I was single. I had no real expenses. I could leave work and not think about it when my shift was done. It was wonderful. It did make me realize, however, that I would rather work in the legal field than in retail.
  10. Bit of Advice #7: Don't aim for a "partner track". Instead, aim for a "managing partner" track. Honestly, being a manager prepares one for any and/or all aspects of legal practice. You have to wear a billion hats, and you are in charge of your own results.
    I am constantly doing so many things that law school does not ever teach you. I'm everything from accountant, to delivery guy, to process server, to "The Come To Jesus" guy in having to break some hard realities for people.
  11. Bit of Advice #8: Private practice is tough. You have to be prepared to have some really tough moments. I was overly ambitious and arrogant as hell to think: "Fire us? Fuck you! We'll start our own firm!" Fortunately, I got humbled by a lot of stuff and I am grateful for our little place.
    There are, indeed, advantages to having a lovely steady paycheck with which to pay bills and student loans However, I can honestly say that I am happy and answer to no one. This is why I am so proud of being crazy enough to try to go out on our own.
  12. Bit of Advice #9: Remember - a lawyer is not a bus. Don't ever take on something for either money or out of ego. It will always, always blow up in your face. Trust me. It is a tough lesson to learn, and your license is not worth the hassle.
    Plus, clients can be bat-shit crazy, and you have to watch your back.
  13. Bit of Advice #10: If you don't know something, admit it and farm it out. We've taken on federal litigation in the bankruptcy realm before. It was tough, but it's our firm's area of expertise. If you want to hire us to file civil lawsuits, please look elsewhere.
    Moreover, trial work is an exhausting and expensive endeavor. Let bigger guys with bigger war chests do it.
  14. Bit of Advice #11: Know thyself. If you like strategic planning, don't become a litigator. If you like to argue a lot with people, don't practice estate planning.
    I see too many angry and unhappy people doing the exact opposite of what they're built to handle. Ultimately, pretending that you know more than what you're emotionally capable of dealing with is setting one up for failure.
  15. Bit of Advice #12: Watch "Better Call Saul" and "Daredevil" to understand the subtleties of private practice.
  16. Bit of Advice #13: Don't hang out your shingle until you feel like you're ready. Even then, you won't know you're ready until you do it.
  17. Bit of Advice #14: No matter what, every year in practice, make sure you actually learn something. It will help you moving forward.
  18. Bit of Advice #15: I don't know what the secret to success is, but I do know that I absolutely, 100% do not repeat the same mistake twice. I religiously hold myself and the firm to that rule.
  19. Bit of Advice #16: This is the advice my mother gave me when I graduated law school: go and buy a bag of toy marbles and an empty jar. Put this stuff somewhere you can see it. Whenever you make a mistake as a lawyer, put a marble in the jar. When you've "lost all your marbles", you're officially a lawyer.
  20. SEXT