A Little Whine With Dinner

There have been some previous comments about me going out on my own, or being my own boss, or asking whether I have to bring in business...

I guess my announcement that I was going into private practice was a little vague, so I'll elaborate a tiny bit.

I'm working for a small law firm. They had a partner that did all the criminal work and only criminal work. He was overworked, so I was hired as the criminal associate.

Some of the cases are white collar and the rest are just high-paying criminal cases. Like people who sell a lot of drugs, as opposed to my public defender clients, who sold fewer drugs in more public places. We have a few clients that have a lesser ability to pay, but we're not going to be accused of becoming a public welfare agency any time soon.

I work in new courts now than I did as a public defender, but we also have a few cases in the courts where I used to work, so part of the reason why I was hired was so that I could handle those cases.

I don't have to bring in new cases, we've got plenty of work. I guess if I brought in a case, no one would mind, but there's no imperative, and we don't have any agreement that I would get a bonus or a cut of the case or whatever.

On the other hand, I don't really have any say in which cases we take, or what we charge clients.

I also generally feel that I don't have much control over how to handle a case. For most decisions, I run them past the partner, since, in the end, they're not really "my" clients or "my" cases.

I also have less control over my own schedule. As a public defender, if I wanted to say "I'm going to leave early Thursday afternoon," I could most likely pull that off. I mean, unless I was on trial or something, I could try to avoid scheduling cases for Thursday afternoon, or get a colleague to cover a case for me if I needed to. If I had a brief due on Friday morning, I'd make sure I had it written ahead of time so I could leave early on Thursday afternoon. And no one was going to mind. If my supervisor said "Where are you going?" it would be out of curiosity, or maybe concern, but not because he was trying to think of busy work to make me stay later. As a private attorney, I might be walking out the door when I'm told of some assignment that needs to be finished or a brief that needs to be written or a client that has money is going to stop by to give some of it to us. (And by us, I mean give it to me so that I can give it to my boss.) So, then I stay.

And it's not working late that I mind so much, I worked late sometimes as a PD too, it's the uncertainty and lack of control I have about when/why/and how late I'm going to be working.

But I think that, slowly, I am coming to realize that it's not all that uncertain. I mean, I know all the answers to the previous sentence. Really, the answer is everyday/for no good reason/very late. I'm just not really ready to accept it.

So, that's the story. I'm in private practice. I need a later newscast.


  1. Always a pleasure to hear an update.

    When ever I'm mad about something that I just don't want to do at my job, I think "that's why they call it work". If it was fun, people would volunteer to do it.

  2. You have to remember that in time, you will have more control over cases and clients. It sucks now, but it should get better soon.

  3. If you really want control over your cases and clients, go into business for yourself, with or without a partner. It's what I did. Of course, I've been out of law school three years and I'm still struggling. But my time and efforts are my own.

    Ever thought of hanging out your own shingle? At least that way if you work late, you know you chose to do it.



  4. Let me paraphrase some of the best advice I ever received:

    Take the time to watch and learn everything you can about running a lawfirm, so you'll know what to do when you're in charge of one someday.

    There's a world of difference between knowing how to do X and knowing how to run a business that does X, regardless of whether X is lawyering, software development, or cutting hair.

    Maybe you hate the business side of it, but if you don't learn something about it, you'll have trouble getting out from under people who do.

  5. Small law firms get white collar cases?

  6. i agree that in time, you'll have just as much control, if not more, over your cases and your time. i was in private practice for 10 years (and now defected to grad school), but other than when i was new, there was a good deal of autonomy, vacation time, and slack time, interspersed with the late nights. best of luck with it!

  7. I'm not ready to admit that stuff either! And of course, as I'm reading this newly discovered blog (instead of writing deposition summaries) I find out that I have to cover out of state pre-trial conferences on Friday. Well at least this time they told me more than 6 hours before I had to leave...

  8. I just found your blog...very entertaining! I feel your working late pain. I had to work on trial prep the day after thanksgiving, instead of sitting home drinking beer. :( Interestingly, I feel like I have more flexibility in the small private firm than I did at the DA's office. Maybe when I pass the bar I should go the PD route...