About two months have passed since I decided to stop alternating between applying for jobs that I had no chance of getting, and driving hours on end to the armpit of California for jobs that I didn’t want. That existence was quickly driving me insane, so I figured I’d rather embark into the exciting world of SELF-EMPLOYMENT.
As someone who has enjoyed working for the government and reaping the benefits of an 8 to 5, 40-hour work week since college, the prospect of having my own work effort being the sole factor determining whether I could eat was absolutely horrifying. But being unemployed since August of 2014 was pushing my tolerance for embracing the unknown. So late last year I figured that since 1) I had spent so much money on law school and 2) the porn industry is collapsing and not hiring, maybe I should just do this lawyering thing on my own.
So far it hasn’t been too bad (surprisingly). I’m getting a steady number of clients, (usually one at a time) which helps me not fuck up their cases as I learn what I’m doing on the fly. And since I haven’t been disbarred (yet) the good folks here at Bitter Lawyer figure that I’d be the perfect person to provide “tips” to the poor SOBss who are similarly situated to me at the moment.
Thus without any further hesitation: The Five Things I’ve Learned (So Far) About Starting My Own Law Firm
1. Embrace Your New Life as a Welfare Queen
Our nation’s tattered and barely functioning social safety net can still help you in these tough and horrible times if you have the knowledge (and infinite patience) to get on the forms of public assistance that you may qualify for. Unemployment insurance and Medicaid are keeping me from obsessing about my impending financial doom, which helps me provide zealous assistance to my clients (who are somehow in even worse economic shape than me right now).
2. Call In Favors From Graphic Artist Friends
Did you know that a decent graphic artist could charge upwards of $1,000 for designing a simple boring logo of your initials inside of a gavel? Yes, going to law school was a terrible, terrible idea for lots of reasons, especially as doodling skills are now far more valuable than whatever you have to offer the world, especially now that you’re a solo practitioner who needs business cards, letterhead, and a website that doesn’t look like shit. If you were smart you didn’t alienate your buddies who took art class seriously, because those folks might be inclined to make you a logo or even design your WIX page in exchange for a bag of ditch weed or allowing them to turn your old photos into an exhibit on 90’s-era suburban American excess.
3. Start Asking How Your Fuck Up Friends Are Doing
You know who always needs a lawyer for the various wacky happenings in their lives? The people you’ve purposely avoided since high school lest they destroy your GPA by proxy. You might have hated Bill “Donkeypunch” Higgins when he dated your sister in 2005, but now Mr. Donkeypunch is facing a bench warrant for failing to appear on his 3rd DUI and he has “POTENTIAL CLIENT” written all over him. Send him a friendly Facebook message and see if y’all can catch up at his favorite dive bar sometime.
4. Stop Being Shy, Dummy
The best part of being a government employee were my free weekends and evenings which I could spend doing literally anything but engaging in the masochistic social flagellation ritual we now call “networking.” Now I don’t have a choice about attending wine and cheese events at bars that I would never otherwise visit, merely because of the SLIGHT possibility that I’ll get a client by enduring socializing with someone on a Thursday night. The added benefit is that these meetups are usually pretty relaxed about you stuffing your pockets full of food, so if you’re resourceful you can make a small profit from attending these awful get-togethers.
5. Keep People Updated
Your friends, family members (even your in-laws), and especially your professors want to see you succeed – or at least they’ve grown understandably weary of reading your depressing Facebook posts about selling blood to pay for rent. Therefore they will be ecstatic to read about your first trial, your first settlement, and your first client to get tased by a bailiff for attacking the judge during a prelim. So blog about your travails, tweet about the fun things you are learning everyday, and generally let people know that you still exist. That small amount of effort everyday will not only provide a much-needed endorphin boost via the encouraging words that your mom/second grade teacher will inevitably provide, but it also keeps you in the forefront of folks who are likely to refer you to their various litigious acquaintances.
This job is far different from anything that I have done before, and it is ridiculously terrifying. Yet at least for the moment, my head is above water and I feel that I’m actually practicing this crazy profession that I invested my non-existent life savings into. For the first time in a while I feel optimistic as I bungle my way into being a somewhat competent professional, and that is almost worth the sub-minimum wage existence that I’ve created for myself at the age of 28.