Hive Mind Career Advice: Starting My Own Law Practice

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69 Responses

  1. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    renting office space, malpractice insurance, and other issues

    Can you try to find work before investing in those things?

    It sounds like your uncertainty lies with being able to find suitable cases and clients, not with the administrivia of setting up a business. So, I would suggest you put your efforts into the former and determining your ability to sell people on what you do.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      1. Officially I can run out of my apartment but I’ve been told everyone knows when you write suite instead of apartment and it looks unprofessional and amatuerish.

      2. There is no legal requirement to purchase malpractice insurance but you need to disclose your lack of malpractice insurance in writing to prospective clients and clients. So it seems kind of odd to do this.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Saul, what kinds of law do you envision being your practice areas?Report

  3. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    This is not meant as snark, and I hesitate to write something mean about someone who is honestly baring his vulnerabilities here, but here goes. I hear complaints about not getting a fair shake and not being given a chance in one’s chosen field all the time. I don’t know why, but a lot of these complainers will respond to a request for a resume with an outdated CV and a rambling, un-proofread, and often weirdly noncommittal cover letter. On the employer’s side, these are red flags too obvious to be ignored—this person lacks attention to detail.

    I know it’s mean to nitpick like this, and no, I don’t think the offers will come flooding in if you’d only write more carefully and learn to use apostrophes. But, if you’re going to write from the heart, you’re defeating the purpose if you appear not to care whether anyone reads it.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to krogerfoot says:

      Where do you think my writing fails?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Proof reading. Maybe that’s only here, because it’s just a blog (I’ve gotten lazier about that myself, so who am I to criticize?). But you often enough write things like “are” instead of “our” that I am inclined to think your written work in general needs a careful proofing before you’re done. If you’re doing that, that’s good.

        I don’t mean that in a harsh way. I’m just put in mind of what I tell my students–which is that people judge us in these things, and it may be unfair fit them to think were dumb because we right their instead of there, but the fact of it being unfair doesn’t change the fact of them having gone ahead and judged us.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        There are times when I catch mistakes in e-mails right after hitting spend and I think “well there goes that job”. I’ve heard that for job postings you need to get in early or you will be at the bottom of hundreds of replies and probably not looked at. This gives me a sense of urgency.Report

      • The very first line of my dissertation, in the acknowledgments section, reads “…I would like to think my committee members….”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Dude, you had a post recently where the title had a spelling error. I try not to nitpick so I didn’t say anything but given that the topic has been broached, it seems reasonable to ask how reflective of your professional writing your blog writing is. If your writing process in both places is similar, you might want to reconsider your process. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, if you spent some of the time you devote to kvetching about your lot in life on editing, you might be in a better situation.

        Then again, I’m a bit inclined to be a bit jerkish given how cavalierly and seemingly bitterly you write off people with confidence as “bro-dudes”… whatever the hell that means.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Well … his example of a “bro-dude” was a law student lying about being a lawyer so’s he can get his biz-hub runnin. That’s not as much about confidence as arrogance. Maybe that’s a fine line, to be sure, but I think I see what he was getting at: presentation over substance. Something like that anyway.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Yes, but he precedes it with this:

        “I never quite got the bro-dudes who managed to convince themselves that they will always be successful and they were God’s gift to women.”

        Maybe he is *only* talking about self-delusioned people who lie, but given what he’s written in many, many other places, I couldn’t help but read this as him being bitter about those who are more successful in one area or another than him and chalking their success up to something unsavory on their part.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Yeah, now that you’ve elaborated a bit I can see what you’re seein. I don’t disagree, actually.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        It’s not clear to me calling them bro-dudes is writing them off for Saul. Bro-dude is basically a descriptor of a certain type of guy: not flattering, but not a write-off either, I don’t think. And he’s saying he doesn’t get their confidence. At least he’s aware of not getting something rather than hating them for having a quality he doesn’t even realize he doesn’t understand, which I think not a few people do with that kind of person.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        if you spent some of the time you devote to kvetching about your lot in life on editing, you might be in a better situation.

        …Then again, his work stuff might be letter-perfect. We really don’t know. And I am rather confirmed in my disagreement with @Krogerfoot that, while for some it’s just natural to produce only clean prose, for others there is a limited amount of the attention that’s necessary to do it (or so it feels), so husbanding that resource really is something like the process that has to happen. If Saul is directing the lion’s share of his store of it to his jobs and his search for more jobs, and it means we see his remaining effort just to let us know what he thinks here with some warts, I for one don’t question his priorities, and I’m glad we get to find out what he thinks about things. (Maybe a few too many things, but it seems to be a necessary outlet for him.) If he’s not taking the time needed to make his stuff great, that’s an obvious problem, but unless you’re talking about lost opportunities for writing work that might have arisen for him from blogging, yeah, I’d say that the suggestion you make there is basically you reaching out just in order to be a jerk to him. Because we really don’t know what the quality of his work product or job application materials is (as you suggest you realize earlier in your comment).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I’m just curious why he’d use a slur (a minor one, at that, but no doubt a slur) in describing those people? Seemed unnecessarily antagonistic, especially absent much of an explanation as to why he chose to label them as such.

        As to your second post, you are right that none of us have any real idea what Saul’s professional writing look like. But all we have to go on is what he writes here. So to the extent that he has asked for career advice and based on the limited information we have about him, it seems reasonable to say, ‘Hey, based on what I’ve seen you write here, it seems as if you are not the most polished writer. If that is true, you should work on that.’

        Basically, we have no evidence that Saul’s professional writing is up to snuff and some evidence that it might not be (which, to be perfectly clear, is not to say that it necessarily isn’t; only an evaluation of the current evidence). And if he is genuinely interested in feedback, @krogerfoot ‘s seems well within bounds.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

          If you’re dope at all you don’t care if someone calls you bro, or dudebro, or bro-dude. It’s not much of a name as far as name calling goes, especially from Saul if we read him sensitively at all. To my way of reading he uses it to signal an understanding that “This is a different kind of dude from me” as much to call names. Yeah, it doesn’t signal that he has a super high opinion of dudes like that, but why does he have to pretend that he does?

          And I didn’t say that that Krogerfoot is out of bounds, did I? I didn’t even say that you were. I am saying that that quoted statement is just gratuitously jerky (which you told us your reason for premeditatedly deciding to be). The most we can say is that we don’t know what Saul’s professional writing looks like. We can say that if it looks like what we see here, that’s probably a problem. Sure, it might be the case that if he spent more time editing his job search stuff rather than ruminating about his life here, he might be in a better situation. But it might well not be the case that editing is his problem in the job search. Ultimately, we’re all probably giving up some productivity in life to spend time here. That was just a jerk-ass thing you wanted to say that you went ahead and said. Good for you, brah.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        To go a bit further, I don’t really know what he means by “bro-dude”. But I would say that at least some of the behavior/characteristics he attributes to them could be attributed to me. So I’m trying to figure out if that A) makes me a bro-dude and B) if so, what Saul’s problem with someone like me would be because I think I’m pretty dope. While I recognize that confidence is not without its potential negatives, having it seems insufficient to start name calling.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I hesitate to get in the middle of something that seems like it’s being taken personally, but I’m curious about how producing clean prose is something that needs to be conserved rather than exercised.

        If you mean that it takes more time for some than for others, I certainly don’t disagree there—I can’t see how anyone could disagree. And I certainly wouldn’t dispute that different media oblige us to different levels of scrutiny, so if proofreading a blog comment takes away time needed to draft a eulogy, I’m sure not going to complain.

        The reason I suggest that someone, anyone, work on their writing is that it’s a practice with no downside. Exercising it on lowly blog posts will make it easier to do on dissertations and letters to the parole board. Blowing it off because it’s too much effort—that becomes a habit, too.

        You know, also, you’re chiding me for assuming that Saul’s writing on a public forum, bloggy as it may be, is reflective of his writing in general. Is that really that much less defensible than your assumption that it isn’t?Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @kazzy, if dudebro/bro-dude is name-calling, it’s about as mild as can be imagined. Calling it a slur seems to stretch that particular term beyond all recognition.Report

      • Your exercising point is well-taken. It would behoove us all to work to expand our capacity on this score. But at any given time, you’re as fit as you are. The available energy is the available energy. I would want Saul to focus on expending it on the work necessary to get to where he no longer feels “behind the eight ball,” as it were, professionally. And if he has made gains in his capacity, I would want him to continue to invest them into the professional side of things until then. After that, I would think he might give more attention to proofing for OT. In the meantime, though, if this is a valuable outlet for him to let his guard down a bit from that standard, I don’t have a problem with that (but then I’m not an editor here.) But your mileage on that can reasonably differ.

        As far as an assumption that his work product is not like his writing here, i don’t make one outright. But as far as a soft granting that it might well be of a different quality, I would say that that would be quite justified by the principles of charity and giving the benefit of the doubt to persons we know and recognize to be of good will and earnest, productive ambition as I believe Saul has demonstrated himself to be.

        It would never have occurred to me, for example, to suggest to Saul that I thought it was possible that he didn’t realize that to be successful (or at least get hired) in the field he’s chosen, his writing product needs to be cleaner than what we see him post here. That’s entirely on charity and benefit of the doubt, and yes, I think it’s justified. OTOH, it’s also just me. I don’t think any of you were wrong to go ahead and just make sure. I just know that it genuinely wouldn’t have occurred to me to do so, maybe partly because I figure that if Saul doesn’t already know that on his own, he’s screwed anyway. Again, though, it’s probably good that some friends are taking the time to make double-sure he knows.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        A very fair point and I probably have indicated a stronger objection to the term than I had intended.

        I brought it up primarily to demonstrate why I wasn’t particularly inclined to handle Saul with “kids gloves”. I probably wouldn’t have said anything about his writing/editing process. But when I saw him take an unnecessary jab — something I think he does quite often, usually unwittingly — I was less inclined to be so charitable and wanted to offer a rationale for my chosen tack. Maybe that was petty on my part.

        But believe me, I’m not losing sleep over being called a “bro-dude” or whatever. However, I think Saul’s tendency to slight others who view or experience the world differently than he — which I think that is an example of — might also be an obstacle towards success for him.Report

    • @krogerfoot

      Are you saying that people will come find his posts here and judge his job application materials based on the punctuation errors he makes here, or are you assuming that his job application materials contain the same errors that his (mine, many of our…) writing here does? The former is not inconceivable (though he does use a nom de plume) but rather unlikely it seems to me; the latter, if true, would obviously be a problem but do you assume you’re telling him anything he doesn’t know, and do you think it’s a fair assumption that his writing in each setting is equally error-prone? I think it’s fair to at least give Saul the benefit of the doubt in thinking he knows his professional written material needs to be as clean as humanly possible, whereas that’s less critical (sorry editors!) with what he writes here. He’s talked all along about how he’s been stuck in contract work and has been seeking a permanent gig. IN that context, unless he explicitly using this writing to help him try to land that gig, I’m not sure it would even be the right move for him to expend the energy making this prose clean that could be sued to make one more job application clean, or a job application that much cleaner than it would be. That energy is not unlimited in everyone and some face greater challenges producing clean prose than seemingly do others. Maybe you disagree.

      By the way, if the purpose of a piece of writing is to bare one’s heart to the world, it really in no way whatsoever defeats that purpose for it to contain a few punctuation errors, even if he’s hoping people read it. OTOH if its purpose is to land job offers, it’s more fair to say it might interfere…Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I generally do not proof my posts to OT as much as I should. I also find very hard to proofread on a computer screen. I generally need to print things out and read it slowly. It is also easier to proofread things written than other people than things I write because my brain knows what I want to say and fills in the gaps.

        That being said I did have an interview on Tuesday and came in with some writing samples. One of my interviewers complimented one of my writing samples as looking very neat and professional and well-organized. She then asked how long did it take me to produce said writing sample. I said the entire thing probably took 4-6 hours including research, organization, writing, and brainstorming for future strategy and next steps. Her response was “I never have four to six hours for one assignment” and another interviewer added (with a more friendly tone) “Yeah we don’t always have time to dot our i’s and cross our t’s here.”

        So it seems that taking the time to make sure everything is good can also be a liability.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I also find very hard to proofread on a computer screen.


        Proofreading is is a sign of paying attention to the details. Which is where the devil resides, ya know? It’s part and parcel of “doin it right”, if ya know what I mean.

        For my part, I gave up on that long ago. None the worse for wear as a result, tho my punctuation and spelling have suffered greatly.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew, no, I don’t think that Saul’s prospective employers are likely to search the Internet for grammatical errors he’s made on a blog post somewhere. I’m sure he does expend more energy to write carefully on more crucial items.

        ” . . . some face greater challenges producing clean prose than seemingly do others. Maybe you disagree.”
        You raise a very important point here. For many of us, our native variety of English is quite different from the accepted standards of formal written language, and producing excruciatingly correct prose can be a challenge comparable to learning a second language. “Clear writing” is a slippery concept, and by my calculations, about 99.7921% of online complaints about ungrammatical writing are made by people without the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.

        Do I assume, uncharitably, that Saul doesn’t know his writing is prone to sloppiness? I really didn’t want to be a jerk, but he was asking for advice. I’m not sure, on the other hand, that I agree that clear writing is a finite resource that we need to husband carefully. If the demands on Saul’s time are such that he can’t proofread and rewrite a blog post, I’m not calling the grammar police.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Michael Drew says:


        “One of my interviewers complimented one of my writing samples as looking very neat and professional and well-organized.”

        Not trying to play gotcha here—sincere question: How did you interpret this comment and the responses to your answer about producing the sample?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I think the question is valid. Sometimes you get a new legal question that needs a lot of research and 4-6 hours to research and come up with an answer and next steps is not a lot of time. If I get the job, I will need to acclimate at the firm.

        There is a lot of sloppiness and stealing in law because often you are trying to beat an SOL deadline. I’ve seen a complaint that referred to the plaintiff as being both 5 and 50 at the time of injury. You can also have a client with a really good case and discover that he or she is one or two days away from an SOL and you need to write like hell to beat the deadline especially if you are in a state that does not have a tolling statute.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Michael Drew says:


        Thanks for your answer. There are some contexts where a compliment about how nicely your written samples are formatted can be pretty backhanded. It sounds like a different subtext was in play—”are you a perfectionist?” perhaps. I hope it went well.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I admit that I am also concern about the backhanded compliment possibility.Report

  4. Avatar Montaigne says:

    One possibility re office space is renting an office in a suite that has a number of solo- or small-group practitioners and who share office expenses, utilities, etc. It might be more economical than setting up your own and more professional-looking than your apartment.

    The question though, is where you are going to get you clients. Do you have colleagues/friends in the Bay are who might be willing to send some cases your way? If you don’t have a beginning client base, you might need to start with small slip-and-fall cases* before building up a reputation that will attract more lucrative clients.

    *You might want to check around the federal district court. People are always suing the feds on these types of cases under the Federal Tort Claims Act.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Can I assume that significant relocation as part of this is out of the question? It strikes me that your current location is probably “lawyer rich”. Other parts of the state might be under-served.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

      As of know yes. I’ve written by my own pride against Truman’s Kansas City Plan. More practically it seems odd to move to an area where you have no connections to start a business. It would also add significant costs because of the relocation.

      And I’ve also written about my need to live in areas with decent-sized Jewish populations and I am basically a city boy through and through.Report

    • There is no part of the country where a lawyer should have any trouble at all finding all the work that the lawyer can do.

      Profitable work, well, that’s a different story.

      San Francisco and its outlying cities are as good a place as any for a lawyer in @saul-degraw ‘s position to do what he’s discussing here. I had my own firm for a while in a suburb of Los Angeles, also not a place known for its deficiency of lawyers. I made my focus be business clients because that was what I knew best; I quoted and charged an hourly rate.

      Finding people who wanted me to work for them was easy; I got a couple of phone calls from prospects every day. Yes, it started out slow as I established some visibility. Weeding through them to see the ones that had viable cases or who did not run away screaming when I quoted them an hourly rate, that was an exercise in patience. Getting my hourly clients to pay their bills, that was harder, but not so hard as to be impossible. The sort of work @saul-degraw is talking about doing, the money comes from the defendants and the lawyer takes his cut before the client gets paid, so there’s no chasing the clients all over town to get them to pay their bills.

      Personally, I would not want to be a personal injury lawyer in California at this time. It really is a different and tougher world than it was when I started out, and even then it was a different and tougher world than it had been when all the old hands who reminisce about the Good Old Days were making their way through it (although I don’t think it was ever as good as their rosy-eyed retrospectives make it sound). But that’s all quite irrelevant to @saul-degraw and his contemporaries. The world is the way it is, for better or worse, and they have to figure out how to navigate through it, somehow. There most certainly are lawyers who do what @saul-degraw is considering doing, successfully enough that they can keep it up on an open-ended basis.

      Will @saul-degraw make it, too? There is only one way to find out and anyone who says “Of course he will” is sugar-coating the risks. But, we know @saul-degraw is a smart guy, we know he’s tenacious, and as long as he’s been building a network of people with whom he’s come in contact over the past couple of years that he can call them up and say, “Hey, I’m hanging out my shingle, and if you hear about any of this sort of case, please send them my way,” and after a short time, the references will start coming in.

      One thing that I am probably a lot more confident of than my younger Brother in the Bar is right now — within a year, maybe sooner, he’ll have to at least consider turning down or referring out work himself, either because he will need to start distinguishing cases on their quality, or because he will have all the work on his hands that he’s capable of doing with the resources at his disposal. There’s plenty of work out there. Work that he wants to be involved in, well, that’s for him to sort out the wheat from the chaff.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Well this is very sweet and I don’t think I’ve been tagged as much in one comment before 🙂Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I would add that I think the solo’s I have been talking to are giving me good advice and being upfront about how it is harder to start off now and even how it was hard when they started out. A lot of them have been honest about marrying later in life because of issues (real and imagined) with financial security.

        Though I admit that this also makes it harder for me to start a firm because I have issues with marrying later in life (read: I feel behind the curve enough already, I don’t want to be 45 and marrying for the first time.) And starting my own practice is pretty much resigning to marrying later and being more of a late bloomer in my mind and that is not something I like.Report

  6. Avatar Chris says:

    I can offer no advice (though I do recommend renting shared office space, if there are no potential issues related to legal with; it’s not expensive, and is great for networking), so I will just say good luck.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    If you are going to hang the shingle, this is the most important advice that no one will tell you:

    You need to start investing a lot of time (and possibly some money) into some kind of effective sales training for yourself. The biggest reason for service businesses going belly up in the first year or two is that new owners incorrectly assume that their skill will somehow be perceived by potential clients. Except in those cases where they are taking a book of clients with them, they are almost always wrong about this.

    When the hanging shingle is yours, revenue is everything.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      This is a very good point and I think I at least alluded to it above.

      Part of the issue with me is that I am a bit of an introvert. I can do the socializing and networking thing but man does it cause me a ton of anxiety before hand and leave me feeling drained afterwards.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Further to this, your clients have no freaking idea whether you are a competent attorney or not. Nor do they have any real way of learning this, short of consulting with another lawyer. Which they won’t do, unless you’ve already lost their confidence.

      Sales for lawyers involves both reaching out directly to prospective clients through some kind of advertising, and networking to get referrals, which means (unfortunately) associating with other lawyers and building their confidence that you can handle a referral from them.

      Pick the subject area you want to practice (e.g., “personal injury law” or “toxic torts”) and put it right there on your business card. It’ll spare your networking contacts having to write that down themselves.

      As to the last comment, about revenue — many P.I. cases have long trails of time between filing and resolution, and you need to have the perseverance to break through the insurance company just dragging things out for the sake of starving you, using your need for money to save themselves some. A decent-sized war chest will at least somewhat immunize you to this tactic. Which means assembling a war chest to start out with, and then having the discipline to apportion a portion of your fees from previous cases to the “rainy day fund.”Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I have recently begun to learn the importance of selling and branding, particularly in one’s writing. Part of me hates it and part of me appreciates gaining a skill. But, yea, most of me hates it. Nonetheless, it is increasingly what the world (at least the world I am in and/or moving into) requires.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Also: What the hell is that a picture of? It looks like the alien from The Stuff.Report

  9. Avatar David Ryan says:

    I will weigh in with this:

    What you will get if you start your own practice is the chance to work longer and harder than any employer could ever compensate you for, and then (maybe) reap the attendant rewards.

    Also, if you’re ambivalent about having kids go ahead and have a few.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to David Ryan says:

      This is pretty much how I see it.

      My friends who work for firms work long and hard even when they work for their parents. I am sure I will need to work much harder if I start my own practice. I once ran into a classmate who works for a relative and mentioned my idea of starting my own practice. He said something about if I come up with a good class action and a plausible plaintiff and make the pitch to his family’s firm and I would get a referral fee and a chance to work on the case. That rather made me mad in a way that people in business probably need to learn to swallow their pride about because I could only think my classmate is guaranteed employment unless the family firm goes belly up.

      Not sure on the second line but it seems like old-school advice.Report

    • Avatar David Ryan in reply to David Ryan says:

      I’ll add this:

      Recently I learned about Knightian Uncertainty, and how it is not the same thing as risk. What I realized when I learned about this is that I am very risk-averse, but I also have a high tolerance for uncertainty.

      What are you waiting for? Go build your boat.Report

  10. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    1. No, don’t work out of your apartment. Rent an executive suite, preferably a Fegan suite just for lawyers. You can get a reasonably prestigious address in LA for a few hundred dollars a month; I can’t imagine SF is any different. You want a suite with lots of other lawyers so you can network and cross-refer.

    2. Malpractice insurance is going to be at once your largest expense, and fairly cheap (as these things go) as you’re starting out. You should be able to get premium financing.

    3. If you don’t have them already, get the Rutter Guides applicable to your practice area. For a California lawyer, they’re Bible/Koran/Torah, dictionary, encyclopedia, Heloise’s Hints, instruction manual, get-out-of-malpractice card, and condensation of the law all in one. If you can find a lawyer who is unloading the physical books, an out-of-date copy is OK to get you going, as long as you check the online update on Westlaw.

    4. If it’s PI you’re doing make sure you know the Medicare payouts on your client’s medical bills.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      1. Yup. Not sure where I am supposed to get the money for that and putting it all on a credit card scares the hell out of me but I know about the suites.

      2. Also yup.

      3. Yup.

      4. This is what scares me, along with all the escrow account stuff. I’m not an accountant and I don’t have a business background and there are all sorts of little issues that I know about in the corner of my mind but have not been walked or mentored about specifically. This means learning by being thrown into the Pacific and told to swim.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      It looks like I am going to be learning to do depos via CLE classes instead of actual mentoring from a senior lawyer.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      That man has a rather interesting website. Couldn’t find out if there was an SF location but I know there are similar services here. Unfortunately they don’t put rates upfront usually.Report

  11. Avatar aaron david says:


    Why do you want to do PI? Is it just because that is where the big money is?Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to aaron david says:

      He’s planning on growing a stylin’ mustache, moving to Hawaii, and solving crimes from a Ferrari.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to aaron david says:


      1. As my dad described me “Saul is not the corporate type.” I went to law school because I wanted to represent individuals. Also I am quirky enough that I really don’t fit in well in large institutions. I like small and medium sized firms. Most people usually end up liking me but they always admit to finding me awkward and quirky at first. I’m also too much of a lefty to really be able to defend a corporation that put out a faulty product that injured people or to defend a manager who was being accused of sexual harassment. I think they deserve representation because everyone should have representation. I just don’t want it to be me.

      2. I like the contingency fee structure. I do not like the bill as many hours as you can in a year structure. Nor do I like the idea of chasing clients down so they pay their invoices. I’d also consider the flat fee upfront structure which I know some solo lawyers do when they work in fields like wills and trusts or defending lawyers in front of the discipline board or family law or immigration. The contingency and flat fee options contain incentives to work smart instead of insanely long.

      3. The stakes in criminal defense work are too high for me.

      4. All my internships, summer associate positions, and practical experience is in plaintiff side litigation of some sort including antitrust, employment, injury, etc. I could theoretically switch but as far as I can tell. I am a plaintiff’s lawyer in the eyes of everyone. There is lots of narrow casting that happens in the law.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The reason I am asking is, as you have pointed out, doing law you don’t like will cause you fail.

        From 90% of your posts, and the fact that you have an MFA, I would take it as given that you love art. Why are you not doing something with art law? Representing artists? Representing performing facilities?

        You speak their language. You are one of them. That is something that most lawyers, even art lovers, don’t have. You spent your time in those trenches and have an idea of what is important to the working artists.

        How many venues for live arts are there in the greater bay area? Go to each of them during rehearsal, with a business card that has MFA on it, and start talking art! You might have to BS a little to get into the larger ones, but if you look like you belong there, you will get in. And don’t think only of the artist. The scene techs will need lawyers, set dressers, ticketing etc. In other words, don’t be proud. This is also a place where your liberalism will be a positive, as opposed to something you hide at first.

        This is something you can probably do while you are legal temping, which might help you get off the ground while still feeling somewhat secure. I also think that as you are starting out, many of the things that a lawyer would need (office, etc) you could get away with not having, as you would be a member of the art community, not Mr. Man.

        You might never make the money that you would as an ambulance chaser (and that is what you will be called) but at the end of the day, I get the feeling that you will be much happier with your life.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        What you wrote is prolly the best thing I’ve read on this thread, actually. That’s not to say that Tod’s and Burt’s (and others) advice isn’t great, but the idea of finding a niche consistent with already existing passions or interests is really important in all this *what do i do with my life* type stuff.

        Saul, I certainly don’t have any advice to give, but it I wrote something advice-like, it would be to honestly look at who you are, the goals you’re trying to realize, and how far you can stretch the former to achieve the latter. Ideally (I guess, I dunno really) those two things exist in harmony. Short of that, tho, it’s a balancing act. One worth paying attention to, seems to me.Report

  12. I really have no good advice to give. But I just want to say good luck with your endeavors here.Report

  13. Avatar Nevermoor says:

    Are you in SF or NY right now?

    I had in mind that you were in NY, but this sounds like I was wrong. If you’re in SF send me a resume. My screen name at gmail. Obviously no promises, but might be able to help.Report