The Struggle of the First Year of Practice

The Struggle of the First Year of Practice

Sometimes I get feedback from readers about how much harder it is today than it was in the past. “In the past,” like when I started my practice in 1990.

Yes, yes, I know: I’m old, and life was easier for me than it is now.

I get it.

Except that it wasn’t easy in 1990.

I started my practice after a reasonably spectacular flameout in my original firm. I had worked there for three years when we had a disagreement about my budget for continuing education (involving a trip to St. Martin), and I quit. It was sort of an out-of-body experience as I watched my mouth quitting my job with no specific plan for what was next. It was very odd.

That happened in January. I was engaged to be married in June, and my fiancée, now wife, wasn’t sure what to make of what I’d done.

I rented a room in someone else’s office and bought some furniture. I was up and running in 48 hours and off to the races.

I worked like crazy chasing after new clients, scrambling to get the work done while figuring out how to deal with the mundane issues of setting up a law practice. It was crazy, exhausting, and exhilarating.

I wasn’t hugely worried about income because my wife was working as a teaching assistant and earning $7,000 per year. I’m kidding, people (yes, $7,000 was worth more in 1990, but not that much more). I was PANICKED about income.

As the end of the year rolled around, we calculated what I had pulled out of the practice.

The grand total?

$700.

Yes, $700.

And no, $700 wasn’t worth very much in 1990 (even though it was a very, very long time ago).

That worked out to $63 per month. Life was good!

So, what’s my point (don’t you frequently find yourself asking that question here?)?

My point is that I made it. There was nothing magical about life 21 years ago. It was hard, but I did it. When you look around at successful small firm lawyers, you’re seeing lots of them who also made it. They may have started long ago, but they struggled, survived, and thrived. You can too.

There’s nothing uniquely horrible about this time. You’ll be fine if you chase after new clients, scramble around to get the work done, and deal with the mundane issues of setting up a law practice.

You might even earn more than $700.

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