When I was an associate at a small firm, there were many aspects of the practice that turned me off. There was the boss who was constantly yelling at someone for something. He would get so red in the face that I feared he'd keel over with a stroke or heart attack. There was the delayed paydays. Initially, payday was on Thursday and somehow it migrated to Tuesdays in the 3 years I was there. You never got your paycheck or a raise unless you begged for it. Actually crying and pretending to quit were highly effective ways of dealing with these issues, since I was a valued employee. The lack of health insurance and vacation time. I could go to the doctor and my boss would pay for it in cash, but it had to be a client of the firm so some barter type of payment could be made out. Most times, I would go to the local pediatrician for my aches and pains. Thank God I didn't get pregnant or get AIDS. And, of course, the general lack of human rights afforded to most Americans... like taking a sick day without an hourly phone call checking up on the status of my health and whether I needed a ride into the office or the constant phone calls at all hours for nothing special. Most of that could be chalked up to my boss' personality, I suppose.
But what I hated more than anything was chasing down money. I hated that there were cases I felt passionately about... and my boss would instruct me to get the check from the client or walk out of court. I wanted to get my paycheck and do my job and not worry about how the firm was paid. Sometimes, my boss would tell me to call my client and talk about their balance. Since I wasn't responsible for the bill, I would plead with my client. I would ask that they pay the bill so that I can continue righting a wrong and advocating them zealously. I didn't think of my time as charity... but I guess that is how they thought of it. But, as an associate, I wasn't the bad guy. I just wanted to do my job.
Now, I'm taking on cases and trying to break into the solo market. Surprisingly, the clients haven't been hard to find (knock on wood!). After all, it's a recession and people are screwing people out of money left and right. But, the clients once again want lots to be done for nothing. NOTHING. I'm on edge because I've been sending a reminder to pay to a client every day for 10 days, all for a measly $100. I did about 3 hours of free legal work that I'm not charging him for. The bastard hasn't paid me yet. Because I'm not an associate, it's not about my mean boss forcing me to walk out of court when you need me most... it's about disrespect and lack of consideration. Just because the tools I gained in law school come out of my mouth and aren't a product resulting from skilled craftsmanship, I still deserve to be paid.
So, if this type of behavior continues, I can imagine I will become my red-faced boss when it comes to legal fees. I can only pray that I find myself a way out of this hole by then.
So, I found these articles interesting/helpful in regards to solos and small firms and the pitfalls of practicing during the recession.
Apparently, a ton of California lawyers are in such economic dire straits that they are stealing from clients and being disbarred in droves.
Here's some helpful tips for making your small practice recession-proof.
God help me!
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