Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Request for advice

TL;DR: Lucky kid great paying job, crazy commute and stress wtretire04/21/17
I think in order to give you a better answer, we need more s greenhorn04/21/17
I have living expenses for a couple of months saved. I t wtretire04/21/17
Lolwat? I don't think you understand the going rate for rook triplesix04/21/17
I guess I'll find out.... Believe it or not the company d wtretire04/21/17
"Believe it or not the company does not know how many years blackholelaw04/21/17
10 hours a week is more or less 1,000/year at $100/hour. $20 orgdonor04/21/17
If I get the in house at $100 hourly, I am looking at approx wtretire04/21/17
To follow up on orgdonor's other point. If I leave my curren wtretire04/21/17
I may be in a similar position, 8 months into a six-fig job warfrat04/21/17
Make the jump to being solo. The money you're making isn't b thirdtierlaw04/21/17
I am in low 30s. This helps in that potential clients may wtretire04/21/17
Thirdtierlaw I cannot IBR my student loans as I no longer ha wtretire04/21/17
$100 an hour is too low. ID work is $150 at a min. jackiechiles04/21/17
You're falling into the trap most prospective solos do by co mrtor04/21/17
Given all you've said, esp the part about them having low en inho2solo04/21/17
I second all of mrtor's comments re the in-house position. inho2solo04/21/17
If you can get the in-house position, and it truly is part-t dingbat04/21/17
Why a "part time in house gig" as opposed to you going solo 2breedbares04/21/17
Most small businesses fail, and the number 1 reason they fai onehell04/21/17
The elephant in the room is your 60k in student loans. Pers blackholelaw04/21/17
income based repayment makes the existing student loans less dingbat04/21/17
I got a brief update, and an idea that I like. In house gig wtretire04/21/17
I give you credit for trying to convince yourself that you c mrtor04/21/17
Further update: I managed to schedule a meeting with in hous wtretire04/21/17
Always a suit and tie for an interview. elle30104/21/17
Making money going solo is more than just multiplying your h elle30104/21/17
As a fellow young attorney I think you need to get a good vi vohod04/21/17
I agree. Maybe the company needs a schmuck on email chains t 2breedbares04/21/17
Take a step back. What "100 million dollar company" is h anothernjlawyer04/21/17
If you decide to do this OP, I would sell stuff on eBay on t bizzybone131304/22/17
Update. I will be taking on the in house client and leaving wtretire05/07/17

wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 12:21 am)

TL;DR: Lucky kid great paying job, crazy commute and stressful job environment. Trade it in for no commute, solo practice and potential part time in house?



Here's the background: I graduated class of 2014. I live in a very rapidly growing small city approximately a two hour commute from a major U.S. city. I lived in small city and commuted to law school in the major city.I hated the commute and was determined to stay in the small city post graduation. I have great connections there and I believe that the mostly small firms in the small city do great business. Post graduation, I obtained a clerkship position in state court of the small city. I was elated. No commuting, and I was setting my self up for a job in small city. When my clerkship was nearly up, I was determined to avoid major city, and mostly interviewed in small city. However, as luck would have it, an acquaintance knew someone who knew someone, and I ended up interviewing with a highly regarded boutique law firm in the major city in a practice area I was interested in. I could not get myself to turn down the salary in the major city (low six figures) and accept an offer from a small firm in small city which paid the going rate locally (approximately $65K annually.

Eight months later, I hate the commute and I hate my firm. I love the money. That's basically where I'm at. I know I am extremely lucky, etc.

However, I am really getting physically ill from my job and I do not think they will keep me on for much longer.

In terms of finances, I cannot complain. I have approximately 60K of student loans, and savings to tide me over for several months.

I would ideally like to start my own firm. There is demand in the practice area I would like to go into, and as I mentioned earlier, I know loads of business people in small town.

Luck may have struck again. An acquaintance reached out to me regarding a local company that is looking for a part time general counsel. The company does approximately 100 MM in gross sales yearly, and they do not have in house counsel. The plan on my end would be to get a part time job in the company, and open a law practice on the side.

I had a phone interview that seemed to have gone well. They requested I quote them an hourly rate. I quoted approximately half the going rate in town, based on them providing me with 10 hours of work a week. We are up to: fingers crossed.

Issue if I leave boutique there is no going back to similar firm. I know this was my one lucky chance. If I leave there is no guarantee at small city company, as to how long they will keep me on, etc.

Assuming I get in house position at decent salary, walk or don't walk?

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greenhorn (Apr 21, 2017 - 1:24 am)

I think in order to give you a better answer, we need more specifics regarding your finances.

Starting as a solo first starting out, the beginnings will be slim pickings. You need money to eat, keep a roof over your head, etc. How will you cover these expenses.

What makes you say your current firm will give you the boot ? Maybe it might be prudent to wait for the boot to meet your ass so that you can spend a bit more time building your war chest and then collecting UI while setting a foundation for your new firm.

This in house counsel gig, what will it pay, assuming 10 hours per week.

Overall, I think going solo and being part time inhouse will tremendously improve your quality of life. That's huge, you only live once and you need to do a job that at the very least you don't hate.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 7:28 am)

I have living expenses for a couple of months saved.

I think I will be let go soon as partner that used to give me lots of work stopped giving me work after I made a mistake, and said partner has been bad mouthing me to other partners. Pissed partner makes all hiring and firing decisions.
I would like to get $100 hourly from in house gig. I do not know if I would accept for significantly less.

Last thing,I am in a really good position in terms of building a book of business. I have a potential client who would bring approximately $20k of business a year, and several good leads to other mid size businesses.

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triplesix (Apr 21, 2017 - 7:31 am)

Lolwat? I don't think you understand the going rate for rookie lolyers.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:21 am)

I guess I'll find out....

Believe it or not the company does not know how many years experience I have. As I indicated, I got referred by an acquaintance, and spoke directly to the person making hiring decisions. They have never seen my resume, as they would be essentially hiring outside counsel at a favorable rate and giving the outside counsel bulk work. I indicated that I would request approximately half my going rate,which seemed acceptable. I did my research and locally attorneys two three years out are billing approximately $275 hourly. I'll you guys updated.

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blackholelaw (Apr 21, 2017 - 2:26 pm)

"Believe it or not the company does not know how many years experience I have."

They could easily find this out if they wanted to. Your admission year is a matter of public record.

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orgdonor (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:28 am)

10 hours a week is more or less 1,000/year at $100/hour. $20k business coming in is $30k total.

Get the in house thing and jump. You hate it there. And it won't help you if you're fired. Maybe your boutique can even refer you stuff in your small city.

Commuting sucks.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:33 am)

If I get the in house at $100 hourly, I am looking at approximately $50k yearly from there. Big issue, should things not work out there, I have no back up plan. Should things work out in house $50k plus $20k and cutting the commute, actually seeing my children on weekdays, etc. Would be near impossible to resist.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:39 am)

To follow up on orgdonor's other point. If I leave my current place on somewhat good terms there is a possibility I can take some of their low end work, as I am the only one in the firm dealing with these files, and due to firm dynamics there will be no one interested in dealing with them. I got the job there on the recommendation of a major client so they will likely want to play nice. If I wait until they fire me, it will almost certainly be a clean break. Also, major client would never leave the firm to come to me and I would not have the resources to handle his files. However, I will work on getting some of his odds and ends that my firm does not like handling.

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warfrat (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:42 am)

I may be in a similar position, 8 months into a six-fig job and I'm either going to leave or be asked to leave soon....It's really tough to assess options in this situation because there are so many unknown variables. How old are you?

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thirdtierlaw (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:52 am)

Make the jump to being solo. The money you're making isn't bad. But life is too short to spend it somewhere you hate. If you get the part-time in-house spot then you should never look back. Then start building up from there.

If you're able to pay your bills making $50k a year it'll be a decision you'll never regret. IBR your student loans the second you leave your job, your payments for the first year will be next to nothing. Especially if you have children.

I've been super busy at work recently so I've missed a few bedtimes with my toddler. Once you start being more involved with your kids you realize how valuable that time actually is and that you'll never get it back.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:55 am)

I am in low 30s. This helps in that potential clients may believe I have experience. Does not help in terms of looking for a new job (although I have zero interest in another law firm job).

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 8:58 am)

Thirdtierlaw I cannot IBR my student loans as I no longer have government loans. I am cheap to a fault and that saved me from paying for law school. Thankfully, I only considered schools on full scholarship, bought old version if books, worked for bar prep company to get free course, etc. so the debt I have is not crippling.

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jackiechiles (Apr 21, 2017 - 9:30 am)

$100 an hour is too low. ID work is $150 at a min.

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mrtor (Apr 21, 2017 - 9:35 am)

You're falling into the trap most prospective solos do by confusing gross revenue with net income. You need to generate significantly higher gross revenue than what you're talking about to even hope to maintain a comparable standard of living.

As a new solo, you will incur substantial initial expenses such as office/file storage space, office equipment (computers, copiers, telephone system, etc.), legal practice software, legal research subscriptions, malpractice insurance, seed money for a firm operating account, etc. You will need to invest thousands of dollars to even get the operation off the ground. Absent a spouse with great benefits, you will also incur additional expenses for healthcare, dental, and vision insurance. You will need to set up and pay for your own retirement plan. Generating only $70k in gross revenue could result in net income of half that or less.

I also think it is risky to take on the GC position. Honestly, you don't seem to have the experience. That's not a personal or individual critique, you're just three years out of law school and have very limited and narrow experience this early in your career. Generally, you have partners or other supervisors to turn to when you come across unfamiliar issues. In this GC role, you would be expected to have all of the answers. It sounds like you've never worked in-house, so how can you possibly be prepared to assume that kind of responsibility on your own? I think you are setting yourself up to fail. You need more experience before you step into a role like that on your own. You can't reasonably expect to Google the answers.

If you fail to heed that advice, I would also urge you to more accurately pin down the value of the GC role. What is their legal budget for the position? $50k for a true part-time GC position in a smaller city sounds unrealistic. I'm also surprised they're not trying to put you on a salary to control the costs. If you need that revenue to help plan for and sustain your standard of living, you need to know the precise value of the work.

Truthfully, this whole thing sounds like a new experiment which could blow up if both parties are not on the same page. They may eliminate the GC position after a six month or one year trial and return to outsourcing. You need to be honest about your experience and capabilities and fully understand the extent of the work they want you to perform.

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inho2solo (Apr 21, 2017 - 9:46 am)

Given all you've said, esp the part about them having low end files no one else wants (and that they may want you to continue working), makes me wonder if you could engineer a layoff with a couple months salary as severance, and you part on good terms and keep handling the low end work. Guy named Sam Dogen has a lot of discussion about negotiated layoffs on his finance blog that he calls "FinancialSamurai". (Disclaimer - no affiliation, I'm just a reader of his blog)

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inho2solo (Apr 21, 2017 - 9:55 am)

I second all of mrtor's comments re the in-house position. I'm in-house and currently in a specialized role, but worked as a generalist in the past and was "GC" for a small ($200 million) unit within a larger company. I handled all kinds of crazy stuff.

Even so, there were areas I wouldn't touch and would have to reach out to the home corp's legal to handle - employment issues, sticky antitrust questions, real estate leases etc where I would surely have missed something critical.

("GC" is in quotes because they called me that but it wasn't my official title; I reported up through the bigger corp's law dept.)

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dingbat (Apr 21, 2017 - 1:16 pm)

If you can get the in-house position, and it truly is part-time, and they will let you solo, then absolutely go for it.

Note that those are a lot of "if"s.
Will the in-house allow you to be a solo? (think liability, non-compete, conflicts)
Are your hours at the in-house be flexible enough to meet court appearances, client interviews, etc?

If so, take it. Having another income is the best way to start as a solo. But remember, big city law is really a one-way door, if you leave you may never be able to come back.

If the in-house is not flexible enough, and it's truly between high-paying job you don't want versus solo that you do, then it's a matter of money. Do you have a lot of student loans? Can you afford to not earn a lot of money for a year?
As a solo, you need to be able to cover your expenses while waiting for a paycheck. Clients may not pay on time (or at all). You need to have enough of a cushion. And it'll probably be a few years before you're consistently making a solid salary

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2breedbares (Apr 21, 2017 - 1:20 pm)

Why a "part time in house gig" as opposed to you going solo and giving them a retainer as a private client?

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onehell (Apr 21, 2017 - 1:25 pm)

Most small businesses fail, and the number 1 reason they fail is that they are under-capitalized.

I say keep saving and work your way to where you can hang a shingle if that's your goal. It's an attainable goal, but I think you need more time. I think foonberg says you need to have at least a year of living and operating expenses in the bank before you can make a real go of it, and that sounds like good advice to me.

The alternative is to marry someone who is either wealthy or who has the stable foundation of income and benefits you would lack as a solo. The most common scenario for solos in my town is that they have a spouse with a government job.

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blackholelaw (Apr 21, 2017 - 2:25 pm)

The elephant in the room is your 60k in student loans. Personally, I would figure out how long it would take me to pay those back on my current salary and set an end date in my head. Once you are debt-free, it's way less risky to open up your own firm or take a part-time gig somewhere.

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dingbat (Apr 21, 2017 - 2:31 pm)

income based repayment makes the existing student loans less of a concern than not having enough cash reserves. I'd prioritize savings over loans

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 2:58 pm)

I got a brief update, and an idea that I like. In house gig responded to my rather outrageous salary request (I want $100 hourly,I requested a significantly higher number so I end up there) requesting some specifics as to how I see the set up working. Basically, do I want to go in house, or have an outside counsel arrangement, as well as when I would be available to start.

My biggest fear, I agree completely that I am unlikely to be able to handle all their legal needs properly on my own.

Finances are an issue, but I can float at least a half year of living expenses and start up costs from savings (without relying on in house money). Also, I can secure a line of credit if necessary.

To address the issue of my relative inexperience, I am reaching out to older Attorneys that I got to know while clerking, and hoping I can get an office sublease and an experienced friendly brain to pick.

Here's the idea. My current job had tremendous positives, although I absolutely hate it. I have scheduled a meeting with in house gig. I will explain that I will not have all the answers initially, etc. If we can come to terms, I email the partners at current gig requesting a meeting. I tell them that (I love the firm . . . But) I am getting mixed signals about my future with the firm. Ask them if they envision me being part of the future . . . The answer will either be no, or only if you stop doing ....

Either way, I win. If I have no future there, I may as well walk now with the in house gig hopefully in hand. If yes, I cleared the air and get them to tell me what they would like me to change - and then determine whether I want to say.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts​. Sincerely appreciated.

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mrtor (Apr 21, 2017 - 4:57 pm)

I give you credit for trying to convince yourself that you can handle this. But you're talking about superficial bandaids; these aren't solutions to your serious underlying problems. You're talking, but you're not listening.

You're not just risking this job. You could be risking your law license. You are getting so far in over your head. Failure to provide competent representation and financial improprieties are no laughing matters. In addition to malpractice claims, lawyers are suspended or disbarred every year over these misdeeds. Many violations were unintentional. You don't have to intend to cause the harm that results.

I think you're significantly undercapitalized to start your own ventures at this time. Your desire to leave your current firm is blinding to the reality of your situation. You need to slow down and look at everything objectively. You are a third year associate with a lot left to learn. If you move anywhere, it should be to a position with supervising attorneys who will continue to guide you and develop your expertise.

Personally, I don't know any young solos who went on to truly great things. The most successful attorneys in my area all learned for many years before they struck out on their own.

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wtretire (Apr 21, 2017 - 3:07 pm)

Further update: I managed to schedule a meeting with in house folks for Saturday. So hopefully I have all this figured out soon. Business casual or business for Saturday interview. I am thinking suit and no tie?

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elle301 (Apr 21, 2017 - 3:33 pm)

Always a suit and tie for an interview.

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elle301 (Apr 21, 2017 - 3:32 pm)

Making money going solo is more than just multiplying your hours by an hourly rate. Who will pay your malpractice? Will you be hosting a website? Are you going to pay for advertising? Will you rent office space? Do you pay for CLEs? Bar dues? There are lots of costs that need to be factored in. Saying that you wouldn't work for "much less" than $100/hr while not factoring in any of your expenses of going solo is missing a huge step in planning this out. I'd consider what it would cost you to really start a firm... then determine how much you'd need to make per month to cover your overhead. From there you'd determine how much you need to make in order to cover your basic living expenses without draining your savings. You honestly can't start to negotiate an hourly rate without having all of this information first.

Why can't you just move to the big city and avoid the commute? I get your job sucks, but aren't there other jobs that pay more than the small-city rates if you relocate?

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vohod (Apr 21, 2017 - 4:47 pm)

As a fellow young attorney I think you need to get a good view of expectations. What clients expect when I bill 10 hours is way way way less than what they expect in a partner level guy who serves as outsourced GC.

PS: also make sure the job isn't looking for a fall guy. Its sickening but an attorney in Illinois was suspended at age 29 for ignorantly facilitating fraud against customers and several minority shareholders of the company.

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2breedbares (Apr 21, 2017 - 6:48 pm)

I agree. Maybe the company needs a schmuck on email chains to maintain attorney client privilege.

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anothernjlawyer (Apr 21, 2017 - 5:42 pm)

Take a step back.

What "100 million dollar company" is hiring "general counsel," "part time," off the street, and is willing to consider a new, soon to be new-solo lawyer for that position? I've seen much smaller companies use much bigger lawyers.

Nothing about that sounds right.

Like others have said, you may be getting in way over your head, at best, or being set up to risk your license (or your freedom) at worst. If they were hiring you as an employee to go into an existing legal department, that would be great. Having you create their legal department as an outside GC? Sounds like a real risk.

Good luck.

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bizzybone1313 (Apr 22, 2017 - 7:58 am)

If you decide to do this OP, I would sell stuff on eBay on the side. Right now, I have about $6K/225 items listed for sale. When I run other errands, I go mail the items I sold off. This little side income could really help you pay some bills until you are on more financial footing. Seriously. It helps me a lot with gas, food and other side expenses.

I sold a rare autographed Krayzie Bone (from the legendary Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) solo album for $400 bucks the other day. Cha-Ching.

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wtretire (May 7, 2017 - 1:13 am)

Update. I will be taking on the in house client and leaving my current job in the next several weeks.
The in house client will retain their outside counsel going forward for matters that I cannot adequately handle. I got a four figure retainer to start, and they agreed to a pretty awesome hourly billing rate.
This decision was made somewhat easier, as a frank discussion with my current employer revealed that I was unlikely to have a future there.
I hope to update as my new practice gets up and running.
So far, other than my in house client, I have a client lined up for a small transactional matter.
Otherwise, I am starting with 10k in savings, and plan on pulling a minimal monthly salary initially.
My goal from now until year's end is to net 45k.
Have begone some serious networking and got done good leads. This should be fun!

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