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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Firm decisions

Let's see, it's been awhile since I've posted, so where were we...? Eeep! It looks like my last post was just before the bar exam! I was quite on edge about it (if you ever talk to anyone who says the bar exam is not that bad, they must be so far past it that they have exam-prep amnesia, because this was by far the most stressful summer since law school began).

I managed to wake up to my alarms on both days (no thanks to the hotel alarm clock, which didn't go off, but I had triple redundancy in the form of my cell phone, my ipod, and my boyfriend's sleepy morning phone call, so I made it on time). Also, my laptop made it through essay day without crapping out on me or giving me any trouble whatsoever. Not everyone was so lucky. During essay day, a number of people had to raise their hands during the exam because of laptop trouble. Glad I wasn't one of them.

The exam took place in the Red Lion hotel situated as far north as you can get in Portland before you cross the bridge into Washington. The hotel was lovely, actually. Situated right on the Columbia river with beautiful views of sail boats and larger ships passing under the I-5 draw bridge. My hotel room was also quite nice. The downsides were that the planes from PDX airport fly right over the hotel along the river, and I was awakened a number of times the first night from the noise. But it wasn't that big of a deal. It was a strange experience, where I felt very solitary but also surrounded by a lot of solidarity. I knew a lot of people there, naturally, and the whole stay was sort of like a mixture of hell and a vacation with friends between exam days and sessions.

I was quite nervous the first session of the first day. When I sat at my assigned seat, my hands were shaking. They shake a little bit all the time anyway (thanks, dad's genes), but this was added nerves. I was seated next to someone I knew casually from law school, and we chatted a bit during the morning wait, so that helped diffuse some tension. But after the first session was over (all 3 hours of it), I felt more confident going into the remaining 3 sessions over the next day and a half.

I don't think the test was easy. There were definitely some curve balls thrown in on both the essays and multiple choice sessions. But I don't think it was that bad either. I think I probably displayed the minimum competency needed to pass, but we won't know for sure until Sept. 21. (If you hear nothing from me for a long time after Sept. 21, it's because I failed and am crying myself to sleep into my pillow every day. But seriously, I think it went ok. Probably. *knocking on wood*)

In the meantime, post-exam, what have I been doing? Well, I spent a good two weeks doing absolutely nothing. I slept quite a bit. Took impromptu naps daily. I would be watching some of my TV shows and then suddenly wake up three hours later, having not chosen to nap at all. It is funny what stress does to your body physically. I was seriously beat after the exam, mentally and physically. I went to a few celebratory drinking sessions and dinners. There was a beer fest involved.

It's only been in the last week or two that I have started working on what comes next, professionally. I am one of the (unfortunately many) unlucky ones who does not have a job lined up. I do scan the job boards daily, and there has not really been much to bite at in my areas I wish to specialize in. A lot of the pertinent listings want attys with 3-10 years of experience practicing. Ha! So I'm still looking for work, and there's a chance that it will come along, especially after bar results come out.

But I am also working on a plan to launch my own law firm, right out of the gate. I know, it sounds crazy. I have so many doubts myself. But I am doing a lot of research, reading books, checking out websites in my practice area, working on business details. This is not ideal. My plan has always been to have my own firm -- eventually. But the economy being what it is, and the job market being what it is, and my desired specialty area being what it is, jumping right in might be the necessary choice, unless I want to sacrifice my professional vision in some way.

So it's not ideal. But I am going to try it.

I have picked my practice area (trademarks, primarily, but other legal business needs will be serviced), selected a firm name (secret for right now), and designed my logo. I am working on plans for a website, and have acquired my domain name. I am looking into forming my LLC, and figuring out where I should open my banking accounts. I am looking into virtual office services which would allow me to book a conference room for client meetings when I need to make them (an actual physical office will probably be something that must wait a year or two). Right now not much has been set in stone, but I am working hard to figure out what needs to happen and trying to get those balls rolling, slowly, and with due diligence of course. The biggest hurdle is going to be funding. I am going to try to keep start up costs as low as possible, but I will need some capital to get everything going. Going to look into grants. I know there are opportunities out there for women entrepreneurs, because it's a man's world out there, baby.

So that's the direction I'm heading now. If I can get an acceptable job while I am trying to launch the firm, I will take it, just to help pay the bills. But I want this firm to happen at some point anyway, and I'm kind of at the point where I think, why not now? You have to take the plunge some time.

Tonight I watched a video conference call on starting up a small firm, and I identified very closely with the female attorney giving the presentation. Her experience with setting up her own firm mirrors some of the thoughts and plans I have been working on. It made me feel reinforced to watch that.

Business aside, I have concerns over my ability to competently work legal matters out of the gate. Law school is not so much like med school or other professional schools in terms of how they prepare you to actually practice. But everyone has to learn on the job. Whether it's diving in yourself, or working under a slave-master's thumb, it has to come at some point. I guess in an employment situation, there's more a sense of security that someone is watching for your mistakes and that there's someone there to mentor you. But I have heard mixed opinions on how effective the large firm environment actually is for attys in their first few years in terms of actually teaching you how to practice. There are other resources out there, such as books, listservs, unofficial mentors, official mentors (Oregon assigns you one during your first year of bar admittance), professors from the law school, and so on. So I don't think the disadvantage is too great, if any. Also, Oregon is one of the few (if not the only) state that requires professional liability insurance in order for you to practice law. So if I screw up horribly, that will help.

Crazy? Maybe. Happening? Looks likely.

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heidikins said...

Congrats! I'm so glad you didn't have any additionally stressy problems during your exams, I cannot imagine having to deal with something like that. Secondly, the fact that you are launching your own firm is SO AWESOME! Yes, it will be hard too--crazy hard--but you having the guts to just do it is fan-freaking-tastic.


Sra said...

Thanks! Either I have the guts or I have the insanity, not sure which yet. Ha!

Nic said...

Let me say foremost that the title of this post is most perfect.  :)

What is the precedent for students starting firms right out of school?  Is precedent the right word I want?  Anyway, this is a very bold step, but bold steps make successful people.  You will have knowledge and experience that other people don't obtain until later in their careers.  It could be harder for you, but possibly much more rewarding as well.  I think this is awesome.  
I'm sure you smoked the bar exam.  Is it possible to ace a bar?  You always seem to underestimate your ability for these kinds of things, but knowing your ritual for preparation and your dedication to study, I think you shall have nothing to worry about.  I just think it sucks they make you wait like two months for the results.  That would drive me insane.

We have much to discuss when you come to visit home next month.  I can't wait.  

Sra said...

 Let me guess, the title would be completely perfect if "decisions" were capitalized? ;)

People starting firms right out of law school is more common now than it used to be, because of the shitty economy post 2007 or so, but there have always been people who do it. These days many who do it didn't plan to do it and didn't even want to do it, but had no other choice.

I think I may be able to have a choice, but I also think the chances of my finding happiness are greater if I take the plunge and go for my own firm right away. The primary reason for this is that it is highly unlikely that I will get to practice in trademarks or copyrights if I went to work for someone else, because people don't hire you for that alone. I'm not saying that's all I'm willing to do either, but I will have more control over deciding what I DO work on if I'm the one calling the shots. When you work for someone else's firm, you do what they tell you to do.

That's the other thing: I don't really like doing what other people tell me to do. I never really have. I'm just a very independent person who likes to make her own decisions. I also believe I do better work when I at least feel like I have control over what happens, because I automatically take charge. When other decision-makers are involved, I am more likely to yield to their judgment, which is not always a good thing. (I always have thought that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself.)

So I think it's kind of insane and will be difficult, but working for someone else would be insane and difficult too (and I would have SO much less control over my life -- they WOULD slave drive me).

As for acing the bar, in Oregon, at least, they don't tell you what you scored if you passed. They just tell you that you passed. If you fail, they do tell you, because then you can make an educated decision on whether you should even try again, and how much harder you should try to work, and which areas of the exam you did poorly on. But it's not designed to be an exam that you ace, but just an exam that you pass. You are supposed to get a bit over half the available points. A score like that is failing if we're talking lower education, remember. If there's one thing that law school is supposed to teach you, it's to check your ego at the door.

Sra said...

 Whoa, that was like a blog post in a comment. Faux pas, Sra.

Sra said...

Whoa, that was like a blog post in a comment. Faux pas, Sra.

B.R. said...

Congrats on everything. I'm sure your bar exam results will be hunky dory! Congrats on a huge achievement! You did well. Enjoy this!

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