I shocked my contacts at the beginning of the year when I announced that I joined another law firm. (I know, I never thought it would happen either.) I am now of counsel at an IP boutique firm called Venjuris in Phoenix. I still have Carter Law Firm, though, for professional speaking and writing purposes.
Shifting from solo life to a multi-lawyer firm has been quite a change. For starters, I had to buy office furniture for the first time, since I was moving from a furnished office. My new office also comes with a receptionist. I love having administrative support that takes care of setting up client files, billing, screening my calls and doing some of my scheduling. It’s been a little challenging getting all the programs to work on my computer, but for the most part, that is someone else’s responsibility.
It’s also wonderful to have other intellectual property attorneys around if I need a second opinion about a case. When I was a solo, I shared office space with other lawyers but I was the only one who did IP work and mostly we kept to ourselves. In my new firm there is a strong team atmosphere even though we often work on separate cases.
Part of moving to the new firm has meant adapting to the office’s culture. When working solo, I could come and go as I pleased. Quite often, I didn’t go to my office unless I was seeing clients. At the new firm, we have a lot of freedom — no dress code, no set hours, no billable hour requirements — but we’re typically there every day unless we have an outside obligation. There is an unspoken expectation that you will be in the office Monday through Friday, 9 to 5’ish.
I’ve also had to get used to people talking to each other during the workday again — whether it’s about cases or just shooting the breeze. But I recognize it’s an important part of relationship-building and collaboration.
A Kind of Reprieve
It seems more common these days to hear about lawyers giving up firm life to hang out their own shingle, but there are some like me who follow the opposite path. I recently had a discussion about this phenomenon with attorneys on Reddit. Matt Villmer of Sodoma Law, in Charlotte, N.C., shared this:
“Moving from a solo practice to a firm environment had a lot of benefits, and very few drawbacks, in my estimation. While operating my solo firm, I was the attorney, the bookkeeper, the accountant, the web designer, the marketing professional and the salesman. I spent as much time on administrative tasks as I did actually helping my clients. My transition into joining a small firm (10 attorneys) in North Carolina was a great reprieve from my solo days. Now I can focus on generating new business and helping my clients, while other firm employees balance the trust account and take care of the firm’s web presence. It’s great!”
I’m really lucky to have found a firm that seems unphased by anything I do in my professional or personal life — they seem to embrace the fact that I’m not exactly your typical attorney. As Annie says in “Little Orphan Annie,” “I think I’m gonna like it here.”
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Ruth is the author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Follow her on Twitter @rbcarter.