#DearFindLaw: Starting a Firm, Dorms or Off-Campus?
Welcome folks to the inaugural edition of #DearFindLaw, an advice column for young attorneys, law students, and pre-lawyers. Every Friday, you ask the questions (tweet us @FindLawLP, or hit us up on Facebook), and one of our writers will respond. It's like Loveline, but less funny, and with less sexually transmitted diseases (at least for now -- the questions are up to you).
What's on today's docket? A reader writes in from abroad, asking about whether he, along with a fellow young colleague, should start a law firm. And another reader asks: when moving to a law school across the country, should you go for the dorms or an apartment?
Should You Start a Firm?
You're not going to like this answer but here it is: only you can decide whether you are ready to go solo.
First, the disclaimers: you appear to be in Abuja, Nigeria. We're in California, so the rules that govern attorneys out here may be (probably are) different than your local rules.
Out here, according to the ABA Model Rules, lawyers have a duty of competence: be competent to handle a case, or able to get competent while diligently seeing to your client's interests. After four years of practice, one would probably have enough knowledge of day-to-day procedure and legal basics to handle most cases. Even seasoned attorneys have the occasional case that requires extra time and research, but four years into practice, you probably have a decent foundation.
Also, make sure you and your partner are a good fit. Here are a few other past posts that might help as well:
- 10 Reasons to NOT Start Your Own Firm
- 10 Reasons to Start Your Own Firm
- Small Business Week: Our Small Firm Startup Series
Dorms or Apartments?
A friend of mine is currently weighing dorms against apartment complexes, and is doing so remotely, as he doesn't have enough money to make multiple trips across the country before moving out there for good in August. He's asked for my input, but first, a story:
In 2008, I took a school's last-minute scholarship offer and moved to Lexington, Virginia. With only a few weeks until school started, I had to find an apartment sight unseen (and cancel my San Francisco digs). I ended up getting a place off craigslist, but didn't send money in advance to a stranger -- I was supposed to pay when I signed the lease.
Long story short, I was a few days late thanks to an overheated engine in a moving truck. The apartment? Rented out from underneath me. I ended up living in a motel for a few days, then signed a lease in the projects. (True story -- and cheap!)
You know what would've been a heck of a lot easier? Living in the dorms, which were about ten feet from the library. In fact, as the resident advisor, I did just that for the next two years. With a dorm, you know that the place will be there when you get there, you know that it will be livable, and best of all, you know that your rent check, mailed across the country, isn't actually going to a scammer. (Plus, if you are surprised with a last-minute offer from a different school, backing out of the dorms is a lot easier than a lease.)
With all that said: cash rules everything around me. Compare the rates for dorms and apartments near campus, and if you can save a ton of student loan money by living off-campus, do it. Just be sure to check apartment complex reviews, talk to current students online, and ask the admissions department if they have any advice.
Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.
- Unemployed Or In a Rut? Play the Odds by Taking The Uniform Bar Exam (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- Small Piece of Advice for Associates: Be Coachable (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- You're a Nerd, Accept It. Top 5 Nerdy Legal Travel Destinations (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)