The Myth of the Law Firm Safety Net: Starting Your Own Practice

The Myth of the Law Firm Safety Net: Starting Your Own Practice
The Myth of the Law Firm Safety Net: Starting Your Own Practice

Your law firm job may be comforting, but it’s not always comfortable

Beth Lebowitz* You did everything right. You attended your OCIs during law school, hearing again and again that going to work for that big law firm was the best, if not the only, option. You worked those summer internships, and were lured in with promises of a lucrative salary and partnership track.

Once hired on full time you performed legions of busy work, but that was to be expected. With any luck and finger-crossing, you were actually assigned to work in the area of law that you wanted.

After clawing your way up, you were finally on track to make partner. Fast forward 7-10 years of working a frenzied number of hours, and now you’ve got the title.

The “traditional” career path may work for some, but for many attorneys, they’re left wondering if what worked for them when they were fresh out of law school works for them now.

Life has a way of shifting priorities for everyone. Maybe you’re beginning to wonder if your “by the book” career-path left out some pertinent chapters.

So why do attorneys stay put when a different path is calling? We’ve asked this type of question of many attorneys and the answer is usually some variation of fear of leaving the safety of their firm. Inside those walls, they feel safe. Their job, their salary, their reputation – they all seem safe. It’s all very comforting, yet so uncomfortable. Here’s why.

Reality doesn’t match the dream

For many, practicing at an established law firm isn’t the glossy, glamorized career they had envisioned. Instead, attorneys find themselves spending too much time at the office and altogether losing any semblance of a work-life balance.

One looming issue is that the billable hour requirements most law firms practice incentivize practice management that runs counter to the needs of growing companies. These misaligned economic incentives mean that those who “succeed” often find it increasingly difficult to maintain immersive or authentic relationships with clients, all while sacrificing a life outside of work. We’ve spoken to attorneys who left their law firm positions specifically because they despised the way forced billable hours made them feel about their role.

This traditional model also means that your success becomes tied to your time instead of your actual value and skill, which diminishes what should be a client-centric practice.

The reality is that this is not the only way to run a legal practice. We know you’ve been taught to mitigate risk in ALL things. Rest assured that ditching the billable hour isn’t as risky as it may appear. It is entirely possible to work with clients based on your value and their needs, improve the attorney-client relationship, and bring a sense of pride back to your practice. More to come on this.

Lack of control over your own practice

Another problem is the lack of control offered to most attorneys. Your time spent, types of cases, and types of clients are all typically chosen for you. Compounding upon this issue is the large amount of overhead that’s paid out of pocket, which can lead to client acquisition misalignment.

The vigor and intelligence required to become a successful lawyer is simply not reflected in the amount of control shared. Considering the stamina required to be a successful attorney, you deserve the empowerment to make personalized, preferential choices. You shouldn’t have to battle to be in the driver’s seat of your own career, or able to make your own decisions based on the best fit for your interests, education, and preferred lifestyle.

The mythical safety net

Despite these challenging attributes of the traditional law firm of which we’re all well aware, the reality is that most attorneys will stay put. The lure of “job security” is the main factor in the myth of the law firm safety net that keeps so many dissatisfied lawyers in their place.

nd unless you’ve been able to originate your own practice within the firm, you risk losing the clients you’ve worked with should you decide to leave.

The truth is that job security isn’t certain, and the “safety net” is stickier, ensnaring many attorneys that feel unfulfilled. Big firm life may be for you, but the reality is that it just isn’t for everyone. However, you can do it another way, and you can control the shape and path of your own professional career.

Introducing Auxana

Venturing out to a solo practice isn’t without its own set of complexities, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Auxana was created by an attorney who knew there had to be a better model for attorneys who wanted their own practice, and companies that are just as disenchanted by the traditional law firm model.

You can see Auxana as a legal-practice-in-a-box for entrepreneurial attorneys who want to run their own businesses, but feel apprehensive about leaving the imagined safety net of their traditional firm. We’ll help arrange the business resources that your solo practice needs, while providing an opportunity for actual work-life balance if you utilize the Outsourced GC model.

Auxana’s innovative platform connects members with potential clients who need predictable monthly legal services and the strategic benefits of an in-house attorney earlier in the company’s life cycle.

Complete with vetted tools, marketing strategy and implementation, peer collaboration, support, education and executive resources, and a predictable revenue model via flat-fee monthly billing, Auxana provides much of what’s needed in order to kick-start your own practice as an outsourced General Counsel.

While Auxana nearly provides it all, you’ll still need to tackle certain aspects on your own, such as entity formation and gaining malpractice insurance. That being said, Auxana offers coaching and support that can help guide you through even these tasks together. Even though you’re flying solo, you’re never alone.

It’s time to reevaluate whether the “safety net” is truly supporting your career, or holding you down. If the hours spent tied to your desk have left you wishing for more, Auxana can help you free yourself to a more client-centric career, leading to not only a more balanced life, but also a  regained sense of pride in your role and the industry you chose.

The Myth of the Law Firm Safety Net: Starting Your Own Practice

Author Bio: Beth Lebowitz is the Founder and CEO of Auxana Inc., a marketplace for companies, attorneys, and executive resources, and the Founding Attorney of Nimbus Legal, an Outsourced General Counsel law firm.

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