RADIO SHOW/AUDIO PODCAST
Solutions...with Courtney Anderson! (SwCA)
Episode 190 -
Originally aired 9/15/2014 9:00 AM -
COURTNEY! I AM CURIOUS series -
“How Did You Open Your Own Law Firm At Age 26?”
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TALK SHOW EPISODE NOTES
This is our COURTNEY! I AM CURIOUS™ series wherein you ask and I answer! Specifically, this is a series for questions about my personal experiences, perspectives and life lessons.
Nothing I have done is unique. Going to school, working, buying a home, having fun, etc., are normal events in most of our lives. Going to school and graduating in three years, working for your own firm at age 26, buying a first home at age 27, working in live television, having fun in South Africa, Mexico City, Rome, Mumbai, Brisbane, Tokyo, Madrid, Hong Kong, Quebec, and many other places around the world are a bit of an unusual slant on life (apparently from the feedback I receive). So, this series is my attempt to address your curiosity! I hope that my journey through life helps you more fully explore what is probable in your life! This episode is, “How Did You Open Your Own Law Firm At Age 26?"
I opened my law firm when I was 26 years old. My office was in a lower income part of town next to railroad tracks. My office rent was less than $300 a month. I had no financial help from anyone. It was one of the best decisions of my life (economically, emotionally, professionally, etc.)!
- I made a fantastic income and I was in control of my destiny!
Solo Practitioners annual income in Texas $97,142 (2009 data) ( https://www.texasbar.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Archives&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=11241)
- I am not alone.
“The number of recent law graduates going solo increased from 3.5 percent in 2008 to 5.5 percent in 2009, the biggest one year jump since 1982, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reports. That percentage increased to 5.7 percent of all private practice jobs for the class of 2010, the highest it’s been since 1997.”
"As of 2005, some 62 percent of attorneys in private practice work as solo or small-firm practitioners, according to the most recent data available from the American Bar Association. "
"Solo practice: ~271,000, or 35% of US lawyers (this takes the ABF estimate of the share of lawyers in solo practice and multiplies it by the total number of lawyers in law offices reported by the BLS) (id.)";
2) Was age an obstacle?
No. We are what age we are. I was aware of it and we discuss in the show that younger people (or those who appear younger) do have to deal with stereotypes in the workplace. That is not a deterrent to opening a business. Yet, awareness of the very small percentage of business owners that are in their twenties is important. We discuss in this show that when you are "the boss" and 26, there are going to be some stereotypes and skepticism that you will encounter.
“ONE-IN-THREE OF ALL OWNERS OF RESPONDENT FIRMS ARE OVER 55 YEARS OF AGE
In 2002, 31 percent of the owners of respondent firms were over the age of 55, with 20 percent of these owners between the ages of 55 to 64, and 11 percent are 65 and over.
Twenty-nine percent of all owners of respondent firms were between 45 and 54 years old; 24 percent were between 35 and 44 years old; 12 percent were between 25 and 34 years old; and only 2 percent were under 25 years old.”
- Why So Few Young People Start Businesses?
“The share of employed people ages 20 to 24 who run their own incorporated businesses is only 0.3 percent, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Because much business knowledge needs to be learned by doing, there is no good substitute for experience in preparing people to become entrepreneurs. And because developing experience takes place over time, it's difficult to see how policymakers can provide people ages 20 to 24 with a similar amount of experience as people in their 30s and 40s.”
3) Was gender an obstacle? What about the fact that I was single (unmarried, no partner or other co-signer for the business lease, commercial bank accounts, etc.)?
No. We are the gender identity that we are. I was aware of my gender and we discuss in the show that females have not been able to attend law school (and therefore be qualified to open their own law practices) until recent history (in the US and many other parts of the world). I was single. There was no one else to start the firm with (or to lean on for financial, emotional, or other support). My goal was to open my law firm. Just as I was (that age, that single, that gender, that color, that entire person).
As we often discuss, data is our friend.
"In 2007, women owned 7.8 million businesses and accounted for 28.7 percent of all businesses nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners. These firms generated $1.2 trillion in receipts, about 3.9 percent of all business receipts nationwide. “Nonetheless, women-owned businesses still lag behind businesses owned by men,” Mesenbourg said. In 2007, businesses owned by men numbered 13.9 million (accounting for 51.3 percent of all businesses) and generated $8.5 trillion in receipts (28.2 percent of all receipts). "(http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/business_ownership/cb10-184.html)
4) Was ethnicity, race, color, nationality, etc., an obstacle?
No. We must take action in life when we are ready irrespective of traits such as age, gender, color, race, ethnicity, size, etc. We have to be prepared and aware of what the reaction of other people may be (and at times it will not be super awesome). Either we are in control of our lives or someone else. I prefer to take my life in my own hands.
I continue to define who I am and other people have their own interpretation.
- Relatively few women are business owners.
"Only 1% of single Hispanic women, 4% of single black women and 8% of single white women (in US) own businesses." (http://www.insightcced.org/uploads/CRWG/LiftingAsWeClimb-WomenWealth-Report-InsightCenter-Spring2010.pdf)
5) My advantages?
It was my plan all along.
Opening my law firm was not a "fall back" option or default when I was not successful at being hired at a big law firm or in a clerkship. My goal all along (before and during law school) was to work for myself.
-Education is an advantage.
“AMERICA'S BUSINESS OWNERS ARE HIGHLY EDUCATED
In 2002, 64 percent of the owners of respondent firms had at least some college education at the time they started or acquired ownership in their business; 23 percent had a bachelor's degree; and 17 percent had a graduate degree. A bachelor's degree was the highest college degree completed by over 20 percent of all owners of both employer firms and nonemployer firms. Among business owners with a graduate degree, nearly 56 percent of the majority interest owners of employer firms held a Master's, Doctorate or Professional Degree, compared to 72 percent of the majority interest owners of nonemployer firms. Just under 1-in-4 of all owners of employer firms had a high school education or less, compared to 28 percent of the owners of nonemployer firms.” (https://www.census.gov/econ/sbo/02/cbosof.html)
6) How did I make money? Obtain and retain clients? Market my services?
In this show I discuss how I was able to earn a profit from the first year including using the following techniques:
a) Lawyer referral service.
b) Understand brand ambassadors and referrals.
c) Market under-serviced population (DBA mailing list).
d) Physically walked neighborhood and introduced myself to local businesses.
7) But, be realistic, what were the real problems you faced?
CAUTION: Grew too big too fast. Took on too much business.
In the show I describe how too much business is not a good thing (how that happened and the lessons I learned to control and slow growth are topics I address).
8) Any obstacles that did impact your business negatively?
Yes. Law school itself.
“Law schools are not equipped to help you start your own firm,” asserted Chetson, who said he made more last year than the $150,000 to $160,000 that a mid-level associate at a big law firm typically earns. […] After graduating from Connecticut’s Quinnipiac School of Law in 1994 and passing the bar, Cartier Liebel hung her own shingle with two other recent graduates. She, like many solo practitioners, received no practical business training at law school. […] Nearly 50 percent of all private lawyers in the U.S. are solo practitioners, according to the ABA. Yet only an estimated eight percent of solo or small-firm lawyers are members of the ABA, according to the article.
“Current or prospective law students need to understand that you can’t just sit back and have classes spoon fed to you and think it’s going to be done,” he said. “You’re going to have to figure out things on your own and if you’re not prepared for that don’t go to law school.”
You can control your income, your workload, your schedule and your life. The best decision I ever made was to be an entrepreneur and opening my law firm at age 26 started me on a path of incredible opportunities and adventures in life. You must be relentless in pursuing your goals in life. Why not you? Why not now?
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