alexislamb

HOW I LEFT BIG LAW FOR THE LOCATION-INDEPENDENT NO-PANTS LIFESTYLE, AND HOW YOU CAN TOO

It’s a simple equation: t = m.  Time equals money.

It’s an equation taken literally by any lawyer in private practice who divides their day into six-minute increments.  I’m sure more than one of you has debated whether to bill your latest bathroom break to the client. I’m at least thinking about reps and warranties while I’m reapplying deodorant! This is billable time, right?  

But t = m has another meaning, one that can pogo to the forefront of an attorney’s mind once they realize that leaving the office at 6AM is a much more frequent occurrence than leaving the office at 6PM. 

Lawyers are stubborn, risk-averse, plodding creatures.  It took a systemic shock to get me to leave Big Law’s gilded ghettos. The Great Recession made the decision for me.  I didn’t leave my $250k+ salary. It left me.  You may not need a major drop-on-the-backside like a layoff to change what isn’t working, but being thrown from the castle can force you to reconsider your priorities.  

Legal recruiting intrigued me: a career that would allow me to use my knowledge of the business side of the legal profession to help law firms grow in strategic ways. I’d be economist, trusted advisor, and Ari Gold all rolled into one.  I could fund my rent and travel and social expenses, and still save some at the day’s end.  

And, most importantly: I could do so in my underpants, or anywhere with an internet connection where my phone worked. And that was where my no-pants journey began.

IS THE REMOTE-WORK, NO-PANTS LIFE FOR YOU?

Location Independence could be for you if you can say yes to the following:

You define yourself by your experiences, not your professional title or your W-2. After leaving Big Law, I kissed my Big Dollar lifestyle goodbye. I didn’t have the fancy business card to throw down on boardroom tables anymore. I had to find validation from within as my friends and former colleagues ascended in their chosen fields.

You’re better at tolerating monetary uncertainty than temporal uncertainty. In Big Law, I was guaranteed a robust paycheck while my schedule and weekends were at the behest of my overlords.  As a recruiter, I sometimes had the opposite problem.  If dealflow was slow, I was making all my meals at home. Sardines for dinner, just like Biggie. I became fearful of the bills in the mail.  When the placement checks came fast-and-furious, I squirreled money away in preparation of winter.  

You’re OK with your career progression looking a bit like an obstacle course. Pattie Sellers, senior editor-at-large of Fortune magazine, advises people to think of career progression more like a jungle gym than a ladder.  I’m going to go a step further and say that career progression for budding entrepreneurs or freelancers or anyone contemplating a non-linear path looks more like an obstacle course. Remember Double Dare?  That’s what it’s like. Minus the slime pit.  And, hopefully, the smells

WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE FOR LAWYERS AND OTHERS LOOKING TO GO NO-PANTS?

The gig economy has made it possible for lawyers and other professionals to find freelance legal work via various websites which pair freelancers with gigs in a variety of industries, including legal.  Many smaller law firms are willing to engage an attorney to handle their spillover work on a remote basis, though these roles are often unearthed via word-of-mouth. 

Set up a relationship with a secondment firm. In-house legal teams and boutique law firms often use legal secondment firms to satisfy legal staffing needs in a flexible, cost-effective, and efficient manner.  Secondment firms hire lawyers as W-2 employees and embed them in the legal teams of their clients.  Many times, these roles will allow for at least partial telecommuting.  Secondment firms embrace lawyers interested in alternative or non-linear career paths, and many attorneys have left Big Law or a traditional path to find more flexible employment via a secondment firm.

If you’re looking to go lone wolf and hang your own shingle, talk to some entrepreneurs first.  Laura Cowan, estate planning attorney and founder of The Law Office of Laura E. Cowan, PLLC (who I profiled in last week’s blog) gives the following advice for lawyers contemplating a jump to a solo practice: “Understand your personal finances and your likely revenue streams, nurture relationships with solo practitioners to find out what to do (including seeking feedback on your business model), and invest in a training or mentorship program.” 

And remember: the equation isn’t t = m.  It’s t + m = SMILE

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Alexis Lamb is a recovering lawyer who served time as a transactions associate in the New York office of O'Melveny & Myers and the Hong Kong office of Linklaters. She is currently Associate Director of Talent at Bliss Lawyers.   

Connect with Alexis at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexislambesq/

Visit her blog (not affiliated with Bliss Lawyers, just a personal passion project) at: https://thenopantslife.com/

1 Comments

bailoun

Thanks for the advice! For 1Ls, big law often seems the automatic, and necessary, choice. It’s refreshing to hear a different perspective.

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