By Stephanie Martin • April 01, 2013•Writers in Residence
Desiree Moore is an attorney, author, and speaker. She is the president and founder of Greenhorn Legal, LLC, which provides practical skills training for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices. She is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the author of the ABA bestselling book Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice. Prior to launching Greenhorn Legal, Desiree practiced law in a large law firm in Chicago for nearly seven years.
Your Monthly Mentor: Tell me about your journey to your current position.
Desiree Moore: I spent nearly seven years in BigLaw. I loved my job and my firm, and I learned a lot in those formative years. In addition to my substantive practice, I was very involved in our firm recruiting committee and summer associate committee, and I acted as our in-house legal writing mentor. During that time, I also taught as an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. In working with young lawyers in the firm and with law students at Loyola, it was clear to me that even the best and brightest students lacked some of the fundamental skills required to succeed in a legal practice. While I was reluctant to leave my firm, I saw a clear opportunity to serve the legal community by developing practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers nationwide.
So, in the spring of 2011 I left my firm with the short term goal of training law students and new lawyers in as many law schools and law firms as possible, and with the long term goal of creating a comprehensive practical skills training program available on-demand and on-line to law students and new lawyers everywhere.
YMM: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in your career?
DM: The process of writing and publishing my book is by far the most interesting – and exciting – thing that has happened to me in my entrepreneurial career. I spent the better part of last year writing, and my book was published by the American Bar Association in October of 2012. It is currently on the ABA bestseller list, which is incredibly meaningful for me.
YMM: What is your schedule like?
DM: When I do not have a live program scheduled, I spend the day creating content for new programs, taking telephone conferences (I try not to meet with people in person unless it is for a very specific business reason – otherwise, it takes up a lot of valuable business time with an uneven return), writing speeches for upcoming talks (I am speaking at the University of Texas in a couple of weeks and at NALP a few weeks after that), and taking long walks around the city dreaming up new ideas for my business (and new businesses entirely!).
If I have a live program scheduled, I get up early, go over my materials and get in the proper mindset for an energizing and motivating lecture, head to the site (if I am flying out to do a program I typically try to get there the night before), and lecture for anywhere from 90 minutes to two days!
YMM: What made you want to launch your own business, and how did you know you were ready to do so?
DM: My father is an entrepreneur and worked for himself as long as I can remember. Growing up, that model was something that I experienced first hand and admired. In the back of my mind, I think I always knew I’d give it a shot. I don’t think you’re ever ready in the traditional sense. There is always some reason not to move forward with your own business, particularly in the case of a business like Greenhorn Legal where there was no blueprint or other indicator of how it was going to do. I was first to market so I just had to dive in and, with a lot of work, hope for the best.
YMM: What is the biggest challenge in running your own online training program?
DM: The biggest challenge in running my business as a whole is that it is personal. If people are not interested in the product or program or presentation I am offering, it’s hard not to take it personally. The other challenge is the enormity of the thing – when you run your own business, whether it is a tiny start up or an empire, you are responsible for the entire thing. Even when you are delegating, there is no such thing as shared responsibility or shared effort. When it’s yours, you work the most, you care the most, and you feel the ups and downs the most, without question. It can be a rollercoaster!
YMM: What is the best part of running your own business?
DM: I love the creative aspects of running a business. Everything from creating my program content to coming up with the concept for the Greenhorn Legal branding is an opportunity to think creatively and to explore creative outlets. And this is something we do not necessarily experience as traditional lawyers. I also love that I have created something that is almost entirely passive in nature. As of this month, the programs and book are available to attorneys everywhere via my website. This allows me to service many more people than when I was doing live programs alone, which was my goal from the outset.
YMM: What advice do you have for young attorneys who are considering starting a non-traditional legal career like this?
DM: I think it is critical to spend some time practicing law after law school and before jumping into an entrepreneurial endeavor. And to be clear, I do not think that practicing is necessary to succeed in business. Rather, I think being a lawyer is a privilege. We are in a unique service industry where people rely on us with their lives, their finances, their families, their wellbeing – if you are an attorney, you should take advantage of the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in that context. And no matter what type of law you practice (and even if it’s just for a short time), you will take something meaningful away from it. From there, lawyers on the whole are extremely capable and a non-traditional legal career can provide a lot of the rewards of being a lawyer (intellectual challenge, ability to assist people, as examples) but you get to be your own boss and you get to decide what your career and life will look like.
YMM: As an entrepreneur, do you find it easier or more difficult to find harmony between your career and your personal life?
DM: This is a great question, and a difficult one to answer. I would say that on the one hand, as an entrepreneur, I have more time for myself and my personal needs. For example, if I need to run to the grocery store in the middle of the day, I can do that with no problem. But, creating a line between when my day ends and my evening with my husband and son begins is more complicated when I am trying to build a thriving business. Many times, I feel compelled to continue writing or working or planning for the next day well into the night – now that I think about it, I am like my very own first year associate!