It’s the land of frivolous lawsuits, shady sole practitioners, Googling legal research, and dropping clients because they refuse to settle a baseless suit. It is ambulance chasing, angry phone calls, and threatening letters.
It is everything you never wanted to be. But how do you avoid becoming another drone at another crappy law firm?
Look for the warning signs
Have you ever interned for a well-run law office? They tend to have files in filing cabinets, a busy calendar, and permanent support staff. They are somewhat organized and maintain at least the appearance of professionalism.
Look around. If you needed a client’s file in 15 minutes, could you find it? Do the employees all look like they brushed their teeth with a bottle of Jack and drove to work listening to “I’m Not Okay”?
Ask out the staff
If you can snag a moment alone with support staff or a law clerk, you should consider exchanging contact information in order to have a frank discussion of the firm off-grounds. If the place is as bad as it looks, they’ll almost certainly be willing to dish the dirty details.
Take the plunge
Even if you join a crappy law firm, periodically reassess whether you are learning skills that will help you as a lawyer. If you find that more often than not, you are the only person who knows what you are doing, perhaps it’s time to leave.
Get out, take a risk, and start a firm. Check out our Strategist blog, which covers small firm management. The worst case scenario is declaring bankruptcy. Your student loans will still be there, but your debt from a failed firm won’t be.
Plus you’ll learn a new field of law when if you’re forced to file a bankruptcy petition. Win-Win?