Thursday, August 24, 2006

Some Thoughts While Scanning

If you read the banner above, you may notice that this whole thing of running my own office is fairily new to me. In fact, I've taken to dating the actual opening of my practice to March 1, 2006 (I moved in a few weeks earlier but was still working at a contract document review).

Now, I have practiced law since 2001. I have done appellate work for a state attorney general's office, I have done contract work for a variety of big firms, pro bono representation of clients through the San Francisco Bar Association, and worked for a medium-sized law firm here in the city.

Practicing law does not worry me. I like it. Its a game that involves a lot of calculation, a fair amount of risk, some skill, some luck, and tenacity. As I told someone once, I like that nervous feeling I get when the other side sends me their opposition. Weird, but that is not the point.

The part that I am still having trouble with is the nervousness/fear that comes with looking at a case from the inception. In my other experiences the client has been pre-screened. By the time they have reached me, someone else has already decided that this person has a matter which can be dealt with.

Now as a solo, I do not have that anymore. So it makes me cautious about what cases I take. Part of me wants to take everything that comes through the door. The other part of me looks at the resources that I have available for each case and cringes. Is this case worth the amount of money that I will need to advance to see it through? Is this client actually going to be able to pay up for the costs that are going to be a part of the case and be able to pay their hourly rate when the retainer runs out.

I am sure, and I hope, that with time, I will be better able to make these assesments. Right now, I err a bit to the conservative side, but that is while I am still learning what things actually cost (in time and money).

The part that is truly humbling is what the clients say. People come into my office (still painted light purple much to my fiancee's chagrin, without my diplomas up), and tell me that they trust me, when all they have to go on in a smiling picture from place holder page, an advertisment on craigslist which lists some of my background, and the 30 or 45 minutes that we have spent talking about their matter. It scares me a little because these people need legal representation and suddenly they have decided that I am the right person to do it.

And then all of those little self-doubts inside start to bubble up. What if I am not up to the task? What if I lose, what will happen to them?

I do the work, well usually. I hate that feeling of doubting whether I am the right person for the job. So much easier when someone else has already decided that for you.

Oh well. Back to work.

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