The Decision to Open Your Own Firm
By Kevin Patrick
Over the last several years, a number of our GTLA members have taken the “leap of faith” and started their own firms. We are excited to feature some of them in this article and share with you the reasons for their decisions.
The Brice Law Firm, LLC
For me, justice is a passion and a calling. At the age of three, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. My parents said I had two choices – “I could be a doctor or a lawyer,” and I knew I didn’t like blood even then so the decision was easy. Early on, I
was on the path to becoming a successful and well-liked personal injury attorney. But I’m not your run-of-the-mill PI attorney. How many attorneys do you know that graduated from law school in two years? How many attorneys do you know that founded their own law firm right out of law school and passing the Bar? My guess is not many.
I initially wanted to be a sports attorney because of my love for basketball but fate had other plans. In 2008, one of my childhood classmates was catastrophically injured. This unfortunate event was the impetus for me to practice injury law. The incredible case revealed what I call “the best kept secret of injury law” – some of the most brilliant and talented attorneys in the legal profession are trial attorneys. Not only was I determined to be one of them – I was well on my way.
In the Summer of 2011, just weeks after I passed the Georgia Bar Exam, I founded The Brice Law Firm. Why? I wanted to prove everyone wrong. It was not a popular idea to say the least. Every lawyer in my life advised against opening a brand-new law firm immediately following law school. It was a daunting decision, but the plan was to fire myself after two years if it did not work out. Spoiler alert: it worked out.
The Embry Law Firm, LLC
“Hanging my own shingle was not easy,
but being my own boss is priceless.”
Inadvertently, I started my law firm by helping my mom settle her personal injury case. During the negotiations, I realized that I had a passion for helping others who were unable to assist themselves. Once I negotiated the settlement in my mother’s case, I realized that I wanted to do personal injury litigation. Initially, I interviewed with several personal injury defense firms, but I was unhappy with the vast amount of work that was required compared to the little compensation. I never had plans to start my own law firm. However, as fate would have it, my mother’s case guided me towards starting my own firm. Hanging my own shingle was not easy, but being my own boss is priceless.
The Eisenberg Firm, LLC
The main reasons I started The Eisenberg Firm, LLC were work-life happiness and independence. I had worked eight plus years as a senior associate on the defense side and gained incredible experience. But as time progressed, I felt the strain of “office politics.” I was ready to take control of the clients and cases assigned to me. Unfortunately, I often found myself having to accommodate arbitrary deadlines and case assignments. I grew disenchanted with having someone tell me what to do because it served their best interests. It became obvious I wanted to be my own boss.
My frustrations with office politics also invaded my home happiness. I cannot count the number of venting sessions my wife had to endure because I was unhappy with the toxicity at work. It became clear that I needed to fix what was ailing my legal career in order to be the best husband and father at home.
The Eisenberg Firm, LLC was my opportunity, and challenge, to have the best of both worlds. I could create a firm culture built on hard-work, integrity and accountability. I would choose the cases that I believed in and provide top-notch legal service without any office politics getting in the way. It was refreshing to take control of my legal career and feel confident that every decision, good or bad, was my own. I am proud to be able to say starting The Eisenberg Firm changed my life for the better.
The Fowler Firm, LLC
“When I first started The Fowler Firm, I was very
young, but I knew that one of the most important
elements was to have mentors that I could go to and
ask questions about law and business.”
Starting my own business was a dream that I always envisioned. When I graduated from the JD/MBA program at UGA, my goal was to find a way to implement both graduate degrees in my everyday life. I knew that I wanted to start a business, but with very little guidance and knowledge about running a law firm, I would be lying if I said that I was not somewhat nervous in taking such a big step. When I first started The Fowler Firm, I was very young, but I knew that one of the most important elements was to have mentors that I could go to and ask questions about law and business. There are many attorneys that I admire that allowed me to ask literally anything and they would take the time to answer. Their encouragement has assisted me greatly and now I find myself doing the same for lawyers that come to me with questions about starting and running a law firm with little business and/or legal experience. At my firm, we approach every case as a team of lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants, and we all understand that each person plays a major role in the success of each case. Of course, owning a law firm means working hard all day and every day, but the most rewarding feeling is achieving great outcomes for clients while working with a great group of people.
Kastorf Law, LLC
I started a firm to better control my brand and to better serve my clients and co-counsel.
After working on well over a hundred appeals, I realized what I loved wasn’t appeals, per se. It was helping both other trial lawyers and organizations solve novel legal problems. And I can provide that help well before an appeal is filed, during initial case intake, or discovery, or dispositive motions, and by second-chairing trials. I want to sell myself at exactly the things I’m good at and having my own firm has made that easier.
It has also allowed me to provide better service to my co-counsel. Before joining a small firm, I spent years in large organizations like the Department of Justice, King & Spalding, and WilmerHale. That experience taught me important client service skills, such as providing precise and accurate advice quickly and efficiently and giving co-counsel adequate time before deadlines to review my work. I wanted to build a firm around making my co-counsel’s practices more successful, not just by solving their legal problems but by making their lives easier. Being able to set guiding principles for my firm has helped me move in that direction.
The Moses Firm LLC
“I am so proud of what we have accomplished for our
clients, and it is rewarding in so many ways.”
I am a big believer that each of us is the President and CEO of our own lives, that is, Me, Inc., and it is up to us alone to make our dreams a reality. Owning my own law firm became a dream of mine, after I started my career at a medical malpractice law firm in North Carolina. I saw that my first boss loved owning his own law firm and representing patients in catastrophic medical malpractice cases. The freedom he had in being his own boss directly correlated with his enjoyment of life, and I realized that I wanted that same freedom and happiness. I did not want anyone telling me what to do, how to do it, or when to do it. Don’t get me wrong: when I have had employers, I have tried my best to be an outstanding employee. But I knew I did not want to be an employee forever, so I started my own firm. I am so proud of what we have accomplished for our clients, and it is rewarding in so many ways. If you are thinking about it, you need to do it. “Jump” is what I say! Don’t be afraid because you can make your dreams come true.
The Mack Law Firm, LLC
To paraphrase a quote from Eddie Harris, Jr., I started my firm to “build the ship that I had been waiting for.” In September of 2015, after more than eight months of looking for a new position, I was terminated by my then-existing employer. I had been searching for a small firm position with congenial coworkers, fair pay, and a culture that fueled my passion for helping low income Georgians. Not only had I failed to land such a position, I lost the job I already had and seemed to be moving further away from my goals. At the same time, I knew peers who were facing unexpected job problems of their own, from billable hour pressure, to sexual harassment, and even an FBI investigation! In such a climate, I feared that a new big, bright, employer might go down like the Titanic once I got onboard. After about ten days of research and meetings with friends, family, and colleagues, I decided to build the ship myself. Today, nearly five years later, my ship is not the smooth sailing yacht I imagined, but being the captain affords me control over its direction, pace, and the crew onboard. For that I am very grateful and encourage anyone considering the same to take the plunge!
Schneider Law, P.C.
I took a leap of faith in the plaintiff’s bar
that there would be a support system in place,
and I am so lucky that I was right.
From 2009 to 2018, I rose in the ranks of King & Spalding LLP, a world-class international law firm. While on the King & Spalding tort team, I attended 24 multi-million dollar trials and served as trial counsel for 11 of those trials – doing opening statement and closing argument, conducting direct and cross-examinations of expert and fact witnesses, arguing legal issues, and overseeing trial strategy and the development of trial demonstratives. My trial teams achieved great successes in a number of those trials with favorable verdicts or mid-trial favorable settlements, as a direct result of my contribution to trial strategy and case work-up.
In February of 2018, I opened Schneider Injury Law to pursue my desire to represent injured individuals and families. Armed with my extensive trial experience, I knew I could give world-class representation to individuals, especially with my insider knowledge of how defense lawyers think and act. I now leverage my deep insider knowledge to not only shield my clients from go-to defense tactics, but also to proactively dismantle the other side’s defenses and position my cases for maximum recovery.
My decision to start my own firm versus going to an-already established firm was based on the fact that I believed I had enough trial experience to feel confident in representing individuals on my own. I had a lot of ideas on the right (and wrong) ways of doing things, and I was feeling frustrated working under people who second-guessed, overruled and/or took credit for my decisions and strategies. I was ready to prove myself not only to the world but to myself as well. At the age of 33, I felt that I had enough time and freedom to fail if I was going to fail. I wasn’t afraid of failing. I took a leap of faith in the plaintiff’s bar that there would be a support system in place, and I am so lucky that I was right. I would not have made it without the support of others in GTLA who were so willing to share ideas and work product. The community of GTLA is the only way my firm has survived and thrived over the past 2 1/2 years.
J. Tyler Schermerhorn
The Schermerhorn Firm, LLC
Operating my own firm allows me to select the cases and
causes that most interest me. This invariably lends itself
to a workload that is never dull.
After honing my skills under the guidance of some of the most respected lawyers in the state, starting my own firm was the next logical next step in my career trajectory. I wanted the same responsibility to successfully navigate a case from beginning to end on behalf of my clients as those who taught me. As they say, “iron sharpens iron”, and while the road to victory is often daunting, there is no better feeling professionally than being responsible for executing a strategy that ends in full compensation for my client.
Operating my own firm allows me to select the cases and causes that most interest me. This invariably lends itself to a workload that is never dull. I have found the relationships with my clients to be richer because I am personally vested in their case, which was hand selected by me. As has been repeated to me by several of my colleagues who advised me prior to making the jump, starting my own firm has proven to be the best career choice I ever made, I only wish I did it sooner!
If you are interested in starting a firm, we would encourage all of you to reach out to these attorneys and other GTLA members for more of their advice and encouragement. We all recognize the importance of mentoring in our profession, and most importantly, a commitment to civil justice for our clients. ●
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Patrick is the owner and founder of Kevin Patrick Law, LLC. He spent the early portion of his legal career representing insurance companies and large corporations with an emphasis in daycare negligence, but his true calling has always rested with helping individual people and families. As the father of a young children, Kevin now devotes a significant portion of his practice to advocating on behalf of abused, injured, and neglected children. Kevin’s firm also handles wrongful death, motor vehicle and trucking collisions, as well select premises liability cases. Kevin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 566-8964.