So, I’ve been struggling about whether or not I should continue to write this blog. My last post – at least two or three weeks ago – was a question of anonymity and how I would feel if my identity were tied to this blog. Given that I practice in a field where confidentiality is of utmost importance, it’s been a hard decision. I can’t – and will not – provide details of anything in particular I’m working on for any client, but using broad brush strokes, I feel I can tell my story without risk of divulging details that could, well, get me disbarred.
Which would suck.
So, I started my new gig 3 weeks ago today. I can’t believe it’s been that long. It’s been only 2 months, 1 day and about 6 hours since my old boss sat me down and informed me that “the Board” had decided “to go another route with the General Counsel position.” (I use quotes because I don’t remember exactly what was said – I was in that sort of what-the-fuck-is-happening-right-now situation – but that’s pretty close.) Let’s just say it’s been quite the whirlwind.
First, I’m getting a hang of the billing system and the document management system, and have figured out how to find templates of what I need. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like, but as I poke around searching the system, I’m more easily finding what I need.
Second, I finished the first draft my first memorandum in support of a dispositive motion in 16 years, which required good ol’ roll up the sleeves sort of case law research and analysis the likes of which I hadn’t done in a while. I remember the last time – one of the only times – I had to do it in my in-house job and had the same sort of “aha, I enjoy this” feelings when I figured this one out.
Part and parcel of drafting this memorandum was remembering how to properly cite and quote case law, the record and exhibits. Something that really was second nature so long ago that my son, who will be in high school in August, wasn’t even born yet, took a few hints and memory jogs to get started, but I figured it out (and remembered it) fairly quickly. Funny how accomplishing again many years later what once was so simple can give you a certain silly sort of giddy excitement when you realize you can do it again.
Third, I remembered how much I enjoyed crafting a good legal argument. The research, the analysis, finding the right words, the right phrases, anticipating how the other side will argue against my position – it’s as much fun as I remember. I don’t know if I lot of other lawyers feel this way – I’m sure the best litigators do – but I had forgotten the sheer excitement of the intellectual battle of litigation.
Fourth, I’ve still been doing work for my old employer/current client. It’s reassuring that there’s something out there in the legal field that I can do nearly with my eyes closed. However, being able to do just some of it and really dig into it and analyze it rather than being the only lawyer at a multi-company enterprise that cleared $200,000,000 in revenues that has to put out new fires every 30 seconds is refreshing. And, it allows me to really focus on the work and focus on perfecting it, when I was stretched so thin before that I didn’t have the resources to really nail it.
I’m still trying to figure out the best way to secure my own clients. I’ve met with and spoken with a couple of other attorneys who found themselves in very similar predicaments – long in-house stretches, followed by a “see ya” – and picked their brains on marketing oneself as a freshly out of an in-house gig lawyer back in private practice. One of these guys I had retained several times as outside counsel on some specific work when I was in-house and who I very highly respect. He asked me what I could, right now, sit down and do a 1 hour webinar or CLE on. I have some ideas on that, but it’s still sort of rolling around my head. I’d need some technical and financial support from the firm to do so, and I’m not sure who would watch it, but it is a great idea.
I was also able to contribute to an issue that has been percolating around the local bar for a few years. I was asked to take a cut at drafting some legislation, which I’ve done PLENTY of before. Unlike the rust-shaking experience of case law research and analysis, I was able to bang out not one, but two pieces of proposed legislation that were, in my own humble opinion, pretty kick ass. And I volunteered to personally lobby for them when the time comes. I even got an “atta boy” from my supervising attorney in an email to several other shareholders and associates in the firm (although I’m slightly embarrassed at having a “supervising attorney” after 20 years in practice.)
Small victories, all. But the gut knot is still there. And the trepidation of “what the hell am I doing” is still there. And the mystery of where do I fit in with the firm feeling. And looking at the younger shareholders and realizing that I’m perhaps 7 – 10 years older than they are and now they’re my bosses. And looking at the 2 – 3 year associates and realizing that in some ways, I have less experience at some things than they do.
But then I remember that I handled expertly and completely by myself the legal and compliance needs of a multi-company enterprise which had $200,000,000 in revenues (2015) with no dedicated legal assistant, no other lawyers, and two paralegals who had full time duties doing things other than being my assistant. Recent law department benchmarking studies show that companies with under $100,000,000 in revenues – half the size of my old employer – have an average of 2.3 lawyers on their in-house staff, while companies with revenues between $100,000,000 and $1 BN averaged nearly 5 in-house lawyers on staff. So, basically, I was doing the work of between 2 – 5 lawyers by myself for over a decade and a half. I can hold my head up high when I remember that.
So, after 3 weeks, I won’t say all is hunky-dory. I’m facing the prospect of working on discovery responses – again, something I haven’t done outside of the in-house atmosphere in over 16 years – but with the knowledge that, hell, it’s not like I haven’t done it before and once I do it the first time, yeah, I’ll get that one under my belt.
Small victories are better than none, right?