The 2009 Philippine Blog Awards

Sunday, February 22, 2009

PERSONAL PICK: Going Into Private Practice

Time is ticking so fast. After this week, I'll be back in the Philippines and have to get ready for the transition that will occur by the end of May 2009. Yes, I'm stepping out of Church employment and will be in private practice after that. Although I will still be doing most of the things I do now, as an outside counsel of the Church, I am a little worried because I don't know what to expect. For me this is an uncharted path and a huge step, which I am not sure I am ready to take on after being a lawyer for 10 years. But I'm sure things will be alright. There is always a unique set of advantages and disadvantages to going into private practice (having my own law firm with less than 3 associates), the same way as it is in going in-house or working at a big law firms. I have summarized below what I thought private practice means to me.

1. Private practice means operating as a “jack-of-all-trades,” offering legal services in a broad range of practice areas and thus having a whole lot of different clients. This is good coz I am really wanting some variety.

2. Private practice means doing the onerous task of tracking every minute of my time and that of my associates and paralegals in order to bill the Church as a client and possibly other clients who are not on fixed fee arrangement.

3. Private practice means frequently imposing high monthly and yearly billable hour requirements upon partners, associates and paralegals.

4. Private practice means performing substantive legal work, giving me the opportunity to improve my writing skills in drafting legal opinion and doing litigation.

5. Private practice means greater control in the direction and management of the law firm. I have to start thinking about benefits and perks for partners, associates and paralegals in an effort to tie compensation to company performance.

6. Private practice means highly varied work

7. Private practice means having a flexible work schedule. I hope I don't sleep in always..

8. Private practice means having more “Hands On” experience.

9. Private practice means having an informal, relaxed atmosphere and dress codes are less formal.

10. Private practice means fostering friendly, informal working relationships with my two partners and paralegals and secretaries.

There are, however, challenges that I have to be prepared for or if possible start thinking about countering the challenge right off the bat. In the next few days I need to evaluate in terms of the following:

1. Salaries. How much salary do I want to make monthly to pay myself for the work I do?

2. Law Firm Resources. What are the human and physical resources needed to have a law office?

3. Support Staff. What support staff should be hired and who should fill them in?

4. Office Space. Where is a good location and what amenities are needed?

5. Law firm stability and revenue. How can we ensure enough revenue monthly and what kind of clients to retain?

6. Benefits Options. How to have health care and other benefits,that I used to enjoy as an employee.

7. Social and Professional Isolation. How to ensure maintaining opportunity to socialize, network, share knowledge and seek guidance from others.

8. Prestige and Perspective. How can we be recognized eventhough we are a small law firm? How to maintain a local client base and a multi-jurisdictional presence at the same time?