Within the last week I have spoken to over 1000 people in two different seminars about how to start a law practice. One was a webinar for the Florida Bar, and the other was a live class held at the University of Miami.
One reason I am frequently asked to speak on this topic is that I did start my own personal injury law firm in Miami 23 years ago–a mere block or two from the Starbucks on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, where I am writing this blog at 6:30 AM on a cool Saturday morning in March. I am so passionate about the subject of owning a law firm that I have written a book that shares my experience, in the hope of helping others who face an uncertain and ever-changing legal market for legal employment. That book is called Make It Your Own Law Firm.
Since I wrote the first edition of Make it Your Own, my thoughts and feelings about owning a law firm as a personal injury lawyer–who helps people who have been hurt on a Carnival cruise ship, suffered a heart attack or stroke after taking testosterone therapy drugs, or who need a lawyer because they got into a car accident–have changed dramatically. In fact, those thoughts have changed more in the last couple of years than during the first twenty years of my practice.
LESSON ONE: BEING THE BEST LAWYER DOES NOT EQUAL MAKING MONEY
Perhaps the most painful lesson I have learned since my book was first published is that owning a Florida personal injury firm is a business; requiring a set of talents, strategies, and discipline significantly distinct from those required to be a great personal injury lawyer. In fact, most of the time, those skills conflict with each other; for instance, what might be best in a given case for someone hurt on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship may not be in the best interest of a law firm’s bottom line.
LESSON TWO: IT TAKES A VILLAGE
The second lesson I have learned is that a law firm is only as good as the talent, passion, and dedication of its support staff; regardless of how talented, passionate, and dedicated the law firm’s owner is. In other words, the competence of the behind-the-scenes crew of associates, receptionist, secretaries, paralegals, file clerks and bookkeepers is as important as the competence of the lawyer whose name is on the letterhead or building directory–if not more so.
For instance, consider the words you are now reading. Yes, I wrote them, but without the talents of my editor, Bruce Musgrave, or our webmaster, Lucas B. Sommer, they would make less sense and most likely never be found. So if you have read this far, I thank both of them for having gotten us all to this point.
LESSON THREE: I, ME, MINE
Third lesson: I have been trying to come to understand how to separate my business’s identity–the Miami personal injury law firm, Aronfeld Trial Lawyers–from my identity as a person named Spencer Aronfeld. I would like to separate my personal happiness and well wellbeing, as well as my family’s happiness and well wellbeing, from that of the law firm I own, but I don’t know how. My law firm and I are integrally connected, being that I have spent what feels like virtually every waking moment of my life either working at the firm and for its clients or thinking about them since the firm’s inception in 1991.
Perhaps it would be easier if I owned a Subway franchise or worked at Publix, where there are rules and protocols as to how everything is organized and there are policies in place ranging from the store’s operating hours to employees’ vacation time. Instead, my law firm feels to me like not just a painting, but a mural that will require my lifetime or more to complete. At this point, I feel like the medieval stone mason who spends his life hand-carving stones to build a church he will never live to see through to its completion; on that day it will stand in some forgotten village that no ever visits, much less knows who lived and died to build that church.
Yet, should this sound like I am complaining, let me point out that I began this post yesterday at that Starbucks on Saturday, and I am completing it today, Sunday. I love my job, I love being a lawyer, and I love helping people. I believe truly it is my calling.
Do I love owning my own law firm? I do in the sense that an actor may love and yet hate the theater. Without it, I might not have a stage or an audience. Could I find a supporting role in another production? Perhaps, perhaps not. Would I like their script, their wardrobe, or their lighting? Most likely not. At least with my own firm, I can change all those things sometimes, whether I like owning the firm or not. And as to the the departure of my long-trusted, admired, and loved protégé, Domenick Lazzara, whom I wish the very best in his new position, he will always have a part in my show.
FREE CONSULTATION FOR PERSONAL INJURY CASES
For over 20 years, I have been committed to helping the injured hold corporations accountable when and if they put their profit ahead of people. We are currently investigating claims on behalf of men who have been damaged by low testosterone medications after believing they had Low T.
We proudly provide free initial no-fee/no-cost consultations via SKYPE, email, or Toll-Free at 1-866-597-4529. Call us today.