Annapolis, Maryland virtual office lawyer Liz Johnson Shares her story of starting her solo practice after graduating law school.
Hi everyone! I’m Liz Johnson, a solo practitioner in Annapolis, MD. I am going to be writing a blog series with Law Firm Suites called Young, Hungry and Committed. But before I do, I thought I might tell you about myself and my journey towards being a solo lawyer.
To be honest, I don’t know if “becoming” a lawyer was ever part of the initial game plan. I worked at a few different retail jobs, had enough crappy bosses, and was finally accepted to the University of Illinois. From there, all I knew was that I wanted a job I could live with.
Somewhere along the way, I found this quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” ~ Confucius. Even back then – six years ago – I knew my dream job would be working for myself.
Where It All Started
I took a few legal classes while still in undergrad, visited the College of Law, and decided that’s where I wanted to go. And for anyone reading this who thinks LSATs are the only thing that matters, or even mostly, guess what. I can memorize, and study like a fiend, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to analyzing.
Analyzing wasn’t something I could teach myself, and my LSAT scores were so bad … you will never know them because they’re locked away along with the rest of my skeletons. But my grades were stellar, and I had a reasonably well-rounded background, and the Dean of Admissions took a chance with me. So I was accepted last minute.
Anyone wondering why the heck I would choose law if I failed so miserably at analyzing in the very beginning? I suppose the best answer to that is I would always argue with people. Even before school, I got tired of people in positions of power using that title to essentially treat people badly and we could never respond.
So I essentially rebelled against what were “the rules.” Wear closed toe shoes at work? Fine. I’ll wear clown shoes. Khaki shorts? Well, you know, I really like wearing my cargo shorts. If they didn’t specify, I would bend the rules for sheer enjoyment. Supervisor’s worse nightmare, right here. But I did it good fun.
The Introverted Lawyer
Did I mention according to the Briggs Personality Test I’m almost a complete introvert?
Imagine how harrowing that was coming into a small class of 200, mostly comprised of Type A extrovert personalities. There was this one person I still keep in touch with from time to time, whom I would sit next to in almost every class that first year. He was my rock, he kept me from running out of the classroom every time the professor would ask me a question. But I bet you’re still wondering why in the hell did I go to law school then?
How I Survived Law School
The years passed, I (somehow) survived, mainly associated with a handful of people who became good friends. The years went on and I still was extremely introverted, and with that, one of my largest fears was public speaking. I got help from this from an unusual source, Dungeons and Dragons. Playing this game with my small group of friends actually helped when I went into my third year class of Advanced Trial Ad. Now I wasn’t freezing up so badly anymore. On occasion, I might even speak up in class.
Law school wasn’t easy for me – let’s face it, it’s not easy for anyone but I had extra challenges to overcome – but I had a great internship starting my 1L year. On a whim, I applied to an honors program with the Department of Justice. I was accepted and had the opportunity to work with some amazing people in the Office of Professional Responsibility. Sadly, because of the nature of the job, it wasn’t like a firm that could simply hire me on, it was always an internship. So my temporary clearance expired while I was waiting for the bar results.
While waiting for the bar results, I took more classes in an attempt to receive an Associate’s degree in Homeland Security. Figured while I waited, if returning to the government is what I wanted, then it might look good on my resume. I never went to law school with a goal of becoming a defense attorney, or prosecutor, I just wanted that J.D. so I could practice law. What law? Didn’t really think about it at the time.
Why I Decided To Go Solo
Long story short, I became a solo practitioner because I finally got mad. Mad at being ignored by all these places I kept applying to and getting nowhere. I had skills to offer. I held a position with a wonderful government agency for three years, but that doesn’t count for legal experience until passing the bar. I worked for six years before school, some of them being managerial positions. But that also didn’t seem to matter.
So now the clock is reset, and I am essentially being told, I have nothing to offer. Nothing stirs the fires of passion like being told you’re not good enough.
While working at a temporary agency, an opportunity arose. Another attorney (my national security law professor of all people) asked if I wanted to hang out my shingle in the suite next to hers, for free, until such time as I could pay for it.
It was right next to the Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse. Was I going to turn her down? HELL NO! So I gathered what money I had, made a graceful exit from the temp agency, and poured it into my newly developing firm.
And now here I am. I took a roundabout path to solo life, but I am excited and optimistic about the future. I know it won’t be the easiest, and I have a lot to learn. But now the only thing that can hold me back is myself. So my advice for everyone else who is unsure about their future in law, DON’T DO WHAT I DID! Go solo sooner versus later, you will thank yourself for it in the long run.