When the "Fu*k you!" Fu*ks You
I hung out my own shingle over 20 years ago. I had been practising law for about 5 years.
When I did my bar training course they said that it takes lawyers five years to really get an understanding of their job and to get proficient. It took me 10 years.
I went out on my own because I knew I could not do much worse financially than the firm I was working for at the time. A lawyer senior, I will call him Misleading Marvin, enticed me away from a very traditional, old boy, nice firm.
Misleading Marvin mislead me by stating that if I came and worked for him and his firm I would earn great money. They had lots of work, and they paid very well. The promises seemed too good to be true. And ultimately I was right about that. In a huge way. I did not, however, regret that move.
As an articled student and young lawyer, my principal, mentor, and managing partner was not exactly gentle when I made a mistake. And, of course, I made mistakes. If I made a mistake, he would not hesitate to walk into my office and shout, “What the FUCK were you thinking?!”
Because I had a loud and very gregarious Mom, she yelled at us all the time. It was never really scary though. It was more that she had a loud voice and constantly was loud to get our attention, tell stories, and remind us of things. “Valorie!” she would shout, get that jacket on, it’s cold outside. “Valorie!” Shut the door! What do you think you are doing, heating the whole of Hammond (our small town)?!” “Valorie! Do NOT go outside in your stocking feet!”
My Mom never swore though. Neither did my Dad. And they CERTAINLY never swore AT us kids.
So, at my first law job, where being sworn at while being yelled at was simply part of the culture and the way it was, I had a bit of a hard time. After four and a half years and almost falling apart, I moved on to a different firm.
I moved on to a firm I would describe as a very nice old boy firm. All the partners were men. They were very traditional and very nice. They were also not very interested in mentoring a junior lawyer who did not know what the heck she was doing. I was languishing. I was not growing or building a practice and because I was not on a salary and was only paid based upon my collected billings, I was struggling. I had no idea how to build a practice. I had no idea where to turn to do that or learn that.
So, when Misleading Marvin approached me to come work with him, I did not hesitate to jump ship. The sun, the moon, and the stars that Misleading Marvin promised never materialized. In fact, I was making very little money indeed, not enough to pay my regular household bills.
So, I thought to myself “Fuck YOU! Misleading Marvin!” I am going out on my own.
So, going out on my own I did.
I had this really great business model. It was the FUCK YOU business plan. The FUCK YOU business plan was simple. My law office was NOT going to be the same as the old boy firms I had worked for. FUCK YOU to Misleading Marvin and the previous firms I worked for. Hah! I thought I was genius.
In terms of planning and executing my law office’s business structure my planning ended there, that is with the FUCK YOU.
It did not take long for me to realize that my FUCK YOU business plan had a few problems.
I had no idea how to run a business. I did not even appreciate that a law practice IS a business.
First of all, my FUCK YOU business plan had no rational thought that went into it. Secondly, I quickly learned that there is a lot more to running a law office than getting business cards printed and a great sign. I could no longer just show up and do legal work. Suddenly, I had a lot more on my plate.
Now I had to figure out a way to attract clients. I had to buy computers and software, and programs to run on them. I had to open up a trust account and learn trust accounting rules. I had to arrange for the payment of my business and personal taxes. I had staff to pay, rent to pay.
So, the struggle began. It has been all-consuming at times. It was not long before I realized that I was FUCKED.
The struggle continued for a long time. I got up went to work. I worked my hardest. I juggled my finances and increased the mortgage on my home to make it all work.
Then I really screwed up and made the bad real estate decision you have heard me talk about.
Years into my owning my own office I finally hired my first business coach. It was life and law practice-changing. I then read a ton of books about business, marketing, and finance for small businesses. I applied all of that to my law firm, now called Pathway Legal.
The point is this. Saying FUCK YOU to the Misleading Marvins of this world felt great in the moment, but it was not a business plan. It was no way to structure a law office. It was no way to prepare for an abundant financial future for me and my family.
I had no idea what I was getting into over 20 years ago.
Knowing what I know now, would I have still said FUCK YOU to Misleading Marvin? Absolutely.
I would, however, have had the foundation of my business planned and structured before doing so.
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