May 09, 2012 Articles

How I Decided to Open My Practice

By Sandra Johnston

When making the decision about whether to open a practice, some lawyers come to the decision honestly, with a sincere desire and motivation to work for themselves. They perceive a higher calling, a desire to do great things all on their own, and want to be a trailblazer. I had no such illusions. I was never even interested in being a practicing lawyer when I started law school. At the time I began my law journey, I saw it as more of a box to check off on my already successful career as a Washington, D.C., policy analyst. However, during law school, while working for the public defender's office, I was bitten by the trial bug. Trial work was everything I had wanted in a job. It gave me the satisfaction of really helping people who desperately needed me, with the intense rush of trial work. I was hooked.

Notwithstanding my having figured out that I loved trial work, the next step eluded me. It was the summer of 1997, a time in my life when money was scarce and jobs were even more so. I had stopped working after finishing law school so that I could study full time for the bar exam. At the end of a grueling few months of study, and bags and bags of M&Ms, I found myself holding my breath. No one ever expects to fail the bar exam. No one ever expects to pass it either. I was just sitting there waiting and feeling like a fraud, like I was moments from being revealed as a pretender. How did I ever finish law school? Was this my life?

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