May/June 2002

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Editor’s Page

What Have You Got to Lose?

It’s all a bit of a gamble, isn’t it? Getting up in the morning. (It just might be a bad day.) Rushing to complete case filings. (You could trip.) Answering the telephone. (Is it the IRS?) Standing up to make a speech. (What if you forget the punch line?)

Some think it’s only safe to keep your head down and stay in your office. But what’s that old saying? "A ship is safe in port, but that’s not what ships are built for."

By avoiding opportunities for failure, you risk actually missing your life. No matter what you do, there’s risk involved. So why not take a leap and do exactly what you want to do, knowing that you at least take those chances on behalf of something that you love? You might win! That’s this issue of Law Practice Management in a nutshell.

Lawyers all across North America are gambling that they can change their careers—and their lives—for the better. They are striking out to start new practices on their own terms. Some make the tough choice when they spy the ashen face of age winking ominously around the next corner. Others get smart sooner and chuck it all for their personal version of the good life before they become too entrenched in big firm ways. Still others learn the choice has been made for them, as their firm’s leaders politely "invite" them to try something new. Somewhere else. (And don’t let the door hit you in the backside on your way out.)

For this issue, we’ve rounded up some people who took the big risk and, in some cases, succeeded. In other instances, a bad experience became the mother of invention. Because if at first you don’t succeed … well, you know the rest. Chris Hurley left Baker & MacKenzie, learning enough lessons along the way to share his notes with you. The perils of opening a branch office are explored by Oregon solo Bill Gibson. And you can take the really bumpy ride with Philadelphia solo Dan Evans, as he makes two drastic life changes and, ultimately, lands soundly on his feet. You’ll also hear from Ernie Schaal, who last year reported his leap from patent counsel for Chevron into solo practice. I’ll let him tell you the rest of the story. (Here’s a hint: He’s writing from Japan!) Along the way, you’ll find a cache of wonderful ideas and resources for starting your own practice: A checklist to set up your new office technology for just $5,000. Marketing tips. Contact information for local practice management advisors. Ways to spot the client from hell. And even a list of other options to consider if one-person practice isn’t for you.

In fact, there’s enough in this issue to justify tossing it into your desk drawer for keeps. Go ahead—it might come in handy one day when you decide to take the big leap. What have you got to lose?

Merrilyn Astin Tarlton,