The Myth of the Law Firm Safety Net: Starting Your Own Practice

Why Your Law Firm Job May be Comforting, but Not Comfortable

You did everything right. You attended your OCIs during law school, hearing again and again that going to work for that big law firm was the best, if not the only, option. You worked the summer internships, and were lured in with promises of a lucrative salary and partnership track.

Once hired on full time, you performed legions of busy work and that’s what was to be expected. With any luck and finger-crossing, you were actually assigned to work in the area of law that you wanted. After clawing your way up, you were finally on track to make partner. Fast forward 7-10 years of working a frenzied number of hours, and now you’ve got the title.

The “traditional” career path may work for some, but for many attorneys, they’re left wondering if what worked for them when they were fresh out of law school works for them now. Families, values, life… these things have a way of shifting priorities for everyone.

So why do attorneys stay put when a different path is calling? We’ve asked this question of hundreds of attorneys and the answer is usually some variation of being afraid to leave the safety of their firm. Inside those walls, they feel safe. Their job is safe, their salary is safe, their reputation is safe. It’s all very comforting, yet so uncomfortable. Here’s why.


The reality doesn’t match the dream

For many, practicing at an established law firm isn’t the glossy, glamorized career they had envisioned. Instead, attorneys find themselves spending too much time at the office and altogether losing any semblance of a work-life balance.

One looming issue is that the billable hour requirements most law firms practice incentivize the work ethics that run counter to the needs of growing companies. Attorneys are groomed to bill many hours vs. efficient, technology-backed solutions, and these ideas often compete with one another.

These misaligned economic incentives mean that those who “succeed” often find it increasingly difficult to have authentic relationships with clients while sacrificing a life outside of work. It also means that your success becomes tied to your time, instead of your actual value and skill, which only diminishes a client-centric practice.

The reality (brace yourself) is that this is not the only way to run a legal practice. We know you’ve been taught to mitigate risk in ALL things. Rest assured that ditching the billable hour isn’t as risky as it may appear. It is possible to work with clients based on your value and their needs, improve the attorney-client relationship, and bring a sense of pride back to your practice. More to come on this.


Lack of control over your own practice

Another problem is the lack of control offered to most attorneys. Your time spent, types of cases, and types of clients are all typically chosen for you. Compounding upon this issue is the large amount of overhead that’s paid out of pocket and causes client acquisition misalignment.

The vigor and intelligence required to become a successful lawyer is simply not reflected in the amount of control shared. Considering the stamina required to be a successful attorney, you deserve the empowerment to make personalized, preferential choices. You shouldn’t have to battle to be in the driver’s seat of your own career, or able to make your own decisions based on the best fit for your interests, education, and preferred lifestyle.


The mythical safety net

Despite these challenging attributes of the traditional law firm of which we’re all well aware, the reality is that most attorneys will stay put. The lure of “job security” is the main factor in the myth of the law firm safety net that keeps so many unhappy lawyers in their place. And unless you’ve been able to originate your own practice within the firm, you risk losing the clients you’ve connected with and love should you decide to leave.

The truth is that job security isn’t certain, and the “safety net” is more like a net trap, ensnaring unfulfilled attorneys to a life full of work, but not much else. Big firm life just isn’t for everyone. However, you can do it another way, and you can control your own destiny.


Introducing Auxana

Venturing out to a solo practice isn’t without its own set of complexities, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Auxana was created by an attorney who knew there had to be a better model for attorneys who wanted their own practice, and companies that are just as disenchanted by the traditional law firm model.

You can see Auxana as a legal-practice-in-a-box for attorneys who want to run their own businesses, but feel apprehensive about leaving the imagined “safety net” of a traditional firm. We provide the business resources that your practice needs, while providing an opportunity for actual work-life balance. Auxana’s innovative platform connects members with potential clients who need predictable monthly legal services and the strategic benefits of an in-house attorney earlier in the company’s life cycle. This is the outsourced General Counsel model piloted by partner firm, Nimbus Legal.  

Complete with vetted tools, marketing and advertising campaigns, access to potential leads, peer collaboration, support, education and resources, and a predictable revenue model via flat-fee monthly billing, Auxana provides much of what’s needed in order to kick-start your own practice as an outsourced General Counsel.

While Auxana nearly provides it all, you’ll still need to tackle certain aspects on your own, such as entity formation and gaining malpractice insurance. That being said, Auxana offers coaching and support that can help guide you through even these tasks together. Even though you’re flying solo, you’re never alone.

It’s time to reevaluate whether the “safety net” is truly supporting your career, or holding you down. If the hours spent tied to your desk have left you wishing for more, Auxana can help you free yourself to a more client-centric career, leading to not only a more balanced life, but also a  regained sense of pride in your role and the industry you chose.