Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed telling people “I quit my job.” Because it sounds really dramatic.
It sounds less exciting when they realize that I just switched to a different law firm.
As seen in the Nashville Post on Monday, I left Bone McAllester to build the new Nashville office for Harris Shelton, a 60-lawyer firm based in Memphis.
But, trust me, after nearly 13 years at Bone, where I was a partner, where I was on the firm’s Board of Directors, where everybody knew me for my work, where I had the really-big-awesome-lawyer office (decorated with a custom painting of a shirtless Rev. Al Green), where I knew where the secret stash of M&Ms were hidden…
Well, it feels really dramatic to me.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve developed a new morning routine. I tend to wake up, involuntarily, at 4:45 a.m. or so, to worry about whether it was the right choice and about all the work to be done to build something. Opening bank accounts. Picking office space. Hiring staff. Hiring lawyers. And, of course, doing the legal work for all the clients. And by “wake up, involuntarily,” I really mean “freak out” about what’s next.
And, usually, around 5:30 a.m. or so, I get up, and I get to work on it.
Early on, I confided in one of my best friends (also, a lawyer) about my new early morning routine, and he laughed and said, “Well, you only have one option now: Success.”
So, here we are. Welcome to Day 13 of my efforts to build the better law firm.
What does this look like to me? My plan isn’t to re-invent the wheel, but to incorporate all the best parts of the firms that I admire already.
I want to build a team of awesome lawyers and also awesome people. The greatest compliment that I give to other lawyers is that “I’d trust them with my life.” That means they’re smart, competent lawyers, but, also, that they care. It’s not just about billable hours or paperwork. A lawsuit might be the biggest crisis of a client’s life. I want to surround myself with attorneys who understand that and treat their responsibility to the clients accordingly. Who say to clients: “You can worry less now. Your problem is now my problem.”
I want a diverse team. Many law firms are run by old white guys, for other old white guys. This isn’t that. I want to be intentional about growth, and I, like my clients, want a team of professionals that looks like the community we serve. For years, I’ve fought against “manels” when I’ve been asked to speak at CLEs. Now that I get to build a law office, I’m guided by those same principles.
I want a community-minded team. I got a little hot last October, with my post asking lawyers “October is Pro Bono Month in Tennessee, and what have you done?” As lawyers, we have so much power to help under-privileged communities, but, too often, we get appointed to fancy-pants non-profit boards and think we’re doing pro bono. If you want a spot on my team, get ready to roll up your sleeves and work at legal clinics and expungement clinics. Make the world better.
I want a team that supports each other and holds each other accountable. This is going to be a team. If you have a trial you’re terrified about, I’ll go with you. If you have a pro bono cause that you’re passionate about, I’ll volunteer with you. I need you to do the same for me. Need help moving? Sigh. That too.
So, I probably got you with the dramatic headline, right? My departure at Bone has been as non-dramatic as you could imagine. Before I left, I wrote notes for all my fellow coworkers. Here’s the one I left to the newest associate:
It’s part career-advice, and also part recruiting pitch.
Just like this blog post.