Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Practice Law With A Full-Time Job

I ran across this blog post on FindLaw the other day that discusses tips for practicing law part-time while working a full-time day job.

It caught my eye because it's exactly what I do. By day, I am a law librarian. It's my passion and the reason I went to law school and library school. But, I am a licensed attorney, too. I find that that practicing law helps me keep my skills up and aids in my ability to help law students, attorneys, and pro se patrons with legal research and the various resources that I find helpful for particular causes of action.

The Findlaw blog's tips for part-time law practice with a day job are as follows:
1. Schedule Flexibility
2. Competency
3. Openness With Clients
4. Picking the Right Clients
5. Motivation

As for my own experience, I try not to let my jobs interfere with each other at all. This is out of respect for my employer. This is one of the reasons that I mainly do estate planning because I do not have to attend court during the normal hours of 9-5 (just as the author noted). If I do take on a case where I have to attend court, I use one of my personal leave days and set a schedule with the court that works with my library schedule. Courts are willing to work with attorneys for scheduling purposes to an extent.

Competency is a major one, which is why I try to choose practice areas where I have had some formal training. Like I mentioned before, I stick mainly to estate planning for its flexibility, but also because I was in an estate planning clinic in law school where I had actual clients. I also do family law because I worked at a state agency while in law school that oversees family courts in Michigan, so I am very familiar with the area. This doesn't mean I won't step out of my comfort zone, as I have represented clients in DUI matters. But I had to do a lot of research in the area. And I couldn't be afraid to use the court as a resource, as well as some of my other attorney friends.

All of my clients are well aware of my day job as a law librarian, and each client has been very flexible. This goes hand-in-hand with picking the right clients. I perform nearly all of my legal work pro bono, so my clients are more willing to work with my schedule.

My main motivation for practicing law is to keep my skills up, so I can teach law students effectively. As I stated earlier, practicing helps with librarianship, too. I'm not in it to get rich, but it does feel nice to use my degree and license that I sacrificed heavily for (and still pay for).

There you have it. Here are a couple of examples of people with full-time day jobs successfully practicing law part-time. It can be done.

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