I have been a lawyer since 1967. Ironically, though, during the first three years after graduating law school, I did not practice law. I worked in the business sector. In fact, my original plan after graduating law school was not to practice law. Nonetheless, I applied what I learned in law school to help the corporate members manage their business.
After three years in the business world, I realized I might be more useful and more effective if I took my legal background and apply it to my chosen field. So in 1970, I was admitted to the bar association. I lived in Pennsylvania at the time and thus was licensed to practice there.
Early Practice in the Corporate World
While in Pennsylvania, I gave advice in a general practice, therefore working with many different kinds of clients. My first job as a lawyer was for a corporation in Philadelphia where I was their house counsel. In that particular situation, I practiced in two different capacities for the firm. In one role, I practiced as for a division of the firm or 2 or 3 other divisions, answering general legal questions. In other words, I would get these "general legal" questions from managers in those divisions of the company which were "my assigned" areas and special area questions from any other division of the company. For example, Mr. Smith (all names are fabricated to protect confidentiality) of the NY Regional franchise department - not one of my regular areas – would call me about a discrimination issue. Likewise, I could also get call from the Philly franchise department, one of my regular assigned areas, about a general contract question.
Also, I practiced as a specialist for the whole company. My specialties related to “equal employment” which involves employment law at the state and federal level, administrative matters, contracts, employment law, along with administrative law—sales and use taxes and so forth. Any given day, I might get a phone call from a general lawyer who needed to know how to settle a matter in our business. Other times, I might hear from an administrator from a totally different division, with which I’ve never been involved, who tells me “We have a person who lost their job and is claiming discrimination.”
That was how I developed my practice. I worked in this capacity for a number of years. Then one day, I got a job with a law office in New York. There I continued with my specialties which included employment law, labor law, and equal employment and affirmative action issues on the management side. While in New York, I represented companies who were dealing with federal regulations of that sort. I would help these very large companies to comply with federal employment standards, hour and wage division, and similar matters.
The Search for Work/Life Balance
After a number of years, I got kind of tired of the way big-firm practice operates. I would get involved in dealing with people in a very long term project with a number of other lawyers. Years with the same case can go by sometimes. It never seems to end. I would just do what I had to do and have to come right back to it again. It’s not a glamour trip; that’s for sure.
Plus, I would work constantly. For example, during my last year, I remember I had only one day off. That day they called me and said you have to come back in. Right then, I decided that something had to give.
Coincidentally, at that time, I was involved in a long distance courtship with a woman who later became my wife. I called her on the phone one day and said “I’m giving all this up. And we ought to get married.” We made an arrangement to get married, and then I left New York. I returned to Bucks County, Pennsylvania where I’m from. From there, I reestablished myself as a general practitioner.
Current Areas of Practice
To this day, the largest bulk of my practice is, in fact, family law, custody support, divorce—all the matters that people who get married or people who have children between them get involved with. Those issues make up most of my practice. I also write wills and trusts, and occasionally I work with defendants in minor criminal matters like retail theft, DUI, maybe an assault but nothing major. That’s for specialists.
Awareness of One’s Own Limits
In that regard, I have a couple of colleagues who I have the utmost confidence in. I routinely refer the personal big cases to them. I no longer deal with worker’s compensation or unemployment issues, and I don’t take on cases related to personal injury.
As a matter of fact, I believe that if you don’t practice in any given area all the time, it’s something you shouldn’t do at all because it’s a fulltime occupation. And that philosophy especially pertains to another area in which I don’t practice at all which is immigration. It can be a frustrating kind of business particularly in these times for lawyers because the government has all the power. In reality, there’s often not a happy outcome with immigration work, and so I tend to avoid it for that reason.
That’s pretty much how I got to where I am and what I do. It’s not bad for a person who’s a solo practitioner now. I haven’t always been solo but I really enjoy it. There are people who are concerned that when they get a solo practitioner, maybe there won’t be enough staff to handle a challenging matter. I have a specific way of vetting cases. If I don’t think I have time to do it, or it’s not one that a solo lawyer should do, I will turn the case away and refer it to somebody else who I know is in the position to handle it.