I was admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina on November 18, 1992. Just as watching my children age so rapidly before my eyes amazes me, the realization that I have practiced law for almost 20 years is hard to believe. When I first opened my own practice in 1994 I dreaded being asked how long I had practiced law; who in their right mind would hire someone only two years out of law school to handle an important case? Fortunately, the answer was enough for my practice to survive and eventually thrive.
During my 20 years, I have learned much. My experience has taught me that most of the time the truth is somewhere in the middle and so is a fair outcome. But, litigation, like much of life, can be unfair. In the employment area, the law is stacked against employees, who can be whipped into submission with threats of pay forfeiture, at-will terminations, and non-competes. People who suffer injury at the hands of others must wait years for a chance at justice and in the meantime must battle insurance companies and large corporations for their fair share. The system is too expensive for many people to get help.
However, my experience gives me some hope. Juries are not perfect, but they get it right enough to provide leverage for middle class litigants to negotiate on a more equal footing with big business. Most judges want to do the right thing (even if time did not permit him/her to read my brief before the hearing). Most people only want what is fair and are not looking to enrich themselves (and it is a good thing because despite what chamber of commerce pawns say, windfall jury awards are rare.) Most lawyers are honest and hardworking people. So, there is reason for optimism for those who must turn to our court system.
But, never to be complacent, my staff and I are tweaking some of our practices to be even more responsive to our clients, to use technology to improve communication and efficiency, to continue educating ourselves about developments in the law, and to use the internet to educate employees, consumers and breadwinners about their legal rights. Although I have gotten a late start on my resolution of blogging more regularly, this post is my start.
The challenge and potential of a solo practitioner has made toughened me up and calmed me down; the stakes are always high for me and my clients so maintaining an even keel is critical to success as well as sanity. I am committed to making my 20th year my best, although I am fairly certain I do not have another 20 years as a litigator ahead of me. However, at present, I am at the top of my game and ready to use my hard earned experience for the benefit of my clients.
Take stock, take control and take time to enjoy it whenever you can. Happy New Year!