by Sheila Blackford ©2009 Happy New Year. It’s a Blue Moon today. This is the second full moon December 2nd. The last Blue Moon was May 2007; the last Blue Moon on New Year’s was 19 years ago. The next will be New Year’s 2029. So consider this an auspicious start to a new year and a new decade. Personally it’s my 17th wedding anniversary. May we all be successful, healthy, and happy.
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 When I was in my last year of McGeorge Law School in Sacramento, California, I decided to start my own law practice. Along with my law books, I toted Jay Foonberg’s “How to Start & Build a Law Practice,” getting myself ready to run my own show. Jay was my mentor. Then I moved to Oregon. Took and passed the bar and opened up my solo practice in Portland, Oregon. Luckily, I rented office space from a great group of attorneys who owned their building and were willing to rent out the small office at the top of the stairs. Thanks, Bob Demary, Mike Sandoval, Susan Teller, and Carol Westendorf! You each supplied a bit of mentoring on the fly and devoted time to just talk about how it was going or wasn’t going. Shortly after moving into my office, I joined the Multnomah Bar Association. Through the MBA’s formal mentor-mentee program, I got my mentor choice in elder law, Cynthia Barrett who let me come into her elder law office and see how to best handle everything from client intake to document signing. I remember Susan and Carol both encouraged me to keep a journal of my first year – that it was an important one. I was too busy to keep a journal, but I kept good memories. That first year went fast. Though I was a solo, I wasn’t alone.
Last night I got to do my second of two mini-classes for the Lewis & Clark School of Law Graduate Fellows Program for the 2009 graduates. Wonderful young attorneys eager to start their careers. Eager to learn last week about calendaring, docketing, and file tickling and last night, avoiding conflicts of interests and ethical pitfalls. The first year is a foundational year. Many of the faces were young and I expect they will still be practicing law in 30 and 40 years. In 30 to 40 years, I’ll be looking among their midsts for a good elder law attorney no doubt!
Next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the PLF does its annual “Learning the Ropes” program for newly admitted attorneys and others entering private practice. There will be young lawyers who hail from Lewis & Clark, Willamette, and University of Oregon, and likely others like me who came from law schools elsewhere. What is their first year as a lawyer going to be like? Many of them will be wondering that same question. I don’t know how many of them have landed jobs already.
I suspect this year will be lean for law jobs. It may not be an exaggeration that the majority of newly admitted Oregon lawyers likely have not yet landed jobs. Some may decide to hang their own shingle as a solo or gather together a few fellow law school graduates to start their own firm. How are they going to get mentored?
I put out a call to each of you to remember your first year as a lawyer. If you’re an alumni of one our law schools, Lewis & Clark, U of O, or Willamette, give your alumni office a call and reach out to a recent grad. If you come across a new lawyer, offer to get together for a cup of coffee to find out how it’s going or not going. A year goes fast.
by Sheila Blackford ©2009 Law Practice Management. Not a course covered in law school. Although, I must plug Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College for their program for 2009 grads: Lewis & Clark Law School Graduate Fellows Program. It’s a two-hour session that has been running about three nights a week for six weeks and broadcast on a webinar for graduates out-of-the Portland area. I covering “Calendaring, Docketing and File Tickler Systems” on Monday October 19th and “Avoiding Conflicts and Ethical Pitfalls” on Tuwesday October 27th. Topics are on a variety of law practice management issues.
Law practice management is especially difficult for the solo and small firm attorneys finding themselves needing to wear different hats requiring different skills –finance, management, marketing, and technology. Can one person be both entrepreneur and financial officer, addressing big picture and small detail? Unique to Oregon, lawyers in private practice must be members of the Oregon State Bar and carry professional malpractice insurance from the OSB Professional Liability Fund. The PLF provides free access to practice aids and forms and three practice management advisors. As a lawyer and practice management advisor, I work for Oregon attorneys throughout the beautiful state of Oregon. There are 13,500 Oregon attorneys and there are 7,000 attorneys in private practice. The services of the PLF practice management advisors are free and confidential. As a supplement to that fine program, I hope this blog can be a resource to the lawyer in Oregon.