When I was young, becoming a lawyer has always been one of my dreams. I imagined my self dressed in suit or barong tagalog and carrying my briefcase and being followed by my client to court. As early as highschool, I was already coming up with designs on how my law office should look much like those in my favorite television series: “The Practice”. I wanted an elegant office where I could entertain my clients and give them legal advice and where I could work on my pleadings and other papers. I wanted prestige, fame, and money. Perhaps I share the same dream with most lawyers but the reality of private practice soon made us realize that law practice as portrayed by the media is far from the truth.
I was lucky enough to have been given an office space at my former work place since I also acted as the legal counsel there. I did not have to go through the hard process of scouting for a good office and making the necessary physical improvements. It was only five years ago that I had to painstakingly scour the City and nearby areas for the perfect location and physical set up for my law office. After five years of law practice, I guess I was still looking for that dream law office. I found one with a good location. In the middle of the city with a nice view and very accessible. I struggled to pay the rent until another lawyer joined me and shared the rent. But I was not a full time practitioner and the money I make as a private practitioner is not enough to pay my share. I had no other option but to let go of my office.
I think beginning practitioners should be wary about putting up a big law office and hope that clients will just pour in. There are several options. Sharing an office is a very good one especially if you have the same wave length with the the lawyer you are sharing office with. The rent is cheaper of course, but the privacy between you and your client should also be a primary consideration. The conversations between lawyer and client should at all times be kept confidential even with the lawyer you are sharing office with. This might be the downside of sharing an office. Becoming an associate of an established law practitioner or office is another option. But a senior lawyer who I happened to have a conversation with a few months after I passed the bar warned me on joining a law firm and said: “You might just be “enslaved” by the senior partner into doing all the dirty work and receiving a meager pay”. I have not verified whether this is true but it might just be his point of view or it might just be a joke which I took seriously. Joining a law firm can mold a young lawyer where their seniors can impart wisdom upon a junior practitioner eager to learn the necessary tricks of the profession. Working from home might just be the best option for a lawyer fortunate enough to have a spacious residence.
Passing the bar is not of course a guarantee that the newly minted lawyer knows all the things necessary for him navigate through the maze of law practice. He needs to seek the advice of those who have been in the profession earlier than him. When I started, I did all the dirty work from the research, preparation of the pleadings, filing, furnishing the opposing counsel, and others. When it comes to doubts on what action to take, fellow practitioners become consultants offering their experience and opinion. But the most important thing I learned in starting law practice is to take small and “easy” cases first and reserve the more complicated ones later until you have gained enough experience and courage to take on the bigger cases. But above all, law practice is not dependent upon the size of an office or whether you have an office or not, but it is upon the lawyers zeal to pursue his client’s cause and make sure that justice is done.