Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

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Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:11 pm

I am interested in working for startups (read: they are just formed without capital or just raised capital) but they do not have any attorneys.

Can a newly licensed attorney (just passed the bar) legally work inhouse for that type of startups without any supervisors (e.g. a senior attorney) in CA?

dixiecupdrinking

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:22 pm

I have no idea why it wouldn't be "legal," but it may very well result in malpractice. You have an ethical duty not to represent clients in matters that you're not capable of handling competently. (in general, I have no idea about California specifically).

Let's put it this way: if you're not capable of figuring out the answer to this question, you probably shouldn't be an organization's only lawyer.

lnsl123

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby lnsl123 » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:59 pm

Not speaking to the legality of the issue but I doubt a startup would take you over an associate from Gunderson, Cooley, Fenwick, Goodwin, etc. who is looking to start in-house. You would be the de facto General Counsel but with no experience practicing.

h2go

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby h2go » Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:26 pm

Newly formed companies don't have enough legal work to require hiring in-house counsel. You'll also have no idea what you are doing for the general corporate work they do need.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Pleasye » Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:34 pm

You don't have to be supervised, you just have to be able to competently represent your client.* I know someone who works with start ups since we graduated and you end up being a lawyer/therapist/business partner because (true) start ups aren't very organized and everyone kind of has to help with everything. There also isn't very much money in it. He loves it.

*this isn't legal advice.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby B90 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 3:07 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am interested in working for startups (read: they are just formed without capital or just raised capital) but they do not have any attorneys.

Can a newly licensed attorney (just passed the bar) legally work inhouse for that type of startups without any supervisors (e.g. a senior attorney) in CA?

Just to clarify, are you actually licensed, meaning have you been sworn in?
You are not a licensed attorney until you have been sworn in. You mentioned that you "just passed the bar" In most states, there is a 2-4 month gap between passing the bar and being sworn in.
Did you take the February 2017 exam? I don't know about CA, but in MA the swearing in ceremonies for Feb. Bar Exam passers are in June, so that is the earliest you can officially "practice law."
I'm not trying to be a jerk about it, but a lot / most recent LS grads don't realize that even if you take the first exam offered after graduation (July) you can't actually practice until November.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby MKC » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:37 am

B90 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am interested in working for startups (read: they are just formed without capital or just raised capital) but they do not have any attorneys.

Can a newly licensed attorney (just passed the bar) legally work inhouse for that type of startups without any supervisors (e.g. a senior attorney) in CA?

Just to clarify, are you actually licensed, meaning have you been sworn in?
You are not a licensed attorney until you have been sworn in. You mentioned that you "just passed the bar" In most states, there is a 2-4 month gap between passing the bar and being sworn in.
Did you take the February 2017 exam? I don't know about CA, but in MA the swearing in ceremonies for Feb. Bar Exam passers are in June, so that is the earliest you can officially "practice law."
I'm not trying to be a jerk about it, but a lot / most recent LS grads don't realize that even if you take the first exam offered after graduation (July) you can't actually practice until November.


In my state anyone with a notary stamp can swear you in.
Last edited by MKC on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby andythefir » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:45 am

There are 2 ways attorneys can learn how to do anything useful. 1 get training, 2 make mistakes that ruin cases. Rural DAs learn the 2nd way, but they ruin cases relating to traffic tickets in mag court. An in house company would be objectively dumb to let you wreck deals for them to figure out what you're doing.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby dailygrind » Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:52 am

andythefir wrote:There are 2 ways attorneys can learn how to do anything useful. 1 get training, 2 make mistakes that ruin cases. Rural DAs learn the 2nd way, but they ruin cases relating to traffic tickets in mag court. An in house company would be objectively dumb to let you wreck deals for them to figure out what you're doing.


Eh, you can also do a ton of reading and figure most shit out, then farm out specialist stuff to outside counsel when you're in over your head. It's risky as shit though, and definitely seems unpleasant.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Mickfromgm » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:09 am

I can't speak specifically to CA, but in all other states that I am aware of, you can start practicing without supervision as soon as you are sworn in. Countless law grads do that as a solo.

So, I am a corporate lawyer who represents startups. I didn't go work for a startup when I graduated; I practiced at large law firms for a very long time before that. Let me give you some advice:

1. Are you going to be a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor of some sort? I ask because you said "startups" (plural). Are they affiliated with each other, like a holding company and operating subsidiary? If you would be a contractor, you are basically a solo practitioner with those startup clients, and would really need malpractice insurance (especially if the startups have outside investors).

You'd have some serious exposure. Even if you ultimately prevail in shareholder lawsuits, your legal fees would be astronomical. Thus, the need for malpractice. However, for someone with zero experience, I suspect that your premiums would be expensive, though not totally unaffordable. The problem is that your startup comp would be low so paying the premiums might be very painful.

2. One of the best benefits of starting at BigLaw (and to a lesser extent, a medium or small firm) is world-class training. You have several really smart and experienced people looking over your shoulder to make sure you are not f#$king up. You can learn from partners' and senior associates' comments, and by discussing the comments with them. You get to observe (and ultimately negotiate smaller stuff on your own until you are "running a deal") how to negotiate in corporate deals.

If you start under the circumstances you describe, you are gonna have to wing everything. You might say no problemo I'll just Google, but you know the saying, "You don't know what you don't know." If you don't have adequate experience and knowledge base, you cannot spot issues and that very often leads to massive f&*k ups. You'd have no outside counsel to watch your back or to ask questions (presumably).

In this regard, let me advise you about a Section 83(b) election under the Internal Revenue Code. It basically allows founders and others to pay taxes upfront on equity (restricted stock and founder stock subject to vesting) . . . . as in, you pay taxes based on ,say, $0.05 per share valuation as opposed to $10.00 valuation later on ( x number of shares). It could cost founders and other grantees literally millions and millions in additional taxes. And you only have 30 days to make the election! A total disaster if you fail to advise the founders about this on a timely basis. The point is, if you don't have experience, you could easily miss something so basic and devastating like this. Just one example. Don't you ever forget about 83(b) election (it's not usually applicable to stock options btw). :)

3. Having said all that, there are a lot of upsides to what you are contemplating. The cash comp would be low, I am sure, but if you get equity (insist on it), it could be worth beaucoup bucks down the road. Like millions, potentially. Beware of tax issues with vesting. Of course, most startups self-implode so be realistic about your chances.

Instead of telling your clients (company/founders) that they can't do something, you get to tell them how to craft a solution to solve a knotty problem. You get to know your company intimately in every respect. They might include you in every important business decision. You get to be a quasi-lawyer, quasi-businessman/woman. . . . a true trusted advisor. It *could* be totally awesome in the right situation.

In conclusion, I would say that ideally you would want to have practiced at least 2+ years at a real firm before going in-house like this (unless you have experienced attorneys above you to oversee your stuff).

Good luck!

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby redsox550 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:34 am

dixiecupdrinking wrote:I have no idea why it wouldn't be "legal," but it may very well result in malpractice. You have an ethical duty not to represent clients in matters that you're not capable of handling competently. (in general, I have no idea about California specifically).

Let's put it this way: if you're not capable of figuring out the answer to this question, you probably shouldn't be an organization's only lawyer.


lol! 180!

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Pleasye

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Pleasye » Fri Jun 16, 2017 1:27 pm

B90 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am interested in working for startups (read: they are just formed without capital or just raised capital) but they do not have any attorneys.

Can a newly licensed attorney (just passed the bar) legally work inhouse for that type of startups without any supervisors (e.g. a senior attorney) in CA?

Just to clarify, are you actually licensed, meaning have you been sworn in?
You are not a licensed attorney until you have been sworn in. You mentioned that you "just passed the bar" In most states, there is a 2-4 month gap between passing the bar and being sworn in.
Did you take the February 2017 exam? I don't know about CA, but in MA the swearing in ceremonies for Feb. Bar Exam passers are in June, so that is the earliest you can officially "practice law."
I'm not trying to be a jerk about it, but a lot / most recent LS grads don't realize that even if you take the first exam offered after graduation (July) you can't actually practice until November.

In CA you can be sworn in like a week later by a notary or attend the general swearing in ceremony/your school's ceremony (which are generally held a couple weeks later).

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby B90 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 1:50 pm

Pleasye wrote:
B90 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am interested in working for startups (read: they are just formed without capital or just raised capital) but they do not have any attorneys.

Can a newly licensed attorney (just passed the bar) legally work inhouse for that type of startups without any supervisors (e.g. a senior attorney) in CA?

Just to clarify, are you actually licensed, meaning have you been sworn in?
You are not a licensed attorney until you have been sworn in. You mentioned that you "just passed the bar" In most states, there is a 2-4 month gap between passing the bar and being sworn in.
Did you take the February 2017 exam? I don't know about CA, but in MA the swearing in ceremonies for Feb. Bar Exam passers are in June, so that is the earliest you can officially "practice law."
I'm not trying to be a jerk about it, but a lot / most recent LS grads don't realize that even if you take the first exam offered after graduation (July) you can't actually practice until November.

In CA you can be sworn in like a week later by a notary or attend the general swearing in ceremony/your school's ceremony (which are generally held a couple weeks later).

Sorry to derail the thread, but I'm curious:
When are bare apps due in CA?
In MA, the July bar app isn't due until the 2nd week of May (which I think is later than most states, right?) They dont release the exact day of your swearing in ceremony until after the exam, but for last february, scores/results were released in April, but the swearing in wasnt until last week. (June 11th I think).
I know CA is notorious for taking forever to release passage results, so I assumed the swearing in would be even later.
I remember hearing some explanation that it took an extra 2 months to get sworn because they were still completing everyone's c&f

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Pleasye » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:16 pm

B90 wrote:Sorry to derail the thread, but I'm curious:
When are bare apps due in CA?
In MA, the July bar app isn't due until the 2nd week of May (which I think is later than most states, right?) They dont release the exact day of your swearing in ceremony until after the exam, but for last february, scores/results were released in April, but the swearing in wasnt until last week. (June 11th I think).
I know CA is notorious for taking forever to release passage results, so I assumed the swearing in would be even later.
I remember hearing some explanation that it took an extra 2 months to get sworn because they were still completing everyone's c&f

I think the bar app was due in April, but you can submit your moral character application much earlier. For example, I submitted my moral character app in October, passed moral character by February, submitted bar app in April, took July, got results around November 20th, and was sworn in December 1st.

Some people do have issues and have to wait longer because they haven't passed moral character, but that's usually because they submitted their app late (or had some other C&F issue). The swearing in ceremony takes place two weeks or so after results are released.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:52 pm

Mickfromgm wrote:I can't speak specifically to CA, but in all other states that I am aware of, you can start practicing without supervision as soon as you are sworn in. Countless law grads do that as a solo.


This post, along with others, is absolutely valuable advice. Thanks a million.

I am leaning forward working for "a" startup like as an inhouse counsel but I was not sure if working solo as a newly licensed counsel was allowed, especially in CA.

If so, how can I protect myself against malpractice?

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby cavalier1138 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mickfromgm wrote:I can't speak specifically to CA, but in all other states that I am aware of, you can start practicing without supervision as soon as you are sworn in. Countless law grads do that as a solo.


This post, along with others, is absolutely valuable advice. Thanks a million.

I am leaning forward working for "a" startup like as an inhouse counsel but I was not sure if working solo as a newly licensed counsel was allowed, especially in CA.

If so, how can I protect myself against malpractice?


I'd imagine the best way to protect yourself against malpractice actions is to not commit malpractice. I think that's shortly followed by not putting yourself in a position to be at risk for committing malpractice in the first place by doing something like taking on a job as in-house counsel for a startup without any idea of what you're doing.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby burner » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mickfromgm wrote:I can't speak specifically to CA, but in all other states that I am aware of, you can start practicing without supervision as soon as you are sworn in. Countless law grads do that as a solo.


This post, along with others, is absolutely valuable advice. Thanks a million.

I am leaning forward working for "a" startup like as an inhouse counsel but I was not sure if working solo as a newly licensed counsel was allowed, especially in CA.

If so, how can I protect myself against malpractice?


If you have a license to practice law in California, you need no supervision, you have a license to practice law. You'll be held to the competence of the "reasonable lawyer" standard. Thus, if you fall short, it's on you.

To protect yourself against malpractice, like another said, study to become competent in the field of law you are practicing. Also, get malpractice insurance (it'll likely be pricey since you're a new attorney). Again, you'll be held to the competent attorney standard in that field of law you are practicing.

As to the question of when in CA you can practice- as soon as you get your passing results via mail with the bar card, you can get it notarized and practice right away (though you won't have a number until the CA Bar processes your card).

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Mickfromgm » Sat Jun 17, 2017 12:50 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Mickfromgm wrote:I can't speak specifically to CA, but in all other states that I am aware of, you can start practicing without supervision as soon as you are sworn in. Countless law grads do that as a solo.


This post, along with others, is absolutely valuable advice. Thanks a million.

I am leaning forward working for "a" startup like as an inhouse counsel but I was not sure if working solo as a newly licensed counsel was allowed, especially in CA.

If so, how can I protect myself against malpractice?


I'd imagine the best way to protect yourself against malpractice actions is to not commit malpractice. I think that's shortly followed by not putting yourself in a position to be at risk for committing malpractice in the first place by doing something like taking on a job as in-house counsel for a startup without any idea of what you're doing.


I thought like that when I was in law school, too, but the reality is totally different. When someone loses a lot of money (e.g., due to physical injury, loss of investment, hospital bills, etc., etc.), s/he usually gets very desperate and even furious. They look for deep pockets, because they really really need money. Moreover, in America, you are taught to always "hold someone accountable." It's always someone's fault, never just bad luck or God's will - in other countries, it's just "poop happens, oh well." Not here. They need to assign blame and get paid. And then there is plaintiff's bar providing contingency fee arrangements. ;)

Never mind that laypeople would have no clue whether a lawyer may or may not have committed malpractice that might have caused their loss. How can they, they don't have the facts until they sue and do discovery and depositions.

So, the point is in America a person can sue anyone else for any reason . . . . maybe the case would be dismissed and the other lawyer be sanctioned down the road, but you the defendant will surely incur some serious legal fees to answer and otherwise defend the claim. In other words, your culpability won't be known until you have spent a lot of money -- and the crazy jury can award the plaintiff a crap load of money just because. </rant>

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sat Jun 17, 2017 5:42 am

Mickfromgm wrote:I thought like that when I was in law school, too, but the reality is totally different. When someone loses a lot of money (e.g., due to physical injury, loss of investment, hospital bills, etc., etc.), s/he usually gets very desperate and even furious. They look for deep pockets, because they really really need money. Moreover, in America, you are taught to always "hold someone accountable." It's always someone's fault, never just bad luck or God's will - in other countries, it's just "poop happens, oh well." Not here. They need to assign blame and get paid. And then there is plaintiff's bar providing contingency fee arrangements. ;)

Never mind that laypeople would have no clue whether a lawyer may or may not have committed malpractice that might have caused their loss. How can they, they don't have the facts until they sue and do discovery and depositions.

So, the point is in America a person can sue anyone else for any reason . . . . maybe the case would be dismissed and the other lawyer be sanctioned down the road, but you the defendant will surely incur some serious legal fees to answer and otherwise defend the claim. In other words, your culpability won't be known until you have spent a lot of money -- and the crazy jury can award the plaintiff a crap load of money just because. </rant>


Oh, I know that the ratio of malpractice suits to actual instances of malpractice is probably absurdly high, but I was commenting more on the OP's idiocy in putting themselves in the position to actually commit malpractice.

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Re: Can a newly licensed attorney work without supervision?

Postby Mickfromgm » Sat Jun 17, 2017 10:19 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
Mickfromgm wrote:I thought like that when I was in law school, too, but the reality is totally different. When someone loses a lot of money (e.g., due to physical injury, loss of investment, hospital bills, etc., etc.), s/he usually gets very desperate and even furious. They look for deep pockets, because they really really need money. Moreover, in America, you are taught to always "hold someone accountable." It's always someone's fault, never just bad luck or God's will - in other countries, it's just "poop happens, oh well." Not here. They need to assign blame and get paid. And then there is plaintiff's bar providing contingency fee arrangements. ;)

Never mind that laypeople would have no clue whether a lawyer may or may not have committed malpractice that might have caused their loss. How can they, they don't have the facts until they sue and do discovery and depositions.

So, the point is in America a person can sue anyone else for any reason . . . . maybe the case would be dismissed and the other lawyer be sanctioned down the road, but you the defendant will surely incur some serious legal fees to answer and otherwise defend the claim. In other words, your culpability won't be known until you have spent a lot of money -- and the crazy jury can award the plaintiff a crap load of money just because. </rant>


Oh, I know that the ratio of malpractice suits to actual instances of malpractice is probably absurdly high, but I was commenting more on the OP's idiocy in putting themselves in the position to actually commit malpractice.


Sorry, I wasn't ranting *at* you. I don't disagree with you. :)



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