Solo Practice vs. Government Job

(Issue areas, International Law, International Public Interest, Public Service in the private sector, Non-Profits, Public Interest Organizations, Government/ government agencies, employment settings)

What would you do?

Take government job
6
50%
Stick with solo practice
6
50%
 
Total votes: 12

Anonymous User
Posts: 349181
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:37 am

I am about 5-6 years post-graduation and started my own solo practice last year. Generally very happy doing this.

I was not hunting for a job or anything, but a Common Pleas Magistrate called me and asked if I'd be interested in working in the City Law Department. One thing led to another and now I've been offered a pretty good gig at the City Law Department. Wondering what people think.

Solo Practice

-Net income was $94,000 last year (not including taxes)
-Zero benefits (current healthcare is through wife and sucks)
-Pretty much unlimited autonomy
-Do a lot of low fee work (flat fee appearance work, criminal court appointment list) that I don't particularly enjoy but do because I have the time
-Generally enjoy doing this and being on my own

Government Job

-Starting salary of $68,000
-Retirement contributions of 24% of salary after six months ($17,000 per year by my math)
-Basically best you can imagine healthcare
-Hours would be 8:00 - 4:00 with an hour paid lunch
-Job would include managing city litigation, personnel issues, legislation issues, land/real estate issues (takings, sewer, streets, etc.)
-Most seem to think this would establish great connections

Perhaps most importantly, this is a "serve at the pleasure of mayor" job, not a lifetime gig. So theoretically, a new administration could come in and fire everyone. That never happens but it's a possibility.

But, in my interview, I turned this on its head and said, "That's exactly why I can't completely shut my practice down. I need to keep that up and running in case I get canned." The city law director was totally on board with it. I could do my private practice during lunch, after 4:00, and on weekends; and if I need to attend hearings, then I make up for that via "flex time" (i.e., attend hearing for an hour, but work through lunch or stay until 5:00).

My thoughts are to take the government job and try to make my law practice work on the side. I can get rid of all my low fee work and, after reviewing my active matter list, I'd like to keep maybe 8-10 clients. I think that's manageable and would be 10-15 hours per week on the side. I think I can make about $3,000 - $4,000/month in my practice doing this, maybe more.

Worst case scenario -- if the government job is a bad fit, then I can just return to solo practice. It basically stays there as an insurance policy. I can get back on the flat fee and appointment list almost immediately.

I'm leaning towards taking it but wondering what those here think.

Anonymous User
Posts: 349181
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:32 am

I mean, seems like a pretty good offer. You could always do it for a year and try to grow your connections and referral network. Making 94k as a solo in your first year is really great. Good job there!

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Lacepiece23

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Posts: 1124
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Lacepiece23 » Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am about 5-6 years post-graduation and started my own solo practice last year. Generally very happy doing this.

I was not hunting for a job or anything, but a Common Pleas Magistrate called me and asked if I'd be interested in working in the City Law Department. One thing led to another and now I've been offered a pretty good gig at the City Law Department. Wondering what people think.

Solo Practice

-Net income was $94,000 last year (not including taxes)
-Zero benefits (current healthcare is through wife and sucks)
-Pretty much unlimited autonomy
-Do a lot of low fee work (flat fee appearance work, criminal court appointment list) that I don't particularly enjoy but do because I have the time
-Generally enjoy doing this and being on my own

Government Job

-Starting salary of $68,000
-Retirement contributions of 24% of salary after six months ($17,000 per year by my math)
-Basically best you can imagine healthcare
-Hours would be 8:00 - 4:00 with an hour paid lunch
-Job would include managing city litigation, personnel issues, legislation issues, land/real estate issues (takings, sewer, streets, etc.)
-Most seem to think this would establish great connections

Perhaps most importantly, this is a "serve at the pleasure of mayor" job, not a lifetime gig. So theoretically, a new administration could come in and fire everyone. That never happens but it's a possibility.

But, in my interview, I turned this on its head and said, "That's exactly why I can't completely shut my practice down. I need to keep that up and running in case I get canned." The city law director was totally on board with it. I could do my private practice during lunch, after 4:00, and on weekends; and if I need to attend hearings, then I make up for that via "flex time" (i.e., attend hearing for an hour, but work through lunch or stay until 5:00).

My thoughts are to take the government job and try to make my law practice work on the side. I can get rid of all my low fee work and, after reviewing my active matter list, I'd like to keep maybe 8-10 clients. I think that's manageable and would be 10-15 hours per week on the side. I think I can make about $3,000 - $4,000/month in my practice doing this, maybe more.

Worst case scenario -- if the government job is a bad fit, then I can just return to solo practice. It basically stays there as an insurance policy. I can get back on the flat fee and appointment list almost immediately.

I'm leaning towards taking it but wondering what those here think.
Any chance you can PM me? I'm interested in hearing about your criminal appointment work.

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Ohiobumpkin

Silver
Posts: 543
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:50 am

Re: Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Ohiobumpkin » Sun Jun 21, 2020 12:32 pm

I voted for sticking with your solo practice because I do not think taking that big of a hit to your income is worth it. The fact you made around $90K in your first year as a solo is really quite amazing. Additionally, I do not believe running a solo law practice as a part time gig is really wise. Running a solo practice is a full time job with both legal work and business management/development duties.

User avatar
Yugihoe

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Posts: 684
Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:25 pm

Re: Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Yugihoe » Sun Jun 21, 2020 1:12 pm

If you already earned so much as a first year solo, the sky is the limit. Seems over time you could grow it substantially more than the city job will offer. One crucial piece of info you left out is how much you worked while solo compared to the 40 hour work week at the city job. I personally would spend more effort in thinking of ways to grow the solo practice - also look at ways you can increase your tax benefits as a solo by speaking to a CPA. I.e. you should probably be maxing out the solo 401k, etc.

Anon-non-anon

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Posts: 142
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2019 12:40 pm

Re: Solo Practice vs. Government Job

Post by Anon-non-anon » Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:06 am

If you could really keep up the part of the solo practice you like, I'd say take gov. I have no idea how feasible that is, but perhaps it's not so hard with only a handful of clients. I'm sure you'll run into conflicts/ethics issues though, so I would work all that out first.

I think people are discounting how valuable the retirement and health care part can be of gov job. Factors I would also consider are how much you typically use your health insurance, potential savings by putting your wife / other family members on gov insurance, stability of steady gov checks, etc. You could also be conscious to be non-political, but that's no guarantee you don't get canned. That said, if you do, I bet you could hop around to other towns doing municipal work you'd be qualified for. Many places hire outside counsel or someone part time.

Huge congrats on your practice though, so cool!

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