Job Searches, Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners

A Tale Of Two Lawyers

Meet Ludo. A graduate of a top-50 law school now living in Chicago, Ludo was no-offered after his stint as a summer associate in Biglaw. Unable to to find employment with this black mark on his record, Ludo was forced to take a job in retail, losing his last shred of dignity in the process. But Ludo’s job selling cologne hasn’t completely taken him off the legal market. As Ludo shares on his blog, his coworkers pepper him with questions about “peoples law” (in other words, the stuff you don’t learn in law school or practice at Biglaw) — like how to beat a traffic ticket, or whether a hospital can turn an uninsured patient away at an emergency room. But instead of offering up answers, Ludo simply shrugs off questions, explaining that “he didn’t learn anything practical in law school.”

Meanwhile, eight hundred miles east of the Chicago department store where Ludo works, meet Lou Cambria. Lou’s a Philadelphia solo who typically represents small-business clients and individuals who need help writing wills. But on weekends, you won’t find Lou in the office….

As this Philadelphia Inquirer story explains, here’s what Lou does on the weekends:

On Saturdays, [Lou] trades in his tie for work clothes and pitches in at the Italian Market. He doesn’t do it for money. Partly, he’s there to help out [fruit stand manager John] Gargano, a neighbor, who typically sends Mr. Cambria home with a box of fruit for the trouble.

Philadelphia Lou isn’t ashamed of the time he puts in at the market. To the contrary, it’s a way for him to “connect with a place that was the heart of his neighborhood growing up.” And maintaining those ties has paid off, because most of Lou’s business comes through word of mouth.

Chicago Lu views working in retail and his coworkers’ pedestrian problems as beneath him. By contrast, Philadelphia Lou sees no shame — only opportunity — in manning a fruit stand on a cold weekend morning and interacting with customers.

Chicago Lu is collateral damage on the road to the future of law, as an attorney trained to handle tasks like discovery and legal research that had largely been automated by the time he graduated with $120,000 in debt. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Lou is the guy who should have been eaten alive by the future of law, representing the small-business clients who have no need for lawyers, only legal forms. Yet against all odds, he’s thriving.

For too long, the legal profession has separated the Chicago Lu’s (or at least, Chicago Lu as he’d have been a decade ago) and the Philadelphia Lou’s into two distinct castes. But today more than ever, that kind of stratification is a Lou-sers game (ha! ha!). Because the last hope for all of the Chicago Lu’s of the profession are the Philadelphia Lou’s who show by example that it’s possible to make a life for yourself in the law no matter where you are or what you’re doing. And while it may not be the life you imagined, maybe it’s not half bad.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Law Grad Working Retail [Ludo Stories]
Law School Grad Forced Into Retail Job Blogs The Loss Of His ‘Last Shred Of Dignity’ [Business Insider]
Lawyer cultivates business at Italian Market [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Earlier: No-Offered In A Down Market? You May Be Doomed….

Carolyn Elefant has been blogging about solo and small firm practice at since 2002 and operated her firm, the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant PLLC, even longer than that. She’s also authored a bunch of books on topics like starting a law practice, social media, and 21st century lawyer representation agreements (affiliate links). If you’re really that interested in learning more about Carolyn, just Google her. The Internet never lies, right? You can contact Carolyn by email at or follow her on Twitter at @carolynelefant.

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