Job Searches, Small Law Firms, Solo Practitioners

Back In The Race: The Decision To Close Up Shop

Ed. note: Please welcome Shannon Achimalbe to Above the Law. Shannon will be writing about the journey from solo practice to a larger law firm.

Five years ago, I started my own practice. I thought it would get me out of my comfort zone, nurture my entrepreneurial skills, give me the flexibility to choose my hours and clients, and eventually become the type of lawyer I wanted to be. But over time, it became clear that solo practice was not going to help me achieve my goals and had even created some new problems. After heavy soul searching and consultation with others, I decided to search for a job and eventually shut down my practice.

I plan to do two things with this column. First, I want to document my job search. I am writing anonymously because I don’t want anyone interfering and helping me. I want my experience to be no different than anyone else doing the same…

I also want to use this column to talk about my decision to shut down my practice. Running a business is not for everyone. It is not even for a lot of people. But failure (or the appearance of it) is not something that is openly discussed. I hope to hear from other former solos and small firmers who have left for hopefully greener pastures and share the problems we faced and the hard lessons we learned.

To tell you a little about myself: I am in my late thirties and graduated law school in the mid-2000s. I went to a tier-four school where I did terribly. I later got a master’s degree where I did a little better. After graduation, I worked for various small firms for a few years and received some contract jobs. The pay was low, the hours were high, and the work conditions were stressful — a typical outcome for a bottom-tier law school graduate. But even before the Great Recession, getting a legal job was difficult for newbies, so we had to take what we could get and hope for the best.

Some of you may be wondering if I am doing this because my practice is failing. Financially, it is not, although it is not where I wanted it to be. Over the last five years, I have developed good relationships and through them have obtained steady work. And while I did not make a lot of money, through frugal living, I was able to pay all of my bills and enjoy a night out once in a while.

So what made me want to give up being my own boss and keeping the fruits of my labor? While I will discuss this in detail in future posts, the biggest reason for my decision is because I realized that at some point every day over the last five years, I would fantasize about working for a reputable law firm. At my age, if I didn’t take action soon, I would be typecast as a solo, possibly for life.

I know that this will be a difficult road to travel. Not only will I be competing against very talented, hungry, and desperate people, but I will also have haters and those who have failed telling me to give it up and to know my place. I will also have to give up time, money, and energy that could have been used to develop my practice. But I am sick and tired of fanaticizing every night. I have a dream and I plan to make it a reality.


Shannon Achimalbe was a former solo practitioner for five years before deciding to sell out and get back on the corporate ladder. Shannon can be reached at sachimalbe@excite.com.

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