f/k/a . . . the archives

June 1, 2005

going solo with lowell komie

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:02 pm

What a happy coincidence: The same day I bemoaned the lack of studies

on the financial realities of going solo, I randomly flipped to the short story

“Solo,” in The Legal Fiction of Lowell B. Komie (Swordfish-Chicago,

April, 2005).   The story begins:


HE HAD REFUSED to accede. So they fired him. 
     He had refused to accede to the firm policy of 2,000

annual billable hours. It was an absolute. He knew about

it but had defied it. He’d turned in only 1,750 hours again . . . .,

  KomieCover  WVU law professor Jim Elkins gives this thumbnail sketch of “Solo:” 

“A young lawyer, pushed out of a big firm, attempts a solo practice and makes

mistakes that come close to costing him his professional life, before he pulls

away from the brink of professional disaster.”


Having discovered Komie far too late in my life and career (like last week, thanks

Jim Elkins), I will have much more to say about this lawyer and author, whose “legal

fiction” should be acknowledged as among the best of contemporary American

literature.  For today’s purposes, I will note merely what Komie had to say, in an

interview with Elkins in 2001, after almost 50 years as a lawyer and two decades 

in solo practice:


 “If I had it to do over again, I would probably still choose the law as my

profession. . . .   My biggest satisfaction in being a lawyer is being my own

‘boss.’  I have freedom, as a sole practitioner, to pretty much come and go

as I please.  It took me many years to achieve this freedom and I survived s

everal “partnerships” where I was a slave to the “time sheet”7 and to the

senior partners in these associations. I should have gone off on my own

earlier, but I’ve been alone now for perhaps 20 years.”

Before the MyShingle gang starts quoting Komie, though, they might want to follow lawyer

through on his next sentence:  “If you want to know more about my life as a single

practitioner, I might refer you to the story “Burak” in The Lawyer’s Chambers.”


The narrator has this to say in Burak, 25 Legal Studies Forum 165 (2001):  \


“[A] solo practitioner is relatively free. But you’re never really free

from the pressures of money or the demands of clients; the freedom

really is a relative concept. If you’re worried about paying your office

rent, you’re hardly in the mood to debate the relativity of freedom.

Also, if you have become tyrannized by irrational clients, you’re not

on your way to becoming a Philosopher King.”

 

KomieCoverN  Are you one of the solos with lots of time to read Komie’s short

stories, but not enough money to buy your own copy?  Or, are you one who is

at work being her “own boss” about 15 hours a day?    May you instead be like

Lowell B. Komie: satisfied with life in the law, while finding and nurturing his Muse.

 

 






rainy day–
alone and diligent
planting rice


 


 




 





all alone
babbling idiocies…
drinking away the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

while I watch
he’s off to make a living alone…
baby sparrow

 





ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

4 Comments

  1. David, Thanks for this great find. Of course, solo practice is a mixed bag like everything else in life. But on the whole, I think it beats most other legal job any day (yes, at biglaw, you may have the $$s to be a Philosopher King but probably not the imagination so it’s a moot point anyway). And of course, there are days that I want to pack it all in – but I keep my optimism about small firms not because I want to make myself feel better (well, probably that too) but because at the end of the day, I really believe that they are a last remaining hope for making the law accessible to everyone.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — June 2, 2005 @ 1:00 pm

  2. David, Thanks for this great find. Of course, solo practice is a mixed bag like everything else in life. But on the whole, I think it beats most other legal job any day (yes, at biglaw, you may have the $$s to be a Philosopher King but probably not the imagination so it’s a moot point anyway). And of course, there are days that I want to pack it all in – but I keep my optimism about small firms not because I want to make myself feel better (well, probably that too) but because at the end of the day, I really believe that they are a last remaining hope for making the law accessible to everyone.

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — June 2, 2005 @ 1:00 pm

  3. Hi, Carolyn.   Komie is a gem, and I’m glad I have discovered him.  I believe that one is far more likely to become a Philosopher King — at least one with wisdom about what is important in life — with less more, not more — another plus for the lone Shingler.  The ability to have a sophisticated practice, and do without clerical resources, thanks to digital miracles has opened the door to solo practice for many more lawyers.
    For me, and for my brother (a solo), the best part about working for yourself is not being captive to the ethics of other lawyers and being able to say no to a client without having to face the wrath of partners.

    Comment by David Giacalone — June 2, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

  4. Hi, Carolyn.   Komie is a gem, and I’m glad I have discovered him.  I believe that one is far more likely to become a Philosopher King — at least one with wisdom about what is important in life — with less more, not more — another plus for the lone Shingler.  The ability to have a sophisticated practice, and do without clerical resources, thanks to digital miracles has opened the door to solo practice for many more lawyers.
    For me, and for my brother (a solo), the best part about working for yourself is not being captive to the ethics of other lawyers and being able to say no to a client without having to face the wrath of partners.

    Comment by David Giacalone — June 2, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

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