1. Tell me a little about your law firm/practice.
I established my firm on July 1, 2019, so it has just turned one! It’s called Mitchell Rose Professional Corporation (“MRPC”), and it has two divisions: Rose Dispute Resolution, which provides mediation and arbitration services, and Mitchell Rose Law, which is my legal division providing settlement counsel (dispute resolution lawyer) services for employers and employees, as well as for various civil disputes.
Although MRPC has two divisions, it has just two employees currently: A practice assistant, Sandra Pakosh, and, of course, me.
MRPC is a virtual firm. Both Sandra and I work from our respective homes. We have a membership at an Intelligent Office in North York – close to my former office - for mail, reception and telephone services, and with an ability to rent meeting rooms for when I need them (which is almost never, even pre-COVID).
2. Why did you start your own firm? How did you make this decision?
I never thought that I would go out on my own, but here I am.
I was a partner in a small, full-service firm with a wonderful group of people for 20 years. Around six months before the end of our lease in mid-2019, and facing the responsibility of assuming a management role, I came to realize a number of things as a result of speaking with my family, working with my lawyer coach, and seeking the expertise and advice of trusted colleagues:
- I saw my future and growth as a mediator-settlement counsel in my own “all ADR” firm, as opposed to continuing with a firm that practised in additional areas
- I did not wish to manage a full-service law firm.
- Not only did I not want to be tied to another five-year lease, I came to realize that virtual firms are the future. This was more than a year before the global pandemic struck Canada, which made virtual firms the present as opposed to the future.
- I wasn’t concerned about getting work because I had a lot of repeat clients, good referral sources and I had spent years building my brand.
3. What are some of the benefits of running your own firm?
We know that ‘time is the most valuable currency’; in my own firm, I call the shots with my time and where I invest it. I am free to pursue my own interests and goals. I have always had an independent streak, so I also love having complete accountability for success or failure. I am free to accept or reject work. I enjoy not having the responsibility of overseeing multiple people or dealing with office politics.
I also love working from home as I can keep my overhead relatively low. As well, I certainly do not miss commuting to an office. These days I do not even need to commute to off-site mediations as I can conduct virtual mediations from home.
As well, even before we were working from home, I enjoyed being able to see my family more often.
4. What are some of the challenges of running your own firm? How have you tried to overcome them?
I was used to doing things the way I always did them with my old firm. I had to try to break that mentality quickly. I also never realized how much was done for me at a larger firm that I now have to do myself. That has probably been the biggest challenge – so it is a good thing that I have saved myself commuting time!
I know my strengths and the areas where I am not as strong (like administration), so I have a strong administrative support person.
Working virtually does not mean working solo, but you need to work hard to ensure that you maintain your social and professional networks. My involvement in the ADR Section of the Ontario Bar Association has also helped in that regard. I just became the section chair, so that will keep me busy interacting with colleagues.
5. What advice would you give to a lawyer thinking about starting their own firm?
- Have a business plan.
- Map or plot your personal SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
- Engage a personal advisory board, or at least, some other people as a sounding board, who will inspire you to the next level or to bounce ideas around.
- Build meaningful connections for future opportunities.
- Include those closest to you in the conversation (especially if you plan on working from home and you don’t live alone).
- Hire a bookkeeper.
- Give serous thought to IT and accounting issues (i.e., Windows v. Google, PC Law v. Clio/QuickBooks).
- Watch your expenses, and do not expand too quickly.
- Finally, remember that this is your only life. How do you want to spend your days? What gives you meaning? What do you consider to be fun? Answer these questions honestly – and then don’t forget the answers.
ICYMI our previous posts featured Lisa Feldstein and Ellen Low. Stay tuned for more profiles coming soon....
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