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A Career in Law: Defining Success on Your Own Terms

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Presentation to CBA BC Branch Women Lawyers Forum May 14, 2011

Presentation to CBA BC Branch Women Lawyers Forum May 14, 2011


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  • The junior associate (1-4 year call) invests 13 hours each day preparing for, traveling to and from, and working at the firm. They are expected to bill no fewer than 1700 hours / year to reach their minimum target (1680 is used in this example for clarity); no bonus is paid until this threshold is achieved. Their billings generate $420,000 gross fees before write offs, assuming they bill out at $250 / hour, which would be typical for a lawyer at this experience level. This slide shows the relationship between hours worked (both billable and non-billable), compensation, and revenue to the firm (in percentage terms, and in terms of dollars per working hour), for a mid-level associate working in a traditional firm.
  • The junior associate (1-4 year call) invests 13 hours each day preparing for, traveling to and from, and working at the firm. They are expected to bill no fewer than 1700 hours / year to reach their minimum target (1680 is used in this example for clarity); no bonus is paid until this threshold is achieved. Their billings generate $420,000 gross fees before write offs, assuming they bill out at $250 / hour, which would be typical for a lawyer at this experience level. This slide shows the relationship between hours worked (both billable and non-billable), compensation, and revenue to the firm (in percentage terms, and in terms of dollars per working hour), for a mid-level associate working in a traditional firm.
  • Categorical comparison between working as a mid-level associate in a traditionally-structured firm, and working as a Virtual Partner in Heritage Law.
  • Transcript

    • 1. CBABC Women Lawyers Forum Event, May 14, 2010 Defining Moments – Leadership and Ethics A Career in Law: Defining Success on Your Own Terms Presented by Nicole Garton-Jones. B.A., LL.B.
    • 2. My Journey
      • Entered law school in 1997 with an interest in public policy and advocacy for women and children
      • Articled and was an associate at two large law firms
      • “ Early life crisis” in 2003 of lack of fit with skills and interests
      • Path of public affairs consultant, contract lawyer at a suburban firm and then starting Heritage Law in 2005
      • Married in 2005 & children born in 2006 and 2008
    • 3. Emily and Lachlan
    • 4. Heritage Law
      • Started firm in 2005 as a solo
      • IT infrastructure built around juggling practicing law with having young children:
        • virtual (paperless, specialized software, entire firm can be accessed over any internet connection)
        • VoIP phones & answering service
        • Strong systems and organization to maximize productivity and client service
    • 5. Heritage Law Today
      • Busy and efficiently run firm
      • Currently seven lawyers and five staff
      • Focus on wills and estates, family law and mediation services
      • Main office in West Van & new office in Kerrisdale
      • Firm recognized as a leader and has been nominated for awards for work life balance and law firm innovation
      • Speak and publish regularly in Canada and the US on legal technology and law firm management topics
    • 6. Why Heritage Law Works
      • A firm culture predicated on balance and flexibility with applied technological solutions to facilitate it allows lawyers to have a professional practice, competitive compensation and work-life balance
      • A good fit for a self directed and entrepreneurial lawyer
    • 7. Pros and Cons of Heritage Law vs. Traditional Firm
      • Pros:
      • More $ for fewer hours
      • More autonomy over schedule and practice direction
      • Cons:
      • More responsibility to build own practice earlier
      • Less direct mentorship and guidance
    • 8. A Day in the Life – Associate in Traditional Firm T B B N B L B N B B N B T 7am 12pm 7pm 8pm 1pm 8am
      • (T) – prepare and travel to and from office
      • (B) – billable work at $250 / hour
      • (N) – ~1 hour of non-billable and administrative for each 2 hours of billable work
      • (L) – 1 hour for lunch and breaks
      48 weeks / year X 5 days / week X 7 billable hours / day X $250/hr 1680 hours / year X $250 / hour = $420,000 client fees
    • 9. A Day in the Life at Heritage Law P P B B N L B T N P B P B 7am 12pm 7pm 8pm 1pm 8am
      • Work ‘9-5’ plus one evening hour, including 1 hour (T) for travel to and from office for client meetings
      • Flexible (P)ersonal hour mid-day; work a (B)illable hour in the evenings after the children are in bed
      • (B) – billable work at $250 / hour
      • (N) – non-billable and administrative (L) – 1 hour for lunch
      48 weeks / year X 5 days / week X 5 billable hours / day X $250/hr 1200 hours / year X $250 / hour = $300,000 client fees 5pm 9am 3pm Kids to school Kids return
    • 10. A Side – by – Side Comparison Effective hourly pay Flexibility Compensation Required Hours Criteria $150,000 ( 25% more) $120,000 Work on your schedule Traditional hours 1200 ( 70% as many) 1700 $78 / hr ( 173% as much) $45 / hr Traditional Firm
    • 11. Tips for Defining Success on Your Own Terms:
      • Know yourself;
      • Focus on your strengths;
      • Be creative;
      • Seek out mentors, both informal & formal;
      • You don’t have to do it all at once; and
      • Be brave!
    • 12.
      • To Your Success!
      • Nicole Garton-Jones, B.A., LL.B.
      • Heritage Law
      • The Village at Park Royal
      • 203 – 815 Main St.
      • West Vancouver, BC V7T 2Z3
      • Direct: 778-786-0615 ext.111
      • Email: nicole@bcheritagelaw.com
      • Website: www.bcheritagelaw.com