A way for JDs to fund their dreams

Sometimes, it’s not possible to start your own business while simultaneously working a day job.

It’s not because there is something wrong with you. It just is what it is: We get a limited amount of energy to use per day before we need to recharge.

Perhaps your situation is like mine: You want to build an independent business, and you don’t want to take on any funding. So, you need to make money, but having a regular day job gets in the way of pursuing your dreams because the amount of creative energy that you have per day is human.

Now I’m going to tell you where I’ve been for the past two months. I’ve been working as a contract attorney; specifically, in document review.

I did not have any prior experience practicing law. However, I was running out of money, and I happen to have a valid license to practice law in New York State. So, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Contract attorney work is not exactly the most sought-after role in the legal field, and it even carries a bit of stigma in some circles. This is because many contract attorney roles are often completely based in document review, which means that you are paid to categorize documents based on legal principles. You do not write briefs and motions. And you definitely do not go to court.

I don’t really know how to say this to you, but it’s one of the best jobs that I 've ever had.

Here are four reasons why:

Flexibility and freedom

Contract attorneys sign up for projects that can last from days to years. I like the ones that last for just a couple of weeks, because it gives me enough time to pile up some money and then focus 100% on building my business while I am between gigs. The cadence just works, and it's adjustable.

Low-stress

There’s nothing that saps your creative energy quite like a horrific work situation. Switching to a low stress job can be amazing for both you and your business. I have endured enough awfulness in the workplace to appreciate, truly, the opportunity to listen to pop music while categorizing documents and to peace out at the end of the day with a happy face and a solid paycheck.

Bare minimum presence of office politics

Contract attorneys typically operate in flexible, short-term social organizations that do not allow for a lot of room for growth. This has the effect of minimizing competition, and all of the social behaviors associated therewith. The best way to describe the office culture is general polity, the benefits of which are unquantifiable.

Compensation

Contract attorneys are paid hourly. As a contract attorney with zero experience starting at the very bottom, I still made about as much as I did as a product manager. Rates go up with additional experience and fluency in various languages. If you can review documents in Japanese, expect to command $90-100 hourly rates and to experience very high demand in NYC.

Bottom line: It’s about the long game

If you’re serious about doing what you want to do, you create your own path.

Actually, I was initially looking for a part-time job, but I couldn’t find any that I would be reasonably good at. So, I ended up doing project-based work, which distributes time and energy a little differently, but washes out to about the same results.

I like what I'm doing. However, in some circles, openly saying that I like being a contract attorney is kind of like shouting, “I like driving a garbage truck!” Which I just don’t agree with, although I understand the response, in theory.

You know about the thousands of U.S. Ph.D.s who work as janitors? I totally get it.

I mean, why the heck would you spend your life dying inside for appearances, when you could get a shot at living your dreams?

How are you funding your independent business?