A few years ago, my firm got a phone call. A larger firm, based in the Midwest, wanted to buy us. We were told that they had noticed what we were doing and thought it was cool and wanted to talk about what opportunities there may be.
Our firm had a new equity partner.* She was really excited – since she had just come to have equity in the firm, visions of selling her equity stake and living on the beach danced in her head.
Sadly, that’s not really how it works. If you build a tech company and you sell it, you get money to buy a beach house or live the dream of financial independence. If you build a law firm and a larger law firm takes it over, you get a job as a partner in the larger firm.
Like so much of a lawyer’s money life, if you build a law firm, you aren’t building wealth, you’re building income. Income is great if you want to stay on the treadmill; wealth is better if you want to have money that lasts. Lawyers tend to choose income. Which is another reason to think that lawyers tend to be not very bright.
A few years ago I was at a turning point in my career. I had a job that was ok. I was working for the government in a job I really liked. I thought the work was important. The pay was relatively low, but the hours and stress were high.
But I could tell I was burning out. I had two young kids at home and I wanted to spend time with them. Even when I was with them, I was thinking about work. So, stuff was bad, and I needed to change jobs.
I did what people do when they’re looking for a new job – I called people and asked them what I could do. I asked them to introduce me to people they know who might be willing to talk to me about what to do.
A friend of a friend got me in touch with a lawyer whose career was on the rise. He was short on time, but gracious about talking to me.
At least until I told him I wanted a job where I could stay involved in my kids’ lives, and that being a good parent is a priority for me.
There are plenty of lawyer blogs out there. There are plenty of personal finance blogs too. But what’s up with the lack of personal finance blogs for lawyers a more than only a few years into their careers?
Doctors have it good.
First, they get to help people. Second, in an emergency, their skills are useful. I thought about going to Haiti after the earthquake to volunteer to take some depositions, but then I realized I’m a transaction cost, and more transaction costs don’t help injured people.
I was having breakfast with a lawyer a few weeks ago. He’s older than me; his kids are out of law school and starting their careers.
As a side note: I think I’ll have been kind of a failure as a parent if my kids become lawyers. I like the John Adams idea that I study law so that my kids can study art or philosophy. Or, if not art, something that they choose. Seeing someone follow in their parents’ footsteps, if they haven’t tried something else, makes me depressed. Is progress not the goal? Must we all be sheep? Well-shorn sheep, to be sure, but no more in charge of our own path in life. Though, of course, I also strive to be less judgmental. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Etc.
Anyway, I asked my breakfast companion for parenting advice, since he seemed like the kind of person who would like to be asked for advice.
His advice: don’t send your kids to private school.
At the end of each year, we give money way. Even though I’m trying to pound cash into investments, I think it’s important for a few reasons:
It’s good to help people.
It’s good karma.
It’s tax deductible.
Beside that, it presents a good opportunity to teach my kids both about other people in the world and about money.
Our system is this – I sit down with the kids and we review a list of nonprofits. (my wife and I divide our contributions in half – she gives her half away in a different way.) The kids and I look at groups in four buckets: international; domestic anti-poverty groups; the arts; and political/advocacy.
His is one of the few blogs I read close to daily. He writes about law practice management from a perspective that would be massively familiar to anyone interested in financial independence. Basically, burn the conventions of the past, focus on what matters, and create the life you’d like to have for yourself.
It’s inspiring stuff that he’s put into practice in his own law firm in North Carolina (that he runs from all over the world).
As a partner in a small firm, I find his management advice very sage, even though I’m not planning to live out of a suitcase any time soon.
My super unscientific conclusion, based on watching myself and how I act and comparing that to how other lawyers act, is that when lawyers are overworked and under slept, we make really stupid decisions about money.
We also make stupid decisions about money when (a) we’ve just been given a lot of it (e.g., during bonus season); or (b) we notice that we have a lot of money in our bank accounts. Your brain knows that you have money, and it reduces your discipline to not be dumb with it.
There are two enemies of savings: stress and feeling like you have cash to burn. Here’s how I fight them.
I used to hate Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad/Poor Dad books. I’ve been really turned off by the promotional seminars and multilevel marketing built up around the book and the concept. And the spin off books also seem less about imparting knowledge and more about making the author wealthy(-er).
I don’t mean to hate on a guy making a buck. Too many people, though, act like consuming a book on personal finance is the same as making progress on their personal finances, and I find that both gross and seductive. Much of the Rich Dad/Poor Dad empire preys on that.
So I’ve long resisted Rich Dad/Poor Dad. But I read it last week.
Actually a second one – we already own the house we live in. And it isn’t strictly speaking true that I bought it – my wife and I bought it. Also, as of this writing, we’re only buying the house; it’s under contract. Still
I’ve been looking at picking up an investment property for a while. Years ago we did some landlording and it was both kind of fun and profitable. Like a fifty-five year old partner with a sad marriage, I like a little side action, only amount money. So, with this year’s bonus, I put some of it into a downpayment on a rental house.