NINA E. KALLEN
Solo Still Soaring, Sighing, Soliciting, and (Sometimes) Savoring
When last you heard from me, about six weeks ago on internet time but a year ago in real life, I had opened a brief-writing practice and after some travail, false starts, and anxiety, been hired for my first job - to work on a case regarding goats that were being discriminated against on the basis of color. I have been asked to provide an update on my practice. The short answer is, it goes well. The long answer…
The goat racism case did not actually pan out. The attorney who was thinking of hiring me decided to discriminate against me on the basis of cost. But shortly after that, I did get a real assignment. It came from a lawyer I had left off my first-run contact list; I was embarrassed because he had asked me out once, thinking I was interested when I was merely trying to charm my way into a favorable settlement for my client. I had thought then that he was a nice guy, but my husband would not have approved of my dating him. It turned out he really was a nice guy, since when I finally called him he hired me to write an opposition to a summary judgment motion and handed me my payment check when I handed him the brief. (I ran into all kinds of trouble trying to open a business bank account with that hard-earned check, since the teller insisted I needed a "business certificate" to open a business account, but could not tell me what that was or where to get one, or even give me anything in writing explaining their policy. "I can't understand what you find so confusing," she told me. Being a problem-solving-attorney, I walked over to a different branch of the same bank four blocks away, where they opened my account with no hassles and no request for non-existent paperwork.)
A few weeks later I entered into a wonderful working relationship with an attorney who had been on my original call list as a referral from a friend. Essentially a labor lawyer, he hired me to do some coverage opinion letters for his one insurance company client. This was great work - interesting, easy to do from my home office with assistance from Westlaw, and fun. Unfortunately, after about two months, several opinion letters, and a motion for summary judgment in federal court, the insurance company moved offices, switched adjusters around, and stopped sending work to my contact. But my practice was really running now, and the work had bought me some breathing room.
In the meantime, somewhat to my surprise, I started accepting personal injury and employment law clients. My first client was the proprietress of an odd little knickknack store around the corner from my daughter's day care. I stopped in one day after dropping my daughter off, dressed like a mommy, spit up and all. The owner gave me the keys to the store and told me she was too sickly to open up, but I should go ahead and look around. I asked her the price of a papier mache turkey. "Oh my god, that's not for sale," she said. "Who would want to buy that?" She asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was an attorney. "Lord, I hate lawyers," she said. "I wouldn't sell you that turkey even if it was for sale." She thought for a moment. "Will you represent me?" And so a whole new aspect of my practice was born. Also, I got the turkey.
For the long, cold winter business went up and down, but for the past couple of months, I've had more work than I know what to do with. I've put in some 60 hour work weeks, a schedule I thought I left behind with my downtown office, and pulled some all-nighters, a schedule I thought I left behind in college. Being self-employed, I can balance those times with…well, I'd like to say going to the beach or an art museum, but really with doing laundry or sitting down and paying my bills, which feels as good as a day at the beach used to feel.
Now, back to drafting a demand letter…
The short answer: It goes well.
Epilogue: It turns out that the "business certificate" the bank wanted was the thingie issued by my municipality to me as a d/b/a, which of course I already had. The bank employee who opened my account contacted me a few weeks later to ask if I could get her a copy. Apparently, she was in trouble with her supervisors for being the patsy who would open accounts without one. Of course, all this could have been avoided if I had merely opened a second personal account instead of a business account, and I would have saved a lot in bank fees too. (Disclaimer: This is a fact but not a legal or moral statement as to the rightness or wrongness of such a strategy.)
Nina Kallen, a litigator in Massachusetts, subcontracts to other attorneys on brief-writing and sundry other legal work, including tutoring on effective legal writing, and also represents parties in litigation.