Never Underestimate New Lawyers Who Hang A Shingle

Chicago Katie Kizer and Amanda Graham brushed off a miserable employment market for new law school grads. They hired themselves after graduating last spring from DePaul University College of Law. With summa diplomas, they were qualified for Big Law—just temperamentally unsuited for it.

I want to meet these two women. I really do. Katie Kizer and Amanda Graham  (or Kamanda) epitomize the determination, work ethic, and passion every lawyer who wishes to hang a shingle should aspire to….especially upon passing the bar.  Most importantly, they highlight their secret weapon which many will showcase as a negative – youth and supposed inexperience.  It is their very youth (translate to ‘energy’) and lack of years under their belt (translate to ‘leaving no stone unturned until they find the answer’) which makes them more formidable.

What are you going to do?

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6 comments on “Never Underestimate New Lawyers Who Hang A Shingle

  • Thanks for sharing! I believe that “youth” can be a life-sustainable characteristic when you are in the niche you are meant to be in. Way to go Katie and Amanda!

  • Thirty-two years ago, I did exactly what these young women did after graduating from law school. It probably isn’t the easiest path, but it was the only one for me and I commend anyone who attempts it. They should establish as many relationships with experienced practitioners as possible to obtain the guidance they will need but it will make for a very rewarding career. Best of luck!

  • I think that Katie and Amanda are terrific and smart and brave, and I wish them great success and a brilliant future.

    I love the idea of recasting potential negatives (“youth”) into positives (“energy”) — but I have a particular challenge in that I’m a new lawyer, but not a young lawyer. I don’t want to say I have the worst of both worlds, because I don’t. But the models I seem to see for lawyers are either “young and inexperienced” or “older and experienced.” It’s a challenge to convey both a sense of energy and a sense of gravitas — but it’s a challenge I relish.

    • What makes Katie and Amanda special in my mind has nothing to do with their age other than they use it to their advantage by having opposing counsel underestimate them. What I find compelling is their commitment in spite of what others would see as a reason not to take them seriously. Therefore, it doesn’t matter the age if you have the single-minded determination to succeed in spite of whatever obstacles are in place. So, Jen, age just happens to be one of their obstacles to overcome. What matters is what we do with the obstacles placed in our way. That’s why their story got me. Many more experienced colleagues would coach them to not do what they did but they are doing it anyway. And they do it well.

  • I think we often look at ourselves and others without perspective.

    Starting out in the practice of law is generally difficult. But, then again, starting out in any field, profession, endeavor, or project is difficult. This is true whether someone is looking for a law job or starting their own practice.

    I think sometimes we all of us who have started a practice straight out of law school are self-congratulatory because we understand that we are walking a tight rope just like all new attorneys, but maybe without a net underneath. This said, from what I have observed over my many years is that the level of difficulty in starting your own firm, as opposed to finding a law job, is not that great. I think we do young lawyers a disservice in suggesting that it is, in that such views are discouraging.

    First, all law jobs are essentially commission work. Sure a new lawyer might get a pay check, but how long will that happen if he or she does not figure out how to produce many more dollars in earnings what is taken in pay from the firm?

    Second, most law jobs do not offer that much training or guidance. The owners or partners are too busy doing what they do. New lawyers tend to learn on the job, the hard way, and usually from others lawyers and court staff not associated with the law firm. This is not much different than entering private practice first. The difference is you get to subsidize someone else.

    Here is what I suggest is the real cause or deterrent for new lawyers going out on their own. They have allowed themselves to get though law school without much concentrating on what law they wish to practice when they get out and pass the bar. They are befuddled and confused and, much like a high school graduate without any discipline who thinks maybe a stint in the arm services might help offer some direction, they think a law job with an existing firm might also.

    I think that this is where we get that old adage that lawyers do not chose practice areas, practice areas choose them. In reality a new lawyer is randomly chosen by a law firm. The law firm places them in a practice area not of their choosing. And then they stay there for an eternity.

    I have said it before, you cannot go around being a wandering generality. You have to be a meaningful specific. This is especially true in the practice of law.

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