I Have a Book of Business


QI’m in the middle of my fourth year as an associate at a mid-size Chicago firm. Over the years, I’ve developed great relationships with the partners and with clients. I’ve been lucky in that respect, having been able to interact substantially with clients on some of my cases. In all honesty, I probably have a solid book of business I could take with me if I wanted to spin off and form a boutique firm or go out on my own. It’s not that I don’t like my firm and my work, and the obvious trust that the partners have in me. I would just like a bit more of my time to be my time. What should I do to pursue it?


AI’m laughing as I type this. No fourth year associate has a “book of business,” which makes me think you either made this up or do not work at a “largish” firm in Chicago, or both. Or that whatever imaginary book of business you have, it’s either (1) not portable or (2) not worth more than the severance package you’ll be lucky to get when you tell your trusted senior partner that “I want to go out on my own, y’know, see the world, form a boutique.”

Let’s use a baseball analogy for a better understanding. It’s the bottom of the ninth inning and your team of associates is losing 14-1 with a runner on first. You are up at bat with one out. Hit a home run and you’ll still be losing 14-3, with the bottom of the order coming up and your teammates suddenly complaining of soft-tissue injuries. But, being as arrogant as you seem to be, you act like Babe Ruth and point out to center field. The players out in the field see your gesture and crack up so hard that they can barely stand up and play. One guy pisses his pants he laughs so hard.

Not that they don’t take it seriously, which they do. They just put in a reliever, who throws a single 100-mile-per-hour fastball that you manage to hit weakly to second. It’s 4-6-3 double play, game over. You are then demoted to single A ball in Davenport, sitting on the bench reviewing pitching rosters and cleaning up sunflower seeds.

It will be that quick for you, thinking you have a book of business that you can take with you to some new boutique firm in Naperville. Book of business. I’m still laughing.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

6 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    April 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I disagree. I have contacts from my home country that can result in business for my firm, and I am sure that I would not have been hired had I not been affiliated with the royal family back in my home country. I know that I was only in the middle of my class getting an LLM, but my firm took a chance on me knowing that my Aunt Ooona can direct a fair amount of legal business to my firm. The partners also provide me with dinners and contacts with women in the hope that I will find a suitable mate.

    So in a nutshell, it depends. I still am awaiting the selection of a beautiful bride willing to come back with me to my home country to meet my Aunt Ooona and bear me three issue.

    If there are any eligible female candidates, please provide a hyperlynk to your facebook page. If you are eligible and fertile, I will friend you.

  2. snowmanrt

    May 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Love the Harry Potter Monster book of Monsters pic…something I would expect from Bl1y but funny nonetheless…

    • Alan T.

      May 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Is that what it is? It’s frickin’ disgusting. You should have gone for the gavel on top of a couple of law books, surrounded by chewed up sunflower seeds.

  3. Strenuous Objector

    May 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I thought the picture was hilarious. But I agree that it’s unreal for a fourth year associate to have real contacts that they could use to leverage anyone, let alone partners, to join them in starting their own boutique. But I’d argue that he could in fact be at a mid-size or largish Chicago firm but has a complete lack of people skills and thus reads his partner’s constant sarcastic badgering as pep talk and the fact he never talks during a conference call as gain a reputation with his “contacts.”

  4. zhizhuxia

    May 3, 2011 at 12:48 am

    I thought the picture was hilarious. But I agree that it’s unreal for a fourth year associate to have real contacts that they could use to leverage anyone, let alone partners, to join them in starting their own boutique. But I’d argue that he could in fact be at a mid-size or largish Chicago firm but has a complete lack of people skills and thus reads his partner’s constant sarcastic badgering as pep talk and the fact he never talks during a conference call as gain a reputation with his “contacts.”

  5. Marc

    May 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Interestingly, I’ve watched this exact scenario happen. Twice. One was a fourth year who was a year behind me in law school. She was working at a 150+ attorney non-national firm. I laughed like you did and thought she was out of her mind. While I was waiting for her to come crawling back with her tail between her legs she was hiring her first associate. Now she’s interviewing for another. Other case was a little longer ago, maybe 2007, two fifth year associates left the boutique firm I was working for then. After a year, they hired an associate and have stayed the same size. Still in business. Ha. Stuff like this always reminds me of two things: 1. Law, especially BigLaw, is where everyone plays the part of Catty B*ch; and (2) attorneys generally don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in their body. I understand. I couldn’t do it. Neither could you. But there are kids out there who can and do.

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