Starting a law firm is a realistic move after law school
Immediately after passing the bar, I worked in a decent sized law firm on Long Island while I went through the character and fitness process. My experience with a big law firm convinced me that I needed to start my own practice. At the firm, I held the position of junior associate. I would see cases through from start to finish on my own, yet clients would still need to pay big law firm fees. I felt that I could provide clients with the same service for a lower price by venturing out on my own.
Free experience is Key
My last semester of law school I was lucky enough to be named a Pro Bono Scholar. In the state of New York, this means you work under a student practice as a lawyer for your last semester of law school and get to take the bar early (February exam instead of July). During this time, I was required to perform 520 hours of pro bono service in the area of family law litigation. This hands on valuable experience helped me to understand how being a lawyer worked on a practical level. There is a lot more to being a lawyer than what you learn in law school (i.e. different court procedures, courtroom etiquette, effective client communication, etc.). I made it a point after graduation to keep going to court. I did this by shadowing attorneys with whom I had made friends and by continuing my pro bono work. My aim was to learn the various processes of the different court systems in New York and keep myself involved.
Pro Bono is a win-win
Even after starting my own practice, I have maintained a close relationship with the different organizations that are in need of legal assistance. Often, this consists of the same type of clientele I worked with while I was a Pro Bono Scholar (help for victims of domestic violence). I feel strongly that as a lawyer I must provide access to justice for people in need who may not be otherwise able to afford it. Not only does this help society, but it also helps me to gain experience operating in our legal system and helping clients. This further opens the door to meeting new clients who may be on the opposite side of the spectrum.
There are clients that need the huge law firm to represent them, like United Airlines (or the guy who got beat up), or a bank facing a large class action suit. More subtly, there is a broad market of potential clients who do not need the huge representation and fees that come with a large firm. These are the clients that need help with their estate planning, or need consultation in filing a small civil suit. I’m not saying I wouldn't be up for the challenge if David Dao called me up. I’m merely saying the market exists for the solo practitioner who is willing to put in the effort, and that it is a more profitable and enjoyable area than working for someone else.