February 26, 2009

Semi-detached business model

When I was a young lawyer who decides to have my own business, I am everything that an office need to function. I am the lawyer who will answer whatever you want to solve. I am the personal assistant who takes your call. I am the driver who went to court and bring you in my small-paid-by-my-parents-car although you have a much better car. I am the despatch who sent the documents to the land office or court to be filed. I am everything and then some. You can call me anytime, any hour and at any place. Even if two weeks ago I have reminded you I amgoing to be on holiday as the whole town is celebrating a religious holiday or some other obscure celebration.

In that early years, the word "you snooze, you lose" is a mantra that keep repeating itself over and over again without fail. I have trained myself to answer my cellphone in the middle of the night as if I was at the office burning the midnight oil trying to finish that brief although I was already off to sleep hours earlier. During that time the call could be about a client who was just caught again due to drugs or a client who had a late night discussion with his investor and wanted a second opinion on how the deal should be structured. Yes, I was the do-all-and-never-go-to-sleep superhuman. I was supposed to know all the law of the land at the tip of my finger. Corporate, criminal, civil and even the current by-law such as the leash law of a particular town.

It was a time when I was still single and I was still trying to find a footing in the legal business community. I was attached to a legal firm which basically is a criminal law practice but I was willing to take any brief as long as it pays. I could be in a court of law in one place at nine in the morning, lunch with a corporate executive some 80 miles from my office, back at my hometown at 6 pm to play tennis before having a meeting in Kuala Lumpur at night. By 2am I need to shoot back home, which is another 60 miles drive as I have another court date in the morning.

When you are everything that a legal firm can be, it is actually a good outfit. You will know each file by heart and you will earn enough for you to survive. During my stint with that kind of setup, I actually can say I have job satisfaction when a work was done well. A client got off from the crime he was accused of. An agreement was signed on time and the client loads of money from it. A client who sued because he was involved in an accident got a huge settlement from the insurance company. All clients were personal and I knew them personally.

Not anymore. Being medium size and relying on bulk work from corporations, I tend to treat everyone as a file. They are just someone who come and go through my office, attended by one of my staff and dealt with as soon as possible so we can get our bill paid. As much as I miss that early days, I now can concentrate on how my business grow and how to spread it among my staff and partners. You just lost touch with the humanity of the people on the ground but you can increase your own self-fulfillment. Is bad or good, both have it's own pros and cons.


wankongyew said...

Pretty interesting to see a Malaysian lawyer blog. I'd imagine that you get a lot of requests for free legal advice and you'd need to bury your replies in a lot of caveats.

If you write lots of "Is xx legal in Malaysia?" questions, including interesting case histories and consequences, I for one will read them.

Jenny said...

That was an interesting read. On the other hand, although its much less personalized, I'm sure just looking back on the "then" and "now" gives you a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

Congrats on the journey!!

kruel74 said...

wankongyew - Do want to expand on such topics but such blogs are around like eLawyer.com.my (which give advice for free) so I stick to simple explanation of lawyers and their business

Jenny - I am thankful, that is why I write this tribute...

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