December 15, 2010
ATLANTA – Today’s tough economic climate is impacting nearly everyone, and law students are no exception. Many students are nervous about entering the work force.
Recently, however, a growing number of students are taking active steps to prepare for life after graduation by exploring what it would be like to work for themselves – to be their own boss.
This fall, a group of students at Georgia State University College of Law officially launched a new student organization, the Be Your Own Boss Network (BYOB). Over a year and a half in the making, BYOB began in the Summer of 2009 when law student Beth Bachman, who had just finished her first year of law school, sent out a Facebook message asking friends if any were planning to start their own firms.
Fellow law student Robert Bexley expressed an interest, and the two began brainstorming ways to identify and unite other law students who had the same ambition of solo or small firm practice. The group met informally during the 2009-2010 academic year and then held their first official introductory meeting in August 2010, with about 40 students in attendance.
“I felt like this would be a great organization to prepare me for possibly starting my own practice,” said Stephanie Hyde, a second-year law student. “With the economy being as it is and jobs becoming less available, it’s wise to teach students how to start their own practice. This way we don’t have to depend on anyone, but ourselves.”
Bachman, a third-year law student, said solo and small firm practice are less-considered options for law students, but one that BYOB is here to encourage.
“Sure, you may not earn a guaranteed, cushy salary at first,” Bachman explained. “And yes, you will have to work a bit harder on the front end to get things started, but it’s better than waiting tables, and, depending on who you ask, better than having a corporate boss dictate your life.”
With the help of two more third-year students, Jane Stebbins and Jason Dyer, BYOB grew into an organization dedicated to teaching law students about the business of being a lawyer.
Although the organization’s focus is on solo or small firm practice, the message is relevant to all law students, regardless of career aspirations. The network has the goal of supplementing students’ traditional education in theoretical legal principles with information on how to manage a sustainable law practice, market one’s skills, find clients and utilize modern technology to help accomplish those ends.
"I believe that most attorneys are independent, industrious, and highly motivated,” Bexley explained. “We want to promote these virtues in such a way to encourage law students to fully explore all of their employment options, especially in light of the current economic climate. The surest way to avoid unemployment is to become self-employed."
Many students interested in striking out on their own enrolled last spring in a new law school course on the Fundamentals of Law Practice, which was taught by Clark Cunningham, W. Lee Burge Professor of Law & Ethics, who also serves as the faculty advisor to the BYOB Network, and Adjunct Professor Charlotte Alexander, who is the deputy director of the National Institute for Teaching Ethics and Professionalism, which is hosted by the College of Law.
Students in the three-credit course learn practice skills and ethical decision-making through simulating the work of a small, general practice law firm and engage in fieldwork learning about the work of an actual solo or small-firm practitioner. The course will be offered again in the Spring 2011 semester.
Also next spring, Georgia State Law’s Career Services Office again will present the Solo Practitioner & Small Firm Expo, which features a career fair, workshops and other events to draw employers, alumni, speakers and local attorneys to the law school. In addition, BYOB will host a three-part series next spring on how to create a small business plan. Counselors from SCORE, a national non-profit organization for entrepreneurs, will teach BYOB members how to create a mission statement, a financial projection, and a marketing plan. BYOB is also working on developing a relationship with the GSU Robinson School of Business entrepreneurship program, the Solo Practitioner/Small Firm Section of the Atlanta Bar, and other Georgia law schools in order build the network.
For more information about upcoming BYOB events, please visit the college of law’s calendar of events at http://law.gsu.edu/events/upcoming.php?id=9
Membership in the Be Your Own Boss Network costs $10 for the academic year. If you would like to join, contact the officers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: Pictured above from left to right are Jason Dyer, Beth Bachman, Robert Bexley and Jane Stebbins.
Director of Communications