Eighteen Months In: Hiring an Associate, Buying Real Health Insurance

the-shingle-life

Amazingly, my partner and I have been up and running for about eighteen months now. We haven’t killed each other, we haven’t been disbarred, and we have kept the lights on. And now we’ve decided it’s time to expand. This summer we will bring on an associate attorney and get some real health insurance.

You can discuss The Shingle Life in the comments, in the LAB, or on Twitter using the hashtag #shinglelife.

Hiring an Associate

We have kicked around the idea of an associate for a while now. With the volume of our practice, we need to be in multiple places at once. And that means we don’t necessarily have time to do all the business development we want. This is where detractors will argue that by doing our job well, we will naturally build our client base. It’s true, but business development activities like giving presentations, joining civic groups, and so on, can also contribute nicely.

With an associate we will be able to split the work load out among more people (obviously). That means there will be more time for business development, and we won’t have to refer out much work due to conflicted schedules. If we still have to refer out cases for scheduling conflicts, well, that’s a problem we want to have.

Initially we considered hiring an assistant instead of an associate. That would free us up from doing things like typing letters and shredding paper. But in our experience, it won’t free up enough time for us to go create new relationships and bring in more clients. In contrast, hiring an associate will allow us to leverage that person’s skills in addition to our own. We will be able to encourage this new person to bring in their own book of business and help the firm grow.

Most importantly, we will be able to spend more time running a legal comedy blog instead of this boring law firm.

Upgrading Our Health Insurance

When we left our government jobs, good health insurance was the last thing on our mind. We needed something cheap. You know, just in case. So we kept a fifth of Jack Daniels and a bottle of sleeping pills on hand. Now that we can think about such things, we did some shopping for group health insurance.

For now, even with just three people, group health insurance can offer competitive rates. We will only end up paying about $40 more per person per month for insurance that is infinitely better than what we have now.

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  • Steve Richardson

    Josh: Hopefully you will continue to expand and be able to hire my niece, Kasey, in 2015! She is going to need a job after graduation!

  • Sheila

    Josh – can you share who you went through to get the health insurance- is it a group plan or just individual plans for both? Thanks

  • Jordan Rushie

    This whole thing sounds disastrous…

    “hiring an associate will allow us to leverage that person’s skills in addition to our own. We will be able to encourage this new person to bring in their own book of business and help the firm grow.”

    It doesn’t work like that. You’ll spend a significant amount of time training the associate and supervising their work. You’ll also spend a lot of time managing them, and making sure they’re busy, what they’re up to, etc.

    It’s not like having a third partner. This is someone you pay to show up to do work for you. They aren’t invested in the business, and they are there to get a paycheck.

    At 18 months in, I think it’s too early for you. At the very least, try and find a solo attorney looking to do some per diem coverage work.

    • 100% truth.

    • Randall Ryder

      I’d agree with that. Having worked for Sam as an associate, and now running my own practice, the mindset is totally different.

      It’s not as simple as “hire person; make more money.”

    • Chad Murray

      Agreed on all points. Unless you have enough extra work to pay for the overhead an associate creates and still turn a profit for the firm, it’s probably not worth it. Jordan’s per diem or appearance counsel advice is solid. If you’re dead set on adding another body, you may want to consider a fee-splitting of counsel arrangement with no set salary. But an associate? That seems… premature.