Everyone Told Me I Couldn’t Be a Lawyer — So I Started a Law Firm.

Everyone Told Me I Couldn’t Be a Lawyer — So I Started a Law Firm.

Adam Leitman Bailey

Adam Leitman Bailey

August 10, 2021 10:28 AM

One of NYC’s top lawyers explains how he transcended barriers to build an exceptional firm.

John Peter Zenger shaped my decision on that common childhood question: “What do you want to be when you grow up? ”

Being a lawyer was the profession for my childhood self — until it was not. In my seventh grade English class, I was immediately captured by the idea that one person could use words to help others when I read a book on how Andrew Hamilton convinced a jury in 1735 to acquit Zenger, a publisher of seditious libel. My dreams shattered when I was told that law school was costly and reserved only for rich people who could afford tuition. By the time I entered high school, I had unwillingly given up my interest in law for my second passion, journalism.

Only years later, during college, did I learn that you could use loans to pay for law school. I was working at a Catskills country club at the time, and it was there that I met a lawyer for the first time. None of the parents in the towns I had grown up in had been lawyers. I immediately investigated and, despite the obstacles I had perceived during my childhood, decided to become a lawyer.

Fast-forward twelve years, and I started my own law firm. Starting your own business requires both self-confidence and the willingness to take a leap of faith, and a believe that your skills will lead you to success. Below, I’ve listed a few of the most important lessons from my earliest years in business.

Secure an Uncommon Name

Never before in the history of business has naming your company become so important. Because you will be selling a product, you want to use a memorable, easily-found name that has not already been taken. Customers must be able to find you on the Internet, as well; test your chosen name by Googling it.

If you find a unique name and choose to move forward, you will need to legally incorporate your company in the state in which you do business. Have your website domain name tested and secured, as well. All social media platforms should be connected to ensure your name will be distinguishable and unique from your competitors.

Impress, but Save on Rent

There are two primary reasons that companies go out of business: rent and salaries.

When opening a new company, you want to try to avoid renting the most magnificent office available. My company, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., started with one small office and a secretarial station. At the time, I bartered doing work for the landlord in exchange for the rent-free use of a shared receptionist and a conference room.

Looks do matter, and they make an impression that affects customer decisions. I have one client who used to run workshops out of her apartment. Although she had a beautiful apartment, reviewers would frequently mention that the business was run out of the apartment in their complaints, and more than one customer cited the location during a refund demand. The apartment is no longer used for classes.

Nowadays, businesses that are wooing customers at their offices can now use advertised shared spaces or find an existing business with extra space to launch their business at a minimal cost.

Hire the Best Employees and Know When to Hire More

Every customer service company lives or dies based on the employees it hires. Most of these companies also increase revenue and become more profitable as the company continues to recruit high performers. Early on, I would spend many hours interviewing and searching for ways to better recruit candidates. I also developed a five-page questionnaire, still used today, to increase my hiring aptitude.

Besides rent, salary constitutes most companies’ highest costs. It was an investment I was unwilling to make at first — almost to the cost of my firm’s wellbeing. It took a near devastating loss and a judge’s kindness for me to make the right decision. One morning, I had 18 court cases to handle, most of them short appearances. I ran to three courthouses and at least ten courtrooms before 1 pm, trying to give every case the best possible effort. But still, I was running out of time; I looked at the clock and realized I had 10 minutes to make it to Judge Maria Milin’s courtroom. I beat the clock, but I had already defaulted. I must have looked depressed because Judge Milin called me to the bench where she kindly offered me advice.

“Adam, I have been watching you,” she said. “I am not going to default you. I am adjourning the case to another day. You have more cases than one attorney can handle. I think it is time for you to hire an associate.” It took a near loss of a case and Judge Milin’s remarkable kindness to convince me to spend the money and hire another litigator.

Hiring is one of the most challenging decisions for any new company. I have represented thousands of companies and found that everyone, no matter how big or small, has always reflected the essence and morale of the founders. I still believe my very best employees are the ones that have been with me the longest because I have spent the most time with them, and they are molded in the company’s image. Thankfully, many of them have passed on their training to the next generation.

Having a manual with a thesis statement and long-term employees to pass on learning has kept morale high and allowed my business to provide a high caliber of customer service.

If You Aren’t Making Mistakes, You Aren’t Trying Hard Enough

Americans root for underdogs; if you are starting your own business, welcome to the club. However, no matter how much love you receive from friends and family, everyone will eventually choose the best, most cost-effective option.

I lost friends early in my career when they did not choose me as their real estate attorney. I could not forgive them. Looking back, I accept that I was wrong and regret my actions. In one particular case that I can remember, I was 29 years old and on a shortlist with a friend’s parent’s attorney, who had been recommended by several people and had a proven record. My competitor was the clear pick, but there is no telling a dreamer that he or she is not the best option.

The truth is, I made many mistakes, and as I tell my employees all the time — if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.

I hustled. I never left the house without business cards. I created a newsletter that I sent to everyone I knew by snail mail. I recruited top attorneys to lecture with me. I started writing for whoever would print my material — all in my free time. I would work from when I woke up to when I went to sleep. I have worked on major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day; working six days a week became a standard work schedule.

If my lifelong pursuit of a legal career has taught me anything, it would be that the only actual barriers to success that we face are the ones that we allow others to impose upon us. If you want to build a business or achieve a long-shot dream, you need to work hard and accept your mistakes. If you fail to do so, you will never achieve the success you envision.

Original Article

Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.

Related Articles

NYC Pay Transparency Law Gets New Start Date

by Justin Smulison

This historic law regarding pay transparency in New York City originally scheduled to take effect last week was rescheduled to Fall 2022.

NYC Stand Resolute on Pay Transparency

House Trap

by Heidi E. Storz

Special districts are often being used as profit centers that leave residents to foot the bill. These homeowners deserve protection from unscrupulous developers who attempt to fleece them and avoid accountability.

Special Districts Changing Property Ownership

Prominent 9/11 Lawyer Still Racking Up Awards for Clients

by John Ettorre

Despite 20 years passing since the September 11 terrorist attacks, one lawyer is still working to help families of victims recover compensation.

Prominent Lawyer Helping 9/11 Clients

In the News: New York

by Best Lawyers

News and Events for New York Lawyers

In the News: New York

Results Matter

by Sean Stonefield

With a history of record recoveries, Block O’Toole & Murphy continues to achieve some of New York’s largest personal injury verdicts and settlements.

Block O’Toole & Murphy

The Fighter From New York

by Justin Smulison

Benedict Morelli discusses recent successes and high-profile casework.

Morelli Law Firm

A Master in Defending the Accused

by Best Lawyers

The relentless pursuit of justice when everything is on the line.

Patrick A. Mullin

Trending Articles

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom

by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect

by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests

by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation

by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers

by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez

by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

How to Navigate False Abuse Claims in a Child Custody Case

by Ashley Jones

There’s hope for families to recover—a good lawyer is key.

False Abuse Claims in Child Custody

An Army of Nancy

by Rachel Shrewsbury

The horrific stories out of Guantánamo Bay nearly caused me to lose faith in the American principles of liberty and justice. Nancy Hollander turned out to be the ray of hope I was looking for.

Q&A with Nancy Hollander

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Japan.

The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2023

“Best Law Firms” Submissions: What They Are and Why They Matter

by Best Lawyers

"Best Law Firms" rankings are produced yearly by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. The submissions process is an important component for all eligible firms.

Best Law Firms Submissions

How Peer Review Powers Industry Referrals

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers combines the trust of industry referrals with state-of-the-art technology to help clients find the right lawyer.

Four people searching in their smartphone with the Best Lawyers methodology wheel over top

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

When DNA Isn’t the Tie That Binds

by Brittney M. Miller and James J. Vedder

Determining biological parenthood is as easy as getting a DNA test. Determining legal parenthood is more complicated altogether—especially as the composition of the American family continues to evolve.

When DNA isn't the tie that binds

Aim High and Fly

by Khalil Abdullah

From a silent victim of hometown segregation to Air Force captain and lawyer of consummate skill, Karen Evans exemplifies leadership—and vows always to help those who seek to follow her path.

Karen Evans' Leadership in the Airforce