Meggin Rutherford graduated from Colorado Law in tough economic times. Harnessing her entrepreneurial spirit, she opened her own law practice just six months after passing the Colorado Bar. Four years later, the Rutherford Law Center (http://mrutherfordlaw.com/) focuses on family law practice. Meggin also dedicates considerable time to raising her young daughter. She encourages current law students to take control of their destinies.
I am a part-time, solo practitioner focusing on mediation, family law, wills, probate, guardianship, and other assorted things that come my way. Monday through Wednesday, I drop my daughter off at daycare, which is five minutes from both my house and my office. From there, I may go to the office or to court or mediation. Often, I am at the office answering innumerable e-mails and calls, or drafting pleadings or settlement letters. I am usually done around 5:30 p.m., and then I go get my daughter and head back home. On Thursdays and Fridays, when I’m allowed a break from the playing and exploring with my daughter, I work from home.
I graduated at the bottom of the recession when no one was hiring new attorneys and lots of attorneys were losing their jobs. There were no jobs to be had, so I started my own practice. At the time, I was devastated that I could not find a job. It was really hard to start my own business; it is not for the faint of heart. But now I wouldn't trade it for a job working for someone else. I am so glad that this is how my life turned out. I control my own caseload, and I have grown professionally and personally in ways that never would have happened if life had turned out as I had expected.
The Career Development Office did a lot to help me when I was looking for someone else to give me a job. They sent me leads and information. They helped me get my resume up to snuff and gave me practice interviews. When I decided to start my own practice, they pointed me towards resources to help me learn what to do and how to do it.
You must be a critical thinker to be a good lawyer. You cannot just accept your client’s version of events and accept that what they want is really best for them or their children. You have to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions that will keep them out of court and being good parents for their children. Colorado Law helped me think of all situations from many different perspectives and evaluate case law in new and creative ways to serve my clients.
This is something that I did not realize was so important until it was thrown on me when I started my practice. It is very important to have good people skills in two ways. The first is with your client. Even though you do this every day, going to a lawyer is intimidating and scary. They don’t know the process or what to expect, and they often are feeling very vulnerable. You have to be approachable and really listen to their problems to understand the underlying goals and concerns. Then you will be able to really serve them in a way that will give them long lasting positive results. The second set of necessary people skills is admittedly my worst—networking. I have received many referrals from other professionals, not just attorneys who know people who need my help. If you are going out on your own, other attorneys and professionals are even more important to help support you. I have turned to more senior attorneys as mentors to help me through rough situations, or tough legal questions. I would never have made it without cultivating these types of mentors.
It is best if you can find a job with a senior attorney you can trust in the area of law you would like to practice. Then you can learn from their experience, and move on when you feel you are too comfortable. If you can get that first job from jobs or internships in school, that is great. However, do not be afraid to go out on your own. You will learn things about yourself that you did not know. You will do things that you swore you would never have the strength to do. Learn the basis of your practice with someone who will help guide you and then create your own way in the world. Control your own destiny. You will be glad that you did.