Coming out of Loyola Law School with his J.D. last May, Joseph Tojarieh didn’t like what he saw on the job scene. So he did what very few recent grads do: He launched his own solo firm.
Cray-zee? He doesn’t think so. And neither do his mentors.
An occasional look at how legal professionals and new grads cope with an era of economic crisis.
“I’m young. I graduated from law school when I was 23. I passed the bar the first time, I can take that risk,” Tojarieh told Legal Pad this week.
He says his decision stems from two facts: His practice interests are narrowly defined, and he didn’t graduate in the top of his class. So instead of settling for a legal job that wasn’t paying enough, or one that paid but wasn’t related to the sort of plaintiff work he wanted to pursue, he opened the Law Offices of Joseph F. Tojarieh in West L.A.
His plan raised a lot of questions in our mind, but the guy has answers.
Answers, after the jump.
Tojarieh is working on that. Since he’s only been admitted to practice for a little more than a month, he’s been busy forming a corporate identity. “I worked a lot on the logo,” he said. (His Web site is still under construction.) Pretty soon, he says he’ll be sending out letters to family and friends to offer representation in landlord-tenant disputes, bankruptcies on behalf of debtors, and personal injury matters.
How does he pay for office space, the logo and his new monitor?
Tojarieh has worked out an arrangement with L.A. solo Richard Weiss, who pays him a modest amount each month, plus all expenses, such as rent, in exchange for three days a week of contract work. Weiss, who focuses on plaintiffs’ side business, personal injury, real estate and employment law, said Tojarieh helps with such things as legal research and simple court appearances on his behalf. Tojarieh says he also does court appearances for Hoffman & Pomerantz, filling in on case management conferences, for instance.
And what does he do when he comes across an area of law he doesn’t have experience with?
“I am in a suite with a bunch of attorneys,” Tojarieh says. “Any advice I need is right next door.”
Does he have any student debt?
More than $100,000, he says, on which he pays $25 in interest a day. Fortunately, there’s the income-based repayment plan, which lets him pay a percentage of what he makes. “I’m taking advantage of things.”
And if he lands a whopper of a case and needs more manpower?
Tojarieh calls on longtime mentor Jeffrey Rudman, for whom he says he has worked part-time as a clerk from high school through college. Rudman, who handles personal injury plaintiffs’ litigation, noted that the field is thick with competition, and that any lawyer needs to have a strong client base and funding to stay afloat while taking cases on contingency. He liked Tojarieh’s fire for the law and his personality. “He’s a really smart guy, dedicated, loyal and trustworthy,” Rudman said. “I’d consider talking to him about some of the smaller cases that I don’t take to help him get his feet wet.”
Tojarieh hopes to be completely independent within six months. (Memo to self: Check back in July.)
Weiss believes he has a decent chance of success. “It’s hard for young attorneys to get jobs out there and I think you have to take chances,” he said. “You try and if it doesn’t work, you can always go work for a firm.”
— Petra Pasternak