I drove to the Law Society in Pretoria on Monday morning, 1 August 2005, registered my law firm, Jacobson Attorneys, and started my first business. Back then I worked out of a spare room in my flat in Savoy Estate in Johannesburg. I had a Windows PC, a multi-function printer/scanner/fax/copier and I had just switched to ADSL from a 56K dial-up connection. My plan back then was to provide large law firm-style legal services at lower rates. I had just left Werksmans at the end of July 2005 where I worked primarily as a litigation lawyer for about 6 and a half years so that is what I started my new practice focusing on.
One of the reasons I took that big step out into the unknown was my then fiancée, Gina, who supported my decision to leave my previous firm and start my own practice despite the risks and uncertainty. I was fortunate that a few clients followed me into my new firm and supported me for some time to follow. When Gina and I married in February 2006, I took my Apple PowerBook with me on honeymoon (with my new wife's generous consent) because I was too nervous to step entirely out of my practice for almost 2 weeks.
My focus shifted as I spent more time exploring social media and it's implications for South African businesses in the following year or two until my interest in social media and the law became a sustained focus area alongside an increasingly commercial leal practice (and a diminished interest in litigation). In the years that followed, I became a dad to an amazing little boy, made it through a recession, a failed partnership and the consequences of both on my business and became a dad (again) to a beautiful little girl. In the last few months, I have spun my social media legal work off into Web•Tech•Law, my team has expanded to include Nastassja and Samantha and I now find myself with a terrific team, a new focus for the firm (SMEs) and a strategy we are really excited about.
Along the way I learned a couple things: while some of the lessons my previous bosses tried hard to teach me were not as relevant to me as they hoped may have been, many of them were important ones I've re-learned. I am also incredibly fortunate not to have had the Monday Morning Dread for 7 years and to have found a speciality that re-ignited my passion for the law. I have tried to create a workspace that encourages creativity and more meaningful interactions with our clients who we really like and enjoy working for. After all these years, Jacobson Attorneys still feels like a start-up because we are continually exploring new ways to practice law, create new legal frameworks and innovate in our space. It is much of what gets me out of bed in the mornings, eager to get to my office and continue working.
Of course, I wouldn't be here without my many amazing clients who support my small firm, my colleagues who have made the journey feel like more of a team effort and my family who support and inspire me daily. Although they have only recently become part of Jacobson Attorneys, Nastassja and Samantha have become integral to this firm and I can't imagine gong back to a solo practice. I can't wait to see what lies ahead in the next 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, well, you get the picture.
Looking ahead we have a couple great projects planned. We are working on even more useful content in a variety of formats and even more interesting ways to anticipate and cater for legal risks our clients face. Legal compliance isn't the sort of thing clients find terribly appealing for a variety of reasons and we're working on addressing many of those reasons.
We are not your typical lawyers and we had no desire to be them. The last 7 years have been quite an education and we are still learning. I feel like we are only just getting started.