The first paying job that I had as an attorney paid me $15 per hour. A typical hourly rate for an attorney is $300 per hour so I had negotiated myself a nifty 5% of the average pay. As bad of a deal as it seemed to be, the payoff was huge. I was thankful then and am thankful now for that meager start which provided both tangible and intangible returns.
The attorney that I was working for had a storefront type of practice but he was much more involved in a real estate business than he was in the day-to-day filing of motions and appearances in court. As a result, I got to take care of most of the nuts and bolts of the legal practice under his supervision and direction. I worked hard to serve that attorney and his clients to the best of my ability without regard for the pay.
Before too long, I had other opportunities and didn’t directly work for him anymore. My next position put me in court about 100 times per month, which is quite a bit compared to most attorneys. The result was that I became very familiar with the courts and grew in my ability as a litigator, particularly with certain criminal cases. Most of this was court appointed work so, while it was more than $15 per hour, I wasn’t getting rich doing that, either. At least not financially.
That first attorney that I worked for and I maintained a good relationship and he started sending me work to partner with him on, where we would split the fee. I went from 5% to 50%. The referrals over the next couple of years resulted in a significant boost to my overall income.
I had to go through the entry-level experience to get to the place of value. I couldn’t have jumped to the place where it was beneficial to me without first going through the humble position which brought little apparent reward. Attempting to jump ahead would have cost me the relationship and it would have put me in cases that I wasn’t prepared to handle. There was a process.
The benefits of taking the humble position taught me eternal lessons:
- Don’t be afraid of the process
- You’re likely not as ready or as valuable as you think you are
- Build the solid foundation of success through humility and you will be ready for the responsibility of promotion
- Pre-mature promotion results in a faulty foundation which produces the compromise of insecurity
- God is more interested in shaping your character than He is adding to your income
- Allow your circumstances to reveal and shape your maturity
- Move on when the time is right, but do so with honor towards those that you have been working for
- Preserve relationships
- See the big picture
- Hear from God and know that He is faithful to finish what He started