In this installment of Contract Heroes, we had the chance to chat with founder of Pomeranz Law, Jeff Pomeranz. Jeff worked as an in house attorney for 10 years before opening his own firm in Florida at the end of 2017. Over the years, his firm has evolved into one that splits between business transactional work and litigation, making excellent use of the variety of skills he picked up during his time working in house.
A bit different from our usual topics, our conversation this episode centered around Jeff’s unique experience transitioning from in house work to managing his own firm. He provided us with a ton of insight about managing different aspects of legal work, including talking to executives and, of course, managing contracts. Stick around until the end of the article to learn more about some of his tips for anyone looking to branch out and start a law firm of their own.
Working for Yourself
To kick things off, we wanted to know about how Jeff made the transition from in house work to building and managing his very own law firm. Turns out, he didn’t have any aspirations to start his own firm at first. His original goal when leaving law school was to end up working as general counsel for a successful company. However, as he worked his way into senior positions like the ones he imagined, he found that they didn’t provide him with the level of fulfillment he wanted from his work. At first, the title itself meant something to him, but gradually his fulfillment became about other things, like delivering good service to clients and finding a balance between work and family life. He eventually decided to try branching out on his own and discovered that having his own firm could provide him the flexibility he needed to adjust to what was most important to him at that moment.
Managing your own firm requires a lot of unique skills that Jeff managed to acquire throughout his 10 years working in house. His experiences provided him with an excellent introduction on how to practice law, allowing him to develop the technical skill set necessary to be an attorney as well as the self skills that are expected by both internal clients and his own clients now. He learned how to service clients and the nuances of providing good service, from communication to presentation. However, there is an extra skill set required when you work for yourself, which is management of the business side of things. At the start, Jeff was unsure how to market, what software he should use, how much he should charge, etc. But the whole endeavor is a learning process, and, as he worked at it for 2 to 3 years, he gradually figured everything out.
Talking to Executives 101
As the owner of his own firm, Jeff frequently works with all kinds of different organizations and executives. Throughout those experiences and by observing the feedback executives typically seek during meetings, he has developed a skill set that emphasizes straight answers that provide clients with the exact type of information they need. Jeff explained that most executives aren’t looking for an information dump when they ask for recommendations. Rather, they want to be put in a position to be able to make an informed decision. The way to bring value to a client, then, is to provide them with the facts they need in order to make that decision. Executives don’t have time to read a 10 page memo listing every fact, so you need to be able to choose the most relevant ones to present. Jeff suggests providing a condensed assessment of the issue followed by a short recommendation. Be prepared to answer questions quickly and concisely as well.
It’s also important to remember that clients might not always use your recommendation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t provide a good service. Oftentimes, you as an attorney may not be aware of all the extenuating business circumstances at play in a contract. The value of the service is allowing clients to make more informed decisions based on the information and expertise you provided.
The Value of Contract Management
Of course, we had to take a moment to pick Jeff’s brain about his experiences with contract management as well. Citing his own experience working in various companies, Jeff explained that part of the value of contract management is finding a way to maximize contract compliance and provide the company with data that can improve your contract processes. By setting up controls to collect data along with checks and balances between departments that keep the process moving steadily with minimal mistakes, you can make your processes more efficient. Having efficient processes and employees with a deep understanding of those processes makes the implementation of technology like contract lifecycle management (CLM) tools much easier.
One example of good CLM practices that Jeff talked about was centralizing the function of contracts. Contracts can funnel into one location, such as legal, and hit checkpoints along the way that make sure they’re ready to go forward. For example, a contract should have a short cover page that provides context and outlines the key terms and the value of the contract for the person signing it. In this way, you can make sure all the boxes are checked before contracts reach their final destination.
Tips for Starting Your Own Firm
If you’ve hit a saturation point in your career, you may be considering ways to change things up and make yourself more satisfied. These are the times when Jeff recommends branching out on your own. Feeling unfulfilled in your work, underpaid, or like your title doesn’t represent where you want to be are all great reasons to try something new. However, if you do decide to strike out on your own, you will need to first have a moment with yourself and make sure you’re fully committed to the idea. After all, managing your own business isn’t easy and requires its own set of soft skills like grit and believing in yourself. If you have those qualities, legal experience, and a desire for something more, working for yourself may be a great solution for you.
For more exclusive chats with expert guests in the contract lifecycle management sphere along with valuable legal-tech advice, check out past installments of Contract Heroes and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode! If you have any questions for our guest, Jeff Pomeraz, he is available on LinkedIn and always excited to share his experiences with anyone looking to get started on their own.