Dominic Esposito is a sole practitioner in small firm in suburban Melbourne. After graduating he started work for a suburban practice dealing mainly with small business and family matters. He opened his own firm in 1988 as a sole practitioner and has since expanded to employ a number of other junior solicitors. His firm deals primarily in litigation in a wide variety of legal areas including commercial, family, petty crime and property disputes.
What attracted you to running your own practice rather than joining an established one?
I came across an opportunity with a commercial law firm in Melbourne City and was advised that I should give myself a job, as I was too highly motivated. The opportunity to open my own firm came up when a service office next to an accounting firm became available. It was a steep learning curve both with the substantive law practice and the management aspect of being a sole practitioner.
What are the main benefits of owning your own practice?
In a sense working for yourself is a form of fulfilment – doing things largely on your own terms and you establish more seniority and experience. It was rewarding as you grew with your clients, grew with capacity, sills and resources. It also allowed me to work in a large variety of areas such as insolvency, family, asset realisation litigation, commercial property and planning and many others. It has also allowed me to pursue areas of law that I am interested in, to have a closer bond with clients and build relationships outside of a sterile legal environment.
What are the most notable disadvantages to being a small suburban practice?
The disadvantages are determined by subjective perception. Small firms do not typically evidence good management because of the lack of critical mass, which requires such management and cost considerations. The management in a small firm is nothing like the infrastructure of a large firm where any solicitor is supported with the various inputs including client management, accounting, file management etc.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The most satisfactory part of my work nowadays is that I can largely determine my day and my relationship with my clients. The clients make the goodwill and if you look after them they will look after you and possibly for years. You grow with them and you educate their children and share the experience of the law appropriately. There is a dimension of mentoring and knowledge and skill sharing that is quite special that comes from a suburban practice because of the very nature of the wide range of work and the intimacy of that work over a long period.
What advice would you give to law students or new solicitors who might want to open their own practice?
My advice to law students is that they should think about suburban practice. The first point is that it is an experience that it is quite different to a large firm. It is a very good grounding for a wide variety of work and for the foundation of literacy in the law, knowing for example what contracts, mortgage, probate, lease, criminal process might be as part of a fundamental legal (and societal) literacy.
Once a young lawyer has basic legal practice literacy, that person is better informed to make choices whether within the government or private sector or in a more traditional practice context. The wide skills are transferable to politics, writing, business, social enterprise. Outside the law, suburban practitioners seem to have a more rich experience because their practice does not seem to overwhelm them so much (although every practitioner in every firm is different).
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