Q: Where do you work?
A: I work at J. Moskowitz Law LLC, which is a solo law practice that I started a little over six years ago.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own law firm?
A: I am not sure that I would use the word decide. I graduated law school in 2012, and it was a very difficult market. I spent my entire time in law school clerking for the Cook County Public Defender and hoped that I would get a job there after school. Unfortunately, due to budget issues, the County had a hiring freeze. So, my plan to become a PD went out the window. I always assumed that one day I would start my own practice, but the circumstances moved up my timeline a bit and I started right out of law school.
Q: What do you practice?
A: I practice criminal defense and traffic cases. Most of my cases are felonies pending at 26th and California.
Q: Do you recommend new solo practitioners to specialize in a particular area of law right away, or should they start as generalists?
A: If you plan to stay in Chicago, specialize. There are too many lawyers here not to. One of the benefits of being in a large city is the abundance of business so you can focus on one area. Conversely, if you are trying to compete with people that are specializing and you are a generalist, they will likely be far better versed in that area of law, putting you and your client at a disadvantage.
Q: How do you balance your legal work with running a business?
A: You don’t. I am a businessman that happens to sell law. Most of my time is spent on the business side and less goes into the practice of law. You have to constantly be bringing in business, keeping clients happy, collecting fees, handling taxes, and managing the office, all before you get to sit down and do legal work.
Q: What how do you generate business?
A: Networking. I hate the word; it has such a negative connotation. But if you want to be successful, you need business, and the only way to do that is to constantly put yourself out there. Bar associations, other attorneys, school groups, sports, networking groups… the list goes on.
Q: When running your own firm, it seems like you are never off the clock. How do you balance your work, life, and other extra-curricular activities?
A: There is no such thing as work-life balance. You need to become very flexible. You will have to take calls on weekends or drop personal plans to go to court. The law market is extremely competitive, and if you aren’t answering your phone, the client will find another attorney. You learn to do personal things around work.
Q: Why should solo practitioners become involved in the Chicago Bar Association?
A: The CBA is a gold mine for a solo practitioner. It is a fantastic place to network, get CLE credit, find mentorship and get excellent rates on malpractice insurance.
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your own firm?
A: That I would be a businessman, not a lawyer. Luckily, I found that I love running a business, but I certainly did not realize all that I was getting into.
Q: Why should young attorneys start their own law firms?
A: They should not. That may sound funny, but it’s the best advice I did not heed. I was fortunate to find a fantastic mentor that made sure I knew how to be an attorney and run a business, but it is not something I would recommend young attorneys try to do themselves right away.
Q: Do you have any other pieces of advice?
A: The practice of law is tough. You will face issues that most people never encounter. You will be working with people that may be in the worst crisis of their life. You will be tested mentally and physically. But the practice of law is a noble one and an important one. We have profound effects on our clients’ lives. Take a second to step back and realize that you are not alone (we all struggle some days) and use your degree for good. Volunteer, I promise it’ll be fulfilling. Also, find a mentor, but not just any mentor. Find the person that you wish you could be, and make them your mentor.
Jeff is a trial attorney with comprehensive litigation experience and broad knowledge of the law. Jeff received his Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law. At DePaul, he was a recipient of the prestigious CALI Award for excellent trial litigation skills and the Benjamin Hooks’ Distinguished Public Service Award for his extensive pro bono work.
Jeff has handled hundreds of cases and tried countless motions, hearings and trials, both bench and jury. He has successfully advocated for clients in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties, as well as in the Northern District of Illinois federal court.
Having served as a guest lecturer at Chicago-Kent College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, John Marshall Law School and Loyola University School of Law, Jeff is dedicated to improving legal education and staying in touch with current legal issues. He also teaches continuing legal education to fellow attorneys in multiple subject areas.
Currently, Jeff serves as the Second Vice Chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Section executive board. Before his current position, he served as the member service manager, director and co-chair of the Moot Court Committee. At DePaul, he is the chair of nominations for the College of Law Alumni Engagement Board and an active member of the Dean’s Advisory Council.
Jeff is also a member of the Chicago Bar Foundation Young Professionals Board and an attorney mentor in the Justice Entrepreneurs Project. As a court-appointed guardian ad litem for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Jeff has been chosen to represent children’s best interests in court proceedings. He is a member of the Lawndale Christian Legal Center Young Professionals Board, for whom he sponsors an annual summer fundraiser to help cover the costs of college tuition for students in the Lawndale community. He previously coached the Little Village High School Mock Trial team and performed volunteer expungements for Cabrini Green Legal Aid.