The concept for SFBW’s millennial issue grew out of a discussion with David O. Norsoph, Tomer L. Alcalay and Eric S. Orner, who launched Norsoph, Alcalay & Orner LLP (NAO Law) in May of last year. The firm offers services in the areas of real estate, business law, family law, personal injury, Internet defamation and wills, trusts and estates. The firm also provides real estate title insurance and closing services.
The three founders” determination to be entrepreneurs mirrors the attitudes of many millennials in that they want to have work/life balance, perform meaningful work, embrace the digital era and give back to the community. SFBW invited them to share their experiences in their own words and give insight into why they decided to launch the firm, their strategy and what obstacles they had to overcome.
Alcalay: American Dream Realized
I was born into a family of Israeli immigrant entrepreneurs. From a young age, I was exposed to the business world and serial entrepreneurism as my father and uncles opened, acquired, managed and sold several companies. Having started with very limited resources, it took hard work and perseverance for my family to pursue the American dream.
After completing law school at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., during the Great Recession, I was lucky to start my career as a corporate associate in the New York City office of Ropes & Gray LLP, a major international law firm. I later moved closer to my family and spent two years as a real estate associate in the Miami office of Akerman LLP, one of the largest firms in Florida. Six months before leaving, I started discussing the idea of starting my own firm with my friends Eric and David.
It was a daunting thought to leave the comfort of a stable, well-paying salary, but the time was now – before getting married and having kids, which would make the stakes of taking big risks unacceptable. When I gave notice, though, apprehension turned into excitement.
My two partners and I faced many difficult decisions while starting this new venture. We spent countless hours choosing the size, location and acceptable cost of our office. Ultimately, we decided on a larger space near the Broward County Courthouse to be centrally located and have room for growth.
Building a law firm required us to wear many more hats than just being attorneys. Each of us has had to work on marketing, business development, networking, accounting, IT, billing and collections.
We have focused our efforts on improving our skills in the areas we know best and enjoy the most and on building a strong network of trusted colleagues to which we can refer our clients for matters in other areas of law.
Orner: A Family Tradition
My grandfather was a very successful entrepreneur and role model. He always told me to be your own boss and create your own opportunities. My father started his own law practice upon graduating from law school, quickly building a successful firm. These two major influences instilled in me as a child led me to become a lawyer and entrepreneur.
After graduating law school, I went to work at my father’s firm, where he began mentoring and training me to become his successor. However, I became frustrated when I met staunch resistance when I attempted to implement digital-era ideas and processes. After leaving my father’s firm, I worked for one of Florida’s largest plaintiff’s foreclosure law firms, always thinking back to my grandfather’s advice.
Having diverse experiences (my partners and I each practiced in different areas of law) was a strong advantage that enabled us to bring in and service a variety of clients. We knew we had the recipe for the perfect team. Plus, what’s better than working with your best friends?
We spoke daily, planning and strategizing how we were going to build our firm. We stuck to a strict schedule of meetings to construct our ideal business plan. By the time we opened up our doors, we were able to hit the ground running as we already invested significant effort in our preparation stages.
Norsoph: Father’s Experience Was Influential
I have always been oriented to being a businessman and entrepreneur. I watched my father practice as a radiologist before venturing on his own and creating multiple businesses. I saw how being his own boss allowed him increased flexibility in his life and more time to spend with his family.
After graduating with a law degree and an MBA, I sought experience at a large law firm and accepted an offer from Akerman LLP in Fort Lauderdale. After four years, I spoke with Eric and Tomer about opening our own law firm.
We purchased the book “How to Start and Build a Law Practice” by Jay Foonberg. For months, we would discuss chapters of the book and plan how we wanted to conduct our business.
We were not able to take any clients with us from our prior law firms, so we had to rely on friends and family to help us get off the ground. We learned that no matter how much planning you put into opening and operating a business, there are certain variables you cannot fully account for, including operating and marketing costs. Fortunately, advancements in technology and social media have made it easier for us to market our business and reach potential clients.
We operate our business as we see fit, focusing on the areas of law we love and serving the clients we want to help. We were also able to open a real estate title insurance business.
While not knowing your salary each month would intimidate many people, it is what motivates us to put our all into our business. We enjoy having the flexibility to attend more networking and charity events than we could before. It is important for us to not only perform billable work, but to have an impact on our community and give back.
There are advantages and disadvantages to owning your own business, but we as millennials desire certain things in life, and becoming your own boss allows you to enjoy many of them.
” Good entrepreneurial role models can be highly motivating
” Get experience in the field before venturing on your own
” Research information on how to start a business in your field
” Develop a detailed business plan and strategy
” Secure the financial resources to take a cut in pay while you launch the business
” Be prepared to do a variety of tasks, such as marketing and business development
” Realize that unanticipated expenses will pop up