Advice to a Younger Me

My journey as a self employed trial lawyer began in August of 1994, the day I got fired from my first job as a lawyer.  Getting fired is not as bad as you might think. It happened around midday, when I was asked to go see Francine Curtis, the firm’s managing attorney for the plaintiff’s asbestos law firm of Brayton Gisvold and Harley (BGH).  I walked into Fran’s small office which was packed with legal files and documents. Fran was behind her desk and David Donadio, the managing attorney in training, was seated to my left. I learned quickly that I would no longer be working at the firm. I was handed an envelope with a $2,500 check inside and told that I was free to go.

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I have no memory of what I said to Fran and David at that moment.  I did take a look at the check; $2,500 seemed like a lot of money to me in 1994.  I was told to get my stuff, which was nothing, and go. I was stoked to walk out the door of the law firm on that beautiful summer day in 1994.  I got into my 1981 Toyota Celica and drove back to my apartment on Buchanan Street in San Francisco’s Marina district.

The Law Office of Albert G. Stoll, Jr. was officially open for business.

I felt no sadness the day I got fired by Francine Curtis.  The moment I realized I was being fired, a warm feeling of happiness and joy permeated my body.  “Thank you, I feel much better now. I am free.” sums up what I would have said to Fran and David that day.  I had no worry in my body, just excitement and a strong desire to get to work being a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer.  Fran and David helped me on my journey. It would have been much harder to walk into Fran’s office and quit.

But it was time to get to work.  The days began to fly by, one after another, in the blink of an eye.  I would go to work, and look at my watch and it was already 5 pm. I was working hard to start my law firm and learning how to be a trial lawyer.  I loved it!

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This was the first time in my life I had been fired.  It did not seem like the kind of thing I should advertise.  I was not straight with my parents. I told my parents something like, “I decided to quit my job and start my own law firm.”  I could hear the concern in my parents’ voices, “Are you sure about this.”? My parents were too positive to say, “You mean you no longer have a job and you are going out on your own? Are you crazy.”  But I could tell from their voices that they were concerned about my purported career move.

Advice to 26 year old self.  Face the music and tell your parents the truth. Yes, it may be a bit scary. It’s your first lesson as a young trial lawyer. Don’t avoid the truth; face the truth.  “But, but”, my younger self would say, “Can you imagine if I had told my parents the truth. I just got fired from my first job as a real, licensed lawyer, likely because I was not a very good writer, and now I am going to open my own law firm.”  As a recently rejected 26 year old, I was scared of facing the truth. At the time, I did not understand how taking the opportunity to be open, honest, and vulnerable would be a sign of strength that would connect me with my parents and be a skill that would help me succeed as a trial lawyer.

About Albert Stoll

In his 20 years of law practice, Al has handled more than 40 jury trials. This experience, combined with a commitment to ethics and integrity, has earned Al an excellent reputation throughout the San Francisco Bay Area legal community. He is the recipient of Martindale-Hubbell‘s “AV” peer rating, which signifies preeminent legal ability and ethical standards, and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since 2006. In 2009, Al was awarded the prestigious 2009 Civil Justice Award by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, given to attorneys who show integrity, grit, tenacity, ethics, and great advocacy skills, and who contribute to the betterment of consumers and/or injured victims and their families.