Opening Statements


  • Print.

Photo by Andrew

Make no mistake about it: Kathleen Aguilar loves her solo practice representing nonprofits and artists.

But like other solo and small-firm practitioners, she’s also found that the rewards of a satisfying career can come with a price. In her case, she’s learned it can be hard to make a living as a solo and pay for necessities like health insurance.

So Aguilar came up with a plan: Why not work at Starbucks part time and take advantage of the affordable health insurance the company offers its employees? Aguilar, who practices in West Chester, Pa., decided to first float the idea on SoloSez, the ABA’s e-mail discussion list for solo and small-firm practitioners, before actually applying. She clearly hit a nerve. “I would say 80 percent of the people were like, ‘You go, girl—you do what you have to do,’ ” Aguilar says. “Other people had a visceral negative reaction.”

We posed Aguilar’s question to our readers on Here’s what you had to say:

“Being a lawyer means my day job’s hours aren’t predictable enough for a flex-schedule retail place like Starbucks, but I am currently considering tutoring, overnight baking delivery and room service as possibilities—and not just for insurance.”

—Ins Def 08 Grad

“Two years ago, as a solo, I didn’t have insurance because I didn’t qualify on my own due to pre-existing conditions, and would have worked anywhere that wouldn’t undercut my credibility for my ‘real job’ in order to get insurance. Now I work in-house for insurance part time and earn better money in private practice. Now I have insurance and no time to go to the doctor.”

—in-house and out-house

“I am a single mother of three teenage boys. I purchased our completely inadequate health insurance policy for an outrageous rate on the open market. Recently I took on a second job with the objective of obtaining health insurance once I complete the probationary period. The result is that everything suffers. I am not there for my children, my legal work is not to the standards that made my reputation and, frequently, the second job lacks the attention it needs as well. As for sleep? Who needs sleep in the middle of a financial crisis as long as there is Starbucks?”


“Being an attorney is, at the heart of it, about helping people. Working at Starbucks is another way of serving people. If I were not working as many hours as I am, I’d love to do it—not only for the health insurance, but also for the adoption credit Starbucks offers—not to mention the free drinks!”


“FedEx would be where I would go, and I would go now but for the fact I need sleep to keep up with my obligations to my family. Frankly, I would work wherever I could to secure medical benefits. It is the whenever that is difficult to navigate.”


“I’ve moonlighted sorting boxes for UPS, working the line at a restaurant and tossing newspapers when the need arose. What’s the big deal about people not knowing who you are? Is there a shame to working when your main job isn’t covering your insurance, or for that matter your bills?”


“I’m a solo with a healthy family whose [health insurance] premium skyrocketed to $2,100 per month—solely because they can do that—before I dropped it. Thank goodness my work (contingency fee claims against insureds) qualifies for Freelancers Union group health coverage.”


“I plan on working part time at Wal-Mart through the holidays for the employee discount.”


“I see no embarrassment in working at Starbucks in front of my friends, if that was necessary to ensure health benefits.”

—Justin M. Johnson

“I moonlight as a law clerk to get county health insurance, which costs me $88 per month. If I bought insurance, it would be $750 and not nearly as comprehensive. Yes, the hours can be excessive, but you have to do what you have to do.”


Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.