Being an entrepreneur means that, at some point in your career, you need to make a bet on yourself and trust that it is the right move. Aaron Baer got into law young but had more than just law on his mind from early on in his career. After 10 years playing it safe in big law, Aaron chose to endure the growing pains of building his own firm and knew the long game would be worth it. But he did not stop there. Now, with side businesses added to the mix and ideas constantly flowing, Aaron finds contentment in the exciting variety of work he brings in. There is nothing wrong with thriving in a comfortable environment, but a bit of disruption, challenge and discomfort is what makes life fun for Aaron.
Aaron does not come from a family of lawyers, but he always found law to be conceptually intriguing. He was the youngest in his law school class at Western University, and looking back, recognizes that he became a lawyer without knowing what being a lawyer meant. After completing a dual degree in law and business, Aaron got into big law where he worked his way up the ladder, eventually making partner. Early on, he knew it was not the career for him long-term, but leaving felt risky, so he kept convincing himself to stay. After sticking it out for a decade, he felt ready to make a change and he stopped trying to rationalize why he should do something he did not want to do. Aaron went on to join Renno & Co (a boutique law firm), which he co-runs. In hindsight, he knows he probably should have done it two years sooner.
Renno & Co. is a corporate law firm that is practicing law differently - you can see their vision and values here. They have an innovative edge and are currently the top cryptocurrency/blockchain law firm in Canada. Aaron has a broad practice and a very wide range of clients, though most of his work is helping small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) - including some of Canada’s top tech companies as well as plenty of ‘searchers’ looking to acquire SMBs - with their corporate legal needs.
Aaron spends most of his day lawyering and running his law firm, but he manages to somehow find the time to also grow his side businesses. Aaron co-founded 4L Academy, which is the top training company in Canada for junior corporate lawyers and law students who want to work in corporate law. His 4L Academy clients include some of the biggest law firms and law schools in Canada, as well as most of the mid-size and smaller corporate firms. In 2024, he’ll be opening a ‘law school’ that will prepare law students to become great corporate lawyers - though due to the regulatory reality, people attending his law school will still have to attend traditional law school as well. He also co-founded a program and podcast called “Build Your Book”, which teaches lawyers strategies for how to market themselves and build their books of business while prioritizing authenticity in their business development approach.
Like most entrepreneurs running multiple projects, there is no typical day for Aaron. One day might include providing services to 12 corporate clients, running a session for 4L Academy students, having a networking call, and leading a few internal meetings with Renno & Co. Even during the busiest times, Aaron still takes his sleep schedule very seriously and tries to get eight hours in each night. The time for all-nighters studying or partying is long gone for him, although sometimes as a new dad, Aaron’s sleep schedule may be disturbed for other reasons.
Aaron finds joy in working on a variety of things. He admits that he probably works more than he has to, but he would not be happy focusing on just one or two things each day. He appreciates having the ability to do what he wants when he wants, which was something he craved when he worked in big law and had to present his ideas for approval.
The first few years of running a boutique firm was not always easy for Aaron, but it was worth every penny. Saying goodbye to a guaranteed monthly income tested his trust in his own abilities and took a lot of reminding himself that his skills were in demand. Now, he is just as content with his finances, if not more so, than when he was working in big law. He knew he had it in him to run his own firm, it was just a matter of doing it.
To any lawyer reading this with an entrepreneurial mindset, Aaron’s advice is to continue to practice law while working on your project(s) on the side. That way, you can afford for your entrepreneurial pursuits not to be lucrative at first. Many people underestimate how much time it can take to generate revenue. Luckily, there are many ways to test-drive ideas before investing too much into them. If your project starts to make impressive progress and the future looks bright for it, then you can make the decision to leave your day job. Sure, there are a lot of steps in the process, and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it if you love what you do.
Young people need to be careful about who they take advice from, Aaron warns. In his experience, there are two major paths in life: The path you want to be on, and the path other people advise you to take. In fact, many people warned him against following the path he ultimately took. Instead of listening to them, he found mentors who thought more like him, and Aaron advises law students and other lawyers to find people who “get” them too. Aaron has had many mentors in his life, which has formed his belief that more people than we think are open to being our mentors. The key is that they likely will not reach out to you and ask to be your mentor, you need to ask them for guidance.
Once a very young law student who, as he now admits, was ignorant about the legal profession and all its possibilities, what Aaron thought might make him happy almost 20 years ago is not what makes him happy now. Finding out what makes you happy can take a long time and once you figure that out, it can take even more time to get it. The bumps and missteps along the way are frustrating, but they are part of the process. Aaron is an advocate of saying “yes” to everything, especially early in your career, because it is the best way to find out what you do, and as importantly don’t, like doing. Once you figure that out, you can start saying “no” more and eventually, things settle into place. He urges young professionals to remember that the most fulfilled lawyers are the happiest lawyers. What fulfills one lawyer will not fulfill the next, so do not be persuaded by someone else’s dreams unless they light a spark in you too.
Aaron does not live with regret. There were many benefits to staying in big law and he is happy he stuck through it for the time he did. Without the experience and security he gained from his time doing something that was not right for him, he may not have had the courage to make that winning bet on himself.