Sometimes the only way to get the career you want is to create it yourself. Kenyah Coombs did not get into law with dreams of starting a solo practice as soon as she could, but she realized early on in her legal career that she would only have the flexibility that she needed if she became her own boss. Straight out of articling, Kenyah founded Coombs Law, where she practices business and entertainment law. People often like to remind Kenyah that the path she took was not common, and how surprising it was for someone as young as herself. Kenyah’s biggest surprise, though, was how easy going solo actually was.
When Kenyah moved to England to complete her law degree, it was her first experience away from home for a long stretch of time. Her time away was cut short when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and she was forced to move home. The change of plans was unexpected, but Kenyah welcomed it. She had plenty of time for self-reflection and through it, realized that the things she had once held to be important were not. She started law school with Bay Street dreams, but quality time with friends and family and flexibility in her life were what really made her life fulfilling.
With a new mindset, Kenyah articled at a small(ish) firm practicing primarily in real estate, corporate, and wills and estates law. Through her transition from student to lawyer, Kenyah was treated like a professional by the firm, which is not always the case for articling students. She feels extremely lucky that she got to work somewhere so trusting and respectful. Kenyah had visions of running her own firm from the start of articling, and the autonomy she got during that experience likely gave her confidence to consider it more seriously. Despite the wonderful articling experience, she knew she would have to leave to pursue a business and entertainment law practice.
Kenyah’s last day of articles was December 7, 2022. She opened Coombs Law on February 1, 2023. Her practice focuses on corporate and commercial transactions and there is often a need for those services in the entertainment industry. Kenyah is drawn to everything creative, from art galleries to sports law, and loves talking to her clients who have similar interests. Kenyah focuses on providing affordable services to hardworking career-creatives who cannot afford high priced legal fees. There is a huge gap in access to legal services that Kenyah is passionate about filling. As a sole practitioner, she gets to decide how she can best do that.
Going solo was much simpler than Kenyah imagined in many ways. Her overhead fees are minimal and just over 7 months in, she is financially comfortable. She did not have a full book of clients right out of the gate, but Kenyah was prepared for that. She learned from her time working in sales that she would need to gain the trust of future clients and other professionals before the work would roll in. For the first three months that Coombs Law’s metaphorical doors were open, she filled her time by talking to and to people and making connections. Since then, things have been pretty smooth sailing since.
There are, of course, some challenges that come with going solo early in your career. A lack of interaction with colleagues can be lonely, so Kenyah puts effort into connecting with other lawyers who, like her, believe that life outside of work comes first. She works remotely and appreciates opportunities for in-person interactions amidst the sea of virtual meetings, but also appreciates how inefficient and expensive commuting to in-person meetings can be for her and her clients. Because of this, Kenyah is trying to find ways to more efficiently get together in-person, perhaps through hosting events for her creative clients as an opportunity for them all to connect with each other.
Not having to work traditional business hours was one of the reasons why Kenyah ventured out on her own. She is a sporadic worker and is most effective when her work hours match her bursts of energy. When her battery runs low, she is grateful that when she needs downtime, she is able to take it. Kenyah’s version of 9-5 is generally not a full 8-hour day. Her goal is a 4-day work week and even though she generally works five days now, those workdays are most often five to six hours long.
Despite the uncommon steps she has taken in her career and her non-traditional schedule, Kenyah does not feel as though she is doing anything all that unique. She is putting in her hours just like any other lawyer and shutting her laptop when her work is done. Although there may always be traditional aspects of her work, Kenyah aims to run her legal practice in a way that allows her to work part-time at something else. 2023 is the first year that she has not been in school or studying for the bar and her creative spark has been relit. She is still open to all the possibilities but knows that she will soon start dedicating a part-time effort to writing for film, curating a gallery, or another endeavour that she is passionate about.
We only have one life to do the things we want, and Kenyah does not take that for granted. She also knows that not many choices we make are life-long commitments and that if you try something and hate it, you can leave it behind. Instead of letting the intimidation of her goals keep her from pursuing them, she broke it down into one less intimidating step at a time. If your big goal is to start your own firm, don’t let others convince you that it will be nearly impossible early in your career. Kenyah’s experience proves that it’s possible.