We had the good fortune of connecting with Pankaj Raval and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pankaj, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It starts with understanding yourself. After working in several different jobs over my life, from retail to interning with Amnesty International to working overseas for an NGO, it became clear to me that I wasn’t the best employee. I had clear ideas on how I thought things needed to be done and I was always looking to make systems more efficient. And when you think about inefficient systems, the legal system may be close to the top of that list.
After starting my career as an attorney in one of the worst legal markets in modern history, there would be no silver platter, I would need to develop a new way of practicing law that focused on things I cared about: building healthy relationships and leveraging technology.
Opening up my own law firm was the result of limited options and a compulsion to be the master of my own destiny. When I moved to LA, I must have taken dozens of meetings and phone call with all types of attorneys. I sent out résumés by mail, email, and every method of communication in between (maybe I should have tried carrier pigeon). But, after each meeting or call, when I received one, generally ended up with someone saying I needed more experience. It was the perennial catch-22 that many job-seekers face, you want to get experience in a certain industry, but employers are looking for someone with more experience.
Growing impatient and tired of rejection, I decided to do something about my situation and opened up my own law firm. In the process of looking for office space, I met another attorney looking for help. I ended up working for him for some time, gaining skills, and also running my own law firm. I used my experience and background in website design to help him redesign his website. I did whatever I could to be helpful. After some time, I realized my growth was limited and it was time to move on. I ended up joining a friend to start a new firm. However, I realized we both jumped into the partnership a bit too soon without asking the right questions about what our goals and expectations were. We ended up separating after about 18 months.
Faced with pressure by friends and family to find any type of job, I remained resolute that I was meant to be my own boss. I opened my own firm once again. While things were slow, I decided to gain some complementary skills and ended up enrolling in a Product Management course at General Assembly. I knew that I continuously needed to improve my skills and given my interest in technology, maybe a legal technology startup was the right way to go. The class would be a turning point for me.
During the course, I befriended the teacher and several students. Some of the students would go on to hire me as their attorney for their startups and the teacher would start his own startup incubator and invite me to serve as its general counsel. It seemed like the break I was looking for.
Over the next five years, I went from a solo practitioner to a firm, at one point, employing nine people. I have made many mistakes along the way and I continue to grow each day. I have never lost that spirit to continue my own personal and professional development.
My message to those looking to start their own venture is that the timing is never perfect, but perfect timing may determine the success of your business. When money is tight and it is tough to see what is possible, it is important to keep moving. Keep pushing. Keep gaining new skills and growing. Get out there and connect, help, serve. Hire a coach. Show up early. Things always happen for those who persist and give.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am someone who loves great experiences and great food. My recommendations are based on a pre-COVID world.
– Getty Villa
– Broad Museum
– US Bank Tower Skyspace
– Helicopter Tour of LA Outdoors
– Runyon Canyon Hike
– Santa Monica Pier
– Malibu Wines
– Manhattan Beach
– Smogesboard DTLA
– Providence (if you want to be fancy)
– Shin Sen Gumi Ramen|
– Sushi Enya
– Little Sister
– Din Tai Fung
– Grand Central Market DTLA
– Yuko Kitchen
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents were instrumental in not allowing the challenges to eclipse the opportunity to work hard and build something. There were some bleak times filled with self-doubt. It was my father, specifically, who really encouraged me to keep going and keep working. I am eternally grateful for both my of my parent’s love and support.
I also want to thank the process. Without the challenges the successes would not be as sweet. I have learned so much about life and myself on this journey.