Omair Farooqui had always wanted to hang up his own shingle, but he had a good job as a mid-level intellectual property associate at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. With a regular paycheck, why rush to rock the boat?

Then the economy clouded, and in June last year, Farooqui says, he was laid off. "Sometimes fate rocks the boat for you, and you just have to sink or swim," he said.

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