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Polyamory is certainly the sexiest aspect of Michael Blacksburg’s practice. It just hasn’t become a profit center. Not that the San Francisco solo didn’t try. After putting together a marriage-like contract for a two-woman, one-man triad � “they wanted something that wasn’t a corporation or an LLC,” Blacksburg said � he posted an ad on a Web site for kink-aware professionals. Alas, there seems to be a dearth of triads needing a marriage-like contract (“It’s not as if it’s a very out community,” Blacksburg said). And there’s apparently no shortage of lawyers marketing to them; one of the many lawyer posts on the kink-aware Web site advertises “Estate Law, Family Law, Business/Construction Law and Mediation. Leather, SM and kink-friendly.” But that’s not a huge blow for Blacksburg. As challenging and creative as he found triad work to be (“we have no idea if this will work, if the IRS will accept this,” he said), he’s willing to branch out � as long as other practice areas he finds pique his interest and allow him to wear his velour blazer to work. Such is the life of a solo, as Blacksburg envisions it. While the bulk of his practice is housing and probate/will matters, he’s always looking for something new. “The greatest thing about being a solo is all these things come up,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a thing like pet trusts, where I can make a living doing it.” Wills for pets may well be the best thing to come Blacksburg’s way over the last two years, a span that’s seen him take on a series of rather strange legal matters. First there was the triad contract. Then Blacksburg helped a friend � Stephen Sommers, another San Francisco solo � in an employment case alleging gorilla-related sex harassment. But it was his work for a couple who wanted to leave their estate to a group of animals that sparked what seems to be the fastest growing part of his practice. It began last year, when a couple of veterinarians called him to ask for help on a will that would leave everything, including their house, to their pets. “I said, sure,” Blacksburg said. A pet trust ensures food, care and vet bills will be paid in perpetuity for such animals. This is especially important, he added, for people who don’t trust family members or friends to take care of a pet. If the money outlasts the animal, it is generally donated to family members or a charity. Since then, he’s done another six animal wills, and expects that part of his practice to grow. “The solo life is this randomness,” Blacksburg said. Enjoying that randomness � and the freedom that comes without working for someone else � requires flexibility that he found unavailable while working for a firm. Blacksburg’s practice came as the result of a trajectory that began when the in-house counsel job he had lined up after graduating from law school in 2001 evaporated before he even made it to the West Coast. He decided to move from his New York home anyway. Looking for cheap housing, Blacksburg stumbled on a Craigslist ad seeking a roommate in a “sex-positive, joyful” group house. The tenants allowed him to move in on the condition that he attend Burning Man with them. “I didn’t know what Burning Man was,” he said. “I had just found out about Craigslist.” Those housemates provided the foundation for the practice Blacksburg has now. He soon began reviewing contracts for friends working on Burning Man-related projects; one of them ended up as a member of the triad that he made legal, and others have referred landlord/tenant and contract matters to him. Along the way, Blacksburg has given other types of practice a try. He spent a year working at a union-side labor firm � in the middle of contentious union disputes wasn’t for him � and earlier this year worked with Sommers on litigation against the Woodside-based Gorilla Foundation. In that case, Sommers and Blacksburg represented former employees who claimed they were pressured by Foundation head Francine “Penny” Patterson to expose themselves to Koko, the renowned sign-language-speaking gorilla. That case recently settled for an undisclosed amount, and convinced Blacksburg that he wants to stay out of employment class actions. The animal issues in pet trusts, he said, are challenging enough. “You [have to] find someone who’s going to take care of your 18-year-old diabetic cat that pisses all over the floor,” he said. Sick animals and long-lived pets like birds, which can hang on for more than 80 years, are often hard for owners to find homes for, especially since they require expensive care. “Birds are a big one,” he said, and are involved in four of the seven animal trusts he’s put together. While Blacksburg continues trying to expand his practice � he plans to start advertising the animal trust services � he wants to start working with law schools and local bar associations to convince more young lawyers to go solo. It might not be the quickest route toward paying off your student loans, he said, but “it’s a lot easier to be a solo than to be in a job you hate.”

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