This week in Young, Hungry and Committed, Virtual Office New York lawyer, Vivian Sobers, chronicles one hectic day in the life of a solo attorney. Busy is an understatement.
Meeting new people as an attorney is always complicated. Inevitably, someone will ask: “So. What do you do?” When I involuntarily reply I am a lawyer, people’s eyes light up and inevitably I hear: “I’ve been meaning to talk to a lawyer.”
Great, let the free advice begin…
Then the questions come, rapid fire: “What do you practice? What firm do you work at?” Blah Blah Blah. Their stare is focused on my handbag, somehow trying to summon x-ray vision to count the money in my wallet. (Good luck with that.)
Most people do not understand what goes into being a lawyer. They especially have no idea about what a day in the life of a solo attorney is like. Having your own firm is not glamorous. It is arduous work. You have to love the law.
Solo lawyers have a different life from firm-employed lawyers. Honestly, we have to work harder. As a solo, you have to have bigger shoulders, because you are carrying the weight of client retention, marketing, advertising, and firm administration. I am not saying I’m Atlas, but sometimes, it feels like it.
In that vein, I kept a journal of one day in my life. I have had busier days than the one below, but rarely less busy.
When you are responsible for every aspect of your own success, you wake up early.
Wake up. I wasn’t supposed to wake up til 7, but, even my REM is not a slacker.
Extremely mad that my husband is still sleeping. Stare at him with consternation.
Shower. Get ready. Coffee. Mentally prepare for Court.
Leave to get my car out of the parking garage. Court is in Rockland County. Grab a second coffee.
Stomach growls. I realize I forgot to eat breakfast. Again. Decide my husband should have made it for me. Feeling like 6:45 AM again.
Begin driving to Rockland County. It is a 40 minute drive on a good day, but I have this fear that I will be late to a case and that will ruin my client’s life. Yes, its irrational.
Arrive at the Rockland County Court House. My appearance is at 9:30. Play Candy Crush Saga for 15 minutes. (Childish, but mind numbing.)
Bypass security as I walk in because I have a badge. Awesome. (I love a false sense of self-importance.)
Sit on the benches outside the courtroom, assuming no one is as punctual as me. I am right.
Enter the courtroom. Realize opposing counsel and I have been done battle before. Bill something or other.
Pleasantries exchanged. His voice cracks as we talk. I realize he is unprepared.
Not supposed to look at my phone, but the judge has not sat down yet. 5 text messages from a client. Like every client, she needs my help right now, or she will literally be burned at the stake. Clients want all of you all the time.
Case called. Motion argued. I was right. Opposing counsel unprepared. I won the motion.
Call the texting client as I walk out of the Court Room. It is “urgent.” Her world is ending. I have to meet her today or she is going to die. Figuratively, I assume.
After listening to a two minute rant, I explain to the client that I am happy to meet her at Noon, but only if she provides payment. This client has retained me, but we have exhausted the retainer. Payment is now a condition precedent for more legal services.
Says she cannot pay me. She has no money.
Our conversation ends. I guess I am not meeting her today.
Walking to my car. The phone rings.
I guess she found money under her mattress to replenish the retainer. Meeting is at noon. I knew she had the money. I have been burned once before because of my empathy. Never again.
Get in the car and proceed to drive to virtual office home.
Stuck in traffic. My energy is low. It might be because my coffee is wearing off. It might be because I did not eat breakfast. But, I suspect the “high” from court is wearing off. Arguing a case in court gives me an intense rush. It is like giving 12 Pixie sticks to a three year old.
Pull out my iPad and sync to my Dropbox. As a mobile professional, I need to have the technology in place to practice effectively. My iPad is my lifeline. I review my clients file and prepare for her to arrive.
Clients are rarely on time. It’s funny. They call you and beg to meet you. It is the most urgent thing in the world. Then, they show up late.
Still not here. Now, I am getting annoyed. I have work to do. I have to prepare for an appearance in at 2:30 PM.
Phone rings. Pick up eagerly. Shockingly, it is not my 20 minute late client. It is the office manager. He wants to know if I would be interested in a possible judgment enforcement case. Of course I am. I love getting referrals. It is found money.
Email the lawyer with the judgment enforcement case. Set up a meeting for 5 PM this afternoon. Client still not here.
I guess there wasn’t enough money under my clients mattress. She didn’t show up. I wasted 30 minutes that I’m never getting back.
Start walking to NYCLA. For those who do not know, NYCLA stands for the New York County Lawyer’s Association. It has cheaper dues than the City Bar, it is within 10 minutes walking distance from my office and it has free Westlaw and LexisNexis. Do you know what it costs a month to get full Westlaw Access? Let me tell you, so much I refuse to even get a quote….
Doing research on one of my cases. My cell phone rings. I am the loud woman in a very quiet room. I turn red.
Decide to walk to court for my next appearance. It is a beautiful day.
Starbucks. Yes. It is overpriced. Yes. I realize this. No. It is not prudent. I cannot justify it. I need a moment of Zen after being stood up by a client and before court. $4.30 is a cheap price for peace of mind.
Check my email as I walk into court. I love modern technology. Yet again, I am perpetually early.
The doors are not open yet, because the foreclosure court starts at 2.30 PM. I plop myself on the couches and wait. (Yes, couches. Better than wooden benches!)
Start fussing around with my iPad. Check E-mail again. TMZ.com. Anything to make my mind go blank. I need to be “empty-headed” when I go into court. If not, I will over-analyze the situation and then let my mind psyche myself out.
Yes, I just admitted I am always nervous when I appear before a judge. It’s a thing. Honestly, when I become the La-z-Boy of lawyers, I know I am doing something wrong. Plush, but too comfortable.
The door finally opens. I walk in some-what confidently.
My case is not called.
My case is not called. Haphazardly try to look at my cellphone while not drawing attention.
I can bore you with the details, but I got up there, and conferenced my case against a mortgage bank.
Check my voicemail as I walk back to my office. Yes. Three messages. 2 minutes each. From my client who missed her appointment. Allegedly, she thought it was at 2:00, instead of 12:00 PM.
My tardy client calls. Damn technology. I instinctively answer.
“I thought our meeting was at 2.”
I think – “Really? Cause we had scheduled it at noon. ”
I think – “Is this aggravation worth it?”
I end up apologizing for a mistake I never made. “Yes, I am sorry. It is my fault. I must have misspoke.” Her case can be amazing.
Reschedule her meeting for 2 PM tomorrow. (She will probably show up a Noon.)
I am 30 minutes early for the meeting. Do a walk-around of the office.
The walk-around was productive. An IP attorney is bringing me in to execute on a judgment. Judgment enforcement is a new area of my practice. A mentor suggested I become an expert at it. It seems every attorney can obtain a judgment, but not many have the time to execute on it. It is becoming a large part of my practice.
Grab a Diet Pepsi.
Meeting with a PI attorney. Another judgment execution. I love my mentor.
The meeting ran long. Partly because we were talking about our practices and case loads. Lawyers love to talk about themselves.
Check my mail.
Text from my client. “Can we reschedule for later in the week?” Figures. I should have never given out my cell phone number.
Driving home. Yes, Manhattanites drive.
Traffic Jam. I wish I did not drive right now. Praise Mass Transit.
Stuck on the Westside Highway.
Literally, fall into the couch. My suit is still on. My bag is still on my arm. My high-heels still hurting my arches.
My husband asks me what I am making for dinner. Really?
I wish I could tell you my day ended there. But of course, I made dinner (chicken and spinach) and prepared for the next day. I also checked my email and stressed out about where I’m going to get my next clients. Being a solo practitioner is all-consuming endeavor.
But hey, I wake up every morning and get to do what I love. I am not complaining.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I’m young. I’m hungry, exhausted and despite the challenges that may lie ahead, I’m committed to making this law practice a success.
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.