This week in Young, Hungry & Committed, virtual office New York Lawyer, Vivian Sobers explores how feeling panicked isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a solo attorney.
I had an interesting conversation with a fellow solo attorney this week. Initially, I thought the only thing we had in common was the same business address. By the end of the conversation, I learned we share more than an address: We both have episodes of sheer panic about our practices.
Do any of you feel the same way?
In general, I am not a panic prone person. This has changed dramatically since I started my solo practice.
I am consistently worried about where I am going to get new clients. I freak out if a check doesn’t arrive when I expect it to. Worse, I constantly over-analyze my decisions. My clients have a lot on the line, and it’s my job to get the best results for them. That’s a heavy burden, and I panic because I care.
Based on other conversations with solo attorneys, I discovered that my experience is not unique. As self-employed attorneys, we must learn to normalize the panic to do our jobs effectively.
I tried to get to the root of my panic.
After the conversation with my colleague, I did some soul-searching in my home office. I tried to sit still for at least a half-hour and get to the root of my panic issues. I got really bored of my own thoughts after about three minutes. I struggled to sit still. I guess
I would be really bad at meditation.
In order to avoid my panicked mind, I looked around the room.
In the beginning, it was extremely organized. Everything had a place. I did my best to separate work life from home life.
Keep in mind, I had the luxury of time then. I had just started my practice and didn’t have many clients.
In order to avoid my insecurities, about not having much legal work to do, I kept myself busy keeping things really tidy. It helped me feel like I was working hard.
Maybe panic is a natural thing for solo lawyers.
I have since learned from my colleagues that this is pretty common when you start a practice. But that busy solo lawyers (ones who are truly busy with client work), don’t have time to be uber-organizers, a functional organizer is good enough.
Sure enough, as my practice began to grow, I found myself less concerned about organization. For me, client retention and relations were more important than the pesky task of making sure my every file has a color-coded, pre-printed label. A pencil worked just as well.
Honestly, being super-organized was not making me any money. It was the clients that were paying, not the file folders.
So, as I sat in my living room I realized that my whole living room was my office. My work life had overtaken my personal space. In the frenzy to earn a living, I had lost the calming environment I had intended my home to be.
Of course, I panicked a little bit about that.
But I’m used to it by now.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I am young, hungry and getting used to panic. I have weathered one year of challenges in private practice. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I am committed to replicating my success for many years to come.
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.