This week in Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis provides advice on how to avoid marital issues when you start your solo practice.
The word “I” appears in many of my blogs, even twice in the blog series title. Truthfully, choosing to go solo is more of a “we” decision than an “I” decision. My husband Jay and I chose to go solo in October 2013.
As in any marriage, important decisions are often mutual. My husband was very involved in my decision to go so solo. He encouraged me to do so long before I ever left my job. In that way, he is more altruistic than me. I would have freaked out if he decided to quit his job(s) and I would have to shoulder both of our financial burdens for an unknown period of time.
I guess he truly believes in me. Or, he is a little mentally unstable – probably a bit of both.
Be prepared to make financial sacrifices. As a matrimonial attorney, I know that money is the number one reason couples seek my representation.
I would be lying to you if I told you that we didn’t have any financial issues. Any newly solo attorney is lying to you when they tell you they don’t have financial issues. But these are not bankruptcy court financial issues. They are more like 1st world financial issues.
For example, we don’t go out as much as we used too. In fact, both my cooking and legal acumen have improved since I chose self-employment. Cutting corners is extremely important when you have office rent due on the 1st of every month. I make my own lunch as much as I can as opposed to paying $10.50 for a salad. These savings add up. The money you save can be put directly into a google Adwords campaign.
Be prepared to sacrifice quality time with your spouse. In my case, I did not have to sacrifice that much time with my husband in the beginning of my practice. I did not have a ton of clients. It’s not hard to post-pone designing your letterhead to spend time with your spouse.
Sacrificing quality time really becomes an issue as your practice grows. Now that I am getting busy, I have found my husband and I’s “one-on-one” time decreasing. Even worse, I find it really hard to turn off the lawyer mode. I will be in the middle of a conversation and my mind will jettison back to my pending case or a clause I wish I added in a separation agreement.
To get around this problem, I have imposed a “no-work” clause into our marriage. We schedule time where neither of us can talk about work. This is harder than you would think, especially on my part. In my shared law office, I am surrounded by attorneys who love to talk shop. Transitioning into relationship mode is difficult endeavor.
Scheduling quality time with your spouse may not be the most romantic thing in the world, but it is necessary.
My advice to anyone who is thinking about starting a solo law practice:
If you want to minimize the strain starting a solo practice will put on your relationship, be upfront about the pending time and money constraints.
I made sure that my husband expected the worst before I signed an office lease. We prepared to not make any money for the first few months. This way, when I did make money my first month, it was something worth celebrating.
I also prepared my husband to see less of me. We had a candid discussion about what success would entail and how our relationship would be tested because of all the time I would investing in the business rather than the marriage.
Finally, involve your spouse in every decision. Going solo is not an “I” decision, it is a “we” decision. My husband has been involved in every aspect our practice, from choosing which shared law office to call home to logo designs. This way, Joleena Louis Law is something we share.
We started the firm for our future. Without my husband, I would still be overworked and underappreciated, building someone else’s dream.
Want to know more about avoiding the pitfalls and reaping the profits that go with starting your own solo practice?
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.