This week in Young, Hungry and Committed, virtual office New York attorney, Vivian Sobers talks about how easy it is to lose any sense of self when dealing with clients.
I took the subway earlier this week. Now, this is not something New Yorker’s would consider uncommon. In fact, our city’s public transportation system is among the best in the world. This being said, I rarely find the need to take the subway, as I travel mostly by car.
Anyways, I was crammed in the 4 train and an older woman’s ginormous purse was resting in the small of my back.
That’s when I heard it. The unmistakable reverberation of quarters, dimes and pennies in a bodega cup being shaken by a panhandler.
As the woman elbowed through the over-crowded subway and came into view, I noticed the tattoo.
This was no ordinary tattoo. No, this was a tattoo of Chanel logo (an expensive one at that). The incongruity of a highly coveted luxury brand on the wrist of a woman panhandling for small change was striking to me.
I gave some change to Miss Chanel and went to court.
As I walked up the steps of the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station, it got me thinking: Are we all just faking it? Are we all just subway panhandlers with tattoos reflecting conspicuous consumption?
As solo attorneys, we have an important role in our client’s lives.
Let’s be honest, as attorney’s we fake it every day. In fact, learning to put on a song and dance routine that Cirque de Soleil would be jealous of is almost as important as our malpractice insurance.
For example, I have been feeling really down lately. I have been waking up in the morning and wanting to continue the sedentary existence that only lying in the prone position can inspire.
But, I am a solo attorney. Beyond that, I am a small business owner. Unlike most individuals who can call out of work or hit the snooze button eight distinct times and send a brief email to the boss explaining their lateness away as a subway delay, I, we, do not have that option.
I have to get up and put on a brave face, even if I don’t feel brave or want anyone to see my face.
Having control over your emotions is the key to maintaining sanity
I don’t want to come off as complaining, but sometimes it gets really hard to manage the emotional stability of individual clients when you are just trying to hold it together emotionally yourself. It’s hard to manage your emotions when your clients do not believe you have any. But in reality, why would they?
The legal profession itself arose out of a problem. Let’s face it, without problems and the people that experience them, no one would need a lawyer.
And as any small business owner can attest, it’s all about the client. This is truer for solo and small firm attorneys: It’s not about you!
So, when a potential client vomits out their story, I have to disassociate whatever is going on in my life and focus on them. The bi-polar nature of practicing law is not always healthy, especially if you have a busy day. To help a client is to put them on your shoulders. It is not easy to lug around an extra 1000 pounds a day, in addition to your normal case load.
The take away here is that I have recently devoted an hour each day for myself. I close a door, turn off the phone, and relax the muscles in my face that are responsible for smiling. I recommend the same to all of you.
When part of your job is to fix problems, you have to make sure you leave yours at the door.
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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.