This week in Young, Hungry and Committed, virtual office NYC attorney, Vivian Sobers talks about how she uses her “free time” to prep for her upcoming hurdles.
We are halfway through August, and as usual, I cannot remember where my summer went. As a solo attorney trying to establish and cement my practice, summer does not provide the promise of lazy days and a laissez faire attitude it did during elementary school.
Summers for solos are…different.
For solo attorneys, especially those practicing commercial or civil litigation, summer means long days and sometimes sweltering court rooms. Sometimes, the only air conditioning I enjoy during a busy day comes from an approaching subway car – a truly New York City experience.
This being said, August is generally a less-busy time than June or July. It’s almost as if there is an unconscious edict hard-wired into business professional’s brains that August is the only time you can take a vacation. Maybe it is a weird mechanism that effectively provides a metaphorical “last gasp” of summer.
While many people vacation in August, it seems as though my clients don’t ever take vacations. The phone keeps ringing – just not as much as usual.
So, I have found myself with a little extra free time. This newly discovered time is both a blessing and a curse. If I were just a tad bit more lazy, I would also take advantage of this time and hit the beach, have a three-hour leisurely lunch, read bad magazines that I will not admit to in public, or just binge watch a random tv show on Netflix.
But, I have this uncontrollable sense of guilt about such things. Yes, it is irrational, but it’s also who I am. Sitting still is a problem – even though I do not believe in the validity of restless leg syndrome.
So, what have I been doing in August?
Actually, I have been preparing for December.
In my two years of solo practice, I have found that December, especially the first three weeks of December, tend to be compromised of people trying to make compromises.
It’s all about striving to settle.
This may be because many of these cases have been going on forever, and attorneys are motivated to get them done in a particular calendar year. This also may be because people have a monetary value they have to hit for year-end projections. This also may just be attributed to trying to start a new year with a new fresh outlook.
No matter what, in my experience, this is the truth. (Especially if the opposing party happens to be counsel of any type of insurance company.)
Using my summer to prep for the future.
So, I am taking the remainder of August and looking at open cases and starting the process a little early. One of my colleagues refers to open, motionless cases as “dead fish files.” I don’t know how prevalent that terms usage is, but, I like it. I want to say it’s about the motionless of a case. But, it also conjures a visceral smell…
I figure, if I start the process early, I will be more prepared for the end of the year. In the end, I am mentally preparing to strive to settle.
Practicing the art of negotiating.
As a litigator, I have to come to compromise in court on a daily basis. Honing my comfortability with simply saying no, or taking a hard stance that produces a prolonged death stare in your adversary (yes, I’ve become quite familiar with this stare) can be invaluable.
As attorneys, we are hired to fight for our clients at the negotiating table. Both sides use tactics to scare the other side or give the illusion that they can keep going all the way to trial (the secret is figuring out whether or not this is a dead fish file to the other side, or if their client is no longer willing to pay for the work a file requires).
So yes, I may be preparing for the winter as it were, but I’m also enjoying practicing negotiating.
It may be the middle of August, but winter is coming. (It’s always good to end with a Game of Thrones reference.)
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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.