This week in Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis discusses how total control over her work time has led to not making enough time for activities outside her solo law practice.
If our lives are defined solely by our work, we’ve become pretty boring people. It seems that over the past year since going solo, I may have become a little boring.
One of the great things about starting your own solo law practice is the control you have over how you spend your time. There is never a partner who dumps a file on your desk at 5:30 P.M. with a request to have a brief written by the next morning.
As a solo, how you spend your work time is totally within your control. Like many other solos I meet, I have found this to be liberating.
Self-employed attorneys have the most demanding bosses.
Of course, the other side to this level of freedom is that the business of running a solo law practice is never done. There is always more marketing that can be done. More firm admin that needs to be addressed. Referral sources that need to be contacted. Legal and business skills that can be improved.
If you are not careful, you can let all of this consume you. I have been a little guilty of that lately.
I find myself less engaged in hobbies and social activities than when I was an employee of a firm.
For example, I enjoy photography and find it to be very relaxing. It was a sort of an escape from the stresses of my job.
Before going solo, I used to spend a lot of time — at least 5 hours a week — taking photos or editing them. The photographs used in this article are mine.
I thought I would spend more time on my photography since I would have more time, or at least have more control over my time. This just has not been the case.
I feel constant pressure to build my practice.
I feel constant pressure that any “free” time not spent with family or working in my business should be spent working on my business. So the time I could be spending on photography I find myself networking or working on some non billable administrative tasks.
I am consumed with building my practice, and I find that the more successful my practice becomes, the more consumed I get.
And while I am careful to make sure that my work time does not interfere with family time, I really haven’t made a good effort to find time for things I enjoy outside of work.
For example, for weeks I’ve been promising one of my best friends that we would get together to do something (other than attending CLE’s or networking events together). But it has not happened yet. There are other friends I have not even seen in months.
But I do not resent the extra work.
Here’s the thing though, I do not resent the time I spend on my practice (at least not yet). I think most solos feel this way. The effort you put in is for you. You benefit directly from the fruits of your labor. Ultimately, It does not feel like work.
Nevertheless, I am concerned that I may be getting a little dull.
My best guess is that once the practice can support it, I will start to employ others who can help me get some of this work done. I am hoping that this will allow me to feel better about freeing up time to pursue activities and interests outside of work.
But honestly, right now I know I am struggling with work-life balance, and it is something I need to work on in the next phase of my 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.