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July 25, 2008

Why Being A Solo Practitioner Can Actually Make You Happier

This very interesting article from the Psychology Today blog confirms that the quality of our work, more than our interpersonal relationships, determines our happiness:

One factor towered over relationships in its connection with happiness.  That factor was work. The evidence, for example, demonstrates that people who have jobs distinguished by autonomy, meaning and variety – and who show superior performance, creativity, and productivity – are significantly happier than those who don’t.

"Why does our work make us happy? Because it provides us a sense
of identity, structure to our days, and important and meaningful life
goals to pursue. Perhaps even more important, it furnishes us with
close colleagues, friends and even marriage partners."

This revelation, that quality of work more than anything else influences happiness, shocked even those doing the study.  But it is work distinguished by AUTONOMY and which provides meaning and variety that does the trick. Self-directed meaningful life goals are key. Welcome to the world of the solo practitioner.

Interestingly, those who are seem to be happiest (from my unscientific observations) are those who do not separate work life and personal life.  They just have 'life".  In order to feel successful work is an integral part of their everyday. And from this relationships blossom.

Anita Campbell, a very successful entrepreneur and author of the popular Small Business Trends blog, Tweeted once,

My work is part of who I am.  I'm not defined by my work, but it is integrated into the whole.

  I think she states it very well.  I feel the same way. Always have. 

And you?

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Comments

Margaret

The whole point of the first 40 years of my life was to keep my personal life separate from professional life. Yes, even in grade school I was aware that we are judged by everything we do, so I never did anything that would keep me out of a good law school (I've know I wanted to be a lawyer since I was nine).

A huge issue in deciding to go solo is that melding the two will make me more productive and happy, but I have to get over the idea that my clients might realize I have a life...

Susan Cartier Liebel

Margaret, Second Wave lawyering is all about compartmentalizing...we went to work in a centralized environment for a clocked period of time and when we left it we had our separate personal life...never the twain shall meet.

Third Wave lawyering is all about technology allowing us to integrate our work/personal lives so we are not locked into a centralized work location or defined period of time.

We define both.

So it has to be integrated or we will be miserable and off balance.

Besides, isn't age 40 about the time we have our ephiphanies, start rethinking our patterns of behavior and smack ourselves on the forehead and go, 'Aha!' :-)

Laurie

This idea really resonates for me. I need both work and `real life` to make me happy and the best way for me to have it all is really to fuse them, so it`s really just living and enjoying my days.

Margaret

Susan, do you know of any research in the area of "client perception" on this? I am thinking of marketing studies, or customer service surveys... When you take out the big firm, does allowing your work and family life to flow together, and letting clients find out more about you in those areas, have an effect on their likelihood to engage you, or keep you? Or does it all come down to just being a good lawyer?

I'd like to believe it's the latter, but years in this field tells me a solo with a virtual office and flexible hours will still be (incorrectly) perceived by clients as a "part time" lawyer "on the mommy track" doing it as a hobby, therefore not commanding the reasonable fees or confidence that come with the veneer of the big office downtown with the engraved letterhead with 50 names on it.

This part is really holding me back.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Margaret, I don't have any studies. But what I can tell you is more than half of all private practice attorneys are solos. Technological trends and economics allow for low overhead and flexibility which translates to benefits to the client (including not having to travel at $4.00 plus a gallon to a swanky overpriced office) which are becoming much more important to the client.

It really does come down to reputation, client service and an intelligent marketing plan which addresses perceptions and turns perceived liabilities into positives.

But I think the perceptions you referred to are lawyer's...not so much the clients :-)

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