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July 15, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Your Goals Must Engage ALL of You

"To pursue something difficult you will need commitment, focus and confidence.  You will need the promise of gaining a significant outcome and a sense of fulfillment.

If your goals do not move you, if they do not inspire and incite you to action, then you have not found the right goals." (David Niven, Ph. D.)

Going solo is a life altering step.  It means you are in charge of your income...you, alone.  You are in charge of the clients you will take on and the satisfaction you will derive from spending countless hours working with them and for them on their legal matters.  You will be responsible for the marketing, bookkeeping, billing, adhering to the rules of professional conduct and more.  You will be responsible for running a complete business. The only safety net is you.  AND you and your family will be the beneficiaries of you having challenged yourself to create your own future, taking on the clients you choose to take on, being responsible for running a legal services business and all this entails.  If this goal does not engage all your senses, excite you at the unlimited possibilities (and fear can be mixed with excitement...they are not mutually exclusive.) then you need to rethink your choices.

But consider this:

When end-of-career (managers) discussed their relative success and moments of peak performance during their careers, more than half spoke in terms of the significance of personal fulfillment.  (Thornton, F., G. Privette, and C. Bundrick 1999. "Peak Performance of Business Leaders: And Experience Parallel to Self-Actualization Theory." Journal of Business and Psychology 14:253-64.)

Most people want a sense of personal fulfillment for all the hours they have commited to working during their lives.  Solos get to fashion their work lives around their personal goals, their personal goals around their professional goals.  No one said it isn't hard work, it surely is. But if you get excited by the idea of going solo, it moves and inspires you to action, then you have found the right goal. And if you aspire to achieve a significant sense of personal fulfillment and you've determined this career path can lead you to gain this fulfillment, then you need to go for it.   And don't for one second believe creating a legal services business you built by scratch is the end...it is just the beginning.  So many other opportunities can arise in the course of building your business, some you may have contemplated, others not.  But you have the chance to grab hold of them because you are in charge of how you delegate your time. 

And for those who feel this is not their true goal, but they have no choice, everything in life is a choice.  We may not always get to choose between two shiny red apples, but if you rethink your expectation of the fruit, they can both make delicious applesauce.

If you are unsure about going solo because it wasn't your first choice with your law degree...let's start a conversation in the comments section.  Share your thoughts and let others give you their perspective, too.


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I am 46 years old and I have considerable experience with self employment, some of it good and some of it not, but overall it is my preference. I agree that it is not easy to be a business owner, but even though I usuallly worked harder at my own business I believe that these were the times when I considered my life to be the most balanced and successful.
I will start law school in August of this year and it is my intention to begin building a solo practice as soon as is practical after graduation. I believe that this will be my best bet for overall success because I am accustomed to maintainig my own schedule and having the satisfaction of owning my own success and failure, and I don't feel that I can find that kind of satisfcation working a job for someone else. I am also unsure about my marketability at this age and my ability to adapt to the culture and environment that I percieve to exist in modern big law firms. My choice then is to try to make the law school experience as complete and meaningful as possible and to adapt and apply the marketing skills I learned in my previous profession immediately upon passing the bar. It's a business decision, and for me I think it is the best fit.
Frankly, if biglaw was the only option and the solo path did not exist I might take my law school money and do something else with it.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Ross, congratulations on your entrepreneurial spirit. Because you are a seasoned business owner you can definitely appreciate the commitment and personal reward. If you haven't done so already, please read my category "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" as there are several new attorneys in your age category who posted their similar and admirable life challenges and experiences going to law school later and hanging a shingle upon graduation. It may be the basis for a new listserv called 'graduating and flying solo after 40.' I personally graduated law school at 36 went out on my own with two other fellow graduates...12 plus years ago. I read you loud and clear!

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