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August 23, 2007

Going Solo; Confessions and Inspirations

We are starting a new category at Build A Solo Practice, LLC called "Going Solo; Confessions and Inspirations."  This category of post is dedicated to those who've decided to stop treading water in the over-chlorinated and crowded Biglaw, Government or "Employed" Pool and going swimming in the salty, huge and invigorating ocean of solo practice.  So with that we are coinciding this post with the debut of a new solo, Renee C. Berman of Hamden, Connecticut.

Freefalling: One Attorney's Decision to Go Solo

Renee C. Berman, Esq.

When I turned 20 years old I decided I needed to do something a little wild to rouse the relative calm in my life. So I flung my jumpsuit clad body out of a plane at 10,500 feet. The drop was exhilarating and then strangely serene once the parachute was pulled and I sailed to the ground drinking in the astonishing scenery and blissful moment of solitude. My landing was surprisingly clumsy and heavy but I landed on my feet, intensely proud of my flight.

Ten years later, when I turned 30, I decided once again I need to stir things up a little. All was too calm in both my family and work life; so I took another plunge and decided to open my own practice. This time I didn’t need an airplane, but the ride has been just as exhilarating.

After graduating from Suffolk University Law School in 2003, I spent a year working for an insurance defense firm. It was the first job offer I received and without any other prospects, it was my best offer. I was thrilled to return from my honeymoon employed although the harsh reality of firm life smacked me squarely in the face soon after starting. Fortunately, my stint revering the almighty billable hour was over after one year and I moved onto a small, private firm located about 40 minutes from my home. It was here that I was allowed to taste a little of every practice area and where I eventually ended up acquiring an appetite for family and matrimonial law. I always knew one day I would like to devote my practice exclusively to family law, but I just didn’t realize that day would come so soon. I decided to take the leap when I met another attorney looking to share office space in a magnificently remodeled building that was only two miles from my house. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to grasp it immediately despite the gut wrenching fear and anxiety that was surfacing at a much quicker velocity than the excitement of it all.

The moments of panic now are not much different from the moment the plane hatch opened ten years ago. While I desperately gripped the side of the plane while peering into the vast blue, I questioned my judgment to engage in such a hapless activity. Likewise, my decision to go solo vacillated between clinging onto the familiar and yearning to explore the unknown. Again, I slowly released my white knuckled grip and cast myself into the unknown, this time better equipped for the invigorating and jarring ride that I was sure would follow. What I did not expect were the equally prevalent moments of serenity and satisfaction that likewise transpired as I began this expedition.

My moments of utter panic always have a similar theme; my singular ability to manage all business functions of my office, specifically the accounting aspect of it, and my ability to bring in clients so that I can somehow manage to bring home a paycheck. On the other hand, the moments of gratification occur unexpectedly and during simple moments; glimpsing a sample of my letterhead; driving by my future office on the day the new sign is erected; telling the IRS that I am the owner when calling to acquire a tax id number; shopping for a desk for my office; purchasing a domain name; and perhaps, most importantly, realizing that I can go to the Halloween parade at my son’s school this year. Seemingly small moments like these ease my doubt, hesitation, and apprehension.

When announcing my decision to go solo, I was met with varying responses. Most people were supportive; however, I did hear a few comments infected with doubt and reservation similar to the comment I heard ten years ago: "What if the parachute doesn’t open?" Risk is an unavoidable component to going solo. As a prior adrenaline fanatic, I suppose it was the closest thing I could do to nurture that part of my character since skydiving and bungee jumping were blacklisted from my repertoire of leisurely activities following my son’s birth. I remind myself everyday that I am not the first person to take this plunge. Many have done it before me. Many will do it after me. Some will succeed brilliantly. Some will falter disappointingly. But all will have experienced the same initial trepidation and elation and I am sure all will have regretted it immensely had they not taken the risk.

As I prepare for my opening day, I am immeasurably proud that single-handedly I am making this happen. Nonetheless, I also credit my family for nudging me along the way. I am eternally grateful to my husband who has encouraged me to pursue this path even if it means restructuring our family finances a little. I am grateful to my father who spent an entire Saturday shopping for the perfect office chair and to my mother who did not deny her support when I first proposed this scheme even though she knew it might mean a delay in another grandchild.

The next few months will provide an exhilarating launch and perhaps some clumsy landings along the way. However, I am reminding myself everyday to relish the small accomplishments and enjoy the flight.

Renee C. Berman opens her practice on September 1, 2007. She is dedicating her practice to family and matrimonial law. Her office is located at 2653 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut. She can be reached via email at rberman@bermanlawct.com. http://www.bermanlawct.com

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