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August 07, 2007

When In Doubt About Going Solo, Look For Life's Little Affirmations You Are Making the Right Decision.

This post is a little more intimate because I am going to share a personal story. But then, again, going solo, being an entrepreneur is a very personal and intimate decision.

Every entrepreneur has days when they question why they went into business for themselves as well as their transition from employee to self-employed, self-employed in one business to another business.  (And I've been in business for myself for 13 years.) They think, "I can't believe I've done this (or am doing it)?  What was I thinking?"   And they enter a period of self-questioning which if left unchecked can unravel the whole ball of yarn, especially in the early years.

The reality is if you remove all emotion from the process of opening up your own solo practice and become robotic in the experience, it isn't technically hard.  What distorts the process, helps you take three steps forward and then two steps back is the emotions which get amplified, the fear, the anxiety, the famous "what ifs? and the naysayers ready to say "you're crazy" or "I told you so" when you confide a temporary down moment."  They project their fears upon you.

Well, I'm not immune from these moments. After thirteen years of practicing law on my own terms the doors to the Law Offices of Susan G. Cartier (Liebel) are closing.  It was a very profitable and exciting chapter but it is completed. My consulting work teaching new attorneys and big law defectors how to open their own solo practice (hang a shingle) is now taking its rightful place full time along with teaching as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law about, that's right, how to open your solo legal practice right out of law school and writing; all this from my newly renovated home office. 

So where is the emotional distortion, you ask?  During the last four year transition (winding down my solo legal practice from home so I could be home with my son) my income will temporarily drop from four to three sources until my rapidly growing consulting business expands to fill the void.  It is really just a blip on the economic screen. Emotions removed, it's a no-brainer.  This is exactly what I love doing. I do it well and I'm right on track to meet my personal and professional goals which include permanently establishing a home office for my coaching/consultancy and being home for my son.  More and more days I enter what I call the 'serenity zone' and I know I'm doing the right thing. This is my personal definition of success. What is yours?  It's important to define it.

However, recently, after staying up very late working (some of my blogger friends laugh when they get e-mails from me at 2 and 3 a.m.) I was awakened by my little guy, who is always happy, saying, "Mommy, you need to make me funky pancakes. It's Sunday."  (He's 3 1/2.)  My eyes were glued shut and as I stumbled out of bed I knew I was going to have one of those 'non-serenity' days....the days where I get anxious about the professional decisions I've made, our financial future, etc.....the days my husband wants to run for the hills but listens patiently as I detail for the hundreth time why maybe I should keep my solo legal practice and consult full time and teach and write my column, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

So, on this beautiful Sunday while we were outside, my son happily splashing in just his underpants through the sprinkler, my husband and I weeding our garden I said, "maybe (our son) should have been in all day daycare so our income could have been even more these past three years so we could have done ABC (waste of money) and then have DEF (keeping up with the Jones') and save for XYZ (something extemely frivolous).  I just don't know if I (we) made the right decision?  (Picture hands in the air, one filled with pathetic little weeds, voice going up an octave in question, sunglasses sliding down my sweaty nose.) Just at that moment my son comes up giggling, asks me to bend down, puts his wet little hands on my cheeks, kisses me on the lips, says, 'I love you, Mommy" and then places his slippery little hand into my weedless one.  One of life's sweetest affirmations I made the right decision. (At least it was this for me because it reminded me of my personal definition of success, my personal mission statement, my own priorities.)

Even if you know you want to go solo, you will have doubts about your decision, of this I'm sure.  When it comes to your income, you are only as good as the next retainer agremeent, this is indisputable. Look for life's little affirmations you are making the right decision.  Give them more credence then the niggling (or shouting) doubts.  Then trust yourself through these periods.  You'll come through to the other side just fine.


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What a great post! Congratulations on this new chapter of your life.

Christopher Paul Mitchell (Chris)

Thank you for the inspirational post.

As a newer solo and a parent of two very young children, I am confident that choosing to spend time with my children will not be something that I will regret 20 years from now.


Susan, I have been reading your BLOG for about 6 months now, religiously, and have to tell you that you are probably the biggest inspiration for me out there. You give me hope that I really can carve a way for myself in law that somehow allows me to be both personally and professionally fulfilled - using my OWN definition of success. I am a 31 year old rising 2L who plans to have children right after law school (if not during), but who also came to law school hoping to go solo as soon as possible. Your blog is a tremendous source of valuable information for me, and when I read a post like this one from you, I feel like you're also a kindred spirit. Thank you for sharing such a personal story!

Susan Cartier Liebel

To JCM, Chris, and PT Law Mom,

Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate each and every one.

Interestinly, JCM, I brought my son to a town carnival last night and noticed a young couple with a two year old and infant. She looked familiar and we kept looking at each other but I searched my memory banks and just couldn't place it. (I never forget a face!) She finally came up to me and said, "I was in your class last year." We chatted excitedly, fussing over our kids and then I asked, "did you go solo?" She said, "Found out I was pregnant one month before graduation and was way to sick to take the bar (last July) and had the baby in January so missed the February bar." She just took this July bar and is tweaking her business plan from my class to set up shop! Yes, you can do it if this is your personal goal. She, and countless others, are proof you can make it work.

Everyone, keep me posted on your progress.


What a wonderful story, Susan! I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if I made the right choice to stay at home with my daughter and launch my business, and try to do it all. Then I remind myself that these doubts and fears are just thoughts, and I try to focus on a task at hand - pull my mind from the future worries or past stories, as I like to say.
I wish you all the best!

Susan Cartier Liebel

Anastasia, I find the time I doubt myself most is when I question my definition of personal success as compared to others. The minute I do this is when I get those 'non-serenity' days. When I stay true to my mission, I'm fine.
By the way, your Buddy-in-Law business is a sensational idea and will be a brilliant success.


Carolyn Elefant

Great post, Susan. Of course, since you are so passionate about what you do, there is no doubt that you will succeed, probably without even a blip.

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