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December 31, 2008

2009 - It's All About Choices, Always Has Been

http://fly4change.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/choices2.jpgI've been wanting to write this post for a while.  And the New Year seems an appropriate time to do so.

Everything in life is a choice.  EVERYTHING!  The choices aren't always between two positives or one positive and a negative.  They can be between two negatives but there is always choice in everything we do.

This combined with the fact that where you are situated today, your personal health, your personal finances, your professional life....all are a culmination of the choices you have made over the course of your life.  Yes, some things are thrust upon us whether we ask for them or not but how we react to unasked for situations becomes our choice.  Choices, choices, choices.

2009 is a year most I know are facing with trepidation.  It is fear of the unknown because so many things upon which we rely simply are now unreliable.  The economy, jobs, energy, health care, our country is in major tumult and many are just hoping to hold on for the ride until the earth stops shaking.  Others are simply in denial.  And yet others are feeling anxious and depressed and are sinking.  See, I just laid out three choices.  There is a fourth.  Take an honest assessment of where you are, how you got there (if only not to repeat the mistakes or to repeat and improve upon the wise moves) and then start planning for how you are going to make your ride into the next year healthier, smarter, smoother and in control.

If you are employed, plan for unemployment so you are not caught up short.  If it doesn't happen, great.  If it does you are prepared with a plan B and can move into action.

If you are unhealthy, plan and make choices for health because a healthy mind and body helps with a positive outlook and helps you make better decisions in all aspects of your life.

Keep a 'positive' social network, one that is upbeat and encouraging.  You are not required to bemoan others' fates or to commiserate with those who are choosing to be depressed.  This, too, is a choice.  You are responsible for your own emotional well-being and the company you keep, no one else.

Start to be happy with less material things.  It is very freeing. You don't own things...they own you.  Think about that.  Make sure you are happy with what owns you.  Otherwise, get rid of it. 

2009 will truly be a year of the unknown.  You now have the unprecedented freedom and ability to make changes in your life this year because the world as we know it will be turned upside down.  You decide if it will be a positive experience in your life now and going forward.  Don't pay attention to what others are saying and doing unless it reinforces your choices.  Trust yourself enough to take control.

Just typing out loud....

Happy New You.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

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Rex Gradeless

Thank you very much for this Susan! A very important post for those of us becoming lawyers in 2009! Wishing you the best this new year.

Susan Cartier Liebel, Esq.

@Rex - Welcome to BSP and Happy New Year to you, too.


Choice is an important reality for attorneys to remember. It can seem like attorneys have zero choices, but the legal profession is more wide open than almost any other.


Read "The Art of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama. You will be glad you did.

Craig Niedenthal

As usual Susan, you hit it the nail on the head. So thoughtful and thought provoking. We are responsible for our own future and need to face the choices and go with it. Here's to 2009.


There's only two choices we're never given in this life: whether we want our lives controlled by a government and what family we are born into.

Great post, Susan. Dealing with the tough times around us should hopefully force us all to consider every option, whether it be inside the box or outside the box. The legal establishment is generally lacking when it comes out-of-the box thinking, which provides a bright opportunity for others to step up to the plate and make innovative, forward-thinking choices.

Honest Question

I would like to see an article from Susan as to whether she thinks it is possible to open a solo practice under the following circumstances (note, these are fairly common among my law grad friends)

1. Couple of years out of law school;
2. $150,000 in student loans debt.
3. Single;
4. $1400 a month student loan repayment (but no cc debt)
5. Currently making between $45-$55,000, and thus living paycheck to paycheck (see loans above)
6. No savings;
7. No close friends or parents who are partners in law firms.


Making $45-55k should allow most folks, save those living in the more expensive cities, the opportunity to save back something from their salary, even if it's small. Cut costs and lower your personal "overhead" (cost of living). The idea of self-sufficiency (in this case going solo) includes a basic notion of frugality that is a starting point for anyone going solo, IMO. Ask yourself: what do I need? When you're starting from nothing you don't have the luxury of luxuries.

Here's the question: What would you actually NEED to start your own firm? You could probably do it with a couple grand (or less) if you are blessed enough to have the support of family or friends. Is that the smartest thing for you to do? Well, I'd say that depends on your situation. But my thought is that if you wait until you are completely secure then you will never get your own firm started. Walking out on that limb is a big part of the entrepreneurial spirit. It's not for everyone.

Now, I'm not going to assume you haven't done this or thought it all through already. It's very possible you live in an area where it's simply impossible to lower your cost of living much more than you already have. Or you could just be waiting until the right moment and still trying to figure out how to make it work. Either way, just my .02

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