Q:More than a year ago I opened a home office with plans to move to office space in town as my practice grows. I like practicing law, relate well to clients and take pride in my work. However, I seem to be developing a problem with efficiently managing my time and attending to details, to the point of having to make excuses for neglected phone calls and the like. Recently, I even forgot a filing. I don't feel overwhelmed with work or depressed, just less motivated. I have tried structuring my time, keeping "to do" lists, etc., with short-lived success. I'm wondering how to beat my "practice blahs."
A:You are describing a problem very common to sole practitioners, who must be their own primary source of motivation and discipline on a daily, ongoing basis. Persisting in that way is difficult for anyone, maybe more so for lawyers like yourself who may enjoy interacting with others.
The problem that you describe may, in fact, be attributable to the relative isolation common to sole practice. Other practice venues, such as law firms and corporate offices, offer not only accountability but also at least some collegial and social contact. They also reduce the need for the added task of marketing yourself, which is best done with the kind of self-confidence, energy, and mastery that may be difficult to develop when going it alone.
In our experience, sole practitioners who fare best tend to be those who have become involved in some kind of supportive collegial network. Unfortunately, we know of no easy way to establish such connections. Some lawyers have regular discussions, for example, with suite-mates, former classmates at law school or relatives in the field. These individuals can function as one another's sounding boards, sources of information or expertise, collaborators, business contacts, etc. In some cases it may also be possible to establish some kind of collegial arrangement to hold each other accountable for timely completion of tasks. Though some work better alone than others, we are all fundamentally interdependent beings, and may derive a boost from such non-adversarial affiliations. Getting involved in an already existing network, such as a local bar association, civic group or chamber of commerce, could be a starting point.
One type of time-limited group that LCL makes available (pending a "quorum") is a goals-oriented discussion group for sole practitioners. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss the matter further.
Questions quoted are either actual letters/emails or paraphrased and disguised concerns expressed by individuals seeking assistance from LCL.
Questions for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers may be mailed to LCL, 31 Milk St., Suite 810, Boston, MA 02109; e-mailed to [e-mail email]; or called in to (617) 482-9600. LCL's licensed clinicians will respond in confidence. Visit Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers online at www.lclma.org.