Working Alone Doesn’t Have to be Lonely
Whether you’re a new lawyer or transitioning from another type of job, there’s something you should know about being a solo practitioner: It can be isolating and lonely. Like, the-only-people-I-talked-to-today-were-cashiers, lonely. Especially if you happen to be a solo practitioner that also works from home. It is easy to fall into the pitfall: You set your own schedule, which is great, but it can sometimes give you the feeling that you’re never really off work. And when you’re never off work, it becomes difficult to carve out time for face-to-face engagement with others, both personally and professionally.
Being a solo practitioner doesn’t have to be this way, though. Here are some strategies to keep you connected:
Networking is the most obvious way to connect with other attorneys in your practice area or in complementary practice areas. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you are competing with these attorneys for business and that therefore it is not in your best interest to mingle. On the contrary, consider how developing collegial relationships with other attorneys can benefit your business and theirs. You may be able to give or receive advice on novel matters. You can develop mentor or mentee relationships. You’ll have resources to contact when you’re unable to accept new clients, and you could even receive some business yourself this way. Plus, nobody can commiserate with your day-to-day struggles or triumphs like other attorneys who are in the trenches with you.
There are a number of ways to connect with other attorneys, but the simplest way is to check out your local judicial district, young lawyers groups (if you meet those requirements) or practice-area specific organizations. Many host CLEs where you can earn some credit hours while you break the ice. If you’re not interested in networking with other lawyers, consider networking within your community. This could mean joining a networking group composed of professionals from local businesses or seeking out a volunteer opportunity.
I can definitely say that I have been guilty of putting off work until after business hours. It’s an easy thing to do. You look at your calendar and see that all you need to do are a few tasks that will take you a couple of hours at the most. So instead of just knocking them out, you hit the grocery store while it’s not crowded, maybe get the good elliptical at the gym without having to wait in line or start binge-watching episodes of Breaking Bad. Then, when 5 p.m. rolls around and a friend wants you to go to happy hour, so you have to choose between declining the offer so you can get your work done, or going, knowing that you’ll be staying up late or risk getting behind. Recognize that the rest of the world, generally speaking, is working between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Don’t miss out on “after-hours” events just because your hours may be non-traditional.
Along the same line, set dates with friends or family for dinner, pencil in bar meetings or CLEs, and make note of other upcoming events you plan to attend. Set up a coffee meeting or lunch with another attorney every other week. Sign up for a weekly class. If you incorporate these activities into your calendar, you can plan your workload around them and don’t have to miss out, even when you’re really busy or because you’re working non-traditional hours. This is a difficult practice to start, especially if you are a spontaneous person. But making a plan ensures that you have both the time and the opportunity to occasionally get out from behind your desk.
Don’t be Fooled by Technology.
Technology makes us feel more connected to others than ever before. Occasionally chatting online with a friend can beat boredom and loneliness in the short term, but it is not a replacement for face-to-face time. Don’t excuse yourself from real life by solely keeping in touch with others online. Nobody is so busy that they can’t take some time to leave the office for human interaction. If you work from home, get out of those sweats for an hour or two. Take some time to recharge and reconnect. Your work will be better for it.
While being a solo practitioner does not have to be lonely, it does take some forethought and planning to keep you from falling into a pattern of isolation. Using some of these strategies can help you lead a rounded and fulfilling life both within and outside of your practice.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h