GPSolo Magazine - March 2005
From the Editor
Bringing It All Back Home
By Laura B. Embleton
I’m sure we all have tales of how we came to our current practices. Some of us are large firm refugees, others came into our practices out of law school, and still others through the military. I, along with a number of younger women, came to my solo practice through motherhood. As I went through law school, I was sure I was destined for a large firm in the Denver area. When I graduated, I entered the world of insurance defense litigation. After a number of years, I exited that lifestyle and worked as a legal editor for four years. After our daughter, Emily, was born, my husband and I had a number of decisions to make, the primary being who was going to raise our daughter: one of us, or a day care provider. I decided that it was my duty and privilege to enjoy her early years, play with her, listen to her silly comments, and raise her as a productive member of society, and so I opened my own estate planning practice. I work from home and am with Emily, who is now four years old. While it is challenging, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
My practice is made up of clients with smaller estates, usually families with young children. I meet with my clients at a place and time convenient to them. Scheduling can be difficult, however, when trying to work around preschool drop-off and pick-up times, depending on where the client wants to meet. Finding drop-in day care is also somewhat difficult on occasion. It is also interesting to try to have a professional conversation when Emily needs help with something, wants to read books (like right now), or just wants to talk to me. It was trying when she was younger and would turn off my computer when she felt she was not getting enough attention. And it became harder to work from home when she stopped taking naps. Thank goodness for best friends and part-time preschool.
I struggle with compartmentalizing my work time, as do most attorneys, whether they work at home or in an office. I work from a laptop in my kitchen so that I can be with my daughter. I come downstairs in the morning and log on before I start the teakettle. At the end of the day, the computer is one of the last things I turn off. Although my routine with Emily breaks up the time I can devote to my practice, the benefits include being able to go to the park with my daughter or take her to the zoo or museum whenever we feel like it.
I also have to struggle with the usual problems inherent in solo/small firm practice, such as finding affordable malpractice insurance, deciding on a marketing strategy, and getting mentoring when confronted by a situation outside my legal experience.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I have found my involvement with the ABA, local bar associations, and other local professional associations extremely helpful in many of these areas. Professional associations provide such services as malpractice insurance, marketing seminars, great CLE programming, and networking opportunities. I am very fortunate to have been mentored by the likes of Karen Mathis and Martha Karnopp, both Denver attorneys, and to have the assistance of the Colorado Bar Association (CBA), including Reba J. Nance, the Director of Law Practice Management at the CBA, and Dawn McKnight, the Director of Publications for the CBA CLE, to mention a few of the great people at those organizations. I have also found that the people in the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section of the ABA, from across the country, have been very supportive of my start-up efforts—often just by being there and sympathizing.
If you are new to a solo practice, I strongly encourage you to get involved with various local bar sections and committees and to take advantage of all they have to offer, from publications to programming and networking opportunities. The help they offer is invaluable.
I wish to thank all of the authors from across the ABA who contributed to this Best of ABA Sectionsissue of GPSolo magazine. Once again, we have collected outstanding articles to provide you, the solo, small firm, or general practitioner, with information to enhance your practice. I am grateful for the contribution these authors have made to the legal profession in researching and drafting these articles. I encourage you to get involved in your legal community through writing, volunteering, and mentoring in your bar associations as these authors have done. Happy reading.
Laura B. Embleton maintains a solo law practice in the Denver area, where she specializes in estate planning. She can be reached at email@example.com.