Volume 10, no. 1
Remember to Notice Success
By Andrea Goldman
After work as a contract lawyer for a number of years, one of my employers announced he was leaving his firm. Before thinking twice, I’d proposed a partnership to him, promptly offering to pay half. It was time to go take the plunge and open an office. My goal was a six-figure income by the end of the first year.
We each made an initial deposit and began setting up the firm at a frenetic pace. If we could just finish choosing a business entity, getting malpractice insurance, hooking up a central server, and buying office furniture, the real work could begin. Even though the sight of the firm’s name listed at the state’s corporate division was a thrill, that quickly got pushed aside by the need for stationery, business cards, and a Web site.
Although I was already a member of a lawyer referral service, I knew I had to start networking with a vengeance to attract clients. Announcements were sent; lunches and dinners became a weekly routine; and I followed up on all my new contacts. What a coup it would be, I told myself, once that first referral came in from a colleague or that first retainer check was deposited!
Learning that another lawyer found a client through a listserve for the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, I quickly signed up. There I discovered a new world of networking through e-mail. When one of “the group” said he belonged to 17 listserves, many wanted details, and I was introduced to the ABA’s SOLOSEZ.
When asked recently to describe how I would know when my practice had gone from a struggle to a success, I realized, in some ways, this had already occurred. However, in my constant drive forward, I had not taken the time to appreciate it. My first networking referral had come through a client and I had not even noticed. When several clients mentioned other work they wanted me to handle, I did not recognize this as a positive trend. Then I had my first victory when an opposing party returned a client’s stolen money. However, I was so caught up in the “if onlys,” focusing solely on the next step, that I had nearly missed these events.
That six-figure income has not occurred as yet, but I have received numerous retainers, given my first employment law seminar, published articles, been approved to arbitrate on two panels, and settled my first discrimination case.
There is a Yiddish saying that loosely translates: “If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a trolley car.” It reminds me of the senselessness of constant “ifs.” My mother-in-law keeps a file for “naches”—another Yiddish word that means the joy you get from the accomplishments of those you love. Hers is filled with newspaper clippings, awards, articles, and press releases. From now on I am going to keep my own mental naches file—saving it for those days when the phone does not ring.
Andrea Goldman practices business, construction, and employment law at Gately & Goldman, LLP, in Newton, Massachusetts. She can be reached at email@example.com.