When the issue theme “What about Me?” was proposed two years ago, we had no idea that the times ahead would be as grim as they are. More Americans than ever are on the dole, home foreclosures are at record levels, courthouse budgets have been cut, and clients expect more than ever for less than ever. War still rages in the Middle East. Many solos and small firm practitioners face serious economic circumstances, operating in a culture of fear. The glitter has tarnished, and what we thought was golden has turned to base metal.
There are lawyers who have practiced for a generation who have never out-earned their schoolteacher spouses. There are lawyers whose families have no health insurance. There are lawyers whose only retirement plan means working until they draw their last breath. These lawyers aren’t slackers, layabouts, or bottom feeders—they’re experienced and good lawyers who represent ordinary folks and Main Street businesses. These lawyers don’t hang out at American Bar Association meetings very much these days, even though these are the very lawyers who need what the ABA has to deliver more than anyone.
These lawyers have a hard time conjuring up sympathy for the plight of lawyers in the government sector and judiciary whose wages may have been frozen or lawyers at BigLaw who may have seen bonuses erode and evaporate; at least those lawyers have job security and benefits. It’s hard to worry about judicial budget cuts when you’re wondering how you’re going to pay this month’s overhead. Pro bono and public service work doesn’t feed their souls like maybe it ought to because many of these lawyers give away more legal services to clients who walk in their doors and need help on a day-to-day basis, chalking it up to “involuntary pro bono.” Talk of how it’s a privilege to practice law falls on deaf ears when more immediate, concrete concerns about juggling the practice of law, running the business of a law office, and having a reasonably decent life get in the way. These are the lawyers who ask, “What about Me?”
This issue of GPSolo is all about you. Enlightened self-interest aside, it’s all too easy for lawyers, particularly those who practice by themselves or in small firms, to neglect themselves and their families while they’re struggling to serve their clients and make ends meet in a law practice. Good lawyering means giving your all, but you can’t give your all if you’re operating from shaky ground, if you’re working from an unpleasant environment, or if something just doesn’t fit right. It’s all a matter of taking care of yourself and those close to you first. It’s time to buy the cobbler’s children some new shoes! The person who’s reading this issue is the most important person in the GPSolo Division.
Filled with practical articles ranging from the 15-minute sabbatical and personal and financial security to managing the toxic workplace and injecting some levity into a humdrum environment, this issue is for the most important, and frequently most neglected, person in your law practice: you.
The credit for producing this issue goes to our most senior GPSolo editorial board member, Col. (Ret.) Bryan Spencer of Round Rock, Texas, whose indefatigable efforts remain unmatched, leveraging skills honed from practicing law in Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, Kansas, and Texas, and taking time from his responsibilities as Texas LAMP (Legal Assistance for Military Personnel) director to nurture and develop this issue—hounding, sweet talking, and cajoling authors.
Reading GPSolo magazine and being a part of the GPSolo Division is really all about helping yourself. And we’re here to help you do just that.