General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Solo, Spring 1996

Fine Wine, Solos, and Cheese

by jennifer j. rose

Fine wine left alone in storage for years can age well. Sotoo do some cheeses. But not solo practitioners--they turn sourand cheesy. When there's no one down the hall to chew the fatwith, to complain with about problem clients and horror cases,and the secretary's heard it all, consider making some changes.

  • Do something that has nothing to do with the practice oflaw. Become an avid gardener, sculptor, or cook. Practice flyfishing or take up the flute. Bill Falk, a lawyer, antiquedealer, and sculptor, has told me time and again how much "legalthinking" he can get done while he's carving a piece of stone.
  • Keep in touch with other lawyers just for the heck of it.When I started my practice nearly 20 years ago, my mentor, wholived 150 miles away, was a constant fount of lore about pressingquestions such as, "How do I handle this motion?" and "How do Iget paid?" As you become seasoned, become a mentor.

    Share. The competitive world of lawyering makes lots oflawyers forget basic kindergarten lessons. Share your feelingswith other lawyers, clients, and your staff. You can do sowithout wearing your heart on your sleeve and while respectingboundaries.

  • Get healthy. If Arnie Becker wasn't enough, now aUniversity of Texas professor claims that beauty counts. All themore reason to start paying attention to healthy habits. RaymondBurr wouldn't survive in today's legal climate. If you're likemany lawyers, whose ancestors didn't pass through Ellis Islandjust so we could join health clubs, focus upon developing one ortwo "healthy habits" such as a daily walk or eating more fruitsand vegetables. Your health program doesn't have to mean runningmarathons and giving up cigarettes and red meat.
  • Get on the Net. It's the easiest way to expand yourhorizons without ever leaving your desk. If I didn't know better,I'd have thought Kurt Vonnegut dreamed it all up. It would be fareasier to describe the meaning of life than the Internet.

    Lurk around Usenet and expand your focus. Learn how to geton mailing lists and receive massive quantities of e-mail throughList Serves. E-mail is perfect for a quick note to someone who'drather hear from you right away than wait to touch your Crane'sCrest.

  • Make some changes. Take control over your life. Thesechanges need not be as radical as a move from downtown to workingout of your home, or from practicing divorce law to plaintiff'ssecurities law. Change little things--the color of your car, yourhair, pen ink, office routine, or your route from the office tothe courthouse. Represent someone for free.
  • Quit whining. Philip Wylie wrote about the Generation ofVipers in the '50s. The '90s has reared a Generation of Whiners.Lawyers who preceded us didn't kvetch about the Mommy Track orthe Daddy Trap or self-actualization. They were plagued by otherworries, like food rationing, nylon shortages, and returning tothe practice interrupted by wars. Your life could be worse thanyou think it is.

jennifer j. rose is a solo in Shenandoah, Iowa, specializing inslaying dragons and fomenting rebellion in ordinary lives..


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