What’s Keeping You?

If you’re intrigued by solo life, be it as an attorney or any other professional, it might be time to approach the dilemma (and it always seems to be a dilemma) by asking yourself the question this way:

What is keeping me from saying “yes” to going solo?

When we ask ourselves the question this way, it helps us pinpoint the precise barricades we’ve encountered (or often, erected ourselves in order to protect ourselves from realizing our fears of failure – or success).

When I contemplated going solo, there was always a “yes, but …” at the end of every thought:

Yes, but – I don’t have enough experience.

Yes, but – I don’t have enough money saved.

Yes, but – I don’t want to practice law like everyone else does with all the billable hours and nonsense.

Yes, but – what can I do? I’ve been practicing municipal/county law for so long.

Those were the four biggest obstacles I faced – experience, financial restraints, discomfort with traditional law practice model, and change of practice area.

So, I then changed my approach. Having identified the obstacles, I set about getting to know the enemy, intimately and thoroughly. I gave long hours of consideration to each perceived obstacle. In the process of questioning all my assumptions and digging deep (through a process of talking it out with my spouse and journaling), I realized that my fear of my own lack of experience was a perceived obstacle only. It wasn’t real. It was true that I didn’t have any appreciable experience as an attorney in private practice, but I had ten years under my belt as a lawyer. Those years represented skills – real skills, that transfer to other practice areas. And as for the private practice experience – that was a real obstacle, true, but one easily overcome by taking deep advantage of all the resources available to me. Resources like MyShingle.com, like the Solosez listserv, like Foonberg’s book, like Ed Poll’s book.

Going through this process, I realized that my fear of financial failure was an actual obstacle. This one was real. However, I had blown it out of proportion. I’d taken Foonberg’s suggestion of one years’ worth of expenses and treated it as gospel. But then I began to question it, as necessity in my personal life started making increasing demands that I leave my then-current job sooner than I’d anticipated. Did I really need that much? Isn’t it also true that being hungry (whether literally or figuratively) will motivate one to achieve higher results? (Yes, it is, I can tell you now!) So I reevaluated this obstacle, and again, came up with a plan to attack it.

This is the process that can help you conquer those obstacles. When I stopped thinking of them as obstacles, and started treating them as challenges, I knew I was on my way to a successful launch.

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