It’s an interesting challenge to be an entrepreneur who owns a business but also a practicing attorney focused on family law.
Nine years ago, I formed Transitions Legal as a law firm that serves family law clients without judgment, and with respect, dignity and compassion. When I hung out my shingle, I was the sole lawyer in the firm, doing everything from human resources to writing briefs to litigating cases.
Since then, I’ve hired staff, including an associate attorney to handle cases, and eventually, I hope to be able to shift from working in my business to a balance between building the business and still serving clients. I want to devote time to professional development and entrepreneurial brainstorming. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever fully shift away from client work because I love being in the thick of things and serving my clients!
Now, I not only do professional development to build my legal skills, but also to become a better entrepreneur. I read articles about business ownership, I follow entrepreneurs on social media, and I think about how to better lead my team and serve my clients from an existential and intellectual perspective.
I ponder what my firm brings to the marketplace. What mission drives us. How we show up each day. How we interact with clients, other attorneys, even employees of the court. The mark we make on the world by how we do our jobs.
It’s a fascinating and challenging role to lead a company. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe I am better for it – as a person, and as a lawyer.
The word entrepreneur comes from a 13th century French verb, entreprendre, which means “to do something” or “to undertake.” By the 16th century, the noun form of the word – entrepreneur – appeared, and it referred to someone who undertakes a business venture.
Just like the name of my law firm, Transitions Legal, conveys that we view divorce as simply a transition from one phase of life to the next, the word entrepreneur is neither good nor bad. There is no judgment to it. Only fact.
It absolutely applies to me, and I wear it proudly. I undertake to provide a service, a way of practicing law and supporting clients, that I believed was not already existent in the marketplace. I brought a new vision, a new approach, a new view to the practice of family law.
And that is a charge I do not take lightly. I am equal to the task, and renewed by it every single day.
While travel has halted or changed dramatically for most of us in the coronavirus era, before all of this unfolded, I was traveling a lot, and determined to find a way to balance my work demands with the adventure and exploration of travel.
Much of my travel has to do with family. I have sisters and my mother in other states, and we like to stay as connected as we can, visiting when possible.
But I also, like most people, love to travel to new destinations, explore other cultures and landscapes, and expand my notion of this world.
For an entrepreneur and small business owner, the biggest problem with travel (after cost) is balancing the demands of work with the desire to truly take time off to immerse in whatever journey you’re on.
My clients’ needs and caseloads are a 365/24/7 type of demand. In some industries, there are slow seasons that are perfect times to travel.
Not so in family law. My clients expect me to focus on their cases in a timely fashion and see them through this transition in their lives to the next stage with ease and fluidity. So that means if I schedule travel, it’s on me to make sure the work gets done, too.
Some people can work on planes. For me, that’s a time to read articles, proofread motions and letters, and edit documents. I try to get to the airport early, giving me downtime before my flight to make calls. It’s a good plan because I’m not rushing, I’m not stressed, I have nowhere else to be, and I can just focus, almost in a bubble, without interruption.
We need downtime to restore and relax. We cannot work around the clock – unless we want to burn out and build resentment.
Every month, we have opportunities to do things better, be mindful of how we proceed, and build our best life every single day.
For me, the most important step is being mindful of the need to build balance. As a busy family law attorney and entrepreneur, it’s easy for me to get caught up in work every minute of every day – especially in our 24/7 always-on culture.
But when I do, things spin out of control. In the last part of 2018, I fell ill and it lingered for weeks – nearly two months in the end. That’s not good on so many levels.
Recalibrating For Focus
Stress leads to lack of productivity, and eventually illness, and being out of balance speeds up the possibility of stress-lock. That’s my new word for how it feels to be overwhelmed with work and not sure how to get things on track.
My reminder to be mindful applies not just at work, not just in my personal life, but to both, building balance in every aspect of life.
Right now, I’m trying to be kind to myself, to know it’s going to take time to build balance back into my life. I must accept that I can’t let stress get the better of me, so I won’t become sick again. Step one in building balance is recognition of the need to focus on me and take care of me.
I’ll be honest: it’s not easy to do. Even though I write a lot about self-care, I’m not always an expert at it myself.
Being Honest is The First Step
If we can be kind to ourselves and apply that same understanding to others who may face the same challenges, we’ll all be better off. I am human with my own obstacles, just like my clients. But that’s not what a client wants to hear in their time of need. And I recognize that I am here to service my clients, to be helpful to others. My state of being is irrelevant in that equation.
So we soldier on, hoping for a sunny day each morning and doing our best when the clouds obscure the light.