“Should I stay or should I go now? Should I stay or should I go now? So, you gotta let me know. If I go there will be trouble. If I stay it will be double. Should I stay or should I go? So come on and let me know, should I cool it or let it blow? So come on and let me know. Should I stay or should I go. This indecision is bugging me. One day it’s fine and then it’s black. Should I stay or should I go.” (It’s a total mish-mash of the lyrics but you get the point.)
This song came to mind when I talked with a potential new Solo Practice University faculty member. She reminded me of many a solo’s quandary. They are in business. They are doing pretty well. But the restlessness sets in because their practice has become somewhat routine and is flowing smoothly. Yet there is an itch to do more, something, anything different. The dilemma is they’ve gotten this itch that is begging to be scratched. The solo practice just doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
The solo has other interests and those interests become the siren’s call. The usual first reaction is they are ready to pack it in and pursue those others interests because having a practice isn’t fully satisfying. The other interests could be teaching, writing, creating a legal startup. They aren’t sure if they can or should do both. But the pull is great to do something more beyond ‘just’ practicing law. Yet they recognize they’ve already built up a great practice and it is providing a solid financial base. They are in demand by their clients. They’ve got the system down pretty well. What to do? What to do?
This happens more than you think. Probably to the majority of solos at some point and usually between years 5 and 8. I don’t have all the answers but I do know this:
It’s okay to have other desires beyond ‘just’ practicing law. ‘Just’ is not meant to diminish the practicing of law. It is to emphasize that a well-rounded attorney can have a successful practice while doing other things that are equally as gratifying without losing their practices.
Over the course of my years as both a lawyer and entrepreneur, I’ve seen many lawyers journey beyond the practice of law while maintaining their practices. They’ve written legal books, teach, do several speaking engagements per year, become active in their bars, develop legal product OR they go completely outside the law and develop secondary businesses or passions. The point is, it’s all okay. It’s very healthy. And they’ve done so without giving up their solo practices which they’ve worked hard to build. They’ve been so effective at streamlining their back office through the use of technology and virtual assistants/associates, as well as marketing, that their practices do not require them to commit every waking minute of their lives to its growth. More importantly, by being able to develop other interests, it keeps the depression, loneliness, and disillusionment at bay.
The point of this post is this: if you’ve hit that milestone where the practice is running smoothly and you’re restless, pursue a passion in conjunction with your practice. Recognize the itch for what it is and then scratch it the right way. You don’t have to answer the question, ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’ You can both stay AND go.