Jo L. Belasco, a Massachusetts attorney, has had an interesting rezooming journey. During and after law school, Jo worked as an intern and then as a staff attorney for the Boston Police Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor from 1992 through March of 1997. She left the Boston PD and joined Quinlan Publishing as Editor in Chief of Law Enforcement Publications.
After 3 years as an editor, Jo decided she needed a big change. Legal writing and editing didn’t tickle her fancy any longer. Yet, she knew she did not want to open her own practice or litigate.
She started working full-time for Tapestry Institute. This non-profit group of scientists and educators helps people reconnect to the natural world. Tapestry operates from within an Indigenous worldview.
Jo left the practice of law completely and relocated to Texas in the Spring of 2001. While working with Tapestry, she explored many fields that interested her. She was able to apply her extensive knowledge of horses to create equine programs for Tapestry. She became interested in ecopsychology, the study of the relationships between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. Jo worked as an equine trainer and clinician from 2008 through the summer of 2015.
Jo began thinking about rezooming the practice of law in 2015. These thoughts were precipitated by two catastrophic events. In 2006 Tapestry’s ranch meeting facility was destroyed by a wildfire, forcing the non-profit to leave the ranch in 2007. Since Tapestry was a land based non-profit this was a serious setback to its mission. In 2008 the financial crisis dealt Tapestry its second blow as funding for all non-profits slowed to a trickle. When Tapestry closed its facility, Jo was able to continue to work in equine programs within the horse industry.
In 2015 she was ready for another change. Jo became a Criminal Justice Subject Matter expert writing ancillary materials for a publishing company. As she read legal textbooks, she, like Eric in Mr. Mom goes to Washington, rekindled her love for the law. The thought of, “Practicing law again,” and seeing the options open to her, “was pleasantly overwhelming,” Jo said. Although she loved the West, she realized it was the right time to move back to Massachusetts and rezoom her legal career.
While preparing for her rezoom, Jo did a great deal of online research about returning to the law. She knew she didn’t want to join a high-stress legal arena. Jo had had enough stress with the wildfire and recession. Her experience with horses made the burgeoning field of equine law a natural fit. She combined her extensive knowledge of horses with her legal profession.
She also investigated virtual law firms. After reading the works of Stephanie Kimbro she felt empowered to start a thriving virtual practice. Jo keeps her overhead low to keep her fees more attractive to prospective clients. Her virtual office provides the flexibility to meet with clients in a barn or the comfort of a living room.
She is grateful for finding the Integrative Law Movement online. Through the work of J. Kim Wright and the members of the Integrative Law Movement, Jo finds support for this new way of practicing law. Her practice supports preventative and holistic solutions to conflict, enabling her to realize the practice of law in a way she finds authentic.
She used the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education offerings as valuable resources to deepen her knowledge or immerse herself in new areas of law. She also connected with her network of law school friends. They have been invaluable mentors and connectors. Each practices in a different area of law and so collaboration is easy.
Jo’s rezoom is going well. She has now added Estate Planning, Elder Law, Business Law, and Earth Law to her practice. She continues to work with horse people in Equine Law and also helps other clients by focusing on maintaining healthy relationships through preventive law. She enjoys helping her clients by giving them peace of mind concerning legal issues, and they appreciate her approach.
Jo has unexpectedly found that her new law practice has empowered her non-profit work in a way she never imagined. She continues to work with the virtual version of the Tapestry Institute. She has launched a legal education program entitled, “The Land and The Law.” In this program Jo brings together her legal skills and non-profit experience to explore legal issues concerning earth law, Indigenous land rights law and matters within the Indigenous worldview.
Jo provided these three tips for those considering rezooming their legal career.
“Think about why you left the field of law, what you gained while you were gone and what you want to maintain from your time away now that you’re back.”
“Talk to attorneys and ask the hard questions such as how many clients can you realistically expect in your first few months or years in practice as a solo. How do they successfully market their practice?”
“Explore many areas of law. See what really interests you. If you never thought you would practice in that field of law learn something about it. Law is being practiced in new ways such as the integrative model and virtual law firms.”
Take Jo’s advice and explore areas of law new to you or familiar fields with a new eye. It might spark your interest and help you rezoom in a more effective manner. Now get out there and rezoom.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.