The Company You Keep Drives the Success of Your Solo Practice

Two months ago I wrote an article for Solo Practice University describing the organizations I joined to help me Rezoom my career.  Entrepreneurial Women’s Network, Solo Practice University®, In Good Company, Savor the Success and Ladies who Launch to name a few and refresh your memories. In this post I’ll explain how these groups defined the company I keep.

As we Rezoom our legal careers, it is very important to keep good company.  The Company We Keep helps us to move  move forward, evolving toward the vision we have of our practice area and ourselves.  We need this Company as we move into this new legal world.  Surrounding ourselves with people who are positive about the law in general, the legal profession and our return to our practice area impacts our success.

In this post I will give you some examples of the company I keep on my road to rezooming.

First, My Educational Company – I attended Pace Law School’s New Direction Program.  It brought my legal skills up to date and gave me self-confidence.  It provided me with an entre into the University system, the presenter’s world as a colleague, and the support staff of New Directions.  Solo Practice University continues my education as I navigate solo practice.

Second, Women in the Law Company- Attending these events enabled me to meet colleagues and engage in discussions about my area of law, my return to practice and our journeys-similar and different- in the legal arena.

Third, Entrepreneurial Company – I attended these meetings to see what my prospective clients thought about my new practice area. This served as a ‘litmus test’ on the validity of the practice area I was creating.

I will go through the experiences I had with each group, tell you why they worked or didn’t, and offer some closing advice about the company you keep.

Educational Company – In your quest to Rezoom you may want to pursue a refresher course on the law or simply take a few CLE’s like the ones offered at Solo Practice University.  I was away for 13 years and chose a 6-month return to work model.

The real trick to these educational environments is to connect with the presenter and attendees.  Clearly you are going to a CLE on a subject in which you need or want information, you are with other attendees looking for similar information and are being led by a presenter who is filling the gap.  Establish relationships with these people.  They have similar interests, may be at a similar stage in their career or, if not, may be willing to help you progress in this field.

At the New Directions Program, I always thanked the presenters before and after their presentation and emailed them that evening to ask if I could contact them in the future if I had a question. If I was really interested in their area of law I’d try and set a date for coffee, have thoughtful questions prepared to ask and keep them for about ½ an hour.  I identified myself in my emails by talking about my blue glasses or the pin I was wearing.  This almost always jogged their memory of who I was. I have called a presenter, sometimes months or years after we initially met.  They remember me, speak to me, advise me and introduce me to people they think will help me in my journey.

They are the Educational Company I keep, are the go-to people for my questions, ideas or as connections to other people in the know who may have crossed their paths or are in their firms.

Women in the Law Company – These events are by far my favorite company I keep.  I found this path quite by accident.  I attended the NYSBA Women in the Law committee presentation in January 2010 and the ABA Women Rainmakers presentation in April 2010.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I left the practice of law I had no women attorney friends.  Lets just say the competition was fierce and friendships were more acquaintances and not life long.  Boy has that changed, or maybe I have changed.  I am now on the events panel for each group and have colleagues in almost every area of the law across the country.  I feel comfortable calling on them for information in their practice areas and they call on me for information I have to give.  I feel respected as a rezooming woman attorney who can speak on these issues to the group as well as on issues involving mediation.  I hold my own in conversations and participate fully in the creation of yearly events.  I keep my name out there and my knowledge ever changing and fresh.

They are the Positive, Colleagues-Giving Back To Others Company I keep.

Entrepreneurial Company – This is a step away from the legal arena and a whole new world of company I keep.

These are our prospective clients.  They have come up with a formula that keeps them connected, innovative and evolving with the times.  It makes sense.  They are ‘solos’ like us. Without clients they will die too.  Ironically, few if any attorneys use this venue as a think tank.

These entrepreneurs engage in a practice called mastermind.  I am a member of 3 mastermind groups.  A mastermind group is a small (3-4 member) group of entrepreneurs who meet each month to exchange ideas, brainstorm on their methods and best practices, create ideas and solutions and then agree to implement these ideas and solutions individually.  The following month they meet again, begin with a period of reflection on implementation and accountability by each member, and then brainstorm on the next month’s movement forward. Boy do I need the accountability portion.  Why don’t lawyers do this?

Mastermind groups keep you thinking, implementing and evolving for your market.  Fabulous! They don’t talk about the latest baseball and golf score or football trade.  They talk about real world problems we all face and work on real world solutions we all can apply.

A word of caution to all if you decide to check out this method of brainstorming, implementing and accountability.  Connect with a group of similarly situated members.  I was in a mastermind group with members not similarly situated. I felt I was carrying the other members on my positive ‘Pollyanna’ back. I had the courage to realize this was not working for me and excused myself from the group.

This practice should not be hard because you are having a difficult time assimilating with the members.  It should be hard because they keep you focused and accountable to what you say you want to do.

Even if you don’t join a mastermind group, think about getting an accountability buddy.  It will provide you with a mentor/sounding board as you traverse your solo practitioner path.  As solo practitioners we are accountable to our clients and ourselves.  However, we all know we tend to cheat in this area.

They are the ‘grounded-dreamers’ company I keep.

In Keeping Good Company you remain in motion, looking positively at your future, engaging with others who are or who can help you Rezoom and learning something new each day.  You will find that the company you keep, keeps you rezooming your practice more efficiently and effectively.  And, you will have more fun!

What Company do you keep?

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®.

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