ReZooming – The Tortoise and the Hare

You may be wondering why I picked this title for my March installment of “The Rezooming Attorney“. It is an interesting choice. We attorneys are hares, wanting things done, impatient when things don’t happen or they don’t happen soon enough for us. That’s where this rezooming article comes in.

When you decide to rezoom your legal career, you go into the process thinking it’s a no brainer. I loved what I did before; I will just go back to it. Or, I hated what I did before; I will change it and pursue my passion instead. It will happen overnight. Not so fast!

After reading the most recent post from my SPU colleague, Annie Tunheim, “A Solo (A) Broad“, who relocated to Australia and is rezooming her career there, one sentence struck me as the most illustrative of our rezooming journey; she was taking her time.

“A slow solo practice can be seen as a negative, as there is no traditional law firm paycheck direct-deposited every two weeks. But a traditional law firm would not allow for making the kind of life choices like I’ve made, and I don’t begrudge the decision to walk away from the traditional law firm (and the accompanying lifestyle, or lack thereof) in the slightest. I’m grateful that at this point my practice has allowed for my workload to ebb and flow depending on the circumstances of my life. And now that life is stable here (and I’ve gotten the urge to lie on a beach out of my system), I am eager to spend more time working on growing my practice.” Annie Tunheim-A Solo (A) Broad-March 27th, 2012

Rezoomers sometimes think we need to do this re-entry thing quickly or we are a failure. Actually, it is quite the opposite. We come back into the practice realizing, by dint of our life experiences, that we need to find and focus on our passion. Don’t be a lazy focuser! Don’t play it safe and secure, practicing law in the legal world you knew. Focus on what part of the law is drawing you back and create a legal-life around that which is entertaining to you. If we do this, doors will open with opportunities and our future will unfold just the way we pictured it.

The trick is we have to picture it. This is where the tortoise comes in. We need to take time and focus. As Rezoomers, some of us have the luxury of picturing ourselves back in the law doing what it is we love because we have been there before. Some of us haven’t practiced law or hated what we did before and want to change it.

For me, I no longer wanted to litigate animal law conflicts. I wanted to create a venue where people in conflict over animals could go. In this venue they could have the difficult conversation, after the conflict arose and before litigation ensued and stop “suffering in silence”. I dreamed of what it would be like but had no idea, in 2010, of the ‘how to’.

In January 2010, I attended the NYSBA Annual Meeting. I have spoken about the value of attending these kinds of meetings in the past. However, not as a venue for inspiration! This was the first Bar meeting of any kind I’d ever attended in my 27 years of being an attorney. At the Animal Law Committee meeting, the discussion centered around new laws they were championing, despite the courts reluctance to take their cases, and how they would continue to push the envelope and make these new laws despite the courts push back.

At the Dispute Resolution Committee meeting the next day they spoke about how the Courts appreciated their presence in the legal arena. Courts felt strongly that some cases were better handled though ADR first and litigation as a last resort.

My inner voice went off with rockets. Create the ADR piece for Animal Conflict Resolution. I spoke to Columbia University School of Law Honorary Chair, Vivian Berg about my idea. She thought it was brilliant. I left that day thinking this will be easy, who wouldn’t want to have the ability to discuss their conflict over an animal rather then harbor bad feelings for a lifetime or head into a court system not predisposed to take on such issues.

Initially, my passion had me going for training in ADR – Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative practice. Each field spoke to me in a unique way. I committed myself to Mediation and Collaborative Practice. I have conducted mediations and found comfort in a process that enables parties to drive their own solution.

What does this have to do with the Rabbit and the Hare?

It has taken two years to get here. Each opportunity that came along brought me one-step closer to where I am today. There are no short cuts to be taken or experiences to be missed, good and not so good. Each was a learning experience.

What has been my constant is the tortoise-like determination to get to the finish line and bring, to the public and legal community alike, the fully developed concept of applying Mediation and Collaborative Law to Animal Law Conflicts. It is what I am passionate about. It is what gets me out of bed everyday and has me write and speak in venues large and small.

As Annie Tunheim concluded on her journey:

“So, now I am beginning to set goals—not in monetary terms per se—but practice goals such as increasing my participation in forums that could lead to future clients, and hours a day working on current matters vs. client development, continuing education and business matters.” Annie Tunheim-A Solo (A) Broad-March 27th, 2012

Whether you are a rezooming attorney or starting out in this admirable profession, remember it is the fire in your belly that gets the job done. Ignore it to your peril; embrace it to your success. Susan would say she had a fire in her belly when she started Solo Practice University®. We all think it happened for Susan overnight, and yes it was a pretty quick success. The success probably matched the fire in Susan’s belly. She knew she was meant to create something wonderful, which she may not have seen at all like SPU initially, but that evolved as she experienced the process. Yet here she is with a wonderful platform and service available to all of us in the solo practice community.

As you embark on this race remember the passion is the tortoise, the fleeting fame and fortune, the hare! It will come if you listen to your gut. It may not come as fast as you want or hope. If you stay the course, you will long pass the ‘hare’ of your rezooming self and revel in the tortoise bringing you to the place you were meant to be.

For me, the tortoise has put me in the right place at the right time to meet people who moved me one step closer to my passion. I listened to myself and attended events where powerful alliances were made. It has only been two years since my return to the practice of law, and I just co-sponsored my first CLE on “The Application of Mediation and Collaborative Practice to Animal Conflicts” at St John’s Law School. The passion is fueling the process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Go out and find your passion, take your time as the tortoise does. You will never regret the outcome.

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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