Back when I worked for others, my heart was tight and mean. My cramped vision of the legal profession as a zero sum game left little space for generosity or good will towards my colleagues. Each time I learned that one of my classmates made partner at a big firm, or that another lawyer at my agency received a promotion or that a fellow associate would first chair a hearing, I seethed with envy. I bad-mouthed my bosses and cursed the fates that consigned me to jobs where I couldn’t thrive.
I never questioned my behavior. After all, I was surrounded by colleagues who acted the same way. I simply assumed that living in a perpetual state of resentment came with the territory of being a lawyer or was part of growing up and growing jaded.
After I’d been practicing on my own for a couple of years, I noticed a surprising change. For example, when colleagues on the Solosez listserv would share news of victory in court or snagging a brand new corporate client, I felt a surge of genuine excitement as I sent a congratulatory note along with dozens of other listmates. At first I discounted my positive reaction, attributing it to list camaraderie or the pull of the crowd. Yet as time passed and I started blogging at MyShingle, I still feel delighted and inspired each time I came across a stories of other solos in the news or doing great things or simply taking pride in what they do.
Why do I revel in other solos’ accomplishments when I previously felt resentment towards others’ success? Two reasons. First, whenever I see another solo has done good, it creates a sense of possibility – that if “he or she could do that, I could too!” When I worked for others, I never felt that way about my colleagues’ accomplishments because I didn’t control my destiny. My success depended on others — their decision to give me good reviews or assign me to a case or reward me with a promotion. So I felt a sense of disempowerment that bred the victims’ mentality that I carried for years – and that held me back. Now my fate lies in my own hands, which is scary for sure, but also infuses me with a feeling of invincibility; that anything’s possible so long as I’m willing to focus, dream and of course, work crazy hard.
Second, because solo practice has opened my world so wide, I no longer view life as a zero sum game. Each time an individual solo wins a case, it’s a win for me because I’m part of Team Solo: the sixty percent of lawyers who practice in solo and small firms. When solo attorneys win victories, take center stage on the podium at bar associations and industry conferences and appear in the media, they elevate and improve the image of solos. That means that big firm lawyers and judges stop underestimating us and start taking us seriously which means that we can deliver better results for our clients. And at the end of the day, serving clients is what being a solo is all about.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend – and watch for huge changes at MyShingle shortly after.