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Solo & Small Law Firms

Being A Solo Doesn’t Mean Being Lonely

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This month’s issue of Law Practice Today reprints my chapter, Being Solo Does Not Mean Being Lonely from the ABA’s book, Flying Solo.  I wrote the chapter roughly five years ago and therefore, it’s a bit dated since it preceded social media.  Still, my argument that lawyers needed be isolated as solos remains valid.  Finally, on a personal note, this article is one of my favorite pieces of writing, serving as a constant reminder of how solo practice expanded my horizons and enriched my life.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

Oddly enough, my days of being lonely as a lawyer ended when I started my solo practice.

When I worked for others, I derived neither pleasure nor emotional satisfaction from my relationships with my colleagues. During my experience as a government lawyer and then as a law firm associate, my social contacts were narrowly circumscribed and ranged from simply superficial to downright uncomfortable. So-called watercooler chats and lunches with my immediate peers consisted of dull chitchat. No one ever talked about the things that draw people closer—like commiserating about a memo that had been ripped to shreds by a supervisor or sharing feelings of terror about an upcoming hearing—for fear of appearing incompetent or less than perfect. My relationships with supervisors and law firm partners fared no better; the stratified office hierarchy discouraged me (and others on my level) from initiating lunch dates with my superiors—not that I would have anyway, as every social encounter with them made me feel as if I was on an extended job interview.

After having been immersed in this kind of stunted social environment for five years, I actually looked forward to the solitude of solo practice. But, after a couple months squirreled away as a recluse in my basement office, I found myself craving social contact. Only now, liberated from the structures of an office, I found that I could expand my circle of colleagues and friends from my professional life to include a wider, more diverse, friendlier, and more supportive group than was ever possible in my office days. My circle of friends and colleagues now includes lawyers who practice in a variety of fields, as well as people who aren’t lawyers, and reflects a broad range of age, gender, ethnicity, and location. To gather this new group of friends and colleagues, I had to break many of the long-ingrained rules about socializing, and also had to develop new ways to pursue friendships. Following is a discussion of what I did as a solo to lose the loneliness and gain the sense of connection that had eluded me most when I was working for others.

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