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Solo & Small Law Firms

MyShingle Turns Eight

It was just around this time, eight years ago that I hit the enter key and uploaded this Welcome Post to the web, officially launching MyShingle. In many ways, I’ve always viewed MyShingle and blogging as a microcosm of solo practice, sharing the same ebb and flow and lessons for success. So here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned about blogging and solo practice over the past eight years.

1. Know and be true to yourself. In my law practice, I’d love to be that confident lawyer who strides into a networking event, conversing easily with everyone in sight instead of the nerd off in the corner chatting with other outcasts about regulatory minutia.  As a blogger, I’d love to toss out pithy, clever one-liners about client service or setting fees rather than lengthy tomes.  I’d love to be mean, to be blunt, to be able to curse with abandon at my blog.  Instead, I am earnest, I am dogged, I am generally polite.  I am far more interested in the big picture of where we solos fit in the world and what that means for ensuring meaningful access to justice than mundane 7-point lists of how-tos that are so obvious it’s not clear why anyone would bother to commit them to print.  For a long time, both in my practice and at my blog, I longed  for different talents and cursed instead of cultivated the ones that came naturally.  But somewhere along the way, I realized that practicing law or running a blog are hard enough without the added challenge of working against type, aspiring to be someone you’re not.  Oddly, it was only when I decided to just be myself instead, to trust my instincts instead of following the so-called rules for success purveyed by experts that I finally started to experience modest success myself.

2. You won’t always be number one but that’s no reason to quit. When I started my blog back in 2002, other great bloggers — Volokh, Denise Howell, Howard Bashman, Ernie the Attorney dominated.  And even after I started and carved out a modest niche, A-listers like David Lat and Anonymous Lawyer/Jeremy Blachman galloped past me, as have the other blogs that are beating me in the ABA Blawg 100 competition.  So too in my practice, other lawyers who started solo years after I did advanced while I struggled and slogged.  I envied their luck and their talent.  I suppose I could have quit in frustration or groused about the unfairness of it all but at the end of the day, neither approach was going to improve my situation.  So I plodded on, in the hope of finding something great just around the corner.

3. Stick around long enough and you’ll make it by default The longer I blog and practice law, the more I realize that many advantages  come from just sticking around.  In my own case, after 17 years of solo practice and 8 years of blogging, I suddenly feel that I’m just now hitting my stride (knock wood).  Though I wasn’t failing before – I had a nice enough gig going – every day felt like a struggle.  Now things just seem a little easier a little more of the time.  Lawyers I’ve never met are referring my firm; advertisers are inquiring about my blog and I was fortunate enough to speak at several solo and small firm conferences this past summer.  I’ve not done anything significantly differently, but it just feels that things are coming together just because I’ve been hanging around for so darn long!

I know that  those of you who are just starting out don’t want to wait eight or seventeen years to find success – and of course, you can certainly be more proactive, or work harder than I did.   But you also need to realize that in spite of all of the gurus who will tell you that you can build a six figure practice in half a year, that kind of speedy success is relatively unusual.   Success for bloggers, or solos doesn’t happen overnight, and may not happen in two years or even five years.  But that doesn’t mean that it won’t.

After eight years, I marvel every day that I had the incredibly good fortune at the relatively late age of 38 to find something – blogging  – that captivates me.  Blogging wasn’t around when I graduated law school; it is something entirely unexpected  that has  defined me and shaped my career, taking me in directions I never imagined.  Just like the adventure of solo practice.

So, to my readers, who show up here every day, to my fellow bloggers colleagues who keep me company, blogging their hearts out and to the solos whose stories and life’s lessons illuminate the pages of this blog,  thank you for eight great years.

Final irony: I just realized that this is one of those 3-point bold posts that I just complained about.  Oh well, call me a hypocrite…