Finding the Courage to Start

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
John Bingham

In the dozen years I’ve blogged here, I’ve sung the praises of solo practice – the unexpected surprises, the enormous opportunity, and the satisfaction that flows from doing work that matters  or makes you feel alive or like dancing a jig.

For those in my audience avid to start a law firm, my words reinforce an decision you’ve already made. And for the unemployed, the graduates who’ve never found jobs or the otherwise desperate who come to solo practice not by choice but necessity, my blog offers hope that there just may be a a future in the law for you through solo practice if you want it badly enough. These readers – the determined and the nothing-left-to-losers – are easy to help.

But there’s a third group – the stuck and the trapped who face obstacles – either real (like being $500,000 in debt or staring down your kids’ $60,000 tuition bill) or imagined – that make it tough, even impossible to get started. And until my own personal misfortune, I simply didn’t fully realize that a rah rah, cheerleader attitude or even sheer force of will aren’t enough to overcome real fears that hold us back. Like the fear that life as a solo can never live up to the prestige of being a big law partner. Or financial fear that triggers survival mode, such that you don’t feel that you can do anything else than put one foot in front of the other, focused on the next fee, the next contract job, the next paycheck or the next tuition or loan payment, feeling so trapped on the hamster-wheel of life that you don’t have the energy to lift your eyes to the stars.

So what do you do when you find yourself trapped in a situation – so terrified of losing what you have or failing at what you’ve not yet done – where do you find the courage to start? What do you do when pithy slogans like Nike’s just do it!! or even Seth Godin’s tough love don’t cut it? Truth is, I don’t know the answer (if I did, I wouldn’t still be blogging here after a dozen years).

Still, I do know a few things. First, don’t give up on your dream. Just because you couldn’t muster the courage to start in a year or two or five doesn’t mean that you don’t have it in you: many solos and entrepreneurs are made, not born. Don’t beat yourself up either. Second, some people are late bloomers.  Finally and most importantly, don’t ever, ever use your situation as an excuse to say I can’t. Sure, maybe you can’t start right now, but your present isn’t your future.

At some point – maybe in six months or six years, you’ll be lucky enough to have a life-changing epiphany that pushes you to take the leap. Maybe an opportunity will materialize and since you’ve been thinking about starting a firm, you recognize the opportunity and leap for it.  More likely, though, you’ll get so disgusted with yourself, that you’ll man (or woman) up and jump in instead of waiting on the sidelines. Who knows when that first step will come or what form it will take, but just know, that the start – not just of a new law firm, but a new phase of your practice – is the hardest part. The rest is history. Yours.


  1. Chris Hill on January 30, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for the thought Carolyn. This is really the key to starting. It took me a while to get the courage to move into solo practice. Ive since had the ride of my life and wouldn’t change it for the world. I found I like working without a net and have had no issues with “prestige” or gaining clients.

    Solo isn’t for everyone, but for those that are ready, it can be a great experience.

  2. Jerry Wyrosdick on January 31, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Starting solo is a big decision and a scary one at the start and rightfully so. But with proper planning you can pull it off. Before starting solo its better to do a stint with another lawyer or even better a law firm. Cultivate contacts, network extensively and then when you start on your own, you will have a strong inventory of prospective clients.

    Jerry Wyrosdick

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