This past weekend, I ran my seventh consecutive Race for Hope which raises funds for brain cancer research – a cause close to my heart. The race is only five kilometers, a distance that I’ve ably tackled before but this year, I struggled for the first half before finding my stride. So I was grateful for the race volunteers posted along the route who cheered runners on with hearty shouts of encouragement or just a wave. Even those few seconds of well-wishing really made a big difference.
Which got me to thinking, who are your cheerleaders when your practice is floundering? The statistics aren’t pretty. According to this May 2021 law review article, Widening the Lens, Sharpening the Focus: Mental Health and the Legal Profession by Sixth Circuit Judge Bernice Donald and her clerk, Alex Bransford, solo and small law firm owners rank higher than lawyers in other employment situations for depression, anxiety and stress. Moreover, like other entrepreneurs, solos can suffer from isolation and loneliness – a factor that may also fuel drug and alcohol abuse to alleviate stress.
Unfortunately, the article’s solutions are unsatisfying, ranging from more training in law school to more support from bar associations which to be fair, offer lawyer assistance programs for lawyers suffering from addiction and stress. But what solos and smalls also need is for us to be each other’s cheerleaders. To congratulate a colleague on a win. To invite a solo out for coffee or lunch for nothing more than a friendly chat. And in fact, it might be nice if others in the profession at biglaw or on the bench stepped up to recognize the work that many solos and smalls are doing. Obviously, being a cheerleader isn’t going to help lawyers break an addiction or cure them of serious depression. But a good word from a colleague no matter how small can be a spark that makes someone’s day or reminds them that they’re not alone.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started My Shingle almost twenty years ago and why we’re still here. In a profession that ignores and minimizes the work that solo and small firm lawyers do, MyShingle will always be their biggest fans, cheering them on to the finish.
If you’re new to our site, here’s some examples of the inspiration MyShingle has provided over the years.