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Being a lawyer

Reflections on Working for Myself

For the last eight years, I’ve been an eat-what-you-kill entrepreneur, no steady paycheck, total freedom to do whatever I want.

I can’t imagine working a traditional 9-to-5 again.

I still sit on tables.

Freedom

“Freedom” is the goal in my life – freedom to do, to see, to create, to live. Being an entrepreneur allows me to pick when and where I work, to handpick my clients, and to decide what else I want to do besides practice law (speak, write, travel, teach, etc.).

One of the reasons why I started Carter Law Firm back in 2012 was not only because the Phoenix job market for lawyers was poor and I was basically unemployable as a blogger/flash mobber, but also because I didn’t want to be an associate at a firm that would want me to work 80 hours/week and wouldn’t want me to be a public speaker. I changed careers to be happy. I didn’t want to settle for a potentially soul-sucking existence.

Joining Venjuris

Becoming an Of Counsel practitioner at Venjuris was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I was looking for more stability and support, and they were looking for lateral hire with their own book of business. Being Of Counsel (legalese for independent contractor) means I’m still in an eat-what-you-kill work environment.

It’s been a mutually beneficial arrangement – I’ve been able to take on litigation clients, and they’ve expanded the firm’s practice areas to include internet law. Plus, they’re privy to my knowledge about social media and content marketing, and I do in-house continuing legal education (CLEs) for them.

Fear

The day I decided to become an entrepreneur, I was so scared, I sweat through my sundress. I still get scared all the time – every time I launch a new project, step up on a stage to speak, or when I have a lull in client work. (Client work seems to be feast or feminine. It’s usually when I haven’t had work or prospects in three days and I’m starting to worry that I’m going to have to survive on ramen, that I get a handful of emails from prospective or returning clients.)

Fear has become part of my process. Whenever I’m scared, I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that everyone around me wants the best for me. That helps me calm down and trust that everything will work out.

Doing Work That Matters

I’ve always been a bit of an existentialist. I have to know that what I do makes a difference. I can’t just create widgets and send them out into the void. I had a summer job, that was a bad fit personality-wise, doing mostly legal research, and it seemed like nothing I did mattered. It wasn’t until my last week that I learned than my research had resulted in changes in company policy.

One of the upsides of working for myself is I get to leave the office when I’m done with my work for the day – even if it’s only mid-afternoon, sometimes earlier. I don’t have to pretend to look busy. When I have downtime, I get to work on other projects, or take time for myself. When you work for yourself, you don’t get in trouble for leaving the office early or running errands in the middle of the day.

Over the last eight years, I’ve learned that no one cares when or where I get my work done, as long as it gets done well and on time. I’m so lucky that I’ve crafted a life that allows me to attempt to live a Renaissance life. There’s no difference between me the person and me the professional. I consider all the work I do to be valuable. Ultimately, my job is to be the best version of me I can be, and I get paid for some of it.  

Day 57/90 – Laughter at Work

Day 57 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to laugh at work.

When most people think about the practice of law, they probably don’t picture people laughing at their desks (except maybe the evil laugh). I’m lucky that I get a lot of joy from my work and sometimes my work is so much fun it makes me laugh. And part of my job is keeping up with contacts on social media, which tends to make me burst out laughing throughout the day. Here are two of today’s highlights:

1.  My friend, The Namby Pamby, tweeted:

I responded that he and I would be Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets if that were allowed.

2.  I’m working on a contract right now that might be the best contract I’ve ever written. (It could top the one where one party had to attest to the other that he is “a sexy bitch.”) I love it when my clients are thoughtful and creative with their contracts. This one is a licensing agreement for a unique project and my client is a down-to-earth, somewhat blunt entrepreneur and I’m trying to write in his voice rather than legalese. I asked him if he wanted any “Easter eggs” in his contract and he gave me some suggestions. I wish more clients asked me to write crazy awesome clauses in their contracts.

I love my work.

In case you missed it: Day 56 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I did my first underwater photo shoot!

Day 54/90 – Just a Good Day

Day 54 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? It was just a good day overall!

This is a photo from Ignite Phoenix #17 - yes I'm skipping. It embodies how I felt yesterday. (Photo by Joseph Abbruscato, used with permission)

This is a photo from Ignite Phoenix #17 – yes I’m skipping. It embodies how I felt yesterday. (Photo by Joseph Abbruscato, used with permission)

I had to think about what made yesterday awesome. There were so many good things to choose from. There was nothing especially extraordinary about the day but it had good flow and energy:

  • Went to the office – fourth time being the first person in where I didn’t set of the security alarm!
  • Cranked on client work – for many lawyers, summer is a slow time. I’ve had the opposite this year. I’m surprised that so many new and returning clients have asked me to do work for them.
  • Went to therapy – we’re all better people because I sit on my therapists couch every week.
  • Picked up a new water bottle at Runner’s Den – I wanted one that straps to my hand to help me stay hydrated during evening walks and runs.
  • Took Rosie with me to Fellowship Under the Stars – everyone loved her and it was a great meeting.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and I flopped into bed and purposely didn’t set an alarm.

In case you missed it: Day 53 of the 90 Days of Awesome – no cavities at the dentist!

Day 50/90 – Hitting the Ground Running

Day 50 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I hit the ground running this week.

This is the view from my desk. I'll be seeing it a lot this week.

This is the view from my desk. I’ll be seeing it a lot this week.

I knew I was going to have a busy week with client work – I mean really busy – even for me. If I didn’t have a spreadsheet of all my cases it would be hard to keep track of them all. By nine o’clock this morning I felt that if you weren’t on my to-do list this week, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get on it ‘til next week.

I’m pleased so many people want my help. This may be one of those weeks where I have to keep my door closed, put my cell phone where I can’t see or hear it, and can only schedule phone calls and let all others go to voicemail. It might be the only way I can give each project the attention it needs and to avoid other distractions.

I saw this awesome tweet today, inspired by the legendary Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

That’s going to be my week – working through my to-do list, one thing at a time.

I’ve also borrowed a tip from Jason Zook – I have a digital file of my daily to-dos that extends for weeks, but each day when I get to the office, I start by writing the list of what I want to accomplish before I leave for the day on a sticky note. (If I can’t fit my list on a sticky note, I’m trying to do too much.) There’s something about writing this list by hand that feels more organic and helps me find my focus to start the day.

Just gotta keep putting one foot in front of other.

In case you missed it: Day 49 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Simple Pleasures.

Day 39/90 – I Love My Clients

Day 39 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I feel satisfied with my work.

I Hustled My Face Off Today (H/T to Gary Vaynerchuk for the slogan)

I Hustled My Face Off Today (H/T to Gary Vaynerchuk for the slogan)

Today was one of those days where I felt like I was doing client work almost nonstop. I’m working on a few custom contracts and I had to consultations today. During one of my consultations, I felt like I was going on mile a minute talking about intellectual property and social media legal issues. I paused and asked my client if you understood what I was saying, and he said, “Yes, this is exactly what we need.” I loved that. I love when I know what I do is making a difference in my clients’ lives.

As an existentialist, it is imperative that what I do creates significant tangible differences on others or my surroundings, because if it doesn’t, then why am I here? (Yes, these are real issues and thoughts that I grapple with on a regular basis.)

And can I say that my clients are freakin’ awesome? I love the how smart, creative, and diligent they are. The majority of them are in absolute joy to work for.

In case you missed it: Day 38 of the 90 Days of Awesome – So Happy for my Friend who Got some Incredible News!

Day 23/90 – The Satisfaction of Helping People

Day 23 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help people!

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams - used with permission

Pictures of me working at my desk are boring. Here’s an image that embodies how I feel about my work. (Photo by Devon Christopher Adams – used with permission)

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an existentialist – a big one. An essential part of who I am is based on the idea that what I do matters. It’s not an ego thing, but rather a why-am-I-here thing.

One of the things I love about being a lawyer is that I get help people in ways that they can’t help themselves. I love being able to tell clients, “We can fix that,” or “We can make that work.” I see my job as being an educator about the law as well as a problem solver because most people don’t know what their rights are, how to protect them, or their options for recourse are when there’s a problem.

I work on preventing problems in solving problems in my work, and lately I’ve been putting in a lot more work on the problem-solving side. I spent a good chunk of today drafting and revising a demand letter for one of my clients, and it felt really good to know that this document may bring my client the resolution he’s seeking. I am both pleased and proud of the work I did today.

One of the benefits and challenges of my work is that it’s not about me personally; it’s about using my skills and talents to achieve my clients’ desired results. So there are times that I have draft documents and negotiate on their behalf in ways that I don’t personally agree with, but are not legally wrong. On the flip side, it also means that it’s possible to have a cordial relationship with the opposing counsel when both sides are acting as zealous advocates for their clients without their egos getting in the way. Those tend to be the fastest and the easiest negotiations.

Today was a good day.

In case you missed it: Day 22 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I took my Fake British Accent to the Verizon Store!