(1) What got you interested in being a lawyer?
I went to law school with the goal of having a profession where I could be independent, use my brains, and make good money. I was an English major as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa. I have always loved reading and writing and people in college told me you got to do these things as a lawyer. I have always enjoyed the research and writing aspect of the law. In law school at the University of North Dakota School of Law, I gravitated to law review and managed to publish two legal articles before I was done. I think that experience has lead directly to my foray into the blogosphere.
I also like people and being helpful to people. I laugh because, when I was younger, I often told people I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. I think that is what lead me to family law. I don’t like the negative aspects of divorces and custody fights, but I get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of helping my client with a deeply personal, family law issue. In sum, I think I got into law because I like people, I like the challenge, I like the money, and I like writing about it.
(2) What’s your favorite part of your job?
As I said, meeting people and helping them. I also like interacting constantly with new people. Although I may do 15-20 divorces a year, every person is different and every issue is different. I like the new challenges because I get bored when things are stagnant. This is another reason why I feel like I had to be a solo attorney – I hate boredom and the politics of working as an associate at a law firm.
I also really like working with other attorneys and judges. Being able to talk with other legal professionals on a daily basis can be very rewarding. Often, there is a great camaraderie in the courthouse lawyer’s lounge. The family lawyers get together and hash out difficult family law problems in a concise and forceful fashion. What goes on between lawyers as opposed to what clients understand about the legal system is a very interesting dichotomy.
Finally, I must admit that I like running my own business and I like the money. If you are frugal with costs and think hard about what you are doing from a business perspective, you can make good money and be a successful busing owner.
(3) What advice would you give to other solo family law attorneys?
Be diligent, keep your nose clean, and always have your client’s best interest in mind. Don’t be afraid to fight, but keep a level head in the midst of strife. Once you do all that, don’t forget to take vacation and have fun. Before you know it, you will get very busy, your calendar will fill up, and you will feel like you don’t have time for things outside the law. As the saying goes: “the law is a jealous mistress.”
I say all those things tongue-in-cheek. I have been guilty of violating all of that advice on multiple occasions. Being a lawyer – whether family law or some other practice area – means stress and time constraints. Those are those most difficult things for me. You need an outlet and you need to keep a level head.
Other than those general emotional issues, my business advice is to watch overhead and stay small potatoes for a while. Building up a practice takes time and hard work. But, if you keep at it, network a lot, utilize technology and the internet, I think you will make it. To be honest, if you really want to have your own practice and you focus, you can make it. The hard part is dealing with money and stress.
Finally, as I said earlier, keep the mindset that the client is the boss and you are there to serve them. We are in a service profession and we deal with people who are often emotionally damaged. They are vulnerable. They need your help. Don’t forget about them when you get busy.
Once you remember that number one rule, remember this: bill your client for everything you do that benefits them and don’t feel bad about the bill when it comes time to send it to them. That is how your firm survives and that is how you put food on the table for your own family.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.