We’ve heard it time and time again: the practice of law is one of the most stressful professions. Lawyers have some of the highest rates of suicide, depression and substance abuse. And, it’s no wonder–the practice of law can be incredibly difficult, fraught with sudden deadlines, contentious adversaries, and plenty of tedious–sometimes even monotonous–work.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take steps to rearrange your focus and your practice to increase your satisfaction levels and reduce stress. Whether it’s changing your practice area(s), changing your work environment, or taking better care of yourself, there are plenty of ways to improve your quality of life as a lawyer.
That’s the whole point of this 15 blog post series: to help identify changes you can make to improve your quality of life and your state of mind. In today’s post, we’ll focus on how practicing law on your own terms can make all the difference in your mindset. You’ll meet other lawyers who have successfully increased their flexibility and mobility by practicing law without boundaries and delivering legal services to clients using new tools and technologies.**
One of the best ways to practice law on your own terms is to build a practice from the ground up based on your specific needs and lifestyle choices. That’s what many of the lawyers you’ll meet today did–and their reasons for starting their law firms varied.
An “office” with a view
For some lawyers, happiness begins with balance. Karen Jacques is one of those lawyers. She began her career working as an in-house lawyer for a company, but later left to open up a solo law practice focused on litigation, workplace safety, and health law. “I started my practice with the long term goals of maintaining work-life balance and putting my family first, while still having a very fulfilling and satisfying litigation and dispute resolution focused career. I also want to be able to savor every minute of raising my son, while providing him with a strong foundation for his own life-journey. And last but not least, I want to hike Mount McKinley with my husband and son.”
Being her own boss and taking advantage of the latest technologies made it possible. “I fully embrace the cloud. I use a web-based practice management system, a VOIP phone system, an internet fax system, and have a paperless office. There’s no need for expensive IT support on site,” she explains. “And cloud-based tools offer more security and stability than I could ever hope to provide on my own. Because of the cloud, my data is safe from on site fires, computer crashes, and more. And, just as important: my law clerks and I can truly work from anywhere, anytime. So, sometimes my office is a beach.”
Karen’s not the only lawyer who practices law from an atypical location. Jeremy Ament does, too. He started a virtual law practice in lieu of a brick and mortar law firm in large part because of his travel wanderlust. A web-based law practice was the ideal solution. “Before I went to law school, I developed a love for travel and living abroad. I just couldn’t get enough of it. But after law school I worked for a traditional brick and mortar practice,” he explains.
“A few years into practice I started reading about virtual law firms and that they were the future of some aspects of law practice. So I did some more research and then my wife and I decided to move our family to Mexico. I decided that even if I returned to the states I’d still want to practice law from a virtual law firm so there was no rush to come back. So I set up a virtual law office handling transactional matters in the states in which I’m licensed while living in Mexico and things have been going very smoothly ever since.”
The curveballs of life and the flexibility of a modern practice
We all know that life doesn’t always go exactly as we plan. The good news is that we always have options and 21st century technologies provide us with more choices than ever before. Alexia Pittas’ career path is a prime example of this.
She began her career as a trial attorney, but ended up with a very different type of practice, in part due to circumstances outside of her control. “I was a trial lawyer in Charleston for years and loved it, but I ultimately decided to retire from active practice to raise my family,” she relates. “However, after my husband died, I decided to go back to work and became a litigation consultant so that I could control my schedule. I consult primarily with lawyers in the Southeast and, among other things, assist them with research and writing. I also write CLE materials, conference speeches and political speeches for busy lawyers.”
According to Alexia, web-based technology was one of the keys to her success and made the practice that she envisioned possible: “I was one of those lawyers who didn’t believe that ‘fancy’ technology would change the way we practiced law. It turns out I was wrong. Everything I do is in the cloud–case management, billing and email. Using the cloud allows me to provide very efficient and economical services in real time without burdening my clients with the expense of having to bring me on site to work.”
If these lawyers can do it, so can you! Envision the possibilities and then make them a reality. Take advantage of newfound technologies to create the law practice you’ve always dreamed of. Seize the day and become the Happy Lawyer you were always meant to be!
**All of the lawyers you’ll meet today prefer to use MyCase as their law practice management system, but of course there are other web-based legal software options out there that will provide you with similar flexibility and convenience. So keep that in mind as you read about your colleagues who have used technology to create a law practice that is right for their specific needs and lifestyle. MyCase isn’t the end all be all solution to practicing law on your terms–it’s just one example of how 21st century technologies are changing the legal landscape and increasing lawyers’ career satisfaction.