On Being a Mompreneur: Lawyer Edition
I will be honest here and admit that this is how I start out most of my weekly CTWM posts. However, this week, I can’t help but feel like my bandwidth problem is being caused by a specific chain of events. So, allow me to recap here some happenings of the past month or so:
- I received confirmation that my proposal to speak at the 2013 Transgender Lives conference about legal issues concerning transgender students was accepted, meaning that I now have two separate education law speaking engagements booked for this spring.
- I received the latest of the many potential client referrals I always get, which are always plaintiff-side, and which I always turn down for that reason–although I always pause and consider, what if next time I say yes?
- Quite eerily, I happened to come across a lot of articles online about working moms who leave their jobs shortly after the birth of a second child.
- I talked to our daycare about a possible part-time rate.
- I started working with a sales rep on a free trial of a legal research database, including discussions about different (hopefully lower?) rates for solo practitioners.
- I parted ways with the law firm where I have been an associate for about 4.5 years, during which time I gave birth to my two kids.
- I kicked into high gear with my plans to start a solo practice.
Wait, what just happened there?! Oh, so that could be why my head is so fuzzy and I have a million thoughts competing for space at any given time. I’m going through a career overhaul and a major life change!
Well, not an overhaul really. I have been a lawyer for over 8 years, and practiced education law as a school board attorney for approximately 5 of those 8 years. So, to start a solo practice representing parents trying to navigate the public schools, particularly those dealing with the special education system, should not be that drastic of a change for me.
And yet, it is most definitely an enormous change. It’s tough going from a steady paycheck to, um, no paycheck at all, at least not until I obtain some clients, hopefully ones who can pay me. And it feels strange to walk into my child’s daycare every day in jeans, and then head out to buy groceries, or home to start laundry, and then, you know, work on getting my business up and running.
And with regard to the very few people to whom I have revealed my plans so far, it is tough, very tough, to face the inevitable questions and concerns from well-meaning friends and family. I mean, everyone is supportive, but it’s a qualified kind of support: What if you don’t find clients right away? Maybe you shouldn’t start looking for clients yet — what are you going to do, meet them in your living room? What does your husband think, is he stressed out about it? Will you be able to break even, let alone make a profit? All of these polite inquiries are really demanding that I answer the same, really big question: What if you fail?
I only have one answer to that, and it doesn’t seem to explain things to people’s satisfaction: I won’t fail. I won’t, because I can’t.
It’s easy to say that, however, when your definition of success is to maintain the sort of lifestyle you want (the word “humble” comes to mind), rather than bring in oodles of cash. I mean, would I love to do something revolutionary in the practice of law? Yes, absolutely: my vision is to provide affordable yet powerful advocacy for children with disabilities. This is not an original concept, but it is a truly revolutionary one, especially given the fact that so many lawyers cannot find work, yet the vast majority of people who require legal services cannot afford them. But about that lifestyle thing … yeah, what I also want to do is use the knowledge and skills I have obtained over the years and start working for myself, instead of working for someone else. And it just so happens that my reasons for wanting to work for myself include my desire to go off the clock at 4:00 p.m. and make dinner for my family — even if it means I will need to go right back on the clock at 9:00 p.m. And yes, I know, I know … as a solo, I run the risk of being even busier than I was as a law firm associate, that is, if I want to “make it.” But again, to “make it” in my world means learning to get by on a severely reduced income, while doing work I’m passionate about. I can stay in an environment in which I am unhappy, but secure, forever, or I can grow some wings, take flight, and risk pulling an Icarus. But what’s clear about this scenario is that I’ll never fly at all if I stay stuck where I am.
So right now I am taking all the information I have absorbed in the past few years about entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and yes, mompreneurs, and I am attempting an experiment in hanging my shingle. Like any other kind of “-preneur” out there, I want it to be a successful experiment, and I
think know it will be, because I choose to define what success means for me by my own standards, and not by anyone else’s.
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