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Last month I spoke on a panel sponsored by “The Lawyers in Transition Committee of the New York State Bar Association”. The subject for discussion which was basically “starting a practice.” I was one of five panelists and the one with the least practice experience. The other speakers had been practicing for 10+ years and one for over fifty years. So I really didn’t want to talk about “how to start a practice” or the “dos and don’ts.” I wanted to talk about what I knew, what I was confident with— doubt.

As I spoke that day I saw, heard and felt what has become a very familiar attitude —“I just can’t take a chance right now, it is not the right time.” Over the past year the reasons, excuses and reluctance has assembled into a chorus of fear and self deceiving rationalizations that grows exponentially louder with every call, email or resume that goes unanswered.

This is the worst recession that I have ever had to work through. And although I have been fortunate and lucky, day to day is still a struggle and often a conquest of will. But I known of many other attorneys who are struggling with no support system or hope. To them I say, don’t struggle against your doubts, flow.

When I am afraid, when I my phone hasn’t rung for awhile, when I think about the large and vicious student loan monster standing in front of me, I try not to fight with those feelings. Instead I look back, to all that it took to get me here and at all that has been achieved in just one year. I remember that I am always strongest when I flow with the energy around me rather than against it.

Last week I responded to an email from woman whose fear and doubt I could feel— especially when she spoke about not wanting to go hungry. I know the feeling, I’ve been there. I didn’t know that woman’s name, but I knew that she was a new attorney who couldn’t find a job and was sick about not being able to paying her bills and just trying to keep from drowning, financially and emotionally. I know that starting her own practice is her dream, but the downsizing, firm closings and what seems to be a current economic and legal “no man’s and especially no women’s land” just gives her nightmares.

I know that she and I will always feel fear and will always have doubts. I also know that we can not allow those fears and doubts to cripple us or to corrupt our ambitions. No, it is not easy to push past those feelings, sometimes it feels like you are just swimming against the tide and as soon as you stop fighting you will drown. But you won’t. When you stop fighting and just go with the flow, keeping your head above water will be easier.

Comments (5)


Susan was unemployed for two years when she opened her own publication on resignation, tears, fear, audacity and HOPE. After getting her first publication out, she wrote:

Praise Him For The "Closed" Doors
I've learned to praise the Lord as much for a closed door as I do
for an open door. The reason God closes doors is because He has not
prepared anything over there for us. If he didn't close the wrong
door we would never find the right door. God directs our paths
through the closing and opening of doors.

One door closes; it forces you to change your course. Another door
Closes, it forces you to change your course again. Then finally you
find the open door and you walk into your blessing. The Lord directs
our paths through the opening and closing of doors, but instead of
praising Him for the closed door (which keeps us out of trouble)we
get upset because we "judge by appearances."

You have an ever-present help in the time of need who is always
standing guard. Because He walks ahead of you, He can spot trouble
down the road and set up a roadblock or detour accordingly! But
through our lack of wisdom, we try to tear down the roadblocks or
push aside the detour sign. Then the minute we get into trouble we
start crying, "Lord how could You have done this to me?" We have got
to realize that the closed door can be a blessing. Didn't He say
that No good thing will He withhold from them that love Him?
If you get terminated from your job - praise God for the new
Opportunities that will manifest themselves - it might be another
job, it might be school.

If that man or woman won't return your call - it might not be them,
it might be the Lord setting up a roadblock (just let it go).
We can sometimes trap ourselves in doubt and discouragement through
judging by appearances. I'm so grateful, my friends, for the many
times Our Father has closed doors to me just to open them in the
most unexpected places.

The Lord won't always say in spoken words: "Go to the left, now to
the right" -sometimes He will just close the wrong doors.
"Bloom where you are planted" All that I am . . . is because of Him!

Peace and blessings,
Susan A. Webley
SABLE magazine

Carpe Diem, CJ


Janine A. Morris, Esq:

Hello Carlene,

I was one of the attorneys watching that panel from home, and hearing your drive inspired me more. I was in the process of leaving a small firm I was working with because the firm wasnt making enough money to pay me or its staff. (This didnt help my fears). Being well aware of the state of the market and having a dream to have my own urged me to consider just 'flying solo.' Catch is- I graduated last year from law school. I like you worked before law school and I am not in my twenties. The other attorney who said dont do it if you dont have 40k in the bank & years of experience scared me even more.

Well long story short, I have officially launched Morris Law PLLC and have a few clients. I have a long climb ahead of me, and I am everything from frightened to excited. I am going to pray on it and hope I have just begun on the journey to make my dreams come true.
Thanks for the inspiration, and I will keep reading your blog for more.


Hey Janine, I am very proud of you. This can be very difficult and frightening journey and every step may be wrought with peril.

But, it can also be a most exciting, awesome and rewarding journey, especially when you undertake to do it joyfully.

Build a network of friends & colleagues you can trust & do not be reluctant to ask for help. I wish you were in the NYC area so you could join my network. If perchance you are, do contact me & join.

Much good vibes & luck to you & please keep in touch.

Jim Demers:

Janine, don't worry about it - just do it. I started a practice with nothing in the bank, one client, and 4 weeks' worth of severance pay to look forward to. It was scary - still is, actually - but I've never regretted it for an instant.

It is hard work. You have the advantage, in the beginning, of loads of time to devote to your small clientele. Just work full-time, eat the hours (it's not as if the hours are otherwise billable), and impress the hell out of them with your dedication and responsiveness. Equally important is CJ's advice: cultivate relationships with other attorneys, people you can call on for advice. Start up your own little social/professional circle, if you have to ... you'll find plenty of local solos with the same needs.

I've taken work away from big firms, and I hear the same two complaints over and over about them: unresponsiveness and sloppy work. So take the Sunday morning calls, the meetings at 7:00 pm, whatever it takes to show that you're better than any ordinary law firm. That earns recommendations, and the new clients will recommend more people to you. So long as you're responsive and do good work, it will gradually (inevitably!) snowball. Never lose sight of the fact that, when people need an attorney (or a new attorney!), they ask their business associates, friends and relatives, "Who's good?" You want your name to come up as the answer.

Good luck!



Right on Jim. Thanks.

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