A year or so ago, I wrote a post about leaving Big Law after having my first child. I observed that the billable-hour model is unworkable for many parents, and I resolved to redesign the Big Law business model in my new role as a legal designer.
What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the challenges I spoke of are more widespread than Big Law, and have many different causes—not just the billable hour. Solo and small-firm attorneys often struggle financially because they were never taught the business side of running a practice in law school. And many attorneys at mid- and large-size firms want to start their own practice—not to escape the billable hour, but to have a sense of purpose and autonomy—yet they have no idea how to leave.
I’ve also discovered that the challenges I faced in Big Law did not all magically disappear when I went into business for myself. Even though it’s “only me” and I theoretically have complete control over my day, I still struggle to prioritize tasks, avoid digital distractions, and be present with my family. On top of that, I had my second child earlier this year, which has added more balls to the juggling act. As evidence, I submit this photo of me scheduling a meeting from my phone in the hospital after giving birth to my son this spring:
What I’ve come to realize is that designing a purpose-driven yet sustainable career requires a lot of self-awareness and self-assessment—whether you’re a solo or a Big Law associate. But most of us were never given the tools to develop that mindfulness and self-knowledge. On top of that, we were not taught how to manage knowledge work properly to deliver high-quality services to our clients while avoiding overwhelm and burnout.
After spending time expanding my own toolbox to include meditation and Kanban (a way of visualizing my workflow), I realized that other attorneys could benefit from these tools as well. That realization led me to join forces with my new cofounders to create Start Here HQ, which helps lawyers get unstuck, find joy, and create meaning through their work.
What’s amazing is that we formed this new collective in my house with a newborn in my arms. My co-founders gladly embraced the rhythm of life with a newborn and offered tons of assistance in terms of bouncing the baby and being at the ready with a burp cloth.
Creating a work life that aligns with my strengths and values without overshadowing my role as a parent has been an incredibly exciting and empowering journey. I hope that more of us will embrace these 21st-century ways of working and come to realize that we all deserve—and can have—a purposeful and joyful career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alix Devendra is a strategic designer and coach at Start Here HQ. She helps other lawyers design profitable and purpose-driven legal practices by identifying their strengths and values and cultivating their self-awareness through mindfulness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alixdevendra.