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Flexibility, independence and low overhead are crucial to most solo practitioners. And what better way to have all three than with a home office — especially for those just starting out on their own? Many lawyers claim that working out of their homes allows them to spend more time with their children and to reduce expenditures. Yet working at home is not easy. For instance, solo practitioners admit that it is difficult to separate work and home when both are in the same spot. It is not always easy to focus on work when the kitchen, the television, the chores or the children beckon. According to solo practitioners, discipline is the key to success in the home. “Think of it as a job anywhere else. Don’t get distracted,” advised Zerline Goodman, a real estate practitioner in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has worked out of her home for six years. “If the laundry doesn’t get done, oh well.” Yet it is easier to be disciplined if a separate room is available to make into an office — something not easy to come by in Manhattan, at least. “You must have a place where you can close the door. Don’t work on your kitchen table,” said Goodman. But if an extra room is just not available, at least have a desk that you can close, she said. “You need a place from which you can walk away,” she added. It is also important to establish hours for work and for play, said Jill M. Dube, another real estate practitioner in Brooklyn. Although the hours can be flexible, they still should be clearly set so that lawyers do not find themselves working around the clock, she explained. For instance, some lawyers said they do not work on the weekends and will even turn the ringers on their office telephones off. Yet others said that they will only pick up very important phone calls late in the evening and weekends. “It really becomes all consuming if you let it,” said Lily Royer Silpe, a matrimonial lawyer in Irvington. Another important way to detach your home from your office is to have separate phone lines. Royer Silpe said she has four telephone lines just for her office — for the phone, a roll-over line, the fax and the computer. It is important to create the sense of a professionally-run office, she said. For some lawyers, a home office becomes especially convenient when they are also caretakers of young children or elderly parents. But being a caretaker can be distracting, especially if the lawyer is trying to manage a full-time practice at the same time. BABYSITTER A MUST Goodman, who has two young children, has solved this by having a full-time babysitter. That way she can be available for her children, but can also close her office door and give her clients her undivided attention, she said. Also, she empasized it is important to teach your children not to enter your office when the door is closed. Dube, who has a 7-year-old son, agreed. “My son knows he is not allowed into this office unless it is an emergency,” she said.

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