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The lazy days of summer may seem like the least likely time to think about long-term career development and overall career happiness. However, it’s always the right time to maximize your vocational and personal happiness. To quote an old adage, “Life’s too short.” Excelling in your career while living your life creates struggles for many attorneys. It seems there never is enough time for family, friends and other interests. Sometimes work and personal goals conflict, leading to frustration. This causes attorneys to think they might be better hanging out their own shingles. Some career issues most lawyers consider include the following: � being valued and appreciated at your firm; � satisfaction with your work; � compensation; � authority; � responsibility; � a sense of fulfillment; � being with people who share similar values and goals; � a sense of control over your practice; and � long-term business goals of the firm vis-a-vis your career goals. How can you find personal balance without sacrificing career objectives? In the quest for a better work arrangement, you may be tempted to try another environment — one you think offers more control and satisfaction. But before you leave the hallowed halls of the firm and open a solo or small-firm practice, here are some real-life issues to think about. Bottom-line assessment. How much money will you have to make to survive on your own? You may have less overhead, but it still takes a lot of billable hours to create income to run a business and have enough money left over to make it worthwhile. The marketing mix. You need an organized strategy for developing business. Ask yourself these questions: What is your new image, or “brand,” going to be? How will your new firm be different from the others in your market? Who are your ideal clients? How much will you charge? How will you get your message out? Write down your plans, making adjustments as necessary. Sources of business. Where will your clients come from? Your clients may depend on the services of a larger firm and therefore might be inclined to stay with your former firm. What can you offer them in your new situation? If you wish to bring clients with you, think about how this will impact the relationship with your former firm. BOTTOM-LINE CONSIDERATIONS Compensation system. What compensation arrangement have you worked out with prospective colleagues? This area defines your new firm’s culture and working relationships. It also impacts your stress level and the life expectancy of your firm. Administrative time. Your current firm may require vast amounts of nonbillable time for recruiting, management and other matters. However, a new firm also requires a huge amount of administrative time, especially in the early days, leaving you with little time for client work or anything else. You will need to secure office space, buy computers and supplies, set up accounting systems, hire staff and market the new firm. You are responsible for all aspects of your operation: � getting and keeping clients; � doing excellent work; � keeping up with developments in your field; � fulfilling MCLE and other Bar requirements; � keeping accurate time; � sending out timely invoices and collecting them; and � managing the other paperwork and duties of running a business. The time it takes to do all that is not billable. Making a career decision to start a new firm can be exciting. It’s also stressful and will take time and effort. Before you leave your current situation, think realistically about what will make you happy and what you need to achieve your goals. You may be able to fix something you don’t like about your current environment that will enable you to stay. But if you need to make a change, consider the points above to increase your chances of success. If your eyes are wide open to the challenges, you may decide that going out on your own is the right thing.

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