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There are pressures that come with being an attorney regardless of what type of practice you have. For example, exasperating clients can be found in any type of practice. Hostile opposing counsel are another — these attorneys make even the most routine cases insufferable because they believe every move should be met with an overly aggressive countermove. Of course, at the top of every list has to be the nonpaying client. Yes, the practice of law can be taxing. But what can sometimes be more emotionally taxing than practicing law is the loneliness that inevitably assails sole practitioners. This loneliness can and will interfere with the practice, which raises the issue, “Is your practice emotionally fit?” At the very least, attorneys practicing with one another, either as partners or in large firms, have the outlet of being able to look into the eyes of another person who understands. Not the solo. How can you explain to your family what it feels like to have a summary judgment decision against you? How do you explain the work involved in preparing for a trial or having to answer a grievance from a client you went out of your way to help? The sole practitioner often can feel as if he or she is the only person in the world. A common result of this isolation is depression. Statistics show that, as a group, attorneys suffer from depression at a higher rate than the average person. It stands to reason, therefore, that sole practitioners suffer from depression at even higher rates. During the past three years I’ve been a solo, I’ve often encountered severe frustration that has at times brought about a sense of depression. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a support group that has helped me understand how to maintain an emotionally fit practice. I live and breathe by these tenets. Now I’ll share with you the 10 steps for having an emotionally fit solo practice. 1. Actively seek mentors. I found mentors who offered me insight not only into practicing law, but also managing my practice. I asked questions and sometimes just listened to their stories. Heeding the lessons learned by their experiences saved me from having to make the mistakes myself. At times, they have offered me consolation, advice and sometimes have just been around to share a laugh. 2. Learn that you didn’t make the facts. Part of the problem solos have is belaboring bad facts as if we were responsible for them. I once heard a speaker say about his client, “I will give you my mind, but not my stomach.” He meant that constant laboring and worrying could cause us to become physically ill. Learn how to counsel your clients in such a way that you are not taking ownership for the bad facts in their life. 3. Do what you can do — when you can do it. Just because John Doe panics over the weekend, doesn’t mean you have to panic over the weekend. Don’t let someone else’s stress become your own. 4. Hang ‘em up. Post letters of gratitude from your clients or colleagues on the wall as a reminder that not everyone takes you for granted. 5. Be happy with doing a good job. Set a standard of excellence for your work. As you know, we can’t win all cases, but always be assured that you put your best foot forward. Then use your defeats as a time to learn, not as a time to beat yourself up. 6. Maintain a manageable docket. Attorney burnout and frustration occur when solos have more clients than they can manage. 7. Take only the type of cases you like. Stop worrying about getting more clients. Start taking only cases you will enjoy working on. It is common for attorneys to have practices that run the attorney instead of the other way around. Having a lot of clients and working on matters you don’t like is a death sentence. 8. Include your family in your activities. Talk to your spouse or children about your cases; get their opinions on your opening statement. This will help bridge the gap between you and your family. It will help them understand the pressures you experience. 9. Fellowship, fellowship, fellowship with other attorneys. Attend bar functions. Get to know other sole practitioners. Force yourself out of the office, and go to lunch with another attorney. They understand what you are going through and probably can match or beat each of your horror stories. These fellowshipping opportunities are a guaranteed mood-raiser. 10. Enjoy being an entrepreneur. After all, the whole purpose of going through all this is so that you can have control over your life and schedule. Take a day off. Rearrange your work schedule. Go on a trip during the middle of the week. Remember, you’re the boss. Delia Parker is a sole practitioner in Lewisville, Texas. She has a general practice. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

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