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On an icy January day with temperatures outside hovering around 12 degrees, attorney Douglas Pulitzer was suffering from a touch of the home-alone syndrome. An information technology lawyer working from his Locust Valley residence, he enjoys the typical benefits of running a one-person operation. Setting his own hours, choosing his clients and avoiding big-firm pressures are just a few of the payoffs. But he admitted that practicing solo can be, well, solitary. “Today, I just had to get away from my desk,” said Pulitzer, 39, explaining that he arranged an impromptu lunch with his nieces to break up the day. “It was, like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’” he said. A graduate of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Pulitzer has been practicing on his own since 1994. He spent some time working on the West Coast and also practiced for a Wall Street firm after graduation. Now on Long Island, his solo practice includes software licensing, data development agreements and proprietary property acquisitions. It is work that involves ample client contact but usually by phone or e-mail. As a result, he said he sometimes yearns for face-to-face interaction, the “water-cooler” social component of working in an office with others. “I don’t miss the corporate pecking order, but I’m always trying to find the right balance between autonomy and being a part of [something bigger],” he said. As with many solo practitioners, Pulitzer has spent considerable energy building up a network of colleagues to call when a legal question arises. Solos recognize that such efforts are crucial to adequately represent their clients, since one lone attorney generally does not have all the answers. To that end, bar associations across the country have mentoring programs to help solos who have questions and to provide guidance to lawyers launching their own practices. But picking up the phone to discuss the finer points of the Rule Against Perpetuities is different from strolling into the next office to mull over the local deli’s lunch specials with a work buddy. Robin A. Gray, a lawyer with an office on the second floor of her West Hempstead “high ranch,” said that when she started her own practice she missed the social aspect of going to work. With an emphasis in real estate law, she said that she wanted someone to share ideas with or simply to chat with. Now, however, it would be a luxury, Gray said. “When I get a free moment, it’s to get caught up,” she explained, adding that she enjoys the flexibility of a home-based solo practice because it enables her to care for her son. Working from home is an attractive option for many solo practitioners, given that commercial lease rates in New York and on Long Island are some of the highest in the country. But consultant Art Italo advises against it, citing a reason that most at-home solos likely would dispute. “You’re just not going to get as much work done,” said Italo, with Kennesaw, Ga.-based Italo Consulting, a firm that works exclusively with lawyers. Isolation is an issue for solos practicing within their homes or in offices, he said. Those at home, however, often have the added problem of being surrounded by “non-workers” who can include children, spouses and even dogs, he said. SUITE OF OFFICES Solo practitioner Sanford H. Greenberg explained that when he decided to forge his own practice in Manhattan after working at Proskauer Rose, he purposely sought an arrangement that would place him face-to-face with other attorneys. His practice, which focuses on commercial litigation and employment law, is situated among a suite of offices in Midtown where about 40 other attorneys work. “It was social,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to work every day and not see anybody all day long.” Coming from a large firm, Greenberg said he was accustomed to walking down the hall not only for business advice but also for some friendly conversation. “It’s just socially, you want to be happy, and I know I wouldn’t be happy,” he said. But attorney Luise Klein, who practices real estate law from her home office in Manhasset Hills, would not want to practice any other way. She said that when she initially decided to practice on her own, she rented a small space in Mineola. She never moved in. Klein explained that the office was near an air conditioning system for a nearby suite. “The room was vibrating, I couldn’t possibly work there,” she said. Like many practicing from home, Klein said the advantages of her situation outweigh any solitude issues. “It gives me flexibility. If I take the time off during the day, I make up the hours later,” she said. For Pulitzer’s part, he is considering an affiliation with another firm, which would alleviate some of the burden he bears running a one-man operation. He also noted that the move could offer more in-person human contact. “I’m just trying to figure out the right mix,” he said.

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