On the Road to Independence

road to independence book coverAs someone who escaped academia to set up a coaching practice, I love the title of this new book: “The Road to Independence.” Starting your own business is indeed the road to independence . . . and autonomy and freedom!

This is a terrific new book from the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, and I recommend it for any woman considering a start-up, whether you’re a lawyer or a coach or a software developer. The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms is a compendium of stories by women who have been doing it for themselves since the 1970s. I’ve chosen my favorite bits of advice below, for those of you who’d like the Reader’s Digest version.

And for those of you who’d like to learn more about starting your own law firm, sign up for a companion webinar being held 1pm ET this coming Monday, October 24. You’ll hear directly from contributors to The Road to Independence about their lessons learned and best advice. Click here for more information.

In the meantime:

“You can select your environment, but you can’t control it. Owning your business is a daily combination of unpredictable events.” Laurel G. Bellows & Francine Bailey, The Bellows Law Group, PC

“I know that start-up costs are higher now than when I began, but the psychic costs of being where you do not want to be and the psychic benefits of finding your own strengths far outweigh the anxiety of the start-up.” Jo Benson Fogel, Jo Benson Fogel PA

“It was terrifying to start a solo practice, but that was, to me, the only way forward. The basic plan was to work like hell and not look back.” Leslie J. Lott, Lott & Friedland

“There is nothing like the prospect of having to meet payroll each month to incentivize you to market aggressively.” Roberta D. Liebenberg, Fine, Kaplan and Black, RPC

“What was the hardest part? It wasn’t practicing law, it was running a business with 10 employees. I had to learn how to manage people: how to be their friendly boss, but not their best friend; how to hire good people and when to fire them; how to manage workplace bullies and water-cooler gossips; and how to keep the overhead expenses in line with my net revenue goals.” Georgialee Lang, Georgialee Lang & Associates

“I urge you to take the plunge and start your own law firm! It’s not only scary and challenging, I can promise that it’s fun, it’s exhilarating, it’s liberating, and it’s rewarding, both professionally and financially.” Barbara Walsh Moser, Kaye-Moser-Hierbaum LLP

“I have no patience for people telling me what I can’t do. This profession is sadly full of those who would quash your desires and dreams, imposing their fears upon you. . . . Shut out those who will tell you your ideas are folly.” Susan Cartier Liebel, Solo Practice University

“Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are an attorney. You never know what may come your way. My second largest case came to me during a poolside conversation at my kids’ swimming lesson.” Kathleen H. Paukert, Paukert & Troppmann, PLLC

“Nice, let’s talk about that word. I am nice and firm at the same time. Nice doesn’t mean pushover. As a woman, when you are firm, you are automatically viewed as ‘not nice’ no matter how professional your tone and even your demeanor. . . . You will not win that battle, so do not try. Good people will respect and like you when you are straightforward. Jerks won’t, so why waste any time trying to please them? Move on to good people.” Marisa A. DeFranco, DeFranco Law Group

“I have used a marketing consultant once a year for the past 12 years since my practice has been open. I call him specifically so that I can ask him what my hourly rate should be for the year. The consultant will tell me to raise it to a certain amount, and each year, I say, no, my clients won’t pay that. However, I have found over the years that if I follow his advice and raise my rate for the year, not only do clients pay it, but I also get new and better clients each year.” Mary B. Galardi, Galardi Law

“A decade ago, I could not and did not imagine how much of an impact a small firm could make. This is your opportunity to dream big–really, really, big.” Jean Murrell Adams, ADAMS ESQ

“There is no limit to what you can achieve with hard work once you have crossed the hurdle of self-doubt!” Poorvi Chothami, LawQuest

“Put yourself in front. Volunteer for leadership in cases and in community activity. Then, most important, when something goes well, take credit. . . . If you don’t take credit, someone else will, and they will get the clients.” Melanie Damian, Damian & Valori LLP

“It does not happen overnight. For one potential client of mine, I had been trying to obtain work from her company for two years before she invited me to submit a request for proposal for legal services.” Mary L. Smith, US Department of Justice

“My favorite accomplishment is the notion that I created my own brand. Every aspect of what I do and how I do it is stamped indelibly with my style.” Kim M. Keenan, NAACP, formerly of The Keenan Firm

“Set goals for everything, and measure your progress. Establish an annual budget, and compare income and outflow against it monthly. Monitor the amount and type of legal matters that come in. Track your marketing efforts with objective results.” Eileen E. Buholtz, Connors & Corcoran PLLC

“There must be 50 reasons to leave a firm. But for me there was only one: the ugly realization of a glass ceiling. . . . Whatever the reason, there is ultimately only one way to leave a firm: well-prepared.” Suzanne Villalon-Hinojosa, Law Offices of Suzanne Villalon-Hinojosa

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