Solo/Small

How To Start a Law Firm Without a Plan or Budget: How To Follow Your Bliss

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Welcome to Day 13!

Today we go from process understanding from personal understanding. The secret to sustained happiness in your work is not following your passion, but discovering your bliss. Let’s talk about that.

The Work to Offload

I’m assuming something when I tell you to design-source-build-deliver: you don’t like everything about law practice.

I sure didn’t. I was really good at marketing, negotiating, mediating, writing, and planning; I was not great at drafting, litigating, and accounting. When I first started, I did it all, and I was miserable.

I felt miserable because my life wasn’t meeting my expectations. I learned that in a college anthropology class, so it must be true, right? In your relationships and in measuring your self-worth, you feel pain when reality is less than your expectations.

When I felt miserable doing everything in my law practice, it was because I wanted something else. I spent my time doing things that did not meet my expectations for my life.

You know this sensation. You’ve been told your whole life that every job comes with some amount of baggage that you just have to get over. In some sense that’s true; in most senses, that’s an excuse.

Why? Because you don’t have a job. You don’t work for someone else, and you sure as heck aren’t self-employed — you own a business. Which means your day is what you make of it.

The Work to Keep

Professor Joseph Campbell became PBS-famous after several interviews with Bill Moyers, broadcast in 1988 as The Power of Myth. Although he died before the airing of those episodes, his ideas impacted a generation (not least through the Star Wars trilogy he inspired). I am part of that generation.

Among his most powerful concepts, Campbell urged us all to “follow our bliss.” He based the idea on his studies in mythology, but he encouraged something very much a part of this world.

Campbell believed that we all have a path to follow, and that it should be dictated by what makes us feel like we’re “in the zone.” That can change, obviously, but our time should be dictated by our own effectiveness, not by some outward expectations.

Following your bliss means doing what makes you feel like a ninja.

Bliss-guided living comes difficult to new attorneys. Most of us went to law school out of some sense of duty, or of meeting others’ expectations, or of just taking the next logical step. Few lawyers I know went to law school as part of some great mystical journey.

But you’re here now. And you own your business, which means you don’t have to do what anyone expects of you anymore. It’s time to stop being miserable and to live up to your own expectations. It’s time to follow your bliss.

Finding your bliss doesn’t mean finding what makes you feel good. The wasted decade of the 20s usually happens because we believe there’s a single job path that leads to mystical orgasms in our everyday work. All nonsense.

The problem with that concept is that it encourages either hubris or laziness. Either we think we know the whole spectrum of possibilities and know ourselves so well that we can choose wisely from among them, or we wait for some great awakening. 

This is wrong. Execution brings bliss; waiting brings boredom.

Start With Today

So how do you find your bliss? Start with what’s in front of you.

Back on Day 2, you wrote out your own job description. Look at that list and decide what makes you feel ninja-like. What do you do as a lawyer that makes you feel powerful, energized, and competent? Fill your day with that work, and never source it to someone else. But source everything else.

When I looked at my own business, I knew I could not give up two activities: teaching and cultivating relationships. I discovered that that work gave me incredible energy, and I changed my whole business to make sure that’s what I do each day.

It’s possible that teaching and building personal relationships won’t always be the source of bliss they are now. Your bliss will change and move as you seek it. But seek that feeling and don’t give it away. It will define your business and your life.

[Mental Exercise of the Day]:

This exercise is almost a retrospective. When have you felt bliss?

You need to look back and identify when you really felt like you were in the groove, like you were the best in the world. You’ve had those moments. You’ve had them since you started law school, however hard law school tried to make you feel small. You’ve been a ninja before, so when was it?

That feeling — bliss — is not a common feeling, but it’s easy to miss. I need you to look back and capture it in your mind. You have to recognize it so you can chase it down in the future.

Pay attention to those in-the-zone moments. Recognizing that feeling is crucial for what’s coming.

[Big Little Step of the Day]:

Business cards. Yes, you’re ready to be official.

By now you should have a copy of a quality logo. That will be the focus of your business card, along with your relevant contact information.

Designing your business card is definitely a job for someone on Fiverr. You were heavily involved in the visual element that matters most (the logo), so let someone else do the easy part.

A few tips to tell your Fiverr contractor:

  1. Keep it simple. You don’t need to give yourself a fancy title or add details that no one would ever use. Name, phone number, and email address are about the only required tidbits. Everything outside that is a choice, but don’t cram up the card.
  2. Keep it readable. Your font should be super easy to read, not some fancy script the Fiverr guy thought was cool. Use a common sans serif font (like Helvetica or Verdana) over a serif font (like Times). Super, super readable.
  3. Keep it humble. There are a lot of theories about how to make a business card more noticeable, but I’d avoid the teddy bear shapes and pull-apart designs. A lawyer’s business card should not be the most interesting thing about the lawyer.

Once you get a design from your Fiverr ninja, head to a business card printer online and get a bunch. A run of fewer than 250 cards is a waste of paper. You should be handing out three every time someone asks for one (they need extras to give to their buddies!). So pony up and get a handful of nice cards. 

Make them out of thick paper so they don’t get all crinkled in your pocket. And keep them with you, all the time.

Up Next…

Go on to the next chapter: Live Your Bliss, And Become A Happy Expert

Or, go back to the Table of Contents

Mike Whelan, Jr. is Managing Editor at Casetext. He spends most of his day advocating for and training solo and small firm attorneys in topics as varied as writing, marketing, design, and collaboration. He was a solo attorney himself for several years after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law. He lives in the Kansas City area with his lovely wife and four rambunctious children.