LCL: In setting up your firm you focused on work you love, how did you go about identifying the work that you loved and wanted to focus on?
LH: I found my specialty as a FINRA advocate for consumers and reputable industry clientele largely by happenstance, but have always had a strong sense of enforcing fairness. Past legal representations had exposed me to many different areas of practice, and with those, many different types of clients with many different backgrounds. From my experience, I felt the strongest connection when working with individuals as clients, and the best of those interactions were largely 1-on-1 relationships. I became a FINRA arbitrator in 2005, and I quickly grew to respect the organization and its mission, while simultaneously becoming more active and interested in promoting effective financial regulation.
I knew the wrong client chemistry could spoil my fun, especially if I became bogged down in an untenable situation. Client selection thus was an extremely important “happiness gate.” (I conceive of gates, like this example, as a useful way to screen out undesired outcomes.) I knew that when it came to client selection, if I chose poorly, my happiness quotient would decrease. From the very beginning, I speak candidly with my potential clients. I make decisions to refuse intake quickly and then kick the tires awhile even on matters that seem to have a lot of promise. Potential clients recognize that I am also interviewing them. The ones who present as logical, organized, diligent, or at least unquestionably honest, get through my gates.
I use detailed engagement letters and retainers to eliminate the worry about financial matters. Then, once the engagement letter is complete and the financials are in place, I all but remove the “business owner” hat, and can focus intently on the “advocate” role.
LCL: Explain how you use technology to make your new professional life work in harmony with your personal life better.
LH: I struggled with finding the right technology in the early days, but have found a good solution for myself. I now use a Mac laptop at home and at my office in Concord, MA. Peripherals live in both locations to permit scanning, printing, copying, and to link to large displays (discovery review). Everything sits on a “standing desk” that I can adjust to let me stand up and work, or sit comfortably. I have learned to take steps to ensure proper physical posture in the workplace, otherwise health will atrophy and wither over time, adversely affecting quality of life and performance at work. To connect to the web, I have a Jetpack Hotspot on Verizon for my travel network, and FIOS at home for bandwidth requirements. I have an external hard drive that backs me up, and everything is on Dropbox. I use Rapidfax to send and receive faxes, and Skype to advertise a telephone number other than my cellular, which the Skype number routes calls to anyway. I have a real live person as a CPA and live people as bankers, insurers, and landlords-in-residence who I can tap for information or help. I have a connected smartphone and an iPad for keeping up with news or viewing my email, calendar, and Dropbox documents on the run. Add bags to carry it all efficiently, and I am a road warrior.
LCL: For attorneys seeking to emulate your use of technology, do you have recommendations for them as to how to become knowledgeable about how to use technology to run an efficient and mobile office?
LH: Technolawyer is a useful resource I recall using in 2010 and 2011. I haven’t been a steady user since, but would look there for tips. CLE exists on the subject of establishing or running a small law firm, as well. Or search Google to see what articles are available. LOMAP also has a helpful blog and many useful resources. One of which is their LoMAC group which helps lawyers who use Apple products.
LCL: What would you tell an attorney who says, “I would love to be passionate about my work, but I just don’t know what I’m passionate about.”?
LH: I truly sympathize. For a long time I didn’t know what to do. Then for a long time after that I didn’t act. It is difficult, inner work. Most of us are unfamiliar with how even to begin that work.
My advice: just write down your thoughts in a private place and see if you can tease themes out. What bothers you about your current situation? Start there. Most people find that easier. Then flip that on its head and try to discern what would make you happy. If you can figure out a way to use your current skill set to get you closer to happiness, you are well on your way. If you need to make a change in your life, don’t be afraid to do so, but you should test your conclusions, particularly any assumptions, first. Speak with a trusted friend who knows you and can offer you a reality check, if needed. Then act. Step by step. Re-evaluate as needed. Take more action when it makes sense. Build momentum and don’t forget to check back in with yourself to see how you feel throughout. Good luck!
Lee Holland, Esq. interviewed by Shawn Healy, Ph.D.