“Find work you really love,” my dad once told me, “and you’ll be so happy Monday mornings.” He was right. You’ll be passionate about work that aligns with your values, skills, and goals; it will be satisfying, and you’ll do it efficiently and well. If your work isn’t aligned, you’re going to have a lot of long days with the wind in your face, when it could be at your back. Doing work you are passionate about gives you energy to stay on your feet and keep working a problem with enthusiasm and grace – traits you will need in abundance once you hang a shingle.
“Building a solo practice, particularly straight out of law school, requires that you really love what you are doing,” says Emily Robertson, who started a solo law practice advising nonprofits on tax issues. “You have to love it to effectively market it, and to sustain you during those inevitable periods when just about everything you do is non-billable. If you love it and can communicate that passion, your efforts will pay off eventually.”
Spend some time determining your passion. How? Well, when it comes to harnessing passion, in my opinion, no one can touch nonprofits – so I am taking the liberty of adapting a tool called the “Four Lenses,” found in The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers, to help would-be public servants find trailheads into the nonprofit sector:
- A issue or cause you care about
- An organization you’d like to be part of
- A role you want to play
- A system you’d like to influence
Similar factors inform the choice of practice area. You may draw energy from
- Work with particular clients
- Your role in representing them
- The intellectual challenge of legal issues
- The community of practitioners in this area
- Desire to improve a particular corner of the justice system
Think about what gets you up on Monday morning. Is it the type of work (Standing up and presenting? Investigating facts? Research and writing? Getting out and meeting people? Leading others or working as a team?) Your clients and their issues? Your coworkers and professional colleagues? Your desire to serve clients or deliver legal services in a new and better way? Think about the kind of work you could do all day, and it will clue you in to your passion.
So how about it, experienced solos: What part of your practice are you most passionate about?
By Karin Ciano