There comes a time in every attorney’s career when you need to choose a path: personal or professional life… at least that’s what everyone assumed about their legal career over the last several decades. Even today, most lawyers feel the pressure to choose between being an involved family member and supporting their family. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can be an amazing partner, family member, loved one and have a thriving legal career. If you feel you’re at the crossroads of this decision in your career, keep reading to learn how our very own attorneys handled this very situation.
Attorneys that have carved their own paths:
Practus co-Founder and Partner: Tax Law
Bob Elwood helped create the idea of Practus after choosing to take time to be a stay-at-home dad, stepping away from life as a Big Law partner. Bob’s prior Big Law firm expected their 1,000+ attorneys to put in 12-hour days, travel internationally, and work in a downtown office. This significantly affected the amount of time he could spend with his kids. When faced with the crossroads of continuing this path as partner or being a present father, the choice was obvious for Bob.
He took a complete step back to become a stay-at-home dad, becoming fully present in his family’s life. After a couple of years, his sons were older and more independent, so he took the time to reevaluate his legal career. Bob knew his two passions didn’t need to be mutually exclusive, so he got together with former colleagues (myself included) to develop a virtual law firm model that would allow us to be great fathers and attorneys. That model is now Practus.
Bob doesn’t regret taking the time to step back and reevaluate what was important to him:
“When you’re young, you want the brass ring of being a partner at a prestigious law firm, and all the glory that involves. And I was lucky enough to have that, And then you realize, ‘Wow, you know, that’s not quite all there is.’ For me, these last years have been about the happiest stretch of professional life that I’ve had. So I guess it comes back to happiness.”-Bob Elwood
Read more about Bob’s full story in his recent Concord Academy Alumnus Feature.
Practus Partner: Intellectual Property
Diane Melnick faced the crossroads in her legal career after battling StageIIA breast cancer. She had practiced at traditional law firms and as in-house counsel for large corporations. About a year after her aggressive treatment, she was feeling healthy and was ready to take a hard look at her past with a hopeful look into the future. And she knew she didn’t want to waste a single minute on things like her subway commute or waiting in line for overpriced coffee before heading to the office.
Diane sought to minimize the chaos in her life, gain autonomy over her schedule, embrace the things that gave her joy, and practice law in a way that made her happy again. She wanted to be the best attorney that she could be for both herself and her clients, which led her to Practus. She traded in her subway commute for morning walks in Central Park. Her home office is now optimized for her comfort and productivity, and she spends time working with clients that she enjoys.
When faced with the crossroads of happiness and her legal career, she chose both.
Read more about Diane’s experiences and how she regained control over her legal career here.
Practus Partner: Financial Services (Broker/Dealer)
Ryan Smith lives an active, fulfilled lifestyle full of family, friends, and good eats. But that wasn’t always the case.
He met his crossroads one night a decade ago with an unplanned trip to the ER after dizzy spells and a light show that only he could see. Although he checked out ok that night, he knew he needed to make changes. At the top of his list: finding balance as an attorney
Ryan created a 4-part series on how he found that balance and how he maintains it today:
- Part 1: balance through food
- Part 2: balance through fitness
- Part 3: balance through service
- Part 4: balance through comfort in your office
His insights stress the importance of how to find balance before ending up in the ER, and how joining Practus helped him get there.
Practus Partner: Labor & Employment Law
After too many years of being with a firm that valued billable hours over the practice of law, Molly Aspan left her law firm of 18 years to join Practus. Here’s Molly’s perspective on saying goodbye to the traditional law firm when she faced her crossroads in her career:
“Before joining Practus almost three years ago, I was at the same law firm doing employment defense legal work for clients for 18 years. I began as a new associate, became a partner, then – due to some significant health issues of my mother and starting my own family – I reached a point where I was tired… not necessarily working long hours, but tired of the stress associated with the 1,800-2,000 billable hour expectation.
While I have never shied away from hard work, the never-ending pressure of always focusing on my “profitability” took the joy out of the work. I toyed with the idea of different options (moving in-house, adding/changing practice areas, etc.), but I really enjoyed the work I did and working with my clients. Advising and counseling employers on risk reduction when it comes to litigation involving current & former employees and helping employers through business transitions really is the perfect blend of my employment litigation experience, business background/acumen, and ability to assist businesses with employee relations matters. Put simply, I liked the work, but I no longer really liked the job.
Because I liked what I was doing but the minimum billable hour model wasn’t working for me, my compensation structure with my previous firm was adjusted so that I was paid a percentage of the receipts on work I performed for clients. This model improved my work-life balance for me and my family, so I decided to stay… at least until I discovered Practus.
I had never considered working at a virtual firm before, but Practus has a similar compensation structure with significantly less overhead because of the virtual law firm model. Suddenly, I was keeping almost double the percentage I was at my previous firm with no added expense to my clients. This compensation structure combined with the fact that my husband and I had previously purchased an office building meant that I had access to “free” office space and have been able to continue doing the work I enjoy with clients I enjoy without sacrificing my family or my personal well-being any longer.
As an added bonus, I learned that I didn’t miss the socialization aspect of the traditional law firm model as I feared may happen, as Practus is designed to allow employees to work and socialize together in the virtual environment.
Long story short, Practus is designed for the collaboration needed for the practice of law while avoiding a lot of the BS that happens when you put a bunch of attorneys together in a big downtown office building. The remote nature of Practus has allowed me to practice law at a high caliber while spending more quality time with my family and bringing back the joy of my job again. It just works.”
While nearly every attorney faces a crossroads at some point in their legal career, there are no longer only two options: successful lawyer or enriching personal life. These three attorneys highlight that you really can forge your own path. This path less traveled is becoming slightly more worn as more lawyers realize there’s another way.
If you feel like you’re facing your own crossroads, try to envision a third path – one that fulfills you and brings you happiness each day. Because at the end of the day, taking care of your needs as a lawyer and as a person helps you with your longevity, prevents burnout, and keeps you excited to do what you love most while offering legal services that exceed client expectations.