Friday, April 18, 2014

Growth and Growing Pains

This little company of ours is starting to take off. We are nearly at capacity for clients, with about 40 active cases each. That is a whole mess of cases. Most are family law though, so the work comes in bursts with nothing happening for large gaps of time. We hired a paralegal part time, and that is helping a lot. We are looking at hiring a third attorney. Our intern is very concerned with growth, and growing too fast.

We are getting noticed by the ABA, the Washington State Bar, the Colorado Supreme Court, and local firms who want to help us grow. How fast is too fast? We worry about opening the floodgates and having to turn people away. We worry about accepting more than we can handle and failing to provide competent representation. It's a tricky balance, but it's not a bad problem to have.

The entire mission of our nonprofit is to help those who have nowhere else to go. The fact that other nonprofits are starting to form in other states and we are being contacted for advice on how to build a model like ours is, well, flattering and not at all upsetting. We didn't do this to be innovative for innovation's sake. We did it to help the "doughnut hole" population that can't pay for a private attorney and doesn't qualify for pro bono. If other firms start up and do what we are doing, so much the better. If I went out of business because everyone could find an attorney they can afford, I would be absolutely thrilled.

Work/life balance is starting to present some challenges for me. In the beginning, my husband was so supportive and basically raised our daughter while I worked insane hours. He is still doing that, and is so selfless about it. The issue is me. I want to keep working. I want to stay at the office. I like what I am doing and I am such a control freak that I want to be the one who does everything. Learning to delegate to our paralegal is KILLING me. I should get a book on how to have an assistant. My partner needs her way more than I do, so that helps a bit. I delegate important tasks but manage my own calendar. Dan's clients call frequently, because they are family law and many of them have very dramatic cases. So they need to talk more, and it's great that Heather is there to get their calls and screen them to determine if they really need to speak to their attorney or if it's something she can handle.

My clients almost never call. They know that I will call them if I need them, and that I am on top of things. With criminal cases, you just do so much in court that you don't need to talk a lot. It's a waste of time and money, when you are waiting for pre-sentence reports or rulings on motions, to call your lawyer to just chat. It doesn't do any good, and I make sure my clients know that. I am of course always there if they need me, but I try to reinforce boundaries. I am not a social worker, and my personality is such that while I am compassionate I am also sort of nuts and bolts.

My partner, however, is so caring and kind. His clients will call him to talk about anxiety over their case and he talks them through it. He is glad to do it. I think that makes him an excellent family law attorney. Myself, I do not enjoy family law. Criminal law is largely about math. The evidence weighed against the defense's theory of the case. The odds of success. Statistics for recidivism. I love it. It's heartless and emotional at the same time, which is very odd. And for some reason, I fit right in there.

So I am trying to remember I have a family at home that needs me, but it is hard when I have this six month old baby (the company) that needs my constant attention. Most nights I get home about 6:30, and I don't go in until 9am. It's not so bad, but I am working weekends a lot and working remotely in the middle of the night when I have a filing due. It's challenging to keep myself emotionally at home with Brian and Abby when I am stressing over tasks to be done at the office.

In the next few weeks, we will be doing some things with the media and are working on publishing an article in the bar journal. We have a board meeting coming up in June, and right now we know that they are going to be very happy with what they see. We just have to keep the growth to a gradual, manageable rate and I think we will be fine.

As for me, I am going to put "Play Barbies" on my calendar more often.