Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First Business Day of the Year

While I won’t say that I agonise about my professional obligations during a vacation, the frozen truth is that I never really free myself of the office. With about a week of holidays remaining here on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, I am already counting that the business days before my return to the practice of law. I have been able to conduct some business “remotely” through the combined resources of the internet and my laptop computer, but the application has been cursory only. Nothing I’ve done thus far has been substantive but it at least affords me the satisfaction of having disposed of some of the administrative matters which annoyingly accumulate at this time of year.
In anticipation of my vacation I did whatever possible to diminish the effect of my temporary absence including for example inviting would-be clients not to leave a telephone message unless imperative to do so. While that sounds severe my limited capacity prohibits magnanimity in these matters, plus it underlines the reality that I will have enough to deal with upon my return without adding unnecessarily to my duties. It would be utter pretense to suggest that I shall button all initiatives immediately upon my return. Already there are commitments organized to complete hang-over transactions, wind up customary month-end reporting, meeting with my Accountant, in addition to what I anticipate will be required to address the usual routine obligations which were set aside during my three-week absence. As trivial as some of these obligations may be, their significance is heightened by the mere fact that, now that I am running the office almost entirely on my own, there is no one else to do it. Whether it entails clerical or professional time, it is nonetheless time.

It is an accepted casualty of my own style of business that I like to be on top of things. Traditionally that meant doing whatever possible to adjust myself to my responsibilities. I am now learning to turn the tables by manipulating the obligations to suit me. This is a pragmatic decision only not a selfish one. It is the admission that there are limits upon my ability to service the business needs. As long as I continue to run a business I intend to pay close attention to it. If one hangs out a shingle inviting the public to engage one’s services, the commensurate duty must be taken seriously. I have however adopted criteria which circumscribe my services. If the matter at hand is even remotely beyond my customary scope or bailiwick, I decline it. If I suspect that a person does not have the means or inclination to pay what I want for my services, I suggest they go elsewhere. If I am incapable of meeting a reasonable deadline, I say so. Historically I embroiled myself in uncomfortable situations with clients when I had not addressed these criteria from the outset. While it may appear that my standards have altered over the years, the only thing which has changed is my candid disclosure of them. As such, I am partly to blame for the skirmishes waged now and again with clients in the past. The frank preliminary discussions which now characterize my current business relations have spared me similar dilemma.

As a sole practitioner it is understood that my business is a paramount feature of my existence. Otherwise one would never choose to work alone; doing so involves far too many compromises to make it attractive to those who place a higher value on other matters. Like most matters of spirituality, being a sole practitioner is uncompromising. I won’t go so far as to say that it is the one and only god, but it is damn close! Years ago a former Judge whom I knew suggested that if one is to be a really good lawyer, he must devote himself entirely to law. I certainly don’t subscribe to the letter of that recommendation, but I embrace its thrust. It is more realistic for me to enlarge upon the endorsement by including the business of practicing law. The practice of law is for me now more than ever a pleasure. Four days to go!

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