When I started the financial recovery process, I had burned through most of my savings, lost many clients, left my assistant alienated. I was hardly billing, never taking time off, fronting money for clients’ expenses and generally running on auto-pilot. As a result, I teetered on the edge of malpractice – all the while working 60+ hours a week. Remarkably, I managed to accomplish this without alcohol or drugs.
I am very grateful that a fellow lawyer – then a respected acquaintance, now my most valuable mentor – saw me floundering and demanded that I shape up. Hearing about my business problems, he sent me to financial counseling.
Like most lawyers, I love understanding how things work, and I had always tried to learn how to run a law practice. I wasn’t cheap about it. I attended CLEs and tried to implement what I learned. A CPA spent hours tweaking my chart of accounts and offered tax tips: he couldn’t fathom why I wasn’t making money. A marketing guy suggested a range of ideas aimed at bringing more people in the door; I could barely do the work I had already. A therapist was more effective: she helped me say ‘no’ to certain ‘red flag’ clients I had accepted before. However, the larger problem remained.
My financial counselor saw me as a whole. She understood my combination of overlapping problems in a way none of the specialists had.
As a result of the financial counseling process, which continues, I finally understand my practice as a business in the way I always wanted to understand it. I bill regularly. I get paid for my work. I know what is likely to come in over the next month and the next year. I am putting money into savings, instead of spending all of it. I am never afraid I might miss a deadline. I still love practicing law – I never lost the love of it, though the bad times made it seem like it wasn’t going to be possible to practice happily. The misery I put myself through helps me to appreciate the great benefits of financial counseling. Had I had this information at the beginning of my practice, I could have avoided burning a lot of bridges.