Juggling a newborn baby and a solo practice isn’t easy. I discovered this firsthand after welcoming my daughter into the world this past January.
It was especially difficult for me because I work from home, and I’m what my wife refers to as a “hands on” type of father. In fact, from the first day of her life I was involved in my daughter’s feedings, changing her diapers, putting her to sleep, and going to every one of the numerous appointments we scheduled. Nonetheless, as challenging as it may be, I also discovered that with a little planning it’s possible to make it a little less difficult on you and your practice.
1. Schedule Your Own Maternity/Paternity Leave
There is no such thing as maternity or paternity leave for a solo practitioner. At least not officially. In fact, when it’s your own business it can be incredibly difficult to walk away from everything. Nonetheless, you need to do your best to set up your schedule so that you are able to take some time off immediately following the birth of your new baby. And that’s true regardless of whether you are the mother-to-be or father-to-be. In my experience, even if your partner is planning on taking leave from their place of work, there’s a good chance they’ll need your help too. The first weeks with your newborn may prove to be difficult and trying for both parents. You and your partner will need all of the help you can get—especially from one another.
Start by planning ahead as much as possible. Get ahead on your work to the extent that you are able to. Make the most of the time you have before your little one arrives and tackle projects as early as possible. Meanwhile, be extra judicious about the cases and projects you commit yourself to in the time leading up to the baby’s due date. Now isn’t the time to take on non-essential projects.
Next, don’t hesitate to let your clients, opposing counsel, and judges/mediators/arbitrators/etc know approximately when you’re expecting your new baby. Request that hearings, trials, discovery, and other case events be planned with that in mind. By and large, you’ll find that most of them (yes, even opposing counsel) are decent people and will understand and respect that.
2. Ask For Help When You Need It
It’s almost cliche to say it, but a newborn really is a lot of work. Even if you have a partner who is able to be home full time, you might find that you’re occasionally overwhelmed and overworked. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your colleagues, friends, and family. Ideally, you should identify who you’ll turn to even before the baby arrives. Speak with a colleague who can cover for you in an emergency. Ask a friend or family member if they’d be available to babysit for a short time if necessary. Identifying your options in advance will save you from a lot of unnecessary stress once the baby arrives.
3. Work Whenever You Can—Day Or Night
The first few weeks after your baby is born can be stressful for many new families. Most newborns aren’t adjusted to anything even remotely resembling a normal sleep routine. In fact, they’re often wide awake in the middle of the night, and then nap during the day. To stay sane and avoid sleep deprivation, you’ll probably want to sleep when they sleep and work on those essential projects that you can’t avoid while they’re awake. In fact, for me, it was occasionally most convenient to work during the middle of the night. One night I was up working on my computer at 3:00 a.m. while my newborn slept in my lap. The bottom line is that if you have to work in those first few weeks, you’ll have to fit in that work whenever you can, between caring for your newborn and finding time to take care of your own needs. It won’t be easy, but thankfully it does get easier.
4. Get Out Of The House
Many solo attorneys work at least partially from home. This may be from necessity or peference. Either way, even if your partner is also at home during work hours (or maybe especially if your partner is also home during work hours), you’ll find that you need to get out of the house from time to time to have any chance of accomplishing productive work. Whenever it’s necessary and practical to do so, get out of the house with a laptop and work from a cafe or shared work space—even if it’s only for an hour at a time. Take turns with your partner and/or ask a friend or family member to babysit for an hour or two if possible.
At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say it again: balancing your solo practice with your newborn isn’t easy. Thankfully, that newborn period is surprisingly short. With a little foresight and planning, you can make things a little easier for your practice and your family.
Parents, share your tips in the comment section.
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