Transitioning out of public service into private practice is a close rival to my awesome birth experiences. In many ways, creating my business and outfitting my office was similar to the nesting process my husband and I went through many years ago with the births of our two sons. First came the decision to do it. Leaving the court system and putting aside my identity as an advocate, dedicated to improving the court system for families, was a very difficult process. Leaving one way of life for another can be scary. Creating my own business has brought out the same sort of vulnerabilities and sense of responsibility that I felt as a new mother. Unfortunately for me, neither process comes with an instruction manual.
So, like so many years ago before my children were born, I read a lot of books, asked for lots of advice, prayed, and followed my heart. I've always been envious of people who knew exactly the kind of career they wanted and they were able to do until retirement. For me, although I enjoyed every job I've ever had, after five or more years, I start feeling like I need to add something new to build on what I am doing. I remember the day I decided to go to law school. I was conducting a family therapy session (via telephone) with an adolescent in my office at Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC, her mother in Boston, MA, and her father in Miami, FL. The conflict from the divorce came up in the session. I remember asking the parents how they made a particular decision about parenting their daughter. Both parents agreed on the answer: "It wasn't our choice! The attorneys and the judge made us do it!" Being a good social worker steeped in system's theory, I knew that if I was ever going to be able to change the legal system (that I remember thinking at the time was outrageous) that I needed to become an attorney and change it from the inside out.
My decision to go back into private practice was made on the day I found my new office in an historical home on Academy Street in downtown Cary, NC. I was on my way to eat lunch at Serendipity Gourmet Deli with a friend. I saw the lease sign, peered in the window, and called for an appointment. I had initially thought that I would take at least two months following my voluntary RIF (Reduction In Force) from state government to decide whether I wanted to go back into practice. But after seeing the office space, a vision of how my office would look and the type of practice I would establish began flooding my senses. I understood in that moment that I was supposed to create a nurturing environment where clients could feel fundamentally understood and supported as they make some of the most important decisions in their lives. It was a most extraordinary experience.
Similar to decorating the nursery, I felt giddy decorating my office. Everyone who knows me, knows that I did not get the shopping gene. I hate shopping and can become physically sick in malls during December. Because of this reaction, I've often asked friends and family for advice on decorating. But no advice was necessary with outfitting my new office. Everything came together effortlessly.
PS. Before my furniture arrived, I had an opportunity to visit Elder Law clients in their homes. This experience helped me see the value in making house calls outside my office. I plan to continue offering this service when it is beneficial to clients.