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Career Choices

Should Lawyers Consider a Side Hustle?

By Camille Stell

These days, it seems everyone has a side hustle — from your next-door neighbor’s tween to the associate down the hall. Pursuing personal projects or part-time work is not new for lawyers, but the pandemic has amplified the discussion. We’re going through a “great reassessment” as lawyers evaluate their job satisfaction, value and ultimate career goals. For some, quitting is the answer. For others, a side hustle fulfills their needs, whether a respite from the daily grind, a creative outlet, a testing ground for a new idea — or a well-laid path to the exit door. 

What Is a Side Hustle?

What’s the difference between a side hustle and a part-time job? Typically, a part-time job provides you with income, but your boss calls the shots, such as when you work, what your duties are and how much you’ll be paid. A side hustle also provides supplemental income, but you are the boss. You develop your business and determine how much you’ll work and how you’ll get paid.

Benefits of a Side Hustle

Why do lawyers pursue a side hustle? After all, their education has led them to one of the most honored, venerable professions. The reasons are as varied as the types of hustles going on:

  • For some lawyers, especially early in their careers, an extra income is important. Law school debt can be crippling, and solo and small firm salaries can be low. Side hustles can provide a financial safety net.
  • A side hustle can be a way of fulfilling your dreams. Maybe you want to become your own boss. Or perhaps you are saving for a big goal, such as your kid’s college fund, a vacation home or travel. Your side hustle can fund these ventures while not dipping into the monthly budget.
  • A side hustle can be about emotional rewards. Exploring your hobby or passion in an intentional manner can be a release from the stress of  a life in law. Or it can be a way for you to enjoy your hobby or passion separate from your professional responsibilities.
  • Finally, a side hustle can pave the way to your next career or a fulfilling “life after law” plan.

Setting Boundaries

Law life is already more than a full-time grind for most lawyers. So, where is the free time for the side hustle coming from?

Business guru Tony Robbins says, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

While we can’t create more hours in the day, we can make better use of those hours. It is essential to devote time to building the side hustle, but it is just as important to set boundaries so that you are still managing a well-balanced life.

Building your side hustle shouldn’t come at the expense of your relationships with family and friends or your physical health. But the side hustle may play a part in your well-being. It might be the thing that allows you to set healthy boundaries in your law life.

Jay Reeves, a lawyer, life coach and owner of Your Law Life, says that finding purpose and profits is what will allow you to establish peace of mind.

As you set boundaries, consider the following:

  • Establishing a schedule will help you focus on your day job while finding time to build your side gig.
  • Using technology to master time management is another way to set boundaries. Set a Pomodoro timer for focused work and use apps to block distractions from your devices.
  • Create a timetable with milestones for completing a long-term project. Kanban boards can serve as a visual reminder and help you maintain focus on work-in-progress.
  • Enlist an accountability partner. Having someone to bounce around ideas with can help you avoid decision paralysis and keep you moving toward your commitment.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” writes about social influence and decision-making. His studies show that peer pressure is powerful, especially when our decisions are complex. Law life can be isolating. An accountability partner is a way to step outside of yourself and share the burden of decision-making by inviting a trusted resource to talk you through your goals and implementation.

Mastering your law practice is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Lawyers need to be practice-area experts and build skills in developing relationships, negotiating and managing. However, these skills are transferable to many side hustles. Building a business on the side may, in fact, sharpen your skills and result in improved negotiation and management skills that benefit your law practice and your side gig.

A Side Benefit to a Side Hustle

An additional benefit to the side hustle is the expansion of your network. Many lawyers keep their connections and referral sources tied closely to their legal network, which can limit their opportunities. Your side hustle network may, in fact, help your law practice.

The Lawyer’s New Normal

Tony Robbins also said, “Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

This doesn’t give you permission to ignore yearly goals; in fact, this is the argument for creating them. However, at the end of the first year, not having met your goals is no cause for failure. And when you keep setting goals, you’ll look back over time and see your efforts multiplying.

Engaging in a side hustle could become the accepted status for lawyers. The side hustle could be a career path that supplements the practice of law, enhances the lawyer’s mental well-being, and ensures that the lawyer will have something to look forward to when retirement rolls around.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

More Tips on Building Your Side Hustle

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Categories: Law Firm Financial Management, Law Firm Strategy, Legal Career Development, You At Work
Originally published August 5, 2022
Last updated October 10, 2022
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Camille Stell Camille Stell

Camille Stell is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and co-author of “Designing A Succession Plan for Your Law Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide for Preparing and Packaging Your Firm for Maximum Value.” Camille is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, a member of the inaugural Pro Bono Resource Center Advisory Board, and has been recognized by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly as a member of the inaugural class of “Leaders in the Law.” Follow her @camillestell.

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