Shalini Nandan Singh Brisbane Contract Lawyer

I am Woman. I am Human. I am a Legal Practitioner.

This is difficult to write… but write it I must.

Tonight, like so many other business women, I am feeling very stressed, overwhelmed and so tired. The most positive thing I can summon energy for is hot milo on coconut milk and Bloodline on Netflix and my couch.

Normally when I am feeling stressed, I just deal with it by going and hanging out with my chickens.

I draft contracts, and term and conditions for small business women, and solopreneurs. I love doing what I do. But at the moment, it’s just me, and it’s bloody hard.

Babu, my daughter’s wonderful dad is stuck overseas and my key support and mentor is not likely to return anytime soon. I had a COVID test (negative) recently because I have flu symptoms that keep on giving. Our daughter married the love of her life, and then had her baby at 24 weeks 8 weeks ago. Her dad missed her marriage service and has not been able to see baby.

My trust account is currently being audited (I have been audited every year for the last 4 years – nothing major just little things that make me want to cry in frustration #becausehuman. – and I do have a bookkeeper but guess what she is human too). I don’t keep paper files and all my client files are stored in cloud. I don’t do property, conveyancing, family or wills or anything that requires me to keep paper files. And the last three audits the auditors have been happy to view the cloud files. But this time, during a Pandemic, they want to come home to see paper files.

So, before you leave this pity party…

My word for 2020 is REINVENT – I had to

  • reinvent some of my business processes to cope with the influx of contract and terms drafting work that came in April and hasn’t stopped.
  • reinvent how I think about my business and my own capability (which I previously underplayed).
  • firmly put on the CEO hat (that I usually avoided) to make decisions for growth and sustainability.
  • upgrade support hours for me,
  • changeover from basic plans to business plans of apps I use in my business,
  • raise fees to match the value that I provide
  • introduce payment plans for clients to ensure my cashflow for business and to support them to manage theirs
  • and invest a lot more money on self-care than ever before.

This is my 2020. Reinventing myself to respond to the world differently.

My industry is still difficult for new practitioners.

Five years in, and I still feel it’s a hard and lonely road for new law practitioners, as it is for all small and micro business owners.

Doubly hard if

  • you are from another country, culture, non-English speaking background;
  • you became qualified later in life,
  • come from another profession,
  • have no old girls’ network or connections to lean upon,
  • you were an external student and didn’t develop professional support connections,
  • you find that when you do reach out people think you want to steal their ideas or clients and then resent your small, wins or hard-earned success as you grow your business,
  • your home life is complicated, or
  • you have a disability or chronic health issue…

BUT it can be done.

There is so much I don’t know, that I forget to have faith and confidence in what I do know. It’s difficult for practitioners and business owners because real mentoring or personal peer support is difficult to find. This has been my experience.

BUT IT CAN BE DONE.

I have done it and do it every day and do it well. My service is not big and it’s not complicated and it’s not fancy. I put my head down and work hard for my clients, despite having most of the challenges listed above, because I love my work. I dreamed it up when I lay in bed in a pit of depression in 2013 wondering what could I do for myself that actually meant something to me.

And today my business means everything to me. Every day it shows me that the example I have set for my daughter is that MUM picked herself up from the muck and got on with it. And I help people to get on with the business of doing business responsibly and doing it well.

Creation and reinvention are possible.

There is a lot of information around about government support for small business, and women returning to the workforce.

I’m not convinced there is meaningful support the women who work from home, from their mobiles, tablets, PC’s and laptops, trying to create and build a business that works around their complex lives, families and children, but have very little business experience, or networks.

Personally, I feel like I am always trying to make my service fit some beautifully designed corporate practice description when I have no interest in even being anything like that.
It doesn’t mean I am a bad practitioner or that I am not good at what I do, or that I look after my clients any less.

It means I am different and don’t fit the institutional categories.

In recent days I have come to accept that I am different – my brother also a lawyer and close to me – called it radical acceptance. And I am ok with it. I have reinvented my normal, just as many other business women have done.

This will not be everyone’s experience and I get that. If it is, then know that you are not alone in this.

On another note – Milo on coconut milk is tried and tested by me and I highly recommend it on shite days. Bloodline’s ending did my head in. I am ok. And thank you for reading.

xx Shalini

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