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When I knew I had to leave sole practice

Daniel Rod had an “amazing” experience as a sole practitioner. There came a time, however, when he realised he had to pivot back to a bigger practice.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 20 May 2021 SME Law
When I knew I had to leave sole practice
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One evening last year, Daniel Rod was with his partner and two dogs. He felt “genuinely fulfilled” but also unhappy. When he questioned why that was the case, it dawned on him that he wasn’t looking forward to going to work on Monday.

“I usually love Mondays,” he mused. “I get up with a smile on my face. I usually really enjoy coming to work.”

What was different, he determined, was that he didn’t have colleagues to interact with and that, as a sole practitioner, he was subsequently missing much of what he relished about working life.


Deciding to go back to a bigger firm

Speaking recently on The Boutique Lawyer Show, Mr Rod said that he was inspired to launch his own firm, Rod Legal Advisory, so he could lead a more balanced life – one that better accommodated idiosyncratic wellness needs.

He was also motivated, he said, to break the cycle in family law, which he likened to Albert Camus’ Sisyphean task, whereby a man is condemned in perpetuity to push a rock up a hill.

“I found that family law took that tenor and had that cadence because as soon as one matter finished, another matter began, and it was the same story. And I’ve found that to really make a difference in people’s lives so you needed to go out there and make a change and make a difference,” he reflected.

Mr Rod subsequently had an “amazing” time as a sole practitioner, he said, calling it a “great learning experience” and “a lot of fun”. It was therefore surprising, he said, to realise how much he thrived on and needed a community environment in his day-to-day operations.

“Family law is a very hard area of law. When you’re dealing with a particularly difficult matter, there is a lot of therapy in talking with your colleagues and offloading, and having a bad sense of humour with them,” he said.

Ultimately, as much as he loved being the person in the arena who gets the credit, akin to Woodrow Wilson’s “Man in the Arena” speech, Mr Rod concluded that as much as he “loved doing things on my own, it just wasn’t for me”.

He therefore made the call to take his firm, and its clients, to Coleman Greig, where he currently serves as an associate. That decision, he added, was coupled with a resolve to ensure that any vocational move in his future must take into account his sense of self, the type of lawyer he wants to be, and what he can offer his clients in accordance with his values and morals.

The move to the NSW-based firm has proved to be the right one for Mr Rod, noting that the firm matches the values that are so important to him.

“As a lawyer, I think you need to have inner peace with yourself that you’re working with a firm that you really enjoy and that values people,” he said.

Lessons learned

Looking back, Mr Rod is very comfortable with the decisions he’s made, particularly given that he has done what was best for himself, his family and his clients.

“To people that would say that I started a firm and ended it quickly, I say that I got there, I did it, and I decided it wasn’t for me. Why would I carry on doing something that I wasn’t happy doing? It was successful. I was hitting all of my targets, but if one isn’t happy at the end of the day, what is the purpose?” he said.

There is no shame or stigma, he insisted, in changing course.

“It’s just pivoting,” he surmised.

“For practitioners in that position, I tell them to look at some big companies that didn’t start out where they were, that pivoted into something that ended up making them more successful. You’re just being a smart business person where you get to choose your life.

“You do have a choice. I still run a practice. I still am a solicitor. That doesn’t change. But the makeup of my day changes. The fact that I have to think of other solicitors and other people in my firm, that changes. But, to me, that’s actually quite a wonderful thing.”

The law is changing, Mr Rod concluded, and lawyers need to be savvy enough to realise that they are not simply regurgitators of the law and its practices and procedures.

“We’re human beings. We may fail miserably. I’m lucky that I didn’t, but if you do, get back up and carry on walking. There’s no shame in getting up when you fall, the shame is not getting up in the first place to be able to walk,” he said.

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Daniel Rod, click below:

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