I was one of those women who, as an attorney, billed 2,000 hours/year even while pregnant. My ego and self-worth was completely tied into my boss, my cases, my clients, and my nice paycheck. But I also saw the signs:
Sign #1: At my annual evaluation, boss telling me I really deserved another $10,000 raise on top of the $15,000 raise he was giving me, but he was “afraid I was going to mommy track it.”
Sign #2: The look of shock on his face when I told him a trial date wouldn’t work for me because I was due to have a baby that week.
Sign #3: When, at 32 weeks preg, I was hospitalized with early labor symptoms and he had his secretary call me in the hospital to find a random evidentiary document.
Sign #4: After my daughter was born, and despite the fact that I’d been billing again since she was 8 days old, and despite the fact that I showed up in the office triumphant after a hearing (where we’d been awarded our attorney fees as sanctions! Hello!), he informed me my services would no longer be needed.
I went into complete shock (after negotiating my severance, of course). My ego was absolutely shattered, I was a mess in every volunteer organization meeting I tried to attend (forever souring our rabbi against me, causing him to be skeptical about my every endeavor since), and I felt at a complete loss, completely sorry for myself for dedicating so much time and energy and loyalty to someone and something that could so easily cut me loose.
I packed up my office, got home, told the nanny I could no longer afford her services, and tried to collect myself.
Game Plan #1: I knocked on every door of every lawyer I knew, wearing my power suit. No one had anything for me, but promised to keep an ear to the ground.
Game Plan #2: Enjoy being a mommy while I can. So, I went for a walk with my friend, Michelle. We took the kids for a stroll in our baby joggers. I still remember the exact place in the park where I was standing when I said, “You know, I should help people applying to law school.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
I spent a week doing research:
How do I start a business? Do I need a business license? How do I get a website? How do I get a domain name? How do I take credit cards? How do I advertise online? How do I get a business phone line?
I knew absolutely nothing about starting a business. My mom is a nurse, my dad is a professor, and I’ve always had the kind of jobs that came with salaries and W-2s. But, I had an ace in my pocket because my husband has amazing business sense.
“B, I think I need $1,400 to get this up and running.”
“How about $700?” He asked, worried about now being a one-income family with a 4 month old baby and a mortgage in Santa Barbara.
“My unemployment check is for $1,400. I need the whole thing.”
He agreed, and within three weeks, I’d made back every penny.
In the first year, my income equaled a paralegal salary.
In my second year, I was earning what a part time lawyer would make.
In my third year, I exceeded my previous income practicing law.
In my fourth year, I was at partner status.
And, this year, I’ve exceeded any yearly income I’d ever hoped to earn.
So, when people ask me why I didn’t sue the jerk who fired me, I answer in one of two ways: “Because it was the best thing that ever could have happened for me and for my family” or “He’s a Buddhist and believes in karma, so it’s all good.”