Work/Life Balance in a Name

January 18, 2010

Over on the TotalPMA Discussion board, there is a thread asking “What are we really balancing?”

Fair question, and there seem to be a number of “work/life balance” articles, opinions and what not appearing these days. I’d wager it is a natural progression as we all come to grips with unemployment remaining high and life as we knew it in 2008-2009 vanishing in 2010.

In the thread, I pose the option of changing “balance” with “managing competing interests” since the phrase “work/life balance” is becoming another casualty of “overuse.” Kevin Chern expanded on that, asking “how can we make work fall in sync with other aspects of our daily life?” At the time, I was reading The E-Myth, which discusses the different between working “on” your business and working “in” your business, and my observation that it is key to distinguish between your “business” and your “life.” Kevin asked what ways I make that distinction, and at the time (December 2009) I didn’t have an answer.

As I work on building a more professional-looking corporate website for my business, one thing just jumped out at me that has been brought up a few times: my company name, Shadow Froggy Consulting.

If you survey the legal landscape, you’ll notice that the majority of firms are named after, say, the founding members. It is either the first and last name, perhaps a middle initial as well, if they are going solo. Or it is a string of last names. Either way, the name of the firm is the name or names of the founders. Consider it standard law firm naming etiquette.

If you survey the legal consulting landscape, it follows a similar vein. The underlying assumption is that if you are going to have law firms as your clients, then you must follow established conventions, such as naming your firm “Buddy Pal Consulting.”

Please note that I see nothing wrong with that. A name can be a very powerful thing, a very powerful brand like Wal-Mart or Disney. Unlike those names, and the names of many law firms (Jenner & Block, Winston & Strawn, Latham & Watkins come to mind), my name is difficult to spell. If you misspell my first name, you don’t find me. If you just use my last name, you don’t find me. Or, I should say it takes some effort to find me. It’s a rather popular last name, and most people automatically assume I spell my first name G-w-e-n which I do not.

From a practical stand point, breaking with the law firm/legal consulting tradition makes sense. The name, Shadow Froggy, is unique enough people will remember it (and yes I know my name is unique enough that people remember it), and it is also easy to remember how to spell!

Another benefit popped into my head when reading Kevin’s question: it creates a definition between my “business” and my “life.” My name is affiliated with the business instead of being the name of the business. That may sound overly simplistic, and perhaps ridiculous, but when people place so much emphasis on “brand development,” it becomes a very important distinction. The “brand development” of Shadow Froggy can reflect my own “brand development,” as it were. It can embrace my work ethic (as it must, to some extent since, well, it is just me at this point), philosophies, etc. At the end of the day, it remains very much a business entity. It can change hands, it can fold (eek!), it can thrive and prosper as its own entity.

I don’t know if that makes much sense. It is a little harder to articulate than I expected. My point is that the name of my company, being different from my own name, creates a separate compartment. So when I am with my nephews and they call “Auntie” or “Auntie Gwynne,” I think of me instead of my business.

My company name being different from mine also makes me easier to find online, if for no other reason than Shadow Froggy is easier to spell. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Lawyer Connection and the Total PMA Community

September 30, 2009

Last week, the Total Practice Management Association (TotalPMA) launched its new website, and with it the TotalPMA Community. Having joined early, just before the “Get-A-Life” Conference, I was quite pleased with the redesign, and with the community.

The membership is quickly approaching 900 (at the time of this writing), which quite a few people have pointed out to me is considerably more than the membership of Lawyer Connection in days, instead of months. Isn’t that exactly what I don’t need? Another competitor to Lawyer Connection? And how do I plan to compete?

My answer is: no.

I don’t see the TotalPMA Community as competition; I see it as being complimentary to Lawyer Connection. The two serve entirely different needs. TotalPMA is affiliated with Total Attorneys, a company dedicated to helping solo and small firm lawyers handle the business side of law, the stuff law schools don’t teach, so that lawyers can “get a life” or be in a better position to find that often elusive work/life balance. The TotalPMA Community builds on that goal, providing a space where solo and small firms can share ideas, experiences, etc. on work/life balance.

Lawyer Connection, on the other hand, is about helping out-of-work/laid off lawyers network as they look for a new job, or take the plunge and hang out their own shingle. It’s lawyers helping lawyers through the economic downturn, and beyond. The membership is a good mix of seasoned veterans and newly minted lawyers, along with people in between and legal consultants. There is some overlap in membership between Lawyer Connection and TotalPMA, which is perfectly OK.

So, from my perspective, they serve complimentary purposes, and work better in collaboration than in competition. Lawyer Connection is a good spot to find and connect as lawyers get started in one way or another, and TotalPMA is a good spot to find and connect with lawyers who have figured out, or are figuring out, how to strike a work/life balance.

If this recession has taught us anything, it has taught us that work and money aren’t all there is to life.