Q2 Report: Getting Out and About

I described in my previous post the various classes I have been taking in Q2 – the second three months after quitting BigLaw. Taking miscellaneous classes that amount to no degree or diploma feels decadent. I never did this before: every class I took, even electives, always served to land me onto the next step of the StairMaster of predictable professional life. But these classes, in addition to stretching me beyond my default self, serve an important purpose of establishing a routine that forces me to be up and about.

When choosing my classes, I tried to spread them over as many different days as possible, a big departure from my lawyer days when I squeezed everything back-to-back to the extent possible to avoid any stop-and-go inefficiency. This strategy has been working out, especially during these frigid, ugly winter months. Knowing I have some place to be to do something I enjoy, I can easily cajole myself out of the warm bed surrounded by warm furry bodies even on the coldest of mornings.

For the days I don’t have any class, I have found other activities to help maintain a routine. One activity I started in Q2 was becoming a volunteer dog walker for the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA), a non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to needy seniors in and around New York City. One service is helping seniors with physical of financial difficulties care for their pets. Without JASA’s help, those seniors would likely be forced to surrender their beloved pet companions of many years.

I love animals and have always had a soft spot for the elderly – God willing, we all get old one day – so I take this cause seriously. Every Wednesday, I have been visiting a lovely elderly lady with limited mobility and means, to walk the Shih Tzu that’s been with her for 12 years. (Other JASA volunteers help her on other days of the week.)

Walking Megan, the greyhound rescue, in London

I have been so happy to be able to resume my dog walking duties. While in London a few years ago, I was a volunteer dog walker for The Cinnamon Trust, a charity helping the elderly and their pets. Every weekend, I walked a champion-racer-turned-brood-bitch-turned-abandoned-greyhound that was luckily rescued by Jeanne, a near-blind elderly lady with a heart of gold not far from our apartment. Bonding with this gentle dog while keeping Jeanne company was fulfilling. When we moved back to New York, I passed on the torch (without much convincing) to a work colleague. I still get updates on both of them.

After returning to New York, I was eager to find a similar volunteer opportunity. To my surprise, none of the animal-focused non-profit organizations in the City provided this kind of service for the elderly. Then work got busy and my good intent fell to the wayside. When I was deciding to quit law, I seriously thought about starting my own non-profit in this area. One day, I was looking through Simpson Thacher’s alumni database and came across Jane Hoffman, the President of The Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, a non-profit, public-private partnership between the City of New York and over 160 local animal rescue groups and shelters, all working together to help solve animal care and control issues in the City. An ex-STB lawyer with a passion for animals?! I had to meet Jane.

I reached out to Jane a few months ago, and she responded right away. Over lunch, I picked her brain about my project. She suggested that I should look into JASA’s Pets and Elder Team Support (PETS) project first. Lo and behold, JASA’s PETS project was exactly what I was looking for. After completing the necessary paperwork, background check, and interview, I got back to doing what I love.

Q2 also marked the beginning of my pursuit of becoming a local business owner. While stuck in my BigLaw office during those eerily quiet wee hours of the morning, I fantasized about owning fifty Subway franchises, an idea first seeded by my husband who was exploring investing in local businesses as an alternative to buying stocks and bonds. The idea didn’t really click for me until I watched the movie “The Blind Side,” in which the Tuohy family’s small fortune came from owning more than 80 fast food chain restaurants. It dawned on me that it is possible to make big bucks operating ordinary businesses – not just from the cross-border deals I was working on in BigLaw. This appealed to me, as I’ve always been attracted to the straightforward nature of buying and selling things at a profit.

A mom-and-pop shop fit for me

The idea of owning a local business has moved from fantasy to possibly reality now that I’ve left BigLaw. I actually don’t want to own a Subway franchise because I hate fast food from both human health and animal rights perspectives. But the idea of managing a brick-and-mortar business has taken hold in my mind, and we’ve been seriously looking into buying a small business with decent cash flow for me to manage. I’ve been scouring business-for-sale sites looking for suitable prospects and conducting stealth on-site due diligence all around the city. Many of the skills I learned from my days working on private equity buyouts have come in handy. Risks are still risks whether it’s a billion-dollar multinational corporation KKR is looking to buy or a peanut-size mom-and-pop shop fit for me.

It is entirely possible that I may be naïve thinking buying and running a business is doable. We’ve just started this process, so we shall see.

My plate’s been full these days with my classes, volunteer dog-walking, and the business acquisition project. I find it increasingly challenging to squeeze out sufficient time to write my blog. It still takes me several uninterrupted hours to write a post, and I have a backlog of ideas to write about. I thought about doing video blogs, but decided against it because writing is the best way for me to sort through my thinking. I wish I were a more efficient writer; the process of organizing my thoughts can be frustratingly long.

In my Q1 report, I talked about my “addiction” to blog stats and how I felt the need to write a new blog post when visits dwindle. I am glad to report that I have quit this addiction, but the urge to write a new blog post is still ever present. I want to write for myself, to record my thinking and my transformation to keep myself accountable. I want to write for you, my dear readers, to share my journey with you, to get your thoughts and learn your stories. It is great knowing that I am not alone in this adventure and I deeply appreciate all your support and encouragement. I even appreciate the skeptics out there because you keep me on my toes and help me develop a thick skin.

The future teeters between glorious promise and falling flat on my face. I don’t know what Q3 will bring. But stay tuned with me.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Q2 Report: Getting Out and About

  1. UWC says:

    Jennifer, what do you see as significant differences between buying a small business and starting a small business?

  2. Ash says:

    Jen,

    I find it sad that we worked together yet I had no idea how much we have in common (in particular, our commitment to animals). I would love to do lunch or grab a drink with you sometime.

  3. Jeannine says:

    I want to give thanks very much for your work you have made in writing this posting. I am hoping the same most reliable job by you in the future as well.

  4. Jamie says:

    I know that you have previously alluded to your great fortune at having a husband who makes good money, and thus enables you to pursue these other activities at the complete, literal expense of your career. Thus, I was wondering if you planned to have an entry addressing his perspective on your current situation and any conflicting feelings you may have.

    I understand that, generally, he is supportive. But would you ever explore in an entry any feelings of guilt you may have at having left your BigLaw career, now forcing him to be the only source of income? Also: what if you husband also wanted to leave his career in full-time pursuit of his hobbies, other interests, etc.; he obviously could not do so now, whereas you have the luxury of doing so. Just curious.

    Really love your entries and candidness about your decision to leave what others would never dream of leaving. Look forward to more!

  5. JP says:

    I have t yeto meet someone who had a good experiencing in owning a food industry franchise.

    One of my wife’s friends just unloaded her Dunkin Dounuts stores. And someone I talked to last weekend really got nailed with the recession in a franchise that served as fast food support. He has since found other more suitable employment.

    That just confirms my impression I obtained when I did franchisor/franchisee legal work that if you want to own a small business, in general franchises are good practice if you want to play business owner, but they won’t really make you much money.

  6. Steven says:

    Hi Jennifer – I’m a law student, and I’m already finding this blog helpful. Keep it up!

  7. John says:

    Is there any pressure on you to make money? I mean, could you just tick along nicely with just your husband’s wage? Perhaps you could move away from your focus just being on earning lots of money to doing something fun or something you enjoy doing, which may pay not very much at all?

  8. AG says:

    Just curious, what did you do between MIT and Berkeley Law? Seems like you took a few years off so I was wondering what you pursued then, and if it informed any of your subsequent career decisions.

  9. expat Canuck says:

    Your blog really resonates with me, and your posts are great food for thought. I have 3 children and have been away from full time paid work for 5 years now, and am looking to get back to paid work now that two of them are in school (ie. only have to pay one preschool tuition and 2 kids worth of afterschool care) and the math looks a lot more favourable. I didn’t love my old job but neither did I hate it, nor was it as suffocating as yours. I left on good terms with everyone, had a very good reputation, and think it would be doable to get back in. I just wonder if there is something I could do that would pay as well (and this is tough bar to clear because it was a well compensated position, though nowhere close to being a Big Law NYC lawyer), but that I would enjoy and actually love to get up and go to work, rather than thinking “this is not the worst way in the world to make a living”. OTOH, I feel a huge obligation to my children to get out and earn what I used to. They didn’t ask to be born, and while we can live on my DH’s salary, we couldn’t afford many of the experiences I want the children to have if I don’t work at something with good enough pay. I realize of course that it’s been a huge luxury to have had a choice at all for the last few years.

    There have been so many sick days, snow days (school closed) and other events with them that would have impacted my productivity. Being home with a sick child (or more) doesn’t mean I can also put in a full day of work, even working remotely, and I really don’t want to work for someone else (and come up short relative to co-workers who don’t have as much going on at home) if I can somehow make the same on my own. Ideas about owning franchises, real estate, rental property, (even day trading…yes, I realized that is insane), etc. have all crossed my mind as well. So to all those posters who already vetted these ideas out, thanks for the useful caveats!

    I am taking my Johnson O’Connor test next week and really have no idea what they will find. Just desperately hoping I have some hidden aptitudes I can turn into a decent steady paycheque doing something I like more than my old job.

  10. Reality says:

    Defining your priorities is a good start, in a banal Stephen-Covey sort of way. You have taken a first step into becoming the captain of your own ship. Unfortunately, these blog posts have become less focused since you explored “your priorities” and you seem bored enough and vacuous enough to latch onto anything (dog rescue?)- no matter how meaningless the impact – to regain some personal validity.

    Making sandwiches for loose change? Haranguing high-schoolers when they don’t put enough “secret sauce” on a customer’s burger? Pottery classes at the local community college? Is that really meaningful work – something you are passionate about?

    What you are discovering is that without meaningful work – a purpose – you are a passive consumer, a non-entity in today’s material culture.

    And because you are so bored and disconnected – helping dogs and making sandwiches is starting to look appealing to you.

    Freed of normal constraints: family, time, and material, you have decided to do nothing exceptional, to create no art, and to retreat further into “yourself.” You harbor the popular allusion that you inhabit simply your mind and emotions, and not a real world. Art, mystery, and challenge are out there. What you are doing? More self-satisfying navel gazing.

    Unfortunately for your readers/followers use, this blog has begun to demonstrate just how limited your imagination is.

    When are you going to wow us?

    Stop the pandering (idly meandering about ‘dog rescue’ and charitable work you plan on doing “someday, maybe” is simply cheap) and surprise us. Do something incredible, or at least come up with a plan to do so. Have a dream, goddamnit!

    -Mr. Reality, Esq.

  11. Pingback: Riding the Emotional Roller-coaster | Every Six Minutes

Leave a Reply