Full Time Practice

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet Amy Swaner

Amy Swaner is a dear friend of mine.  We have shared many war stories, mainly family war stories.  She is a remarkable person.  I thought you might enjoy getting to know her.

I was going to use this as a focus group post ("On hiatus"), but instead decided to use it to introduce you to Amy.

I asked Amy several questions.  She gave me her answers.  The exchange is below.

Where did you go to school?  I went to Utah State University for my undergraduate degree and attended the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU.

Where did you practice?  I spent most of my time practicing law at Davis Miles, in Mesa, Arizona.

How long did you practice?  I practiced law for about 9  years before I quit working for a law firm and changed my status at the State Bar to "inactive".

What made you leave the practice?  My family is the reason I left the practice of law. Especially the teenagers.  We have five kids and they require a great deal of time and energy. My husband had a very demanding job and I had a very demanding job.  One of us needed to be able to pick up the slack and keep the family on track.  We gave some thought as to which one of us should quit.  I knew both logically and emotionally that we would all be happier if I was the one to quit.

What made you reenter the practice?  I almost reentered the practice of law by accident. More than anything, it was a desire to help people.  Several friends, acquaintances and former clients approached me and asked me to take their cases.  It was difficult to see situations where I felt confident that I could help someone and not be able to represent them because I was "inactive" at the State Bar.

What obstacles did you face with the decisions to leave and then reenter the practice? Deciding to quit practicing law felt like one of the biggest, most weighty decisions of my life.  It is difficult to give up something that you have worked so hard to achieve, especially when you enjoy doing it.  Having put so much time, energy and effort into my law career, I was very conscious that it might be difficult to get back into the practice of law if I decided to (or needed to) in the future.  I also worried that my skills would no longer be sharp.

Once I decided to get back into the practice of law, I had to do two years of CLE in a couple of weeks and then set up my own practice.  I had never intended to be in business for myself.  I remember that a few years ago I was horrified at the thought of having my own practice.  But now that I am doing it, I enjoy it.

What benefits did you discover with the decisions to leave and then reenter?  The biggest benefit of not practicing law was the time I suddenly had--and not feeling panicked about competing priorities.  When I quit I still had a child in preschool and another in kindergarten.  It was fun to spend time with them.  I had always made an effort to put my kids and husband first, but there were inevitably times when I had to put work ahead of my family.  It was nice to have my family be the constant "first priority".  I didn't feel divided. That was such a good feeling.  I was also able to home school my high school son.  It turned out to be the right choice for him and resulted in a bond between us that is priceless.

The biggest benefit of reentering the practice is that I have done it on my own terms.  I decide which cases to take.  I set the priorities, deadlines and billable hour requirements.  It is also reassuring to know that I am keeping my foot (or at least my big toe) in the legal door.  I know that my skills are sharp and marketable.  It is nice to know I am  helping people.

Thanks for "talking" with us, Amy.  You are amazing!

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