Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So, when I started this blog I had envisioned not only writing about Family issues, Family and Matrimonial Law and issues surrounding Divorce in New York, but also about being a business owner. I have now been a solo practitioner, and the founder of the Law Offices of Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M., for over a year. Of course, I am no where near being an expert on business practices, but I would like to share what I have learned along the way.

For those who are thinking about starting their own business, I want to share with you that it has been the most challenging time in my life, but also the most rewarding and happy period of my life. My family does not remember the last time I complained about work. To the contrary, the challenges are all personal adventures and conquests.

I recently read an article that listed the top 6 reasons most individuals are scarred to start their own business, most of them being reasons I was scarred to take the leap out on my own, such as:
a) Uncertainty
b) Indecision
c) Economy
d) Debt
e) Family Obligations
f) No Benefits

However, reflecting on those fears and how personally and professionally fulfilled I currently am; these are my responses to each:

a) Uncertainty: I must confess that not having a steady income is a daunting thought when deciding whether to start one’s own business. The security of a steady and reliable pay check is a great feeling, especially when debt and other responsibilities are looming over you. However, looking back, I realize that it’s a false sense of security that I felt, because if your employer decides to let you go or close the business, then it’s the same as being self-employed, maybe even worse – unemployed. I was at the mercy of someone else, my boss, for my pay check, so I decided I would rather rely on myself (or at least try to). There is no denying that the beginning is challenging and a lot of financial sacrifices have to be made, but once the income starts coming in it is all yours, and at the end of the day you are at no one’s mercy but your own. I joke about how my current boss is a slave driver, but the income is growing and I’m enjoying it!

b) Indecision: I cannot imagine going into a business that I did not have any experience in. All of my experience and gained knowledge was in the field of Family and Divorce Law in New York. I even earned an advanced legal degree (an LL.M.) in the field. Therefore, it was not a hard decision to start a business in Family and Divorce Law in New York. I had worked hard to build up at least a small client base and possible referral sources before jumping into my practice. Lastly, even though I had the education and a sufficient amount of experience in the field, I still read every source I could get my hands on about running one’s own business and material specific to my business. So, since I had no indecision about what business to start, I cannot really advise those who do, except prepare, prepare, prepare.

c) Economy: I left my firm and began my own business at the peak of the recession. Every one, from colleagues to friends to family, told me I was crazy to start my business when the economy was so bad and so many people were losing their jobs. At the same time my husband was laid off from a large financial institution, so I knew how precious having a job was and that I should have been happy to be employed. But, I had decided to start my own practice and maintained my plan, and quickly learned that when the economy may be hurting some, others may be thriving. It will never seem like the perfect time to take such a leap of faith, so after careful planning and with some determination I don’t believe a so-called bad economy should stop any one from following their dreams.

d) Debt: This concern I know best. Living in New York and having earned my legal degree, my license to practice law, and an advanced degree in Family and Matrimonial Law, all in New York, I have a tremendous amount of debt looming over me. I lost sleep over what to do about my debt. Then, after some careful planning and negotiation with banks, I learned that certain loans could be put on hold for a year, so that I was paying a lesser amount for that period of time. I learned how to manage my debt so that it was not managing me or my decisions. Managing my loans gave me a chance to save up enough money and generate enough income to sustain my business and now easily pay my debts down. So, if and only if, you can manage your debt in order to buy yourself a bit of time to get your business of the ground without ruining your credit or going into bankruptcy, then the debt should not be a deterrent to starting your own business.

e) Family Obligations: The first year of running your own business can be very trying. It has required most of my time, devotion and energy. My husband has had to be patient and make himself lots of dinners and spend some weekends on his own. I imagine I can liken starting your own business to having an infant. So, one must be ready and plan to be able to have the support and help necessary to balance your devotion and time between growing the business and maintaining it and your family obligations.

f) No Benefits: For some it might be scary to have to give up the 401K or retirement accounts, or go for a period without health or dental insurance. I know this was a big concern of mine. However, luckily my husband covers us both under his health insurance. If he had not been able to cover me, I am sure I could have either pooled together with other professionals to maintain a group health plan, or I would have lived without it for a while and purchased health insurance when I became financially able to do so. With regard to retirement plans and the 401K account, these are simple to open and with the help of a good accountant or business savvy friend very manageable and easy to maintain for a solo practice or small business venture.

So, to anyone pondering the possibility of starting your own business, it is not easy but at least for me the journey thus far has been extremely rewarding! I have been able to help so many individuals during times of family crisis, and have been able to personally reap all of the rewards!

As always, any comments are always welcome and appreciated!

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

1 comment:

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