Go Ahead, Turn Me Down

Thumbs_DownI love rejection.   Well no, I hate rejection as much as the next person, but I love it when people get in touch to tell me they’re rejecting me.  And so I want to encourage you all to do it—early and often.

A friend once told me years ago that it was the “maybes,” not the “nos,” who made scheduling dinner parties difficult.  No is no; you cook five pork chops instead of six.  But maybe is uncertainty, and that’s harder to plan for.  Ever since then I’ve tried to say “no” as quickly as I can, and if anyone has been upset, they haven’t mentioned it.

A freelance lawyer’s job is part dinner-party host, part air-traffic controller:  you have to learn how to manage your calendar to get projects completed and make hiring attorneys happy.  A “maybe” can tie up your schedule, making it hard to take on new projects.  There’s also an element that reminds me of dating: of course you don’t want to nag someone who hasn’t decided yet whether to work with you.  So there’s a lot of waiting by the smartphone, wondering if you’ll get the email that says “we’re on.”  As with dating, you learn how to read the signals (usually silence) that eventually let you know they’re just not that into you, so you can move on and look for other work.  Two or three out of ten contacts might turn into a project.  Rejection is part of life as a freelance attorney; it’s not meant personally, so it’s important not to take it that way.

Which is why, even when I already suspect the project is not going to materialize, I love it when someone actually reaches out to tell me “no.”  First, it’s a classy gesture; it communicates that they’re a stand-up professional, and that they respect and appreciate me enough to bridge the social awkwardness of the conversation.  It’s also a huge time-saver, freeing up my time and mental energy to pursue other things.  It can be an opportunity to listen to their feedback about why it didn’t work out; it may have nothing to do with me, but that can give me useful ideas for how to structure business in the future.  Best of all, it lets us both make a graceful exit—because sometimes “no” just means “not this time.”

So go ahead, turn me down:  I will thank you.   And should you need me again, I will only think better of you for it.

Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota…

MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN Posts


One Responseto “Go Ahead, Turn Me Down”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This