Shivani Honwad loved working as a lawyer in the public sector, but had a hard time surviving in New York City on a pay check to pay check existence. A switch to private law alleviated her financial woes, but did nothing to help her work-life balance. Finally Honwad decided it was time to start her own law firm, so she could practice the kind of law she was passionate about and determine her own schedule. She founded The Law Firm of Shivani Honwad, and now she’s an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, California doing what means most to her – helping others.
Honwad’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
After I graduated from law school I did a clerkship for a Judge for a year and then worked in both the public and private sectors. In the public sector I loved the work I was doing, but could barely afford to live in New York City. When I switched to the private sector, I was able to afford to live in New York, but was not really a fan of the type of law and clientele. Also, I had absolutely no time to pursue my passions or spend time with my family or friends. I started my own law firm to balance all of this and be able to work with people I wanted to work with, build my own schedule so I could be there for my family and friends, and also be able to earn enough to not live pay check to pay check.
I define success as being able to do what you love and are passionate about while using your unique skills to help and inspire others while being able to live the life you want to live. I hope to continue to assist female founders in negotiating and receiving fair payments and grow my business to a point where I can hire more consistent staff members rather than freelancers.
A big success for me has been sustaining my law firm purely on referrals with no real funds spent on marketing. The referrals come from family, friends and past clients so that makes me feel like I’m doing something right to be able to not only sustain my law firm but be growing just on referrals alone!
“I started my own law firm to balance all of this and be able to work with people I wanted to work with.”
– Shivani Honwad, Founder of The Law Firm of Shivani Honwad
Charging people is my top challenge. I love helping people but I hate having to tell someone they need to pay me before I help them. As my mentors have repeatedly reminded me, I now look at it as they are paying for my knowledge, expertise and time. Which if they had, they could solve their problem themselves, but they don’t, and that’s why they’re coming to me. I also need to charge people in order to shovel myself out of my law school student loans debt, which is how I acquired that knowledge to help in the first place! However, I wish I was in a position to just help people for free and not have to worry about who can pay and who cannot.
On a personal level the loss of my mother made me rethink my work/life balance. I was most certainly a workaholic as I was starting my law firm and did not carve as much time out for my family, friends or even myself. Now I prioritize my health (working out/sleeping properly/taking weekends off to recharge) and believe in showing up for my family and friends in whatever capacity I can.
My mother is my biggest role model. She always went out of her way to help anyone in need and is fondly remembered by so many for that and for her jovial nature. I wish she were still here to see what I have achieved.