Independence Day, aka the Fourth of July, is a big holiday in America. I have such wonderful and vivid childhood memories of celebrating on the shores of Lake Michigan, dancing around sparklers buried in the sand, and eating burgers, watermelon, cake with red, white and blue frosting and trying to elude adult eyes to steal a sip of beer from the inevitable keg. Those were wonderful days. Our dads were back from the European and Pacific Theaters of World War II after having secured freedom on foreign soil, and we knew it was a good life.
This year, when we are not eating, drinking, playing softball and watching fireworks, we also will give thought to our Founding Fathers and all that they went through to secure our independence from an oppressive sovereign. We will relive history, but it should not stop there. We also should be applying the concepts of independence to today, to our own lives, in particular to our own professional lives.
Being independent is essential to happiness and career satisfaction, and that is why Personal Definitions of Success are a hallmark of the Best Friends at the Bar program. It means that each one of us has the independence to choose to be who and what we want to be and to define success as we value it. It is a big concept and, without understanding and practicing it, we easily can fall victim to being controlled by others.
We only have limited chances to succeed. The choices we make and who we make them for are likely to impact our success. Choosing for yourself has the greatest chance of resulting in success that feels good for you. It really does not matter what mom and dad and grandma and grandpa or even Aunt Mary think you should do with your life. It is YOUR LIFE.
So, choose wisely. Choose what fits your values and what feels good to you. Choose what makes you happy and what satisfies the needs that make you want to get up in the morning and to do your best to make it a better day.
If private practice does not suit you, consider a change to public service, a not-for-profit practice or an in-house corporate practice. Pay no attention to the naysayers who point out the salary and prestige differences. Let them toil away at what fails to “float their boats” while you make the brave choice to listen to your heart.
If full-time practice does not suit you and your personal life responsibilities, make a compelling proposal for a flexible schedule or part-time practice. If you are not getting the opportunities to advance to positions of leadership and management, find good mentors and sponsors, take on risks and challenge the status quo. If you are caught in a subject area practice that bores you to death, make a change. There are so many choices.
And when you choose, remember that nothing is forever. People change. Circumstances change. Opportunities change. You need to remain flexible so that you can adjust your expectations and make the next good choice in your life.
To get started on this independent journey, read the profiles of outstanding women lawyers in my book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer, and also read, “Beyond the Big Firm: Profiles of Lawyers Who Want Something More” by Alan B. Morrison and Diane T. Chin (Aspen Publishers/Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2007). There is sure to be something in these books to catch your eye and appeal to the independent you in you.
So, happy Independence Day to America and to you. Wave the flag, get out the red, white and blue and have a happy and safe Fourth of July. Then live the next 364 days of the year in pursuit of personal independence and career satisfaction and success. Then you will have even more to celebrate on this day in 2016.
Best of luck on your journey to professional independence!