Thought For The Day: “Grit” is refusing to give up. It’s persistence. It’s making your own luck. PETER DIAMANDIS

Thought For The Day | Comment

Thought For The Day: A good laugh is sunshine in the house. WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY

Thought For The Day | Comment

Truth Telling About Law School Debt

Law school student loan debt.  Just the mention of it can cause most newly-minted lawyers to break out in cold sweats.  It is always on their minds.  It is always standing in the way of getting on with their lives.

My children both are lawyers, and the amounts of their student loan debt is shocking.  Fortunately, our family is in a position to help them pay down a large portion of that debt.  But, many young lawyers are not in that position, and I feel so bad for them.

Bad because they are in situations where they cannot follow their dreams.  Bad because of the stress that it imposes on their lives.  Bad because they have worthy goals that must be put on the back burner so that they can do boring and unfulfilling work that pays the most.

  • There is the recent law grad with a dream to work in the civil and human rights areas.  But, not so fast.  What about those student loans?  Have to take a higher paying job to even make a dent in them.
  • There is the mid-level associate who would like to start a family or purchase a house to fulfill some important goals.  But, not so fast.  What about those student loans?  Forget qualifying for a mortgage when the student loan debt is significant.
  • There is the young lawyer under so much stress from student loan debt who seeks medication for anxiety and depression to relieve the harmful physical and psychological effects of stress.

And the stories go on and on and on.  Read about them in a recent Law 360 article.  Be prepared to identify with these stories, but take heart that you are not alone.  Read the charts and see where you can expect to be in terms of student loan debt in your future.  Know that the stories have no real happy endings unless you win the lottery.

It was not supposed to be this way.  If I had seen the costs of law school skyrocketing like this, I am not sure I would have smiled on my children’s decisions to follow their parents into the law profession.  Yes, I love the law, and I am very proud of my children for their hard work and persistence in a challenging profession.  And, yes, I am pleased at what I have been able to accomplish for myself and others through a career in the law.  But, loving the law may not be enough today.

Somebody has to do something or we will continue to discourage the talent that is the future of our profession.  Enough time has passed to know that a more robust economy is not the solution.  Enough time has passed to know that the people and institutions benefiting from these dire circumstances must be called out.

Who is the somebody who will stand up and call out?  The ABA through the certification process?  Law schools through their policy decisions?  Congress through the legislative process?  Just who?

I wish I knew.  For your sake.


Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For The Day: Great things can be achieved by leading through wisdom, empathy, and integrity—with no other agenda than humanity. RICHARD BRANSON

Thought For The Day | Comment

Thought For The Day: Freedom lies in being bold. ROBERT FROST

Thought For The Day | Comment

What the Fourth of July Means to Me

You just gotta ignite the light

And let it shine Just own the night Like the Fourth of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework.

Come on show ’em what you’re worth

Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh!” As you shoot across the sky-y-y ~

Katy Perry, “Firework”

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.

This year, when you are not eating, drinking, playing softball and watching fireworks, please give thought to our Founding Fathers and all that they sacrifised to secure our independence from an oppressive sovereign.  We all will relive history, but it should not stop there.  We should think about independence and freedom in our daily lives.  We should take a moment to ask ourselves why it is special to live in America.

Here is what I think.

Our country is the greatest country on earth, and we need to keep it that way.  Currently, the edges are crumbling a bit, and we need to get back to basics and the foundation of our freedom.

I have lived abroad and traveled abroad a lot in my life.  Each time I return and touch down on American soil, I give thanks.  Other cultures and other countries are interesting and exciting, and I have been blessed to experience them.  But the freedoms there and the opportunities for advancement are minor as compared to the freedoms and protections we enjoy as Americans — and as women in America.

People need to understand that.  I often wonder how the large discontented element of our country would respond to life elsewhere.  I think they would be shocked and dismayed.  I think that they might begin to see what they have here in America through a different lens.

It is all about mindset.  America is still the greatest country on earth with a Constitution that has been replicated around the world and a Bill of Rights equaled by none.  That is a lot worth fighting for.

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.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Lifestyle, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

What Young Women Lawyers Can Learn from a Recent Political Upset

Last week was witness to a remarkable “W” for a democratic primary candidate.  In case you have not heard, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought off a stunning upset over a ten-year incumbent in New York’s 14th Congressional District.

If you are not yet impressed that this is remarkable, stay with me.  There is more.  The “more” is that this young woman pulled off the win although she never has held public office, has no big donors, and was running a campaign on a shoe string.  So how could that happen?

The simple answer is that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez knew how to communicate to voters.  Her principles were strong, and her message was clear.  I also have seen her interviewed, and she is an appealing personality.  I might have wanted to support her if I lived in New York.

Now you probably want to know why I am deviating from my “no politics” policy to bring you this information.  Good question.

The good answer is that I am an advocate for all women.  What impressed me about this story is that the messages this young woman candidate projected met certain criteria that can benefit all women, including women attorneys.

Let’s break that down.

These messages were explained very well in a recent Above The Law article.  As pointed out there, “In many ways, the legal profession resembles politics: connections and money matters, and youth and inexperience are viewed as disadvantages.”

And that is why the victory by Ocasio-Cortez should be important to you.

Here are my interpretations of the take-aways from that article:

  • Open Your Own Doors:  Do not rely on sponsors to do your bidding for you.  You are responsible for your own success.  It is fine to accept help from others but on our own terms;
  • No Excuses:  Just because there are others with better credentials and stronger connections to the “big boys,” that does not mean that you get a pass on trying.  Remember that your enthusiasm and your positive attitude can have a winning influence on people.  Maybe there is no one who is willing to introduce you to potential clients.  So?  Get out there on your own.  Go to as many venues and meet as many people as possible.  Networking 101.
  • Lead with the Why and How Will Follow:  Too cryptic?  In simpler terms, tell people why you are the best at what you do and how you can benefit them with your expertise and talents.  That is strategy —  not bragging.  Smart women do it.  It also is  good old-fashioned common sense.  My grandmother used to say, “Don’t let your flowers die on the vine.”

So, take a page out of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s book and GO FOR IT!  You just might be as surprised as she was with the result.


Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Diversity Fatigue — as in Women Lawyers Don’t Count: You Have to Be Kidding

Diversity should be on the minds of all people.  All the time.  It should be on our minds as we walk the streets and as we read our newspapers.  We always should be asking ourselves how open-minded we are and how accepting of different peoples and different cultures.  We never should forget the important role that diversity plays in our lives and in the expression of our freedoms.

Diversity is important to the quality of our institutions and the quality of our products.  It has been demonstrated that diverse teams produce better and longer-lasting results.  That is why diversity is so important to the profession of law and to best practices.

The Best Friends at the Bar project is founded on expressions of diversity.  It was designed to advocate for diverse populations, which now include women lawyers and all young lawyers.  It was founded to address the challenges faced by special interest groups and to help members of those groups overcome the challenges.

As a profession, the law has not always been diverse.  In fact, for most of its existence it has been populated by mostly white males.  But all that has changed.  It is true that the power in the profession is still concentrated in the male population, but women and people of color have advanced to positions of acceptance and excellence that cannot be denied.

There still is much to do to achieve real diversity where women are concerned.  Women lawyers are not paid as much for the same work as male lawyers, and women lawyers are still a minority in positions of management and leadership in law firms.  Women lawyers continue to face challenges based on stereotyping and gender discrimination and harassment, and women lawyers of color are saddled with an entire other layer of discrimination.  With diverse populations come challenges.  And, as a profession, we must be up to the challenge.

So, when I saw this article on “diversity fatigue,” it resonated with me.  Diversity fatigue, really?  “Fatigue” meaning that it exhausts you and you are tired of it — whoever you are?

It is not too exhausting for those of us who realize how far we still have to go to achieve diversity that will be healthy for our profession.  If it is not too exhausting for those diverse populations that are trying to be included in the group and climb the ladder of success.  It is not too exhausting for those bright young minds who are contemplating whether they want to join our profession.

If it is too exhausting for law firm managers, leaders and diversity officers, that is a BIG problem for them to address.  They have a product to sell, and their market is more diverse than ever.

So, read the article and see what you think.  Let me know.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment