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Real Life Practice

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Lesson 5

Chances & Ampersands


“Before I went to college and law school, I was a professional musician. I played the guitar and sang. Still do—sometimes. Music has always been a big part of my life. In fact, my first TV memory was watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was only four years old, but after the show, I nagged my dad until he bought me the “Meet the Beatles!” album. I still have it. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was listen to music and learn to play the guitar. I could never have imagined where my life would take me. From growing up in Wilton Manors, Florida, to becoming a musician – yes, I did learn to play the guitar – to going to law school, practicing law, teaching, running a bar association, coaching other lawyers, and now having the privilege of writing a book with 49 incredible women as contributors.

This life is one awesome journey. The thing about journeys is…they can be risky. You might not be sure of the best route to take to get to your desti-nation. Sometimes you might not even be sure of your destination. And you know what? That’s OK.”


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“Rejection is valuable. It forces me to re-examine my approach. It prevents complacency, and it pushes my boundaries.” from Pushing Past Fear and Failure, by Artie Renee Pobjecky


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Lesson 6

You Decide What It Means to Be Successful


“Everyone wants to be a “success.” But what does that mean, and who decides what constitutes success? The answer isn’t as complicated as it might seem. You define success, no one else.

It is so important for young attorneys – especially women – to acknowledge and embrace this concept. Don’t let anyone else define success for you. Allowing others to do so is a mistake and one that has the potential to drastically affect your sense of self-worth for years to come.

This was a lesson I learned the hard way in 2003, when I left the law firm where I worked as an associate. I’d been there for nearly four years – after another four years working for the public defender’s office – even though I’d never envisioned myself in a law firm. And yet there I was.

But, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I wasn’t happy. I felt trapped, claustro-phobic. I couldn’t put my finger on it, although I knew that work-life balance had something to do with it. But that wasn’t the sole problem.”


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“Not just advice, but affirmation that so much of what we feel and have experienced has been felt and experienced by others.” – Nora Riva Bergman


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Lesson 7

Don’t Listen to Your Father: How Ignoring the Well-intentioned Can Make You Wealthy


“If prayer is focusing on an idea with a firm belief that it will become reality, my father and I were both atheists who prayed. That is all we had in common. He was born on a backwoods farm in Cuba the year the world’s economy hit rock bottom. I was born in New York in 1969, the year the internet was invented.

He focused on the myriad disasters that could befall his loved ones. In short, he worried incessantly. Go to California? Are you kidding—with those fault lines? His past experiences included surviving the Great Depression and fleeing his homeland. I understand why he lacked rose-colored glasses. To the opposite extreme, I focus unfailingly on bringing irrational goals to fruition. I dream with eyes open of a future where nothing is impossible. Don’t you see, the word impossible says I’m Possible? This hope was born in the incredible events of my generation: the moon landing, the Civil Rights Act, and the proliferation of smartphones.

Thinking back on our relationship, I know he loved me. Just as strongly, however, I know that discounting his guidance, as highlighted below, led to my professional success.”


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“My hope is that this book will empower women lawyers to bring their whole selves to their work, to their loved ones, and to their lives.” from the Introduction, by Nora Riva Bergman


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The Woman’s Lawyer

www.thewomanslawyer.com


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Lesson 10

They Will Crush You, If You Let Them. Don’t.


“As a young associate at large law firm, I worked hard. I arrived before everyone else and left after everyone else. I never spent less than 10 hours at the office on weekdays and always worked a few extra hours in the evening, after my son (and then children) went to bed. I traveled whenever requested. I made out-of-the-office engagements as brief as possible. I responded to emails immediately, regardless of the time of day. I dutifully did what I was told, regardless of the toll it took on me or my family. I tried to complete every task as fast as possible and as well as possible. I had one son during law school, another 19 months later, and another 23 months after that. I didn’t skip a beat. I put my job before anything else. It wasn’t enough.”


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“It’s all about helping others – lifting them up and helping them achieve what they want to achieve.” – Nora Riva Bergman


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Three Thirteen Law, PLLC

www.threethirteenlaw.com


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Lesson 13

Don’t Do It Alone


“Survey after survey shows that lawyers are disproportionately susceptible to mental health and addiction issues. These problems get worse with isolation. Being the only, or one of a few, female attorneys can add to this isolation. So, don’t isolate yourself. Get out there and be someone that people expect to see, so that if you start isolating yourself someone might reach out to check on you. Be a name and face that people recognize; it makes you more accountable to yourself as well. You’re less likely to isolate yourself if you feel that your absence from events will be noticed.

I suffered from depression and panic disorder long before I became a lawyer, which gave me the benefit of learning how to cope before adding the stresses of the law to my life. One of those lessons is that people are more important than anything in this world.”


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“If a woman reads this book and thinks to herself, ” That’s me,” or “If she can do that, so can I, that would be awesome.” – Nora Riva Bergman


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University of Miami
School of Law

www.LawWithoutWalls.org


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Lesson 16

There’s Me and There’s Me and There’s Me: It May be Too Much, But Too Little of Me is Not Enough


“They say good things come in threes. I hope “they” are right because there are three of me.

There’s Me: the personal Me. The romantic who will drink a bottle of wine with you in the middle of the day and walk in the rain in Central Park holding your hand. The friend who will laugh at stupid jokes because it feels good to laugh. The Me who takes risks, jumps without thinking, takes a trip on a whim, who dreams big, and cries hard. There is silly Me who gets lost in a paper bag driving to the same place I’ve been before. And don’t forget rash Me who says things I don’t mean in the heat of the moment and who takes them back right away (OK, eventually), and then there’s forever-faithful, loyal Me who will forgive fast and often—over and over again.

Then there’s second Me, the maternal Me, the Me I grew into over time.

Me-three is an altogether different Me, one who I created after gradu-ating from college because I thought I was supposed to, because that’s what everyone did, because it worked better that way. … my third Me? Well, she was an epic mess.”


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“Block off some time for yourself…your time of reflection can be some of the most valuable time you build into your week.” from Slow It Down, by Stephanie Scarborough


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Legal Tech Entrepreneur, Writer, and Former Practicing Lawyer

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Lesson 19

Choose Your Own Adventure: Decisions, Pivots, and Possibilities


“In our legal careers, we buy into the notion that there is only one path. We imagine a well-marked, perfectly manicured, tranquil path that will lead us to success, if we only stay the course. Then we live in fear of being forced off that path due to some mistake. We imagine that anything outside of that path is a raging river of hot lava and certain doom. But what if straying from that path led you to something better?

Most of us imagine a linear path where we start our careers as associ-ates and eventually become partners in a law firm. We expect that we will work long hours, do “good work,” serve on a few firm and bar association committees, write a couple of articles, and then we’ll get there. What if you could release yourself from the fear and expectation that you must follow this singular narrow path to succeed? What if you could do something different?”


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“Just say ‘no’ to the naysayers. They will not see the vision you see, and…It’s your responsibility to live that vision and believe in it.” from Overcoming the Obstacle of Naysayers, by Wendi Weiner


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Hoyt & Bryan, LLC

www.hoytbryan.com


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Lesson 23

Big Fish, Little Pond


“I didn’t start my legal career as an entrepreneur. I went to law school as a second career after spending approximately 10 years in the college recruiting, sales, and financial services industries. The primary thing I learned from that experience is I was never going to be a good “small fish in a big pond.” I needed my own pond.

I set out on a search for mentors. Naively, I believed small firm lawyers would be willing to help other small firm lawyers. I was wrong. However, I did meet one attorney who introduced me to a national estate planning organization that emphasized collegiality. The philosophy of the organization was if we all helped each other then we would all ultimately benefit from each other’s experience and our practices would thrive. It was an “attitude of abundance” I have embraced since.”


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“A good workout takes one hour. That’s 4% of your day. No excuses. I had never thought about it in that way. I decided I deserved 4% of my day! I was worth it!” from The Power of Putting Yourself First, by Kristine Reed


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Appellate Court Judge
Nelly N. Khouzam


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Lesson 27

Build Your Nest


“In 2017, I was honored to give a commencement address to a group of law students. I wanted to offer them meaningful, valuable, and practical suggestions as they embarked on their legal careers. So, when I was invited to write a Lesson for this book, I decided to expand on those remarks and tailor them to my new audience. I want to make clear at the outset (and not to disappoint the readers) that I do not have a magic formula that applies just to women; rather, my suggestions apply to both men and women.

There is a French proverb, “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.” It is a charming little phrase that is widely applied and translated as, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” Like the little bird, you need to patiently build your nest.”


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“Block off some time for yourself…your time of reflection can be some of the most valuable time you build into your week.” from Slow It Down, by Stephanie Scarborough


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Barbara Leach Law

www.bleachlaw.com


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Lesson 30

Follow Your Bliss


“Follow your bliss,” says Joseph Campbell. Three years into lawyering, I thought, “What does he know?” I was working ungodly hours, wallowing in the fact that even after three years, I knew nothing, and I couldn’t see an end in sight. So, I did just that: I ended it. Armed with $20,000 cash stored in my sock drawer and the conviction that I could “figure it out,” I quit the practice of law. I didn’t know who I was, but I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

That resolve lasted an entire 10 days. Upon learning I had left “The Practice,” my girlfriend asked if I was interested in doing some hearing coverage for her. Another girlfriend wanted me to serve as an ad hoc associate on a $10 million case. I had nothing but time and a desire to help my friends, so I was all in.

Over the next six months working with these brilliant women, I realized maybe it wasn’t the practice of law that left me bliss-less; maybe it was the fact I was practicing in a law firm.”


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