Microwaves, Crock-Pots, and Practicing Law
I was asked to write a blog about International Women’s Day and my law career. It was my 15 year old son — a gem of a kid as well as an excellent athlete, who more often than not is as ravenous as a rabid hyena on the African plain in search of a wildebeest — that inspired me to think about the practice of law in terms of food preparation. Microwaves and Crock-Pots are a consistent part of our daily home life with a COVID-bound teen that has already grown nearly six inches this past year — and it struck me that there were some larger analogies to be drawn.
With nearly 25 years in law practice, perhaps sheer resiliency and outlasting many qualify me — in and of themselves — to be a bit retrospective and to share what I have learned. The sharing part, of course, is pretty tricky in this over-share, over-condemn world. So, take my words with a pinch of salt, and a dash of humor and humility. Remember — hardly anybody ever writes or does anything that they wish they couldn’t revisit again with a bit more time. After roughly 45,000 billable hours of law experience carved up, spliced, diced, and trimmed into tenths of an hour, I’ve observed that we live in an increasingly microwave world that benchmarks success and personal value against seconds and minutes rather than days, months, years, and decades. I encourage you to resist this, and to strive as much as you can for a Crock-Pot legal career and life.
Your life and legal career will be enriched with good ingredients. The most important ingredient is surrounding yourself with quality people in all aspects of your personal and professional life. Quantity truly is no substitute for quality. What do I mean by quality? Women and men who have your back, who encourage you. They are out there, and you can find them. I have certainly been blessed in that regard with transparent women and men who challenge and encourage you to be the very best you can be, and who fervently resist compromising their values or dreams on the basis of fleeting circumstances or feelings. People who work hard and prepare not because they have to, but because it is inherent to their character. People who care about their families and maintain solid priorities. People who treat their fellow lawyers and staff with respect. Individuals who think critically without being critical and negative. People who face adversity with optimism, and generously give grace when mistakes are made. Don’t settle. You need people with hearts as amazing, if not more so, as their legal minds.
Your Own Recipe
Over my career, I have observed so many wonderful lawyers with diverse practice styles. More often than not, there is no one way to get to resolution or solution. There also is no one way to success. There are basics, of course, like being diligent, well-prepared, and doing your research, but don’t undervalue your own set of unique strengths and talents. Words are important. You’ve got to be able to encourage yourself on a daily basis; you can work on that even if you struggle with insecurity. One of the things I have enjoyed most about practicing law is learning from the many ways my colleagues have created their own specific successes. The key is to do your very best, to be decisive about it, to be authentic. There is plenty of room in the law for people who are kind and thoughtful. Also, refuse to be paralyzed by risk. Lawyers are compensated to issue spot and anticipate trouble, but calculated risks are quite necessary, and even desirable.
When you have both good ingredients and a good recipe, you can eliminate a good deal of worry and frustration. Much like a Crock-Pot, most good things take time. The best career advice I ever received happened to be from the best lawyer I ever met who was a gentleman to all who knew him, who had incredible legal acumen, and a client list of enviable length. He told me this: “Most things get fixed. Most things work out.” I suspect his colleagues and clients loved him because his positivity engendered so much confidence in his leadership. The odds are in your favor when the raw ingredients and recipe are right — give it time, and have some faith. Lawyers tend to be people who like a straight-line, rapid, upward trajectory, but I haven’t met a lawyer yet who didn’t experience all sorts of frustrations, setbacks, disappointments, and unfairness along the way. Resist worry. Instead, wait expectantly. Great opportunities and outcomes are simmering — waiting to feed your future.
Susan E. Trent, Partner｜[email protected]
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