Dear LiL – How can you succeed in the practice of law while trying not to compromise who you are? Signed ~ Staying True To You
Dear Staying True to You:
A few months ago I was listening to a podcast called Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. He was interviewing Alicia Menendez, Harvard graduate, award winning journalist and author of “The Likeability Trap”1. Alicia Menendez, like most of us, has struggled to find a way to succeed without compromising who she is as a woman and a professional in what still seems to be a predominantly man’s world. She writes about her experience with success and how she has learned to navigate her career while keeping true to herself. It is a must read for those who are looking for some tools to maintain the appropriate balance between being liked by others and being true to who you are.
Throughout my 30 years of practice there has been more than one instance where I felt I have compromised who I am. These interactions have not always been with male lawyers or clients although that was often the case early in my career. No question there were many experiences I would change if I could do it all over again. I said things or behaved in a certain way because I thought that is what success required. I can recall experiences even as far back as my articling year that I wish I had handled differently. For example, during my articles I recall waiting for hours for a senior lawyer to show up on a Sunday to discuss a case. I still recall feeling disrespected by this person who could not bother to even call. In retrospect I should have left a note after an hour or so and left. That lawyer could have called me back but instead I just waited tormented by the thought of what might happen if I left.
Over 30 years I have learned to express myself more clearly and not to compromise who I am. I would not let someone disrespect me or my time. I have become more authentic and honest with myself. As Alicia Menendez describes I have learned to modulate between caring about what others might think and expressing my own needs. I have, over time, learned to be clear and honest –authentic.
I know this sounds difficult, particularly early in our careers, but I always tell the associates I work with to take control of their career. Of course you need to work with and for others along the way but you have to be responsible for your path to success.
1 “The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are,” Alicia Menendez, HarperCollins, 2019