How I Speak Up!

Hello Ms. JDers! 

Someone I loved said that I should not go to law school because they did not “think [I] would make it.” I am laughing internally at them all the way to graduation.

Speaking up is not only about what you say, but also what you do. I owed no words, and I owe myself continued, unwavering pursuit of my dreams.

As lawyers, we are generally not at a loss for words. So I believe it is the effort we put into advocating for others that matters. Do your job AND do it well. Do not be satisfied with the status quo, and do not treat your career as a routine.

Professionally, I enjoy working behind the scene. I am happy being the reason things work, not being the face of the work. I relish the opportunity to advocate for a cause I believe in by devising the strategies affecting change. My more extroverted counterparts will speak up on the issues I research and write.

Maximizing my impact takes work. Below are a few things I do and will continue to do, to maximize my return on advocacy (from a behind the scenes type of individual).

Know the facts and the law. Knowing the facts and the law may seem obvious, but it is important enough to reiterate. Be an expert on your cause. Never stop learning and learn as much as you can from both sides of the coin. Be open and willing to accept a different point of view and when offered, go home and learn the facts and law that support that view.

Know your audience and speak in their language. Far too often lawyers speak like lawyers to everyone. I find that it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak colloquially. It is a gift and a curse from law school. But understanding your audience and talking to them in a way that they know, will get you further as an advocate. Relatability is essential because every opportunity to advocate, whether written or oral, will be different. Never fundamentally change who you are, but be the distinct, highly specialized individual you are and adapt.

Show up and raise your hand. Even if you are a “behind the scenes” type of person, showing up allows you to learn. I may only talk to one person, but that person now knows what I do and, hopefully, can see my passion behind it. Just be in the room. Additionally, I raise my hand because I am a doer, not a talker. Volunteering at an event, on a project or the like gives you visibility and credibility, and is a framework for engaging in an increasingly diverse pool of potential supporters.  

Throughout my law school career, I have heard that voice in my head telling me that I will not be able to make it. It is a voice that fuels my desire to speak up in my way, and to be better and to create the best foundation for my future as an attorney, a changemaker, and a darn good advocate.

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