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My Top 3 Takeaways from the Ms. JD 2019 NWLSO Leadership Academy

I had the honor of attending the Ms. JD 2019 NWLSO Leadership Academy, hosted in Cambridge, MA at Harvard Law School, November 22-23, 2019.  I was elated for the opportunity to connect with other law students, attorneys, and business professionals, who share the same passion of wanting to see women in the legal field flourish and achieve a playing field equal to their male counterparts.

1. Failure is an Important Reflection Point

Upon my arrival to Boston I was greeted with an e-mail from the Air Force JAG Recruitment Chief – informing me that I had not been selected for the November 2019 board.  The news of my rejection made my heart immediately drop to my stomach and all the excitement I previously carried quickly disappeared.  The news of not being selected for an opportunity I wanted so badly, made me feel quite deflated and defeated; I wondered how I would make it through the remainder of the weekend – maintaining an upbeat attitude and a smile on my face.  I pushed through and made it to the welcome reception, where we had the privilege of listening to Chief Judge Patti B Saris.  Chief Judge Saris shared stories of her applying for various positions and not being selected on the first try.  Chief Judge Saris’ recount of her experience of rejection helped me to not feel as defeated or deflated as I did upon my arrival.  Chief Judge Saris shared, “Almost everyone has a failure, when you look back it’s actually an important reflection point,” which reminded me to keep pushing forward – despite failure, rejection, or adversity.    

2. Toot Your Own Horn, Without Blowing It

Saturday morning, we hit the ground running with the first presenter of the day, Debbie Epstein Henry.  Debbie helped us to get a better understanding on how to become comfortable with demonstrating our value, without becoming the obnoxious one in the room.  Debbie polled the room for the answer to why, as women, we often pass on the opportunity to self-promote.  Responses from the audience included: (1) Self-doubt, (2) fear of being viewed as aggressive, (3) fear of rejection, and (4) seen as unladylike.  Debbie let us know that we, as women, have to get out of our own head.  She shared that we are often evaluated by the “confidence code – evaluated based on our projected confidence as oppose to our competence” at work and therefore, as long as we doubt ourselves, others will doubt us as well.  

Debbie gave us three nuggets to assist with becoming more comfortable with self-promoting: (1) Be great – be that indispensable team player, be an effective communicator, be direct, make eye contact and use proper tone.  Be confident when exercising your judgement. (2) Know your audience – allow yourself time to decompress before going into a meeting, arriving ahead of time in order to become familiar with the meeting space and perhaps even attendees who may also have arrived early.  Showing humility/emotional intelligence can also be helpful, being direct about the energy in the room. (3) Develop a signature – we must always be original and be comfortable with ourselves.  We must remember, success is NOT about waiting for permission – we must be willing to take risks and put ourselves out there.

3. Go Hard for a Purpose

Our first panel of the day, Life Outside of the Law Firm: Non-Traditional Legal Careers, had a panel of participants with a wide range of careers.  The panelists discussed how so often law students get swept up in the traditional pathway of landing a law firm position because that’s what everyone else around is doing.  However, Dean Alexandre reminded us, “many people are going to try to tell you who you are and if you don’t know, this is a pathway to disaster.”  We must always remember and hold onto the reason(s) of what brought us to law school in the first place, and none of us should go to a law firm just to check a box.  Not everyone has the intention of practicing law or working for a firm, we must ensure that we as individuals, are remaining true to ourselves.  We were reminded to not be ashamed to know what it is we want and being able to utilize our education as a way of impact.  Whether it is practicing a certain area of law that is off the beaten path, lobbying on Capitol Hill, or instructing at an educational institution, as long as we are doing what it is we have a passion for, the hours aren’t so unbearable, because we are “going hard for a purpose.” 

There was so much information shared, lessons learned, and connections made over the span of my two days spent in Boston, MA.  I am forever grateful for the opportunities Ms. JD continues to afford me and I look forward to having another amazing time, in Chicago, IL for the Ms. JD 12th Annual Conference.   

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