Susan Smith Blakely

Young Lawyers:  Can Baking Overcome Your Anxiety?

We all are full of anxiety and stress these days.  You know it.  And we all are looking for ways to deal with the disappointing news of the day, the challenges of our work experiences, and the other unsatisfactory realities of our lives.

So, what are we doing about it?  Exercise is good.  Eating wrong is bad.  For me cooking is even worse, and baking is out of the question unless it is a national holiday and for my family and friends.  After almost 50 years of marriage and some cooking and baking before then, I am over it.  Hello to carry-in and dining out.

Or at least I thought that was the case.  But now I am not sure.  After reading this article in the Washington Post, I may have to rethink it all.  It turns out that the Great British Baking Show may change my life --- at least in the short term.

It seems that I may have overlooked a silver lining that comes with baking.  And that is saying a lot because silver linings are not coming easy these days with the current political climate in our country.  

As a bit of a political junkie --- at least a policy junkie after serving as Chief of Staff for an elected official for almost a decade --- policy considerations still pulse through my veins.  "These are the times that try men's (and women's) souls" does not begin to explain how frustrated I can get just watching the daily TV news.  No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, you have to admit that all is not going swimmingly.  Too much infighting, lack of civility and disrespect.

My reaction to this situation has been to do more research, and more research and even more research.  If only I listen to one more TV pundit or read one more editorial, surely I will be able to make sense of the madness.  But, the result has been to lead me further into the madness.

I have a feeling that many of you are experiencing some of this same kind of frustration and madness.  I also have a feeling that too many of you turn to social media to deal with the complications of real life and especially the frustrations and anxieties of being young lawyers in a very demanding profession.

The law profession is rife with anxiety-creating situations, from making billable hour targets, to expectations of positive feedback on assignments, to the content of annual reviews, to making partner, to finding time to sleep and eat .... and the list goes on.

But turning to social media --- just like my habit of turning to the pundits and the editorial page --- is only temporary salvo.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the most recent generation of social media platforms are all ephemeral external indications of acceptance, popularity and success.

So, I say we all should take a break, both you and me.  A break to soothe ourselves and heal from the inside out.

Granted, it is hard to escape the stresses of every day life and the anxiety that is part and parcel of being a young lawyer.  UNLESS .... we watch the baking show.

Not necessarily to learn to bake but for examples of how to deal with the stresses and disappointments of fast-paced baking competition.  For the examples it provides of putting things in perspective and making the most of the experience.  

Honestly, I have watched the show, and there is a rhythm to it that soothes the soul --- a whole lot more than reading one more stress-inducing editorial predicting even more dire consequences than I had imagined or getting "unfriended" on social media.

So, do yourself a favor.  Read the article.  I am not going to try to explain it to you because the author does such a good job of that.  

And then watch the show.  You may find that the Great British Baking Show is the therapy you have been looking for.  And it might make you want to retreat to the kitchen to whip up a chocolate souffle.

Would that be so bad?

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016” for her work on behalf of women in the law. 

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

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