Rebekah Hanley

Wabi-sabi

A friend recently introduced me to the Japanese concept wabi-sabi.  As I (am just beginning to) understand it, wabi-sabi not only recognizes the inevitability of imperfection; it also celebrates that imperfection.  Thus, the philosophy converts what could be criticized as mistakes into valuable attributes.  It appreciates, rather than laments, that nothing is perfect. This wabi-sabi introduction reminded me of the opportunities for growth through error in professional work.  Take legal writing, for example.  Most lawyers have experienced the disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment of noticing an error in their work product soon after submitting it to a supervisor, client, or court. …

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Rebekah Hanley

Reflections on the Women’s World Cup

I’m not a sports writer or a soccer expert, but I’m writing about soccer today anyway.  Like many, I caught the World Cup wave over this past month, and I have watched many recent women’s matches as a result.  Those matches have offered helpful lessons about teamwork, motivation, and dedication.  They have also emphasized the importance of resilience, which players need after inevitable missteps and unlucky bounces.  Actually, we all need that resilience. As exciting as the strong performance and first-place finish of our U.S. women were, one moment in a game not involving my home country continues to stand…

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Rebekah Hanley

Avoiding Over-Commitment, the Mistake that Keeps on Taking

Each of us has only 24 hours in a day, and we all need to sleep.  There’s a limit to how much we can accomplish.  Yet, even when our plates are full, we say “yes” to additional projects.  We receive invitations to join boards, and we accept.  We are asked to lead new initiatives, and we agree.  We don’t drop anything we’re already doing; we just find a way to do more. Sometimes that’s necessary.  Sometimes it’s beneficial.  But often it’s neither. Taking on new challenges is important from a professional development perspective.  But overcommitting is a mistake.  Very few…

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Rebekah Hanley

“Tell Me about a Time When . . .”: Capitalizing on Past Mistakes during a Job Interview

Many employers rely on behavioral interview questions to vet candidates.  That kind of question allows candidates to show, not tell, their interviewers how they will perform on the job based on descriptions of their past decisions and actions. For example, an employer might ask a candidate to describe how she solved a particular problem, mediated a challenging disagreement, or led a diverse team.  Or the employer might say, “tell me about a time when you made a mistake, how you handled it, and how you’ve changed as a result of that experience.” That’s a good – and fair – three-part…

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Rebekah Hanley

Follow Your Instincts or Live with (and Enjoy?) the Consequences

This month’s column is brief.  That’s not because I spent hours revising it to make it more concise, but rather because I have too many projects on my desk and too many competing deadlines.  It’s because sometimes I say “sure” when I should say “sorry, I can’t this time.”  Mistakes made; lessons learned.  At least, I hope so. I’ve been reflecting recently on a more specific and consequential professional choice I made about fifteen years ago, as a very junior lawyer.  When I finished up a one-year judicial clerkship, in an era of more plentiful entry-level legal jobs, I ignored…

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Rebekah Hanley

The Value of False Starts and Side Steps

At an annual gathering of law school faculty and administrators from across the nation last month, I attended a session about implementing innovation.  One message the panelists emphasized for the hundreds in attendance was this: most innovations don’t achieve their goals. To demonstrate that point, each panelist volunteered an example of an initiative that fell short of its desired effect – a promising idea that was approved, funded, and pursued, but then did not deliver.  A new required course that was poorly received by students.  An interdisciplinary undertaking that lacked the incentives necessary to thrive. While those efforts may have…

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Rebekah Hanley

Risk and Reward in the New Year

In the new year, I’ve committed to taking a professional leap.  In fact, I’m going to take a few.  And I’m encouraging others to join me. I’m doing this even though some of those leaps will not be graceful.  Actually, I’m pretty sure that some of those leaps will result in me falling flat on my face.  And while I’m not thrilled by the idea of looking foolish, I’m no longer uncomfortable with falling.  So long as I am falling forward and not simply repeating past mistakes, I don’t view falling as failing.   For me, falling may be necessary; I…

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Rebekah Hanley

Scare Yourself.  It’s Good for You.

Lawyers have a reputation for shying away from risk.  Indeed, being risk averse is often critical to the work lawyers engage in to protect their clients’ interests. But risk aversion can interfere with professional development.  A lawyer cannot build new competencies without putting herself on the line by doing something for the first time.  The best way for a lawyer to improve her trial skills, for example, is to try a case; regardless of whether she obtains her client’s desired result, her experience will likely advance her professional awareness, development, and confidence. For that reason, it is important to embrace…

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Rebekah Hanley

Still choosing between two law schools?

I applaud you, prospective members of the JD Class of 2017, for studying law schools’ employment statistics.  You are wise to evaluate your choices in part based on the quantity and type of entry-level employment secured by each school’s recent graduates.   But I caution you against assigning undue weight to those numbers when selecting a school.  The recently released Class of 2013 statistics capture career counselor/faculty/student collaboration that occurred 2010-2013; fall 2011 on-campus recruiting; and 2013-2014 market conditions.  A snapshot of the Class of 2013’s employment nine months after graduation may foreshadow your 2017 employment prospects.  Or it may…

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