2015 writers in residence
Striking a Balance
Where to go to law school – what job to take - whom to date. These decisions, in the moment, seemed life-altering. But retrospectively, they were the easier ones because I only had to think about myself. I realized the important decisions sometimes include the smaller daily choices we make every day - essentially - whether to study or to invest in my personal life. This balancing act sets the precedent for my future as a lawyer/wife/mom/Superwoman. Striking a Balance is my journey of what happens after I have chosen my career, entered law school, and moved in with my significant other for the first time – and trying to discover my ideal work/life balance.
Law Law Land
Ah, the illustrious 3L year. I figured out how to handle the classes, how to take an exam, and how to get a job. They scared me and they worked me; now, instead of being bored to death, I’m trying to figure out... what’s next? Join me as I navigate my last semester of being a student, my summer of bar-prep delight, and my first leap into practice at a large litigation firm. As I ponder both the strange and funny details particular to law school and the bigger questions and concerns of being a minority woman in a Middle America law firm, I hope to explore what it’s really like to transition from student life to real life. Welcome to Law Law Land!
From Books, to Boots, to Babies, to Bavaria
I found out I passed the bar on 10 September 2001. I had just driven across the country from Oregon to Washington DC in search of the legal career of my dreams. 11 September 2011 changed our nation and shaped the course of my personal life and legal career. While there have been bumpy times, my legal career and life have certainly always been interesting. I have worked for a Senator; joined the military as an active duty Army JAG officer; married a fellow law student; prosecuted cases against Soldiers; worked as a civilian attorney for the Army representing wounded warriors; have filed for unemployment; and currently I am a full-time mom, was a part-time defense attorney, and always a part-time reserve Army Soldier. Since 2001 I have moved 6 times – starting from Eugene, Oregon (GO DUCKS!); to Washington DC; to Stuttgart, Germany; to Louisiana; to Washington State; to Virginia; and now back to Germany – specifically beautiful Bavaria! As I have the privilege to open my front door and gaze at the rolling hills of Bavaria or enjoy a “traffic jam” behind a tractor, I kindly invite you to read this introspective look at a legal road less traveled. And please, if you every find yourself in southern Germany let’s share a Bier, Brat, and Bretzen (pretzel).
Discerning Difference…Embracing Empowerment
“Discerning Difference… Embracing Empowerment” focuses on the various aspects of difference, especially gender, ethnicity, race and age, and how these characteristics are essential to one’s personal and professional identity. Each month, readers will confront their biases, consider a new viewpoint or feel a sense of affirmation through stories and reflective commentary. Join me on this editorial journey and become more confident in your identity – each aspect of it – and feel empowered by that confidence to accomplish your career goals, positively impact the legal profession, and represent your diverse community.
Where I Belawng
Have you ever wondered how people know what they want to do without a shadow of a doubt? I have. I am not one of those people. My interests span far and wide, from chemistry to creative writing to calligraphy. I’ve waited for a calling for a long time. What I didn’t realize is that it’s been right in front of me since the very beginning—law. I’m a rule follower and a rule enforcer, yet I still didn’t see it. I’ve even had it pointed out to me—a friend of mine, during a stint in a pharmacology PhD program, told me that I was a good fit for patent law, with my chemistry background my interest in all things legal. But I had to come to the conclusion on my own, and let me tell you, it hit me full in the face. Bam! Law school! It’s what feels right as a next step. However, needless to say, I’m a bit of a nontraditional applicant. I hold a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and am nearly done with a master’s degree in technical and scientific communication, where my capstone is focusing on how intellectual property law affects copyeditors. I’m older—nearing my late twenties, which is a scary thought! Plus, I’m getting married in August. I will have to fit studying for the LSAT around all of this and a full time job. My path to law school is going to be different than most people’s. But that’s what this is all about—finding where I belong. Or, should I say, where I belawng. Don’t you love a good pun?
Fabulously Flawed: Missteps that Move Us Forward
In our professional lives, one step backward can facilitate two steps forward. Through anecdote and commentary, this column will aim to inspire pre-law students, law students, and junior lawyers to take on new challenges despite the chance of failure.
Enroll in a hard class. Raise a hand regularly instead of waiting to be called on. Tackle an especially complicated issue in a law review note. Volunteer to help with a new client’s matter or with a project outside your area of expertise. Nominate yourself for a leadership position with your voluntary bar association.
Yes, you’ll have to work hard. Yes, you’ll hit some bumps along the way. And yes, when you take calculated risks you may even make a mistake. If you take strategic risks, with the right support system in place, you may stumble a bit but you will not fall. Instead, you will grow; your knowledge will improve and your confidence will swell. In short, you will take great strides as a professional.
Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone might hurt, but not nearly as much as it’s likely to help.
Crayons in the Briefcase
After practicing law in Chicago for five and a half years, I packed up my life and two children and followed my husband across the country, where I decided to try my hand at homemaking. Now that I have returned to the workforce, I am hoping that muscle memory (or something) kicks in as I trade in yoga pants and ABCmouse for blazers and LexisNexis. As I readjust to life as a working mother, I look forward to the change in my perspective of the legal field after having shifted focus away from it. Through the insights of women spanning the caregiver/lawyer spectrum and my own personal anecdotes, some of the subjects this column will address are: the causes and signs of burnout; striking a balance between excelling professionally and nurturing a happy family; and the best ways to maintain physical and mental health with limited time. Crayons in the Briefcase will provide a glimpse into the life of a lawyer trying to wear multiple hats—not always on her head.
It has been debated for decades: can a woman really “have it all”? A successful career, true love, and happy children? Since I started law school as a single mom of a 7-month old, I’ve been asking myself this question. So far the answer is yes. Maybe. I think.
My blog will discuss my challenges as an ambitious law student, and now litigator, with a young child and a blended family who strives to be the best mom, lawyer, and wife I can be. My blog will highlight the sometimes humorous dichotomy between my nurturing role as mom and my relentless role as a litigator. I will talk about my tips on being a successful law student and single mom, passing the bar exam, finding a job after law school, being an effective associate in a small firm, and finding time for networking and business development. I hope I can provide Ms. JD readers with some helpful tips, laughs, and inspiration.
Somewhat Lawgical chronicles a law student's journey through law school in the US. This includes tips, tricks, and antidotes learned and gathered along the way. From the struggle of interpreting the Constitution to calculating contract breach damages to memorizing the elements of trespass to land, law school comes with its own set of struggles and new challenges. Tune in for updates on what law school is like from the perspective of a scientist who never even dreamed of going to law school. Somewhat Lawgical will include academic articles and lifestyle articles, all focused on what it's like being in law school.
Beyond Talent: Building a Successful Career
With over a decade of combined legal recruiting experience, we frequently counsel law students and attorneys on ways to successfully advance one’s career – a topic that is neither taught in law school nor nurtured in law practice. The goal for this column is to proffer practical career advice to readers, including law students, first-year associates, associates aiming to make partner, go in-house, etc. Our network spans the legal field from law students to law firm hiring partners to General Counsels. Thus, we hope to share our network’s experience and wisdom – those “I wish I knew when I was” nuggets. Some months, we will provide our own research and insight. Other months, we will interview attorneys who have successfully navigated challenging chapters of their careers. The practice of law is taxing enough without trying to navigate one’s career alone. We hope that our column will not only alleviate long-term career anxiety for readers, but also create dialogue and ultimately empower our readers to successfully manage their careers.
Marbury at Midnight: The Memoirs of an Evening Law Student
I attended evening law school as a second-career, non-traditional law student after working for almost 8 years as a civil engineer. I then continued on that non-traditional journey after law school, and decided to work as an engineering consultant. My blog primarily focuses on following your own path throughout your legal education and career, and also highlights the struggles and successes I had as an evening student.
Although I'm blogging from a second-career standpoint, the topics that I plan to cover are universally understood by law students and graduate attorneys. Anyone who has ever frantically run to class with three cups of coffee in one hand, dinner in the other, and fully-briefed case notes for that first scary Torts class stuffed in your (very heavy) backpack will relate. Most of all, I hope to convey my positive law school experience. Yes, I still think law school is a good idea!
Journey to a JD
LSATs. Personal statements. Law school decisions. As a senior wrapping up the end of my college career, I am taking my first steps toward becoming a lawyer, one logic game at a time. With law school right around the corner, I am eager to begin this exciting new chapter of my life – and you’re invited to come along on the ride!
From choosing where to go to taking my first class, learning legal lingo to snagging a summer internship, I will be documenting the classic rites-of-passage every lawyer experiences. Each blog post will feature a different dimension, as I dive headfirst into the world of law school. Always written with heart, honesty, and a healthy dose of humor, this column will offer a dynamic perspective on the ups and downs and twists and turns of my great big adventure.
Join me on my journey to a JD, and beyond!
1Hell: An Evening Student’s Guide to Surviving Law School
It is common knowledge that law school is very difficult. It is even more difficult for evening law students who are facing a unique challenge in that often times, they are working full time during the day, taking a full course load at night, and still trying to maintain some semblance of a personal life. Networking is so important in law school and most of the time, networking events and law clinics are practically unheard of in the evening student’s life. This blog is about surviving the struggle of being an evening student and having some fun along the way.
Teachers Make Good Law Students (and Exceptional Lawyers)
Intimidated by the law school experience? Afraid you will not keep up with classmates who have political science or criminal justice backgrounds and seem to be already well versed in our legal system? Whether it’s been a while since you last hit the books or you’re trying your luck at a second career, it’s normal to feel you may not have what it takes for law school. After 15 years as a teacher, going to law school was my way to achieve new goals and maybe even try to change the system for a better future. However, what did I have to offer this diverse student body? More importantly, how is an elementary school teacher like me going to survive in a classroom full of what I imagined
to be only soon-to-be cut-throat lawyers? As law school is portrayed in media, I worried that I would not thrive in this type of aggressive environment. Luckily for me, the realities of law school are much different and my skills as a teacher translated well in this unique venture. Now with graduation in sight, I will share some tried and true tips and tricks to differentiate the learning experience of law school. As I am embarking on my last year, I will also explore ideas on how to deal with the stress of passing the bar, finding a job, and still maintaining a life-work balance with style and grace.
Rhymes with Awe
Join me as I travel across the landscape of legal careers around the world, interviewing women working in unlikely sectors who are making a difference with their JDs. “Rhymes with Awe” is written for undergraduates, law students, and legal professionals looking to be inspired and to discover alternative career paths. From BigLaw to the nonprofit sector, from Manhattan to Nairobi, “Rhymes with Awe” will illuminate all the possible ways that women can make a difference with their JD around the globe. Each month, this column will tell a story about a woman seeking to make an impact. It will explore the path less traveled, and seek to uncover how women are using their JDs to pursue their passion. #RhymesWithAwe
It wasn't until I quit my perfect job at a perfect firm, left my six-year relationship, and moved to a new city that I became certain that law school was where I needed to be. I am a 1L, and although I have an incredibly positive outlook regarding law school, at times I am filled with self-doubt. My column will discuss feeling uncertain and vulnerable, but more importantly, it will emphasize how to overcome those feelings.
Life as a Law Student, Candidly Speaking
As a current law student, it oftentimes feels, at least for me, that we need to prove something to each other and to ourselves that we're good enough. Well, to be honest, since the first day of 1L year and everyday since, I've been wondering to myself, “Am I the only one not getting it? Am I the only one that feels like all of this is just overwhelming?” On my part, it turns out, being older and having been a paralegal didn't actually make law school any easier. In fact, it makes you even more self-conscious because you feel like you should be the one offering that insightful point, that one thought no one could have thought of except you with all your worldly experience. Instead, my experience has consisted of painful cold calls, 5 page/hour readings, longing glances at my bed, and a new-found coffee addiction. It wasn't until I sat down with a 3L who gave it to me straight that I realized, for the most part, that we're all pretending with each other, but secretly trudging along with a dark cloud of worry and fear floating over our heads. My goal for this column is to provide that “real talk” and perspective to other law students, to remind them that, yes although the struggle is real, (sorry, cliche, I know), it's a struggle that the rest of us are also going through. Please feel free to share your own experiences, thoughts, and perspectives!
Ladies of the House (and Senate)
As lawyers, we don’t just interpret and apply the law – sometimes we make the law too! This blog is based on my past, present, and future experiences working with legislators, especially women legislators. From the halls of Congress to the Colorado General Assembly, I will give a window into what it is like for women advising and lobbying legislators. Colorado has one of the highest percentages of women legislators in our nation – over 40% of our General Assembly is women. This blog will also include conversations with those women legislators about the trials and triumphs in their lives as ladies who make the law. Sometimes I include stories from my volunteer work leading civics and government lessons with elementary and middle school aged students and my own kids who indulge me when touring state capitols and have even engaged in a bit of lobbying and government civics activism of their own. I'm a child of the 1980s living the Schoolhouse Rock dream!
Who Am I and Why Am I Here? Coaching Your Way to an Authentic Professional Self
As law students or lawyers, we may struggle with defining our professional identity while in law school and as our careers evolve. Maybe you’re a first-year law student struggling to remember why you’re even in law school in the first place. Or, you’re committed to public interest work, but feeling pulled to participate in your school’s On Campus Interview program. Maybe you’re a lawyer in a job that doesn’t resonate with your personality or values or play to your strengths, and you find this impacting your health and well-being.
Through my personal experience, and conversations with friends, colleagues, and law students, I know that these feelings are all too common. This column is dedicated to law students and lawyers as they navigate their career path and work towards discovering an authentic professional self. In this column, I hope to share the ups and downs of my personal journey while also providing exercises, concrete tips, and practical suggestions that I’ve learned along the way.
She’s All That: Stories of Women in Law and Technology
When automobiles were first invented, skeptics thought them a nuisance, and sought to outlaw them because they were viewed as disturbing horses on the road, endangering the safety of the townsfolk and blocking narrow lanes. Eventually, as we all know, proponents prevailed and the legal landscape gradually adapted to permit their ubiquity. Fast forward to today, where new technologies (posing a panoply of legal issues of their own) allow us to summon a car with a few taps on our phones and sway public opinion with 140-character or less tweets.
It's fascinating to think about all the technological advances that have taken our world to a place where "smart" modifies [fill in the blank!] and new apps seem to sprout at the turn of every corner. And for me, as an attorney working in tech, it's even more fascinating to think about all the novel legal issues that need to be wrestled with, explored, and put to bed before any new technology can work its magic in the real world. While the industry is still heavily dominated by men, I have had the honor of working with a number of remarkable women in my years of practicing, and admiring many more from afar. This column features conversations with women who work at the intersection of law and technology, and who help to transform our ever increasingly tech savvy world.
Lessons from the Best: Insights for Young Female Attorneys from Women Leading the Private Legal Sector
My name is Ashley Simpson and I have three confessions.
Confession No. 1: I love being a lawyer. I’m a junior associate at a mid-sized law firm called Schiff Hardin LLP. I practice products liability law, which allows me to go to court frequently, handle interesting and exciting fact patterns, and travel across the country.
Confession No. 2: Just so that I can air all my nerdy laundry, I'd like to confess that I want to be a partner one day… and a wife, a mother, a good daughter, and the list goes on…
Confession No. 3: I confess that other than working hard, I’m not really sure how to reach my career goals, especially in light of my other seemingly competitive priorities. And I'm pretty sure that a lot of you share my confusion. This is precisely why I’m writing this blog.
How do women succeed? One way of figuring this out is simply to ask. I want to use this blog series to learn about and introduce you to successful female lawyers in the private sector. My hope is that their insight will serve as a roadmap to young female attorneys working to someday reach that same level of success in their own careers.
Each month, I’ll bring you an interview with a female lawyer who stands out her in field, firm, or company. In this blog series, you’ll learn about each woman’s rise to her current position, the struggles she encountered on her path, and the advice that she would give to other aspiring legal leaders. Though I'll be asking the questions, I invite you to send me any questions that you have for these women. Together, we'll learn and, hopefully, be more equipped to chart our own paths.
Rookie of the Year
Congratulations, you are finally a lawyer. At this point, you have probably finished celebrating and reality has set in. Leave those bar exam study guides and take my hand on this journey through your first year as a lawyer, or as I like to call it, your “rookie year.” Month by month, we will go over everything you would need to know from your first handshake with your colleagues to your end-of-the-year review with your boss as I share my most notable experiences. Will this be a bumpy ride? Oh absolutely. But before you know it, you will have a whole year’s worth of experience under your belt.
Lead by Example
The journey of women lawyers is special. But it can also be difficult. Inspiring and encouraging each other is essential! You may be a 1L attending the busiest year of law school or a partner at one of the best law firms in the country – whoever you are, you never know how your story can affect another young girl out there or if reading about your success has just given another fellow lawyer the courage to fight and not give up. In this column, I will write about the journeys of several well- accomplished women and make sure that their stories are heard. So, come read and be inspired. Remember - if they can do it, so can you!
Long before Occupy Wall Street brilliantly adapted his iconic ratio, Thomas Edison is said to have famously stated that genius, or success, equals 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. His recipe is pretty spot-on. Attorneys are by definition hard-working. Hard work and perspiration are our badges of honor. But while diligently sowing the seeds of our future success, we may not always have the time or luxury to look up from our work and be on the receiving end of inspiration. That seems unfortunate, as inspiration can be valuable fuel. This column will explore that 1% sliver of inspiration that comprises success. The goals are to explore the dynamic relationship between hard work and inspiration and to hunt, gather, and deliver inspirational stories, from inside and outside the legal world, that can help fuel our best work.
Women Leading Change
Women Leading Change will aid you in the journey of discovering the leader within. Throughout history, women lawyers have been at forefront of advancing social change and making the world a better place. This column will offer practical guidance for developing your leadership skills, explore current social justice issues, and profile women leaders in the legal community who are leading change. Each post will challenge you to look into your hands and ask the question: “what is in my hands to make a difference in the world?”
The Inside Scoop
If you’re like most lawyers, you firmly believe that an in-house counsel position is the holy grail, the golden ticket, the dream job. A few years ago I landed my spot as an associate general counsel for a large healthcare system. This column, The Inside Scoop, will examine the challenges, rewards, pros and cons of this coveted position, including sage advice on how to get here. I will also include my perspectives on juggling career and family, career path decision-making, mentoring, and the importance of maintaining focus on one’s self. After 14 years of practice, I've collected a lot of little nuggets to share, things that I wish I'd heard as a law student, newlywed, new associate, new mom, working mom, and about how things don’t necessarily get better as the kids get older, but that things most certainly do become different! You could say this is “The Inside Scoop" on everything. I’ll highlight all of these triumphs and tribulations with a good dose of humor and realism (no sugar-coating!) but a smidgen of sentimentality where it’s warranted.