2017 writers in residence
The Legal Content Curator
To curate, on Dictionary.com, is “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation.” Curation is the process of fitting different pieces together, whether in an art exhibition, a list, a collection, a festival, or even a blog. It is a process that requires searching for common threads, and drawing them together to connect in novel ways - because the most important insights we come up with are often new connections between old ideas.
Modeled after projects such as the Brain Pickings website, this column focuses on the careful selection and presentation of legal ideas. From law in literature to legal theories in practice, The Legal Content Curator reflects each month on a different concept, fusing together legal thinking, events, and insights, and interspersing quotations from primary sources with commentary and analysis.
Drive Your Journey
As you sat down to apply to law school, you likely wrote an essay detailing your intended career goals. What do you do if you take a detour on your way? What do you do if your career goals change? How do you find fulfillment when your plans don’t go as planned? My series of blog posts will answer these questions for new lawyers. My column will discuss (i) the detour, including dealing with change, rejection and determining whether an alternative path is for you (ii) how to find fulfillment in your journey; (iii) how to build credibility as a new lawyer, who may be on a non-traditional path; and (iv) how to position yourself for the next stage of your career.
Concrete Ceilings and Open Doors: Women of Color & The Law
We have all heard or seen some statistic about women of color advancing in the legal profession. A 2015 NALP press release revealed that 2.55 percent of women of color are partners and “continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions.” We also know that the majority of women of color do not remain at their law firms long enough to even to be considered for partnership -- and it is not because they simply cannot “cut it.” Women of color hit the proverbial concrete ceiling. Unlike the glass ceiling, the concrete ceiling is tougher to break and unlike glass, it cannot be shattered. Instead, we need open doors with mentors, sponsors and colleagues on the other side to provide support and guidance along the way.
How do women of color succeed in spite of the statistics? This blog will be useful to anyone, but particularly for women of color. We will provide women with a game plan: successful tips for networking and business development; finding mentors and sponsors and a supportive network of men and women -- diverse and non-diverse -- because success requires “all hands on deck.” We will explore becoming an expert in your practice area and increasing your name and brand recognition both within your firm and externally. For many years, I have participated in a professional networking group for women of color, many of whom I will interview for this blog. They will provide their roadmaps for success and their life lessons learned along the journey. If the concrete ceiling cannot be cracked, you might have to knock on a few doors. Make sure when they open, you have prepared yourself to enter.
A journey is often described as the act of traveling from one place to another. True to its name, my monthly column, The Journey, explores the winding, challenging and rewarding journeys of female attorneys and law students as they venture through law school, manage student loan debt, build careers and even explore leaving the practice of law for something else. The Journey is a place where I will share my own thoughts and experiences on these topics as well as sharing interviews to gain insight into the experiences of others. As a legal analyst of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, I have a passion for travel and exploration. The Journey will incorporate the ways in which traveling and embarking on adventures can help shape law school experiences and legal careers. I’m excited to be on this Writers in Residence journey with Ms. JD and its readers!
Ms. Pre-JD will focus on clarifying the pre-law path by discussing all of the options an undergrad has before the actual law school application. The column will explore common concerns of pre-law students, such as finding internships, developing professional networks, and choosing majors. I also hope to share some of my own experiences and frustrations with giving meaning to being a "pre-law student" at a school with no pre-law track, and I will offer the non-academic options I find helpful to increase my interaction with the legal field.
In September of my first year of law school, my husband and I decided my plate wasn’t quite full enough and decided to start our family at the same time. I am now in my third year and thriving both as a law student and a mama to a very energetic toddler. This blog will provide support for pre-law individuals, law students, and attorneys that have children, have children on the way, or are thinking about having children.
Monthly Mantra: Finding Health and Wellness in the Law
Monthly Mantra is a column providing readers with a mantra to meditate upon for each month of the year. As the seasons change, so do our goals, concerns and desires, necessitating breathing space for reflection and contemplation. Monthly Mantra creates a non-judgmental space for readers to overcome obstacles and flourish in their professional lives, while also managing the work life balance so many attorneys and law students struggle to achieve. In addition to each month's mantra, the column provides professional and physical challenges for readers to best embrace the spirit of the mantra and see its fulfillment in their lives. As a practicing attorney and certified yoga instructor, it is my hope that Ms. JD readers adopt the mantras and monthly challenges as a catalyst for real change professionally and personally as well as a mechanism to avoid the pitfalls and stressors commonly associated with demanding legal careers.
Failure Turned Inside Out
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
Maya Angelou’s acclaimed poem “Still I Rise” is one any woman who has ever been through something in order to get to something can relate to. But most times we fail to acknowledge these low points that have made us who we are. This is true in both our personal and professional lives. The word failure in itself is piercing, particularly for women, who have this terrible habit of internalizing failure of any kind as a representation of our character, worth, intelligence, or overall potential for success.
“Failure Turned Inside Out” will be a monthly dose of reality. The reality being that we are not our failure, but instead our failure is a part of our innate ability to constantly rise. These blog posts will not only encourage, but also remind us that failure is not about a moment, but rather what comes after the moment.
Each month I will interview successful female attorneys in hopes of drawing real testimonies and accounts of personal, professional, or academic failure these women faced. The women will not only share their moments of perceived failure, but will also elaborate on how they ultimately turned these experiences into positive, humbling, character-building paths to success in the legal field. Whether you are a pre-law individual, law student, or practicing attorney, my hope is that these women’s stories will offer a change in perspective about what it means to fail on the path to and within this profession in a way that gives you the space and opportunity to truly rise.
The Road Less Traveled: Alternative Legal Paths
Ripped jeans and anarchy signs? Buying a Tesla? Die Hard as a Christmas movie? The complete oeuvres of Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or LCD Soundsystem? The entire borough of Brooklyn (unless, of course, your family’s from there)? Those roads, that wood, and Robert Frost?
The interwebs define ‘alternative’ as being “one of two or more available possibilities.” So, what makes one choice alternative and the other simply a choice? And, as applied to the law, what is the road less traveled, and how do we get on (or off) that path?
This blog will explore many roads less taken for lawyers: whether they are roads we’ve chosen or roads we’ve found ourselves on. We’ll learn from lawyers who went ‘off-piste’ and jettisoned their AmLaw 200 career to go on an adventure, and lawyers who went to law school never intending to practice law long-term in the first place. We’ll learn how lawyers are making the gig economy work for them, lawyers who make time to pursue side passions, and lawyers whose careers and lives make them anything other than basic.
The M in Law: Mommy, Where are You?
From learning to live life as a survivor of domestic violence, exploring life as a single parent during most of law school, to falling in love at the gym, and learning to move forward, while raising children, the column focuses on a law alumni’s life after law school. Follow along and explore this law graduate’s experiences in the working world.
The column focuses on being a mom in a blended family, adjusting to life with the big three: three children (an elementary school age child, a rambunctious toddler, and soon to be born infant), working, and preparing for the bar exam.
Part-Time Law, Full-Time Life
The decision to attend a part-time law school program may be obvious for some, but carries complex ramifications. On one hand, law school is intended to consume a student’s life and provide exposure to every facet of the legal field. However, the reality for many students is that life impedes the dream of enrolling in a full-time program, especially for those who took time off prior to enrolling.
Moving to Colorado amid an economic boom made me realize that if I wanted to earn a J.D., immersion in a program would deprive me of a steady income. As a part-time student, I work harder to maintain a positive balance between work, school, and my family and friends. Nevertheless, I make compromises; in many ways, I cannot compete with full-time students who have limitless time to try jobs on for size or diversify resumes with ease. I would like to share my experiences achieving this balance and demonstrate how this approach to law school will prepare me for a positive outlook in my career and life.
LawTech and Women in Legal Tech
After graduating from law school in 2015 and practicing for a little under a year, I kept reading stories about exciting startups and wishing that my studies had prepared me for working in one. It turns out that as a lawyer or former lawyer, you can work in tech!
In this column I’ll draw from my own experience of transitioning from legal practice to working for a legal tech startup and delve into key themes, trends and vocabulary from the burgeoning legal tech industry, such as artificial intelligence and law chatbots.
I’ll also feature interviews with women who were formerly lawyers and are now innovators in the legal tech industry, as founders or staffers, and leading the way for disruption in the practice of law.
You'll Move Mountains, Kid.
I am a first-generation American who decided to make my fame and fortune off the rap game. Somewhere along the way I became a widow and a single-mother, and then...a law student?
This column is dedicated to focusing on the struggles and adversity that some students must overcome in order to succeed in law school and beyond. Through hard work, perseverance, careful planning and a heart full of hope, I share my own personal experiences in overcoming barriers to entering and succeeding in law school as well as similar stories from others. No matter what obstacles you must face to succeed, never give up, because you have mountains to move!
Skirting the Ceiling: Femininity as Professional Empowerment
The glass ceiling looms over the heads of professional women every day. It is a barrier subtle enough that it can be difficult to identify and analyze, but strong enough to inhibit women’s professional development. In law, while there seems to be agreed upon guidelines as how to act professionally, those lines become blurred when it comes to how to be a professional and a woman. Sometimes in the quest to be treated equally, women are told to mask their femininity to succeed, yet masculinity is rarely, if ever, seen as a detriment. Simultaneously, women and men are inherently different and bring diverse strengths to the workplace. I am on a mission to explore how gender affects women in law and how women can use both their personal skills and strengths as women to effectively skirt the ceiling and grow professionally.
Legal Writing Skills as a Tool of the Trade
Half the battle of being a lawyer is knowing the law; knowing how to write effectively about the law makes up a large part of the other half. In this column, I intend to help lawyers become more cognizant—and thereby stronger—legal writers by pointing out and deliberating certain stylistic matters that arose during the course of my judicial clerkship experience. For example, lawyers tend to value concision in a piece of legal writing. But is there a point at which concision starts to outweigh clarity to the detriment of the reader? On the other hand, how does a legal writer maintain cohesion so that a piece of writing flows and is easy to digest without at the same time being unnecessarily wordy? On that note, what exactly does cohesion mean in the first place? And in a field that is governed by countless procedural rules and where IRAC and CREAC dominate, how can a legal writer go about maintaining a sense of creativity in her or his writing? Matters of style like these are typically left to the discretion of the writer; yet certain stylistic tendencies, as this column will elucidate, can be more reader-friendly and appealing to readers than others and, when employed, inevitably result in a stronger piece of legal writing. Experienced lawyers know that the ability to write effectively is a necessary tool of the trade; by answering the questions posed and many others, my column aims to help lawyers sharpen that tool.
Take Two: The Journey to Retaking the Bar
THE BAR. Regardless of which jurisdiction you want to practice, the first step is passing the bar (unless you can waive in). Throughout law school, students are told which courses to take. For ten weeks post graduation, recent graduates are studying for the final challenge to becoming a licensed attorney.
What follows after the two (or three) days of the exam is known as “being in limbo,” where examinees are unsure whether they passed, but must continue their lives. The emotions and (possible) nightmares last until the day of results, where they are now replaced by either excitement or anger, despair, and frustration.
I fell in the latter, angry because I did not see my seat number, which soon turned into despair and tears. I was frustrated because I knew what I messed up on: MBE.
Failing the bar is something no one talks about. It seems almost taboo. In fact, many of the most successful people failed the bar the first time (hint: First Lady Michelle Obama).
So what happens now? What happens when the initial motivation is gone? What challenges lie? What can you do differently?
Knowing that you aren’t alone is the first step in the journey to retaking the bar.
Join the Conversation
My blog posts will add to the public dialogue on questions such as:
·How do we rally more men to become champions of equality for women in the legal profession?
·What does recent research say about ways in which implicit biases make it harder for women lawyers to progress up the ladder and how can we overcome these biases?
·How do our workplace policies that affect the success of women lawyers, such as hiring and parental leave policies, compare across other fields? How can we can improve these policies to increase the promotion of women lawyers?
My blog posts will explore these issues through conversations with peers, news articles, academic research, books, and other blog posts. The goal of my column is to mobilize more women and men to take action to reduce inequality for women in the legal profession – or at least pay more attention to these issues and join the conversation.