Be Fearless … and Share a Laugh

To be successful, one needs smarts, grit, and likeability. If you’re reading this, I will assume you have the smarts. Instead, I will focus on grit and likeability, as I think confidence, fearlessness, hard work, and the ability to make those around you laugh will take you to the top of the ladder, and break a few shards of that glass ceiling in the process.

Early in my legal career and 19 months into motherhood of twins, I was both blessed and devastated by breast cancer. I was 33 years old, gunning for partnership, and in denial about how much this diagnosis would change the life I had built. I had always worked hard and stayed focused, but now I had to work hard at surviving chemotherapy, while also addressing opposing counsel and meeting prosecution deadlines. My world was rocked. But, what doesn’t kill you truly does make you stronger. When I came out of surgery and my toddler twins looked at me and said, “Get strong, like rock, Mommy,” I knew I had to do that for them, but also for myself.

Once my health returned, I had a new energy and confidence, in large part because I was no longer afraid. I think fear of making a mistake or coming off as too aggressive, or too feminine, or too [insert whatever fear of judgment you have here] hinders many young female attorneys. Suddenly, I wasn’t really afraid of anything, except getting very sick again. That fearlessness drove me to asking for partnership, before it was offered to me. It drove me to asking clients what they wanted from me, rather than waiting to get feedback from them. If you can figure out how to work hard in a fearless manner, the opportunities are there for the taking.

And, if you have the chutzpah to go for it professionally and make a lasting impression with some laughs along the way, you will build true friendships with peers. When we laugh together, we build a bond that is genuine and create lasting friendships that can turn into loyal clients. The legal profession will take more hours away from your family than anything else. If you can stay focused and happy through that, you’ll have a fruitful career. Finding a way to laugh every single day, with colleagues, clients, and family, is part of my secret chocolate sauce (because everything is better with chocolate).