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Inbox: Personal values and experiences define 'all'

August 29, 2012
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Ms. Lucas:

Can women in the law have it all? I chuckle when I read this headline.

I chuckle at such a broad, open-ended question that is personal in a unique way to each reader. I am happy that the topic is at the forefront of conversations because it evokes emotion, raises awareness which leads to acceptance. Awareness and acceptance lead to ACTION.

First, a little about my background in candid form and how I identify with the community. I am a female, Amerasian, 35-year-old divorcing mother, solo practitioner of 6 years, professional model and distance runner. My areas of practice which I commonly refer to as money, dirt and debt were all chosen specifically based upon my life experiences.

Money, or rather banking law, was chosen because I am fascinated by currency – the lack there of or the lavishness of multiple zeros. I am a child of the government welfare system that experienced poverty and homelessness at a young age with my family. Dirt, or real estate law, stems from my desire to have a home with a concrete foundation having lived in a camper and single-wide trailer as a child. Debt, or bankruptcy law, stems from a combination of the latter two, and allows me to help those similarly situated through knowledge and experience. I have also had the unfortunate experience of watching and surviving my family be torn apart by mental illness and addiction … twice. And my client base continues to reflect my experiences. My practice areas allow synchronicity to connect the bridge to my own personal experiences. My experiences strengthen my learned book knowledge.

Back to the conversation of can women have it all? My answer is yes.

I often say, I have what I need, not necessarily what I want. And the most important needs that I have are love, happiness, compassion, open mindedness and willingness. These needs shape my perspective and define who I am. They give me purpose. And because my needs are met, I do in fact have it all. It is my humble opinion, that everyone, man or woman, can have it all too. I am not special, but I do have gifts and talents that make me unique. And I have tools that allow me to share my gifts and talents, purposefully. I have let go of my desire for perfection, my biggest Achilles heel, and have ultimately chosen to live a life of contentment and peace. I am not certain whether everyone wants the same of what I have, but my guess is that many do.

I work nationally and locally on women in the law issues. I have chaired the Women and the Law Division for IndyBar, I sit on the Women in Law Committee for the ISBA, I serve on the Board for Women Rainmakers of the ABA LPM, and I am on the editorial board for Perspectives, the magazine for women lawyers published by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. My involvement does not make me an expert on this topic. From all of my experience, however, I have identified two forefront challenges that women lawyers face and there stems the question of can women have it all. The first challenge is how a woman lawyer views herself. The second challenge (which I call the true “war on women”) are women lawyers who recognize themselves in the profession simply as lawyers, and not women.

In my perspective, it is not a disadvantage to be a woman in the profession so long as I know who I am. It is when I forget who I am, or try to be somebody that I am not, that I lose sight of my goals. If I try to accustom or assimilate to any so-called “norm” or “standard,” or strictly follow the direction or advice that my intuition speaks against, I am not me and, therefore, not as effective in anything I do, including practicing law.

In regards to the second challenge that I identify above, I understand both sides of the coin. But one side of the coin is more fearful than the other. I have observed and overheard many women who believe women should assimilate to the customs of the profession to “blend.”

Some women desire to be only recognized for their professional accomplishments, identifying as an attorney rather than as a woman first. They may not recognize the reward in sharing what they have learned in their own experience. Who created the customs of our profession anyway? And who is to judge what is right or wrong for an individual? Neither of those questions can be answered by black letter or case law.

As I often quote: A woman that seeks to be equal with men lacks ambition – Marilyn Monroe. I can disagree with you, but still love and respect you the same. Each person is uniquely tailored by their experience, but history has shown that our similarities bond us together stronger than our differences. I am a woman that practices law. I will share more similarities in my perspective and experience with another woman than I will with a man. I understand what it is like to be a woman, not a man. And if my experience can help another, I have a human duty to help. I help myself feel useful, serve my purpose, grow, and help my profession and community by helping another. It just so happens that I may be more helpful to more women than men in certain areas simply because I am a woman. What a gift! And I recognize the dozens of MEN and women that have helped me to come to this place where I have it all.

Your editorial and this conversation have once again reinvigorated me. I have thought for years to assist in founding the Indiana Women’s Bar Association and have excused myself from service to focus on other matters. It now seems timely to assist the movement forward of helping other women have it all too. Time to assemble! Thanks for once again opening the door!

L. Leona Frank, Attorney at Law
Indianapolis

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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