LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2016: Michele Lorbieski Anderson

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Michele Lorbieski Anderson joined the firm’s litigation department six years ago and has worked since to make an impact in the legal community. Her ethics and honesty have been described as refreshing, and she has focused her work in the community on underserved areas and helping children in challenging situations. Michele is dedicated to making the profession more diverse and is the current chair of the Indianapolis Bar Association’s 2016 Diversity Job Fair.

anderson-michel-15col.jpg (IL photo/Eric Learned)

What is the most important lesson you learned from your mentor?

Not to be embarrassed about taking credit for my accomplishments. In the last few years I’ve read articles referring to what I was doing as the impostor syndrome or the confidence gap. I’m grateful to have a name for it so that I can tell other women how they can stop getting in the way of their success.

What needs to be done to make the legal profession more diverse, especially in leadership roles?

I can say that the most successful strategy that I’ve seen is to ensure that diverse attorneys have both mentors and champions. In my view, a mentor teaches you the written and unwritten rules you need to know, and a champion is someone in a position of authority that helps you succeed. I imagine all successful attorneys can tell you about a time they made a mistake and someone helped them through it, or they were given an opportunity by someone in a position to help them advance. Without both mentors and champions any attorney is less likely to succeed.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

I would be a professional organizer. There is nothing more satisfying to me than organizing a mess. Some people go to yoga. I go to my closet.

What will the legal profession look like in 15 years?

Law schools will have to adapt with an increased focus on teaching practical skills through clinics and improving job prospects through networking opportunities. The pressure to reduce legal fees makes it difficult to allow new attorneys two to three years to learn how to practice effectively, and poor job prospects after graduation makes law school a difficult financial proposition.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I can’t snap with my left hand. This was a big source of anxiety when I was in elementary school.

What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

My best tip is to create the village that everyone needs to raise their kids and let the villagers do their part. When I quit trying to have it all (translation: do it all), I found work and life much easier to balance. In the moments that guilt about working too much creeps into my thoughts, I remind myself that my daughter Izzy enjoys a much fuller life because of the time she spends with a lot of different people that love her.

Why did you spearhead the firm’s application as a member of IndyBar’s Green Legal Initiative?

Since I joined FBT in 2009, I have been impressed by the firm’s willingness to innovate when law firms are not known for embracing change. When the Indianapolis Bar (Association) started the Green Legal Initiative a few years ago, I thought it was a good opportunity for FBT to put that spirit of innovation toward being more environmentally conscious.

Why practice in the area of law that you do?

I enjoy the variety of subjects that I am exposed to as a business litigator. While the causes of action may be similar from one case to another, each business is different.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Luckily my life has been too surprising to confidently predict where I will be in 20 years. I can tell you that the most significant event that has changed the way I live my life was having my daughter four years ago. I hope that whatever I’m doing in 20 years makes Izzy proud. It might sound silly to measure your success through the eyes of a child, but I can’t think of a better way to view my life than through that honest lens.

What is one misconception people tend to have about what you do for a living?

When I introduce myself as an attorney to people who are not in the legal field, they often assume that I know everything about the law. I’m flattered, but grateful that I don’t have to know it all.

What was the most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Before I started law school I worked as a nanny for a family with four children. The older two children were in school, so I spent a year of memorable days with a sweet baby and a fearless toddler.

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