DTCI: Do we have to pay a price to practice law and have it all?

October 31, 2018

dtci-erikson-kathleen.jpgAs I sit here, nearly six months pregnant, I’m prepping for two trials before the end of the year, preparing to travel overnight for work this week and, well, writing this article. Not to mention, I’m also staring at a pile of laundry and trying to monitor my 2-year-old son to make sure he’s not destroying our house and wiping donut frosting all over the walls. But I’m also aware that I’m not the only Indiana lawyer in this position. So, why do we do it? After all, it seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

We all do countless activities on a weekly basis. Many of us can put hundreds of miles on our personal vehicles in a week, traveling for meetings, depositions and hearings (among other things). We sit in our offices and make phone calls, we respond and write emails, draft motions and deposition outlines, and do legal research. These tasks encompass our career choice of attorney and, in fact, these tasks actually encompass a big part of our lives.

Whether those of us putting countless miles on our cars have spouses, children, ailing parents or are single and living the good life, drinking cosmos or Manhattans after work at a trendy local bar, the work, travel and demands of our job follow us. (Let’s all pause to chuckle at my definition of “living the good life”). It doesn’t matter if you are a criminal defense attorney, a personal injury attorney, a defense lawyer or a plaintiff lawyer. I would also venture to say that it does not matter whether you are a young lawyer starting your career or a seasoned attorney with appellate arguments and countless jury trials under your belt.

Recently, I’ve been to several seminars where the concept of the “millennial” has been discussed. Why do I bring this up? Well, I can’t help but wonder if my somewhat whiny attitude about trying to “do it all” is related to my personal status as a millennial — a title I have worked my short but whole six-year career as an attorney to ward off. And I’ve come to the conclusion, and perhaps a very millennial one at that, that it is not just me. It is not just 30-year-old attorneys complaining about their to-do lists, work travel, home and family. It also isn’t just pregnant attorneys, mom attorneys, millennial attorneys and women attorneys who attempt to do it all and have it all. Everyone reading this paper does this. Maybe not every day or every week, but all Indiana lawyers are guilty of the crime of overdoing it to be successful.

So, do we all feel like we are drowning? Probably not, or at least I hope not. Some days I definitely feel like I have it all together. But what can we all do to help each other — and not just defense attorneys, but all members of the Indiana bar — during those days and weeks when we are struggling? I would be lying if I said I got this far in my career without an amazingly supportive husband and family and incredible mentors within my own firm. But along the way, I’ve also been fortunate to have the understanding, advice and input of helpful opposing counsel, colleagues in the defense bar and supportive office staff.

As I prepare for my second child, the resounding phrase “it takes a village” rings in my head. But that phrase is not just about raising children. It is something we can all do on a daily basis for our part in the Indiana legal community. Agree to that extension for the attorney on the opposite side of the courtroom. Review a motion for a first-year attorney in your firm. Take something off your assistant’s plate. Laugh when something doesn’t go exactly your way. Take part of your day to breathe, take it all in and realize that we as lawyers are part of a fairly elite part of society because of all we are tasked with and all we have to work to accomplish. Because in the end, we all want to have everything, including successful careers that encompass being zealous advocates for our clients, persuasive writers and skillful litigators.•

Kathleen Erikson is an associate attorney with O’Neill McFadden & Willett LLP. Opinions expressed are those of the author.


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