Six Seeds of Womanly Wisdom to Plant Early on in Your Career
Remember, way back in 2001, when Elle Woods, blonde lawyer/fashionista proved her parents, ex-boyfriend and snotty Vivian wrong and won the biggest case of the century, all because of her knowledge of perms? Or how about when Julia Roberts portrayed real-life wildcard Erin Brockovich and took down a large corporation and saved the day? Gone are the days of women fetching coffee and writing memos, this is a whole new era of law-abiding, and protecting, ladies in charge.
The American Bar reports that thirty-three percent of all lawyers in the United States are female, a statistic that has slowly yet steadily increased over the past ten years.
With the rising trend of women entering the legal field, we reached out to a super successful lady lawyer in Florida with a few tips to help turn that field into a healthy and happy garden growing strong for years to come…
We know that women, who are (typically always) awesome, organized and amazing in general, #duh, can have a very long and successful career in law. However, there are several aspects of this profession that can lead to some women burning out early.
(Someone’s got a case of the Mondays….)
“When I first started practicing and I thought I had to wear a dark gray suit to work every day, a little part of me died inside,” said Erin Aebel, a Florida Bar board certified health law specialist, and partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP in Tampa, FL.
As Sheryl Sandberg so succinctly wrote in her book “Lean In”, “we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
Leaning in, and learning that being proud to be ourselves is a key factor. Now, Aebel, one of the most successful health care attorneys in the state of Florida, can be found daily wearing colorful dresses, fabulous heels, and speaking her mind both online and in the office.
You go, girl.
As powerful, driven and successful women, girlfriends, wives, mothers and leaders, we need to look at our respective careers and know that there are many things expected from us: whether it’s societal pressure to have it all, husbands who have no idea how to sort laundry (really? You can’t throw your red shirts into a different basket than your white socks? Pink socks it is, then!), etc. Times have changed, and so have our roles.
Here are six tips from Erin Aebel — a wife, a mother and a lawyer extraordinaire, who also advocates for The American Diabetes Foundation (in her spare time!) who has survived and thrived in the legal profession for more than 20 years.
8. 1. Look at your law career like a garden you cultivate over time.
That garden needs constant planting, replanting and tending. It’s always changing and growing. Find peace enjoying the flowers and fruits, but also know that pesky pests, diseases and unpredictable weather can pop up at any time.
9. 2. Put yourself first.
You’ve heard the term “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Take the time you need even if you are extremely busy to work in some self care, whether it is exercise, a tea break (donut? no judgment here) or something else to recharge. You are better able to serve your clients, firm and family if you have first taken care of yourself. Running on empty too often will make you miserable and can affect and even end your career early.
10. 3. Do for others without regard to the billable hour.
Of course you need to be a financially responsible lawyer to be successful. But don’t forget that the law is a business and also a profession. And it is a helping profession. Some of the most rewarding work I have done has been pro bono and charity work. And it has also helped my business contacts to meet and work with clients and prospects in other contexts.
11. 4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and what you need.
I apply the manners and ethics my parents taught me to my business. I write handwritten thank you notes often. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes to understand their positions. And I work hard to be polite, ethical and responsive. But with all of that said, I have learned how important it is to express my opinion and to ask for help. Even if someone may disagree. Ask for what you need and what you want with courage and tact. This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn do. But I have found that if I fail to ask for what I need or want I become angry and bitter and it affects my family and my satisfaction with my career.
12. 5. Mentor and seek mentorship.
The nice thing about the law is that it can be a very long career. I’m in my 40s now and am smack dab in the middle of it. I’m helping younger lawyers in their careers. And I know great lawyers in their 60s who can teach me a lot. I know enough to feel accomplished. But I’m not bored because I’m still trying to improve. Make sure you are in a place and practice that is growing and that sees you as an important cultivator of that growth. Find mentors and apply #4 by asking for their help.
13. 6. Take stock and prepare a plan every year.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m an avid list maker. At the end of every year I look back over the past year and I think about what I liked and didn’t like., and I set goals for the following year. I make a list on my iPhone and I check it periodically throughout the year. It’s important to think about how and why you want to do things instead of just reacting to things as they fall in your lap. Make an effort to stop and reflect occasionally. This allows you to create a more purposeful practice.
14. And remember, in the words of the great Elle Woods…
Erin Smith Aebel is board certified as a health law specialist by the Florida Bar. She represents physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers in business law and including fraud and abuse, Stark, HIPAA and licensure. Erin’s clients include hospitals, physicians, physician group practices, diagnostic imaging centers, pharmacies, clinical laboratories and medical spas.
Erin regularly advises clients on Stark, fraud and abuse, HIPAA and licensure issues arising from joint ventures, acquisitions and changes of ownership. She regularly prepares and negotiates hospital-related agreements, physician employment agreements, and medical director agreements. Erin is frequently involved in licensure and scope of practice issues for her clients, including physicians, weight loss clinics, medical spas and other providers.