In celebration of Women's History Month, Gordon Feinblatt is showcasing each of our distinguished women lawyers. Check back daily for updates and insights from the women of Gordon Feinblatt.
Gordon Feinblatt acknowledges the efforts of all of the women attorneys, paralegals and staff who make this firm special. The impact of each individual is significant, and the firm sends a very special thank you to the women of Gordon Feinblatt!
The next generation of women entering the workforce should come in with the desire to work hard, seek mentors in her field, and also have the awareness and understanding to not always accept the status quo. As our workforce becomes more diverse, managers and company owners are finally seeing that it is not only in the best interests of the employees but also in the best interests of the business to hire a more diverse workforce. Because of the different backgrounds, cultural experiences and life experiences, the workforce benefits by having those different perspectives being introduced to the problems/solutions that the business encounters. As an Asian American woman attorney, I have a different perspective and insight into clients that come from different cultural backgrounds that allows me to connect with them more easily. As a mother, my ability to multitask, organize and prioritize as well as my compassion and disciplinary skills have an influence on my ability to manage professionally, which then benefits the firm. So while work/life balance should definitely be adhered to, our experiences as a woman, sister, mother, daughter, coach, etc. can be applied to how we approach our work.
Compassionate, problem solving and discerning.
Honesty, integrity and kindness.
My advice to young women entering the workforce is to be true to yourself, stand up for what you believe and never compromise your values. Women need to use their knowledge, skills and experiences to be part of the conversation and discussion, to find their voices or “lean in” and not wait to be invited.
I am inspired to see women finding their voices, being recognized for being tough, smart, competent and able to solve problems, while also respected for caring about others, being compassionate and understanding differences. One change we can all make is to see ourselves as leaders who happen to be women, not as women leaders.
Know your worth and show your worth. Many women are not as comfortable as men in selling themselves, touting their accomplishments, and asking for what they want and deserve, and therefore often do not get it.
I am the current board President and was a founding Director of There Goes My Hero, a 501(c)(3) that saves lives by adding potential bone marrow donors to the bone marrow donor registry. We also provide nourishment to patients and families impacted by blood cancer by funding nutritious meals. As a leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient celebrating my 10th anniversary of my transplant this month, I am very passionate about the cause. Our ultimate goal would be that every patient in need of a bone marrow transplant can find a match.
Intelligent, determined and witty.
Seek out other women at your workplace as friends and mentors. I’ve learned so much from the women at Gordon Feinblatt who’ve paved the way for me, and I count on my peers for support and a good laugh on stressful days.
I’m the board President of the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation, a local nonprofit in my neighborhood that empowers our community by supporting community engagement, housing development and entrepreneurship. I love seeing my neighbors come together to work toward a common goal, whether it's starting and supporting small businesses, celebrating a holiday in one of our great parks, or helping someone become a first-time homeowner. Dundalk is a hidden gem (43 miles of beautiful waterfront) with so much potential, and I love helping to revitalize the area I call home.
When I started at Gordon Feinblatt, Michele Walsh was assigned to be my mentor. Michele has been a role model since day one, introducing me to people, demonstrating how to be a leader in the community and at work, all while being a really fun person to be around. Michele takes a lot of time out of her packed schedule to have breakfast with me regularly. It makes a huge difference to have someone in your corner showing you how to be a good lawyer and a good person.
I’d also be remiss not to mention my third grade teacher, Mrs. Mount. She believed in me so fiercely as a child and was always very clear that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to and that always stuck with me. She made the world feel limitless, and that allowed me to push myself to explore my passions.
My mother encouraged me to give people the benefit of the doubt and to try not to take things personally. By ascribing the best intentions to another, you avoid a lot of drama. This principle has served me well in my personal and professional relationships.
Values I try to live by, and that I appreciate in others are: integrity, commitment to doing one’s best, kindness and compassion.
Finding work/life equilibrium is an ongoing process — I’m always making adjustments in pursuit of that elusive balance. I have found it important to make specific commitments to my life outside of work, because those activities and relationships are what bring depth to my life. I’ve learned that I must put on my calendar the things that are important to me, whether it be attending my children’s sporting events, taking a class, volunteering with a nonprofit or going to the gym. If I make doing those things nonnegotiable, I find a way to get the work done.
I have a few pieces of advice that I would like to share. First, seek out a sponsor who will advocate on your behalf. Most people are happy to help when asked, so don’t be afraid to ask. Second, even when you think you are too busy to do it, get out from behind your desk and meet with people regularly. The time away from the office will be refreshing and the personal connections will be rewarding. Lastly, work hard and do good work, but do not assume that just doing good work will be enough. Sometimes, you must advocate for yourself and remind people of your value (and your good work!).
Integrity, courtesy and gratitude.
Playing paddle (platform tennis) in the winter or tennis in the summer, watching my daughter play softball and soccer, and hanging out with friends. I find that these things, combined with fresh air, help me to recharge and face each day with a more positive attitude.
Understand that your first job will probably not be your last, but try to make the most of each opportunity by treating it as a learning experience. Even if you don’t find yourself in love with a particular workplace or role, there are probably skills you are honing or individuals you are interacting with who are teaching you or adding value to your experience. You may not find enjoyment in every role, but remember that you are probably acquiring new skills, meeting new contacts (whether these are clients or colleagues), or exposing yourself to a new field or subject matter that will broaden your knowledge base, and this will make you more valuable to your next employer or company.
Logical, levelheaded and loyal.
Treat every client as if he or she were the most important person in your life. This will ensure that you provide the best possible service and focus on what is best for them even through the most challenging issues and even when there is no clear right answer to their problem.
Integrity, reliability and diligence.
Technology and being networked with my office has enabled me to be involved in my kids’ lives in meaningful ways (such as serving as my daughter’s Girl Scout troop leader and my son’s Cub Scout den leader) while still providing excellent service to my clients. Sometimes, I have to work at night or take client calls while on vacation, but that is sometimes what needs to be done. I feel lucky that I have the type of profession that gives me that flexibility.
Do not be afraid to take on and accept criticism. Some of the greatest tips or advice that I remember and carry with me as a litigation attorney was when my peers, colleagues, judges or jurors provided feedback about my work and performance during trial. I have learned to welcome the opinions and thoughts of others even if they are unsolicited.
Growing up with a single mother was a great model for hard work, discipline, multitasking, organization and independence, all of which created a foundation for my personal and work life today.
Disciplined, pragmatic and confident.
I am passionate about Harford Family House (HFH) and its mission to end homelessness in Harford County. HFH is the only organization in Harford County that is able to keep the entire family intact. When the family already feels hopeless, the last thing its members need is to be separated from each other. I have seen firsthand the changes that the organization has brought to the lives of its clients, and I am honored to play my part.
Sibyl Gordon, our former personnel director, has made a difference in my life, because she is one of the people who pushed me to pursue a law degree. She has counseled me, guided me and supported me from my first day at the firm as a work-study intern.
Honesty, integrity and compassion.
Running, baking and journaling a brief thought at the end of the day before I go to sleep. All of these activities allow me to think and reflect about whatever is forefront in my mind and that awareness makes me feel fulfilled.
Dependability, trustworthiness and authenticity.
I make sure that the things I’m doing in my life outside of work are things that I enjoy and will look forward to doing. The excitement to do the things outside of work gives me the energy to follow through and do a good job. I also like to overlap my activities outside of work so I can accomplish multiple things at once, like chatting with friends during a run or on the way to a yoga class. Inviting people to the events I’m attending allows me to see and talk with new and old acquaintances and friends at a single place, like a bar association happy hour or other networking event. I’m also really careful with my calendar and make sure to include all of my activities in one place.
Balancing family and career is possible and rewarding. I stayed at home with my children for nine years and then went to law school after they were in school full time. I also almost never missed a play, sporting event or other event in which my children participated (even while working full time as an attorney).
Exercise, meditate and spend time with friends.
Empathetic, practical and knowledgeable.
I watch Game of Thrones, I play with my parent’s giant German shepherd dog, Franklin, and I spend time with my fiancé.
When I was deciding whether to attend law school, and even in to my first year, there were many times I would doubt whether I was following the right path; the work was hard (at the time), I had no money, I was taking on significant debt, and all of my friends had already begun their careers. I would stress and nearly panic about my future, and I didn’t know whether to quit or keep going. It may sound strange, but the strategy that got me through was forcing myself to stop thinking any further then the very next day. I focused on one day at a time, one small task at a time, and it worked. I graduated law school with honors and I ended up practicing law in the field I enjoy most. I have found since that scaling down any obstacle or goal to the day-to-day level makes them possible to overcome and achieve.
Honesty, compassion and conviction.
In my era, I did not have a woman as a mentor. The founding partners at Gordon Feinblatt, particularly Gene Feinblatt and Donald Rothman, gave me responsibility and were great role models and leaders in the legal, cultural, civic and political communities in Baltimore.
About four years after I came to Gordon Feinblatt in 1981, I felt that the practice, and in particular the stress and demands of trying cases, was overwhelming. I still had two teenagers at home at that time and a husband in public life. I considered getting out of the practice of law. I stuck it out and learned how to put all the energy I needed into the cases but not make them the exclusive controlling factor in my life. Family came first.
I do not believe there is ever a “defining moment” in life. You can never be exactly where you "want to be” because there is always something new ahead. Not sitting back on your laurels, but continuing to learn as if you do not know everything is how to keep your edge.
Resilience, integrity and dependability.
My advice to women attorneys about a career at a law firm is do your best, don’t give up, but do it your way. There were many points in my legal career (which has spanned almost 38 years) when I thought it would be nice to quit. This was particularly true when my children were young. I felt pulled in different directions and it was hard. But, I persevered primarily, because I enjoyed the people I was working with (attorneys at the law firm, attorneys at the bar, and many clients) and the work was stimulating. In the end, I would tell myself, I’ll establish a schedule and a practice that works for me (“do it my way”).
I have managed my business development/client outreach the same way. I chose activities I enjoyed (primarily American Bar Association committee activities and speaking and presentations). If that worked, great; if not, so be it. It seems to have worked, perhaps because I enjoyed what I was doing.
Like many, I experienced calls about other jobs. While no other law firm was of interest (I’m at the best firm for me), in-house opportunities were always intriguing. However, in the end, I do not believe an in-house job would have allowed me the flexibility to “do it my way." I appreciate — and think it is important for women attorneys to recognize — that there is great autonomy and control over the work schedule at a law firm. If you do your best and don’t give up, I believe you can “do it your way” and enjoy the ride.
I must give credit to Carla Witzel. She was an amazing role model (smarter than anyone I know) and was a best buddy at the office. If you can find someone like that, latch on.