In celebration of Women's History Month, the Firm will showcase each of our distinguished female lawyers. Check back daily for updates and insights from the women of Gordon Feinblatt.
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, multi-tasking, 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 that 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 9 years and then went to law school after they were both 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 4 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 2 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 older sister has been very influential in my life. She continues to be a guide for me throughout many personal experiences, but I am also fortunate enough to have her as a guide for my career. She is also an attorney. She practices debt finance and is able to give me tangible advice on the practical ins and outs of transactional work, which is incredibly helpful as I learn to navigate corporate law as my area of focus. It’s like having a practice area coach who also understands aspects of associate life at a firm. She knows me better than anyone else (and is lots of fun), so she is able to influence me in a very positive and personal way.
Generosity, consideration and respect.
Making a conscious effort to remember there is an entire world outside of my office and that I need to make the most of it every day. Literally, there is an entire planet Earth that I remember I need to explore physically and intellectually as much as life will allow. I also try my best to stay connected with family and friends as a reminder that my life has many important sectors that require individual and separate attention, rather than just focusing on my daily work schedule. Lastly, I spend a lot of time finding ways to increase my mental and physical health to live a happy life and have a great career. I incorporate fun ways to focus on my physical health like spin class, which I love!
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 ABA committee activities and speaking & 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.