Life lessons: Lawyers share their experience in podcast series
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
It’s a question that ABA Journal podcast host Stephanie Francis Ward loves to ask, one that can prompt incredible stories. It’s the question that inspired her to create a special series of her Asked and Answered podcast, titled Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned. Ward spoke with six experienced lawyers from around the country to find out what lessons they’ve learned while practicing law, and what those lessons have meant for them both personally and professionally.
Mia Yamamoto, who was born in a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II, says her life lesson was the importance of living as her true self—a lesson she put into practice after 20 years as a trial lawyer by transitioning genders. Andrés Gallegos, whose spinal cord was injured after a car accident, learned that he was the only one with the power to decide what expectations he should have for his life and career, and he went on to become a disability rights advocate with a full-time law practice. Former Justice Cruz Reynoso spent his early years working alongside Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to protect the rights of migrant laborers and the rural poor, and became the first Latino to sit on the California Supreme Court. His lesson came from his father, a farmworker, who insisted that every job is worth doing to the fullest of your abilities. All of the guests on Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned have wisdom to share with attorneys at any age or stage of their career.
Below you’ll find excerpts from each interview. To listen to full episodes of Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned, go to abajournal.com/livedandlearned or look for Asked and Answered via your favorite podcast listening service.
Michele Coleman Mayes
Vice president and general counsel for the New York Public Library
Life lesson: Difficult conversations can save relationships.
“You need to go in, again, with this mindset of ‘This is something that I’m doing because I want to improve a situation.’ And likewise, be open-minded. Don’t go in assuming you know the answer or what the person is going to say to you.”
“You have to work harder to listen to someone you’d rather not hear talk.”
“Simply keeping your head down and accepting your fate is not what we’re advocating. ... Indeed, you owe it to yourself—and potentially your career—to figure out what’s really going on here.”
Partner with Robbins, Salomon & Patt in Chicago
Life lesson: Set your own expectations, rather than letting others decide for you.
“My best clients ... want me for my mind and for my advice, and that’s what I give them.”
“When I became a double-hyphened attorney—that is, a Hispanic, disabled attorney—I knew I had to work even more harder. Again, to show individuals—and myself—that I could do what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that was becoming a lawyer.”
“The only limiting factor to someone with a disability achieving their dreams are the environmental barriers that exist. But if you’re determined to pursue your dreams and live your life to the fullest, the way that you define it, you can achieve that.”
This article was published in the July 2018 ABA Journal magazine with the title "Life Lessons: Lawyers share their experience on the Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned podcast."