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Women@Law: Stepping Out (of Your Comfort Zone)

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Every time I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, it has hurt. But I have not once regretted it.

In 2012 I had to cover a hearing for my supervisor. The hearing was supposed to be simple and straightforward.  It was not supposed to take long. However, everything turned out how I least expected.

The hearing that was supposed to last five minutes lasted five hours as I waited for other attorneys to take their turns with their clients before the Judge. I came back a second and then a third time; I went back and forth with the Judge on the record; and I interacted with my client. I was not prepared for that marathon day in Court when what I had been expecting was a five-minute hearing. At the end of the day, I just wanted to hide: despite my all-afternoon efforts, we would have to appeal.

I felt like I had let my client and myself down.

After several months, I took a step back and reflected. I learned practical things, such as (1) always to take my Statute with me to Court, and (2) to be prepared for a hearing to last all day.

But I also learned a deeper lesson to apply to life in general both in my professional and personal lives. I learned that undesirable situations might just bring a person to the edge of discomfort only to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective, a new relationship, or some other productive and creative energy or opportunity.

That day I embarrassed myself in front of my colleagues, the Judge, and my client. But after further examining the experience, I realize that I also made a valuable friendship with another attorney who went through the same experience by my side. And out of that friendship, I have been able to commiserate, receive advice, and even give advice. In summary, I learned that even the ugliest situations can still produce hope; you just have to look – and practice looking – for it.

When we reflect, we learn. And when we fall, we do not have to stay defeated. We can stand back up, and we can learn from the negative. Coming to a positive conclusion after enduring hard circumstances is not comfortable. In fact, it can be a bit reckless; but it is unexpectedly worthwhile.

My overarching advice for young lawyers is to search for that unexpected gift – a lesson, relationship, or new skill – in difficult circumstances. Searching deep and wide for the good within the bad is definitely a practice that I have had to acquire intentionally. But those trying situations have allowed me to practice seeking the underlying positive message despite facing adversity.

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About Melanie Glover

I started law school in 2007 to combine my passions for helping people and writing. By graduation and the bar exam in 2010, I found myself in the same position as several of my peers: without job prospects. So I moved to Texas and gained legal experience in both non-profit and private-practice settings before returning home to practice as in-house counsel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All views expressed are my own.

7 comments

  1. There is no hubris like the hubris of a lawyer — I am speaking about myself. I simply can’t believe the number or times that a colleague told me that it would be “simple” ..or better yet, “the judge will give you a continuance. . guaranteed” when neither was the case.

    My best courtroom learning experiences were the times when, subsequent to a court appearance, I had to ask: “What went wrong there and how can I prevent it from happening again?” What came out of that is that I now anally over prepare for everything. Perhaps an annoyance, but I can think of worse things to be guilty of.

    P.S. One of my best attorney friends now is a “woman at law” with whom I had a screaming match outside of a courtroom after she had misunderstood what I had just told the judge during a hearing . . To this day we laugh about it till the tears start to roll. . .

    Great thoughtful piece, my thanks.

    • Hi Philip, and thank you for your comments. It sounds as though we had similar experiences. I thought I prepared well before, but after this experience I had to reevaluate. Still, there are circumstances we cannot anticipate, and I think that is part of the learning process, too: thinking and adapting quickly. I’m glad you could relate!

  2. This was such a timely post. I just happened to sign on to Martindale for the very first time today and this blog post touched on exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. Plus my name is Melanie so it must be divine. I can only draw from laws chool and intern experiences because I’m still in search for a job, BUT this post encouraged me to “stand back up and learn from the negative”. Thanks for posting.

    • Hi Melanie! Nice to “meet” you! Stay strong and positive, and don’t give up your desire to be a great young lawyer in whatever field interests you. Just remember, there’s very likely always something to learn from both the good and not-so-good experiences we have. Best of luck to you!

  3. Love this article – on par advice for all difficult circumstances, both professional and personal. Being able to identify both the negative (easy) and positive aspects n a situation takes practice, but develops resilience and maturity. It also makes life suck less. :)

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