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Figuring out how ‘it’ works

When I was approached by Generation J.D. with an invitation to blog, I was excited about the opportunity. I don’t perceive myself as an expert on any subject at this stage in my career. After all, I only graduated from law school a year and a half ago. Thus, I have very little to offer in the way of “sage” advice. What I do have, and why you are reading my blog entry now, is (at least what I think is) a unique perspective.

I did not come from a family of lawyers; I came from a family of artists. My great grandmother was a poet; my grandmother was an artist; my mother and sister are artists; and my three brothers are both artistic and musical.

I am proud of those roots. But while I dabbled in music and the arts (I always had a particular affinity for poetry and short stories) growing up, I ultimately put myself through college working as a paralegal. All told, I worked at law firms in Maryland and D.C. for almost 10 years before I started law school. I worked hard, and I worked a lot. And I learned an amazing amount from working with some great lawyers — including some incredible women who I am proud to call my role models.

While I knew that my end goal was to work as a lawyer at a firm, law school changed my perspective about myself. In law school, for the first time, it was not about getting the work done: It was about figuring out how “it” worked (be “it” the law, the grading curve, the professors’ minds, or the numeric locks on various extracurricular doors). Actually, that is precisely the point at my daughter’s Montessori school, too, but I digress. What no one told me was that I was the most critical and variable part of how anything that I did worked (or didn’t work, as the case may be).

Little by little, I figured out how I worked. Outlines and charts worked for me; color-coded highlighters did not. Despite my detail-oriented tendencies, which some might consider borderline obsessive, I discovered that I actually connected better to subjects and professors when I obsessed less over every little nuance and instead focused on where and how the pieces fit into the larger picture. I rediscovered my love of research and writing. And in the process of learning about how I worked, I discovered that I was actually pretty good at what I did (thanks, in no small part, to some professors who believed in me and took the time to tell me so).

Law school also taught me that I could do so much more than I ever thought possible. For example, I had both of my children during law school (my daughter was born two weeks before my second year began; my son was born in the middle of my last semester), and still graduated alongside my incoming class. And in the midst of it all, I got a federal clerkship (which is another story in and of itself), and a job at the firm of my choice. To other women in the legal field who have done what we were repeatedly told was impossible:  We rock.

So, here I am. I am an associate in Saul Ewing LLP’s labor, employment, and employee benefits practice group in Baltimore. I am the mother of a 3-year-old daughter and a son who will be two in March. I have a wonderful husband who, despite his demanding job, is an amazing facilitator of my own. And I look forward to sharing my journey with you.


  1. The Daily Record could not have selected a better commentator. Great job, Heather!

  2. Welcome aboard, Heather!

  3. Been There Done That

    Heather —

    Great post. When I graduated from Georgetown Law School, my son was 21 months, my daughter was 3 months, and I had worked full-time during my entire 4-year stint (I went to law school in Georgetown’s evening division). I used to take the kids to class in a Snugli, a fact that all of my classmates knew, but which surprised the bejeezus out of my commercial law professor one evening during class when my son came rising up out of the Snugli like Godzilla. The professor literally dropped the chalk (yes, it was a while ago). Even though I sat in the front row, I guess he thought that I was still pregnant, and didn’t notice that the lump was now an actual baby.

    The oldest is now grown and graduated from college, but during the years in which you now find yourself, I think the key is to have a commitment to getting things done. There are ways that work for different people, but it sounds like your law school journey helped you identify what works for you. Good luck with the journey.

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll be on the lookout for more.