Over the last three years, I have had the incredible opportunity to work at Bodie with Thomas J. Dolina, who, in my opinion, is perhaps one of the most skilled, articulate litigators that I have observed. Tom has certainly mastered his craft.
These may merely seem like the words of a young associate who admires her supervising attorney. But I sat in court almost daily when I clerked for Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge H. Patrick Stringer Jr. My department litigates; that is all we do. So, when I say that Tom is one of the best, I make this observation having watched, worked with and worked against quite a few litigators.
While I have brought in some cases on my own, I have primarily worked with Tom on his cases and in his department. From Tom, I have learned to do almost everything in the litigation process: drafting a complaint or answer, drafting and responding to written discovery, taking depositions, attending mediation sessions, filing, opposing and arguing motions and, ultimately, trying cases. I have even had the opportunity to do some appellate work.
But, three years in now, who am I and who will I be? Will I follow in Tom’s path exactly or will I forge my own?
While I have asked myself those questions, I never gave them much pause. I simply accepted that I would continue to work in whatever capacity that Bodie needed me.
Then I walked into an early morning marketing meeting today with some of the attorneys in my firm.
“Sarah, where do you see your career going?” they asked. “What kind of attorney do you want to be?”
The answer to questions that I had not really pondered immediately came spilling out of my mouth.
“I love to write,” I said. “When I get a new motion to write or oppose, I’m almost giddy. I love diving into the facts, the research, and the writing process. I even love writing appellate briefs. I enjoy litigating and arguing, but I love to write.”
I had not known that those words were in my head or that they were the ones I would say when asked those questions. I had never gotten that far in the thought process.
The answer was met with a great deal of support and encouragement from the other attorneys. Tom was the first to speak up, saying that I am a very strong legal writer and that there is certainly a niche in our profession, and even within my firm, for that skill set.
Tom explained that there are attorneys who focus on writing motions and appellate briefs and that he believed that I would be extremely successful in that venue.
Where this revelation as to who I want to be when I “grow up” takes me, I do not know. Who would have thought that, at age 29, I’d still have to ask myself what I want to do, particularly when I’m practicing at a law firm that I love? Yet, maybe that is a question worth asking at any age. How thrilling to have identified what I love and to work toward making that the focus of my practice.
I look forward to exploring this newly identified career path and am so fortunate to work at a law firm that does not merely put its associates on an assembly-line career path, but encourages us to develop our own unique skill sets and to pursue our professional interests.