Some days I feel as though I have it all together. Those are the days when I run the gantlet of client meetings and
hearings, meet my deadlines with time to spare and make a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner for my kids.
Those days are exceedingly few and far between. As I write this, for example, I just cleaned up a wine spill with tissues because I am all out of paper towels. Today is a day that I felt like something short of an actual adult because, really, who gets down to zero paper towels?
I tend to believe that adage that you can’t have it all, all at once. You can be a good lawyer and spouse but
maybe you aren’t getting to the gym, you’re not eating all that healthy and you hardly see your friends. Most days I feel like a good lawyer, mediocre wife and mom and, I assure you, I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since 2014.
Doesn’t feeling like you’re succeeding depend on your metric for success? Does signing a great new client indicate success to you? Or winning a trial? I find that those “wins” quickly fade and, as a litigating attorney, there is always the next battle to be fought. If you’re anything like me, you may celebrate your victory only a short time, then move on mentally to the next thing that needs your attention.
A friend of mine recently lost her father. He was a dad, grandpa, fireman, town commissioner and business owner. At his funeral, the talk wasn’t about his business acumen. The room was filled with people who said that he was the “nicest guy they ever met.” I’m not going to lie, I wish people would say that about me someday. Right now, I’m not seeing that in the cards but (hopefully) I’ve got the next 80 or so years to work on it. In his honor, I’m going to put a “Choose Kindness” bumper sticker on my car that my friend gave to me. I’m hoping that seeing that sticker daily will remind me about what is arguably the most important measure of success: how we treat one another.
Sometimes being nice in my daily life seems relatively easy but being kind at work is a bit harder. We lawyers are supposed to be tough and supposed to argue, right? Even in the office, time runs short, we have a million things to do and it’s hard to take a moment to see how someone is doing, or how their weekend went when a response to a motion needs to be filed. But in honor of my friend’s dad, I’m going to try a little extra harder to be nice, not just to my friends or kids but even to opposing counsel, in a motion, in the courtroom, and in all those places where it’s least expected.
Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.