If you’re like me, your day was made last Friday by the video of a BBC interview in which an expert on South Korea was interrupted on live television by his toddler. And then his infant son. And then a woman who frantically burst into the room and attempted to extricate the children while the expert tried to maintain his composure during the international broadcast.
The video provided a wonderful end-of-week distraction and a fair amount of debate over whether the interviewee should have picked up his daughter instead of gently nudging her aside, and the identity of the woman (it was his wife). But mostly it prompted “I’ve been there too” stories from telecommuters everywhere, whose personal lives occasionally spill over into their professional lives.
Beyond the obvious lesson we took from the video (the toddler in the yellow shirt is the best), what we learned on Friday is this:
We all want to believe we’re experts in South Korean politics, but what we really are is human.
Even if you don’t work from home (as, apparently, our hero, Robert Kelly, Pusan National University professor of political science in Busan, South Korea, does at least occasionally) and even if you don’t have children, you’ve probably experienced life/work spillage, from the mundane to the tragic.
And in 2017, when social media has blurred the lines between the professional and the personal (e.g. Do you “friend” clients on Facebook or do you reserve them for Linkedin? Do you connect with friends and neighbors over LinkedIn or keep them confined to your Facebook?), we all should simply admit that it’s next to impossible to keep neat lines of demarcation between our work and our non-work lives.
So rather than insisting on keeping them separate, we should find ways to incorporate the personal into what we do professionally, within reason. I know two Dallas lawyers who have found clever ways to make their personal passions part of their legal marketing efforts. Their experiences should be instructive to the rest of us:
Amy Elizabeth Stewart, Amy Stewart Law
One of my role models is Amy Elizabeth Stewart, founder of Amy Stewart Law, an insurance coverage law firm. The first thing you’ll notice about Amy when you meet her is that she doesn’t hide behind a façade. The Amy you see explaining the intricacies of insurance law from the podium at a State Bar CLE event is the same Amy you’ll see over lunch.
Her warmth and exuberance – while opining on insurance law, no less – are among the secrets to her success (plus the fact that she knows more about insurance than just about anybody you’ve ever met).
Next to deciphering insurance policies, Amy’s other passion is an organization called Attorneys Serving the Community, a volunteer group of Dallas women lawyers. Every year, ASC selects a beneficiary organization whose programs benefit women, children or families. The group spends the year fundraising for the non-profit, including a fun run and an annual luncheon.
(For you “Hamilton” fans, this year’s luncheon features Renee Elise Goldsberry, who originated the role of Angelica Schuyler on Broadway. You can’t see this right now, but I’m squealing as I type. ASC’s 2017 beneficiary is Junior Players, which provides theater programs to children who might not otherwise have access to them.)
Amy’s firm sponsors ASC events year-round and she has previously served as the luncheon co-chair, a nearly full-time job for the lawyers who take it on.
Not only does ASC benefit programs close to Amy’s heart – those that help families in the Dallas area – but the organization also provides leadership and networking opportunities to the women who are involved by offering events hosted by local female general counsel. That intersects with another one of Amy’s passions: helping women lawyers realize their leadership and business development potential.
“I’m convinced that most women lawyers have a leader hidden in them, and I want to do everything I can to help bring that out,” she says. “And if I can do that while also raising money for organizations that help kids and families, all the better.”
Michelle May O’Neil, O’Neil Wysocki
I’ve known Michelle May O’Neil for over a decade, starting when she was a young family lawyer. She’s now a founding partner in O’Neil Wysocki, a prestigious family law boutique filled with go-getters and marketing-savvy lawyers. Michelle has always been an enthusiastic marketer – a prerequisite if you want to make it in the hyper-competitive family law world – but what most impresses me is how she’s melded a personal passion with her professional presence.
For several years, Michelle has been active with Team in Training, a fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She runs in their events, holds periodic fundraisers in her home and makes her support of the organization an integral part of her work and personal life. On Valentine’s Day, she hosted a table at the LLS annual luncheon and fashion show. The table was filled with interesting, accomplished women, most of them well-known in the Dallas family law community.
Her support of LLS isn’t just an excuse to buy a luncheon table with girlfriends or stay in shape. It’s primarily because she believes in the group’s mission and wants to do anything she can to help find a cure for a disease that has profoundly affected her family: Her father was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2002.
“Honestly, my prime motivator is helping find a cure for my father,” Michelle says. “And the ability to weave that fundraising into my professional life has just given me more opportunities to work toward that goal. If I can use my work network to raise awareness of a disease that doesn’t get all that much attention, I’m thrilled to do it.”
Blending Philanthropy and Business Development
Amy and Michelle are just two of the most obvious examples of lawyers who have found ways to welcome their metaphorical toddlers into their business development BBC interviews. There are many others out there, and they remind us that we can’t leave who we are and what we believe in at the curb when we put on our grown-up clothes.
And, as a bonus, being able to blend business development with philanthropy provides an incentive to do the marketing work some lawyers aren’t always comfortable handling.
Amy and Michelle teach us that if we can find ways to blend our personal passions with our professional capabilities, then we bring our humanity into our work lives and enrich them both.
Amy Boardman Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Muse Communications helps lawyers, law firms and legal services companies tell their story and grow their business through content marketing and highly targeted media relations. For more information, contact us at email@example.com.