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What does independence really mean?

The value of independence and the dangers

As we are about to observe Independence Day here in the United States, I got to thinking about what independence truly means. For the early colonialists, it meant freedom from tyranny and winning a fight for independence from an aristocracy. It meant that the 13 newly formed colonies would be sovereign in and among themselves and independent from England.

Sovereignty as a person and as a nation state has its own value, indeed. I’ll explore that further in this blog article.

Does that independence also mean, however, total independence from one another and the planet, in a manner that absolves each of us and all of us from a shared responsibility for our present and our future?

Untethered from royal rule, as our founders acknowledged, need not mean untethered from a moral compass. Hence, along with the Declaration of Independence soon thereafter came the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Not unlike a piece of cloth, the tighter the societal weave, the stronger the fabric. Conversely, the more threadbare, the weaker the cloth. Single threads, while separate, 100% independent, if you will, as strong as they may be individually, become that much stronger as they are woven together.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my independence. I’ve built a life fueled in large part by a no one is the boss of me attitude. I came into my own as a young adult during the heyday of Ronald Reagan’s rugged individualism of the 1980s. With bravado, I would stand up to anyone or any institution that tried to fence me in. I started my first ‘real job’ as a W2 employee at age 14. By age 18, I had moved out and away to an entirely new environment to attend college at U.C. Berkeley.  I resented having to rely on anyone.  I enjoyed great success and many adventures along the way as I graduated from Berkeley with a double major with honors, gave the student commencement address, traveled the country and the world on my own, and went on to law school and into a career practicing law as a litigator.  My family didn’t really ‘get it,’ and they would have been happier if I went to a school that had a top-ranked football team.

All that pulling myself up by my own boot straps, however, did take its toll. It took me years of life living and deep spiritual growth to excavate and repair the broken threads of mistrust and to allow others to support me in healthy ways. It took me awhile to get out of survival mode and into thriving mode in a way that invited others in to help shoulder the load. Even now, sometimes the heaviness of ‘decision fatigue’ threatens to pull me down into the depths of metaphoric quick sand.

While I enjoy the freedom to chart my own course, I also realize how much more effective and enjoyable it can be to have a crew with me on deck. Sometimes, it truly is easier and more rejuvenating to share the load. For more on this, see previous editions of Soul Notes: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats article here, and In Support of Support, here.

For your consideration

So, as you sit down with your friends and family to watch the fireworks this year, consider this:

While we honor and revere our freedoms, what can we do in this moment, to honor and revere the fact that we don’t need to do it all alone?  Not unlike the early colonists, we can decide to band together to hold each other up — not from a place of fighting against outside forces of domination, but from a place of shared sovereignty and collaboration.

I know for me, the fireworks this year will be taking on the shape of a renewed vision of a shared responsibility and contributions toward a better future for all.

Okay, your turn:

What does independence mean to you? We’ve come to learn that being ‘codependent,’ in the psychological sense, is unhealthy. What about interdependence? Does it take a village?  Where in your life are you instead a steadfast fan of rugged individualism?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Imagine all that’s in the highest good of all

Imagine if you will

Where in your life does your imagination play a role? Where does it fall on your priority list? Okay, so I’m not here to cause any panic or self-criticism.  As you’re reading this, I gather that the idea of invoking your imagination is now in your field of awareness.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ways in which imagination can take you to places well beyond what your mind, your intellect, your braniac brain can take you, and why that matters.  – Why that matters for you, your loved ones, your law practice, your trial team, your clients, the litigation process and legal system as a whole, and anywhere else that the ripple effects of your presence in the world may produce a valuable result.

I realize that is a tall order, and I’m confident that the tapping into the full extent of our imagination truly is that powerful. I invite you to welcome it in, and to use it as fuel for bringing forth outcomes that are beyond-the-beyond, as I like to say.

I know for me, when I stay too much in my head, I miss out on so much.  So, let’s dive deeper:

“Think like a lawyer”

Remember how we were often told that law school purportedly was designed to teach us to “think like a lawyer”? That has its place in our role as lawyers, for sure. Does that, however, make for the best of all possible outcomes? What about our imagination, our intuition, our instincts, our inner knowing…you know, all those things that come from the heart and spirit, our bodies even, and not from our intellect?

What if we were to bring all of ourselves into the practice of law?  What if we were to approach litigation, including our early case assessment (ECA) strategies and ideas generated from those processes into play, so as to produce wildly different and dare I say even surprisingly novel results?

Back when I was a law clerk, I was put in charge of ECA on a few of the firm’s incoming cases, including one involving defamation allegations. Upon my initial review of the Complaint, along with spending some quiet time pondering the underlying scenario and fact pattern, and mulling over the details a bit – a line of inquiry led me to pose this question to the lead partner on the case:  What if the alleged defamatory statements actually may have improved the plaintiff’s reputation, rather than damaged it?  That one question completely turned our ECA on its head, and changed dramatically our defense to the lawsuit, on behalf of our defendant client.  In our sometimes rush to draw quick conclusions, we run the risk of missing entirely different angles.

Setting aside time to think (and then some)

Once when traveling for work several years ago, I was reading the in-flight magazine and delved into an article where a CEO was describing how he prioritized his work day, and his work week.  He emphasized the importance of and the value he gleaned from blocking out time in his calendar for thinking.  He set aside specific hours as purely “think-time.”

I would suggest that we take this concept even further….MUCH further.  Let’s decide to extend our analysis beyond the mind and into the feeling and the emotions and the instincts, the “hunches” we may have about something, and following the intuitive bread crumb trails.

Yes, we CAN bring our hearts into the practice of law.  For many of us, our hearts (as well as our minds, of course) brought us to law school and to the legal profession, with the intention of making a positive impact in the world.  Why should we leave our hearts behind?  Why should we compartmentalize ourselves, and so much so that we feel ‘cut off’ from what we’re doing whenever we put our lawyer hat and heels on?

The so-what:

Succumbing to the industry-wide leanings toward intellectualizing the approach to law means we’re not only contorting ourselves to leave our internal, true wisdom behind – we’re also bringing less than the full plate of possible results and outcomes to the table for our clients.  And that, I contend, IS a big deal.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

– Albert Einstein

Yes, expanding the circle of possibilities may also bring up the dreaded ‘irrelevant’ along with the relevant. Some sifting through the sand may still be required.

The importance of discernment:

Your lawyer brain is still going to be put to good use. Don’t fret. (I can hear your brain protesting already…”But what about thinking like a lawyer?  That’s what I sweated through law school for!  That’s what my clients pay me for!”)  You’ll still need to invoke a certain amount of discernment.  You’ll need to make a few (or several) precise demarcations – before proceeding with your case strategy, for example.  I’m suggesting, however, that be made from the full array of options that only your imagination can bring to the forefront – and not from the limited array that your brain can come up with on its own.

And, this need not be done solely on your own. Inviting others into your imaginative process can be helpful as well.  Inviting in other points of view, and asking the question, “what am I possibly not seeing with regard to this case?” may reap substantial rewards. For more on this, and ways to bring this to your work team or other groups you’re a part of, take a quick view and listen to my short (6-minute) video, here.  Also, for more on the ways to facilitate a ‘talking circle’ so that each person’s voice is fully heard, review my previous blog post here.

For your consideration:

What all would be possible, if you evoked and invoked a spirit of imagination in all aspects of your law practice and in your life?  Where has your intellect only taken you ‘so far’ and stopped you short of reaching a full understanding of a scenario?

If you need help with this, leave a comment below or book an exploratory session here. Together we’ll see where you can bring more creativity into your law practice.

Okay, your turn:

Where, if at all, do you devote time and space in your day or week, for day dreaming?  Or, for creativity? Or, pure imagination?  When has going beyond using only your intellect brought you surprising (or at least more creative) results?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Reclaiming our Six Minutes: Infusing Time with Moments of Joy and Sessions of Solace

Six-Minute Increments: Redefined

Recently, I was doing a little spring cleaning and decided to dive into a filing cabinet that I hadn’t opened in years. One of the first several file folders I pulled out contained a copy of one of my daily time sheets from my first year as an associate at a 100-person law firm in Los Angeles. Also in that file folder was a print-out of the year-end time tally sheet from my full first year at that firm. In defense practice (aka, “big law”), as is typical, my time was measured in terms of one-tenths of an hour — you know, those seemingly endless strings of six-minute increments. There they were – every billable and non-billable time segment all tracked and tallied.

In big law, no matter how many hours one puts in during a given day or evening (and there are often many), it is back to tabula rasa the next morning. Without or even sometimes with a strong center, that tends to do a number on your psyche and your overall sense of well-being. It can take a noticeable toll on your physical health as well.

Reclaiming Our Time

So, what to do about it? While I realize it’s naïve to think that billable hours will suddenly disappear altogether as a common metric, it is definitely within each attorney’s control to “reclaim their time” (to borrow a now-gone-viral phrase used by Rep. Waters during a congressional hearing last year) in ways that are more sustaining and rejuvenating, and from a place of strength and empowerment.
Now I can hear you asking: “But if I’m already packing in so many hours on cases, building a book of business, and attending continuing legal education seminars, how could I possibly squeeze in any other time for myself or any other more life-sustaining activities?” To that, I say, consider this: a lot can be experienced in six minutes or less. Ask any downhill skier or 1,500 meter runner (or person looking to catch the last remaining flight)!

You’re already capably putting in time well spent on behalf of the best interests of your firm and your clients, so why not do so for yourself? Without getting into the metaphysics of how to bend time (although that is definitely a fun topic to discuss with a friend or colleague over a glass of your favorite beverage) – let’s explore creative ways to “take back time,” and make it yours, at least once in a while.

Alternative Ways to Use Time

You can weave a number of short activities into your work day, throughout the week, or on the weekends. Here is a list to keep handy, of some examples to try, that are easy to do up to six minutes at a time:

  • Deep breathing in and out, slowly and deliberately
  • Looking out a window and focusing on an object in the distance such as a tree or the horizon
  • Standing quietly in a comfortable yet grounding and centering yoga position (such as mountain pose or archer pose)
  • Tapping your feet or dancing to an upbeat song (such as “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, or “Say Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead – heck these songs are only 3-minutes each, so in six minutes you can listen to any of them twice!)

These won’t transform your world or your law practice in an instant.  They will, however, likely shake you loose from any overthinking, fuzzy thinking, frazzled nerves, or just plain fatigue and burn-out…if even but for a little while.

What’s to be gained

The benefits to be gleaned from these brief and empowering uses of time are many, and include:

  • Giving your mind a rest
  • Giving your body an opportunity to move and change positions
  • Allowing your breath to slow down and become more even, and less erratic
  • Granting yourself the gift of returning to your law practice more refreshed and less strained
  • Seeing your case strategies from a fresh angle or perspective
  • Gaining clarity around a perceived roadblock in a particular case or cases
  • Ultimately effectuating more creative, surprising strategies and potential outcomes for your clients

A Respite from the Frenzy: Six-Minute Saturdays

To help get you started, I’m creating a series of short videos that I’m calling “Six-Minute Saturdays” (SMS).  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be among the first to receive notifications of these videos as they are released on…yes, you guessed it: Saturdays.  You can view them of course whenever it’s convenient for you.  (I figure this way, you’ll be encouraged to devote at least one six-minute time segment a week completely,100%, to you!) The kick-off video for SMS is available for viewing now: To watch it, go here.

For your consideration:

What will you do for six minutes that are “all your own,” devoted solely (and soulfully) to your own well-being, starting today?  Pick one from the list above, or come up with one of your own, and let me know how it goes!  As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Okay, your turn:

When you find yourself feeling stressed and unable to focus, what do you tend to do?  What’s your default ‘coping’ mechanism?  Does that help…in the short run or the long run? If that hasn’t been working well for you, what would you like to choose to do, instead, if even for a brief six minutes?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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From Darkness Into Light: Winter Solstice Edition

From Darkness into Light

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching Winter Solstice and the turn ever so slightly toward longer days and shorter nights. It’s a shifting out from the darkness and into more light.

Now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

It’s a continuum, of course, just like the rotations of the earth, sun, and moon. Between the two polar opposites, or contrasts, lies the fluidity, the flow… It’s a rhythm and a cycle from the internal to the external, and back again. It’s a peeking out, and an emergence — from deep within the earth (ourselves) and out into the world above the surface (out into our external surroundings, relationships, etc.)

So, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

Three Soul Starters

If you’re in my tribe, you’re likely a woman attorney who has placed a lot of emphasis on your career, on your law practice, and on serving your clients. As the year winds down, and Courts too “go dark” for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, I invite you to devote some sacred time and space to:

1. Consider where things are going well for you in your life and career
2. Envision where you’d like to see some things change, shift, or dissolve
3. Get excited about what your “Dream Theme” for 2018 might be (no need to commit right this minute…let your heart and mind wander for a bit and explore some possible themes that resonate for you)!

To set the stage, I urge you to put in your Calendar now a date and time during the next two weeks where you will allow yourself the opportunity to do this exercise. Rather than thinking that you’ll somehow wake up on New Year’s Day, amongst the typically frenetic energy of a New Year, and that somehow you’ll magically have your year ahead “all figured out” — take advantage of taking a few days off during the holidays to honor yourself and where you’d like to take your life and career the next 12 or 13 moons.

If drafting a yearly plan makes sense to you, feel free to try that on for size. Write it out, map it out…use one of the many “planner” systems available…if that helps you get started. There are all kinds of smart phone apps and digital reminder systems available now; and I remember the days of hard copy Franklin-Covey binders, and those hand-held Palm Pilots. What I know, from my own experiences, however – is that no matter what system you use they serve only as placeholders for your intentions and not as creation generators. Like any good tool, they are only as helpful to the extent that you use them, and use them consistently, and with frequent check-ins throughout the year.

Also, remember that any plans are simply that. They are not iron-clad. And, until you start taking action to implement them, you’re really only making guesstimates, anyway. And, that is more than okay! Be comfortable with knowing and trusting that you will likely, nee nearly always, need to make adjustments along the way. As when commanding a boat as it traverses the waters ahead, you’ll need to use the rudder faithfully and consistently to keep you on course. All systems go – push off from the shore. If you take the space to do so now, at least come January you will have gotten as clear as you can “from the dock” about where you’re ultimately headed. And you’ve envisioned whom you’d like to join you on the adventure, and you’ve packed a few appropriate provisions for the journey. Then, allow the magic of the adventure with all its joys and surprises to take its course!

This will help set you, your life, and your law practice up for success in the coming year. It will help you complete this year and ease into the next one, from a place of feeling calm, centered, assured, strong, and confident.

Illumination time!

Just as with the Winter Solstice, and moving forward from there, what is ready to be revealed? What needs to come out from the shadows and into the light? What needs to be released to lighten the load? What would make for a smoother, more secure, less encumbered voyage ahead? Revisit what you wrote down in response to the Three Soul Starters above, and annotate them now by incorporating into them your “illuminations.”

For your consideration:  What’s your DREAM THEME?

As you reflect on the year to date, and as you begin focusing on where you’d like to be heading as 2018 approaches — notice what emerges for you.

I encourage you to select what I’m dubbing a “Dream Theme” to serve as a guide post and to carry you through from now until this time next year.

You’ll be amazed at what you start to notice, once you select your Dream Theme. I’m curious as to what yours will be!

Your Dream Theme may change shape over the next several weeks…allow it to do so! Right now, mine is something along the lines of strength through vulnerability (or “vulnerable strength,” for short).

Okay, your turn:

What’s your Dream Theme for 2018? What have you come up with so far?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughtsfeelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
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From idealist to lost in the practice of law

From idealist to lost in the practice of law

I set off to the University of California at Berkeley as a budding journalist. What better place, perhaps, than at the home of the Free Speech movement?  Along the way, I spent two college summers in Washington, DC, living in Georgetown, and interning in the nation’s capital.

And, by the end of my junior year, while I enjoyed writing and reporting and broadcasting (I was a news reporter for the campus radio station) – I came to realize that a career in law was what was really calling to me. One of my majors was in Political Science, and I knew that I desired an advanced degree and was eager to learn more about Constitutional Law, and in particular the First Amendment.

I headed off to Boston University School of Law, where I had been accepted into their joint JD/MA program in conjunction with B.U.’s School of Broadcasting. Overwhelmed, though, by the high cost of living and at the time even higher interest rates on my law school loans, I made the difficult decision to try to get accepted to another law school in a more affordable town. I ended up transferring to a law school in Sacramento, California where I could save money on rent. And, I was able to apply for and did receive an academic based California Graduate Fellowship to help fund my education. Nonetheless, lacking any proverbial ‘rich uncle’ to assist, I still remained financially challenged. I continued to incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

The topics in law school, though, sometimes thrilled me. I learned even more about the First Amendment, including artists’ rights and other constitutionally protected forms of expression. I was ‘in the zone,’ thinking I could advocate on behalf of principles that I truly felt passionate about.

If you knew me back then, you would have called me an idealist. I was also, though, a pragmatist. I couldn’t end up helping anyone if I couldn’t afford to complete my law school education and pay off my law school debt. Accordingly, I found myself “chasing the almighty dollar.”

I went into what attorneys refer to as “big law,” by taking a job as an associate at a 100-lawyer civil litigation defense firm. Unlike the plaintiffs’ side, on the defense side, your “worth” is measured in terms of billable hours. Our time was broken down into one-tenths of an hour. Each morning, I arrived at the office with tabula rasa – a blank time sheet to be filled out.  It didn’t matter how many hours I had billed the day before. Each day, I was expected to prove my value to the firm, by racking up another 10-12 hours for that day, and so on, and so on.

We represented large corporations, mostly with regard to breach of contract disputes. Why did I end up at a large firm, doing something pretty much polar opposite to what I really wanted to do? In a nutshell:  Because it paid well.

My first year as an associate, I brought in a salary that surpassed any dollar amount that my parents ever made. I bought my first-ever and only “brand new car,” right off the lot, with only four miles on it. The firm had a courtroom built right into the center of one of the two floors we occupied in a Century City high rise. It had its own jury box, and two-way mirrors, and we were provided acting classes where we could hone our trial advocacy presence and skills.

Admittedly, at times it was kind of intoxicating. Parts of it did feed my ego as well as my pocketbook.  That feeling dissipated, though, within a short period of time. While grateful that I had landed a well-paying job, I became increasingly disenchanted with the practice of law.

Whatever work that I didn’t complete before I left the office at 7 pm, I often finished back at my apartment, sometimes up to 1 o’clock in the morning before needing to rise a few short hours later and beat rush hour traffic downtown to appear at the courthouse in time for an 8:30 am court appearance.

My energy, my enthusiasm, and my eager idealism – the very zeal I initially brought to the practice of law – was waning, and waning fast. Where did I go astray? The money’s nice, I kept telling myself, but I also kept thinking that “this can’t be all there is”? Like a line from that Talking Heads song, I kept saying to myself, “How did I get here?” This was not my beautiful life; not really.

What was unclear then, and has become readily apparent to me now, is that I was so focused on paying off my law school debt, that I was paying a steep price of a different kind: I was paying with my sense of purpose, my spirit, my health, and my overall joie de vivre.

Feeling as if my life had been reduced to six-minute increments, even standing in a post office line seemed stressful. “I could be billing my time, instead of standing here,” I found myself thinking. Day to day errands had become a source of dissonance and tension.

And the work that I was doing wasn’t fulfilling. While everyone deserves zealous representation, and I maintained my dedication to doing quality work for our corporate clients, my heart wasn’t in it. Instead of fighting the good fight to protect journalists, artists, and others deserving of First Amendment protections, I was drowning in the minutiae of whether certain conduct or conditions were considered breaches of contracts, and whether they would withstand judicial scrutiny.

And I was doing so in largely male governing, patriarchal law firm environments, where there were few women partners and no women serving as managing partners. There was no attention paid to bringing anything remotely akin to a “holistic” approach to running the firm or the practice of law.

While my brain and analytical abilities were put to good use, my consciousness, like a faucet, was shut off. All in pursuit of a paycheck.

Then even the paychecks stopped. That firm ended up going bankrupt. I was one of the few high-billing associates that survived the firm’s earlier lay-offs so that I could help keep the boat afloat. One fateful Friday, the office manager came into each attorney’s office, one-by-one, and let us know that even though our paychecks had been issued – it would do no good to cash them, as they would bounce. The bank had cut off the firm’s credit line, and there was no chance of a rebound.  Stunned, and angry, I soon also felt the sting of having to look for another job.

Ever in pursuit of an income to keep my debt from swallowing me whole, I took a job at another, smaller, law firm across town where another attorney friend of mine had headed. I left that firm within a year.  That firm had all kinds of partner in-fighting. And, among other things, this is the firm where one of the paralegals one day brought me into his office to show me the handgun, stashed away in his briefcase, that he’d been bringing with him into the office. The firm later fired him. Throughout, I was billing out at a rate of 2,400 hours/year. Walking into the office, on most mornings, I couldn’t even make it from the front desk to my office down the hall without someone at the firm needing to tell me about the latest shenanigans going on “behind the scenes.” I couldn’t stand it any longer. Practicing law was stressful enough, let alone working in such a turbulent and toxic environment.

One morning, after spending those middle-of-the-night hours breaking down in an emotional heap on the front steps of my local Catholic church (one of those dark nights of the soul, for sure) – I decided to give my two weeks’ notice, and to the shock of the male partners there, set out to find a more promising work environment. I ended up leaving the practice of law, and never went back.

That was a couple decades ago now,  and I’ve since paved my own way through a creative career path that I’ve carved out for myself, and while not always quite as lucrative, has definitely been more fulfilling.

Upon leaving the practice of law, it was about at that same time that I started to revisit and deepen my spiritual practice. And, recently, through expert guidance and tuning into my own intuition, I’m now discovering that I am fully committed to helping other women attorneys stay in the practice of law.

What if, yes, what if  I had the type of heart centered support from other women attorneys, mentors and role models available to me now, back then, so that: I didn’t feel so alone; didn’t feel so dismissed for my ‘feminine qualities’; I was valued for more than purely the number of hours I billed; and I was able to cultivate a culture that not only helped transform “big law” firm environments – but in doing so ultimately created more meaningful, heartfelt environments and results for litigants, too?

As a bit of an aside (yet, it’s relevant here!):  Little known fact about me – I’ve coordinated and participated in the painting of murals on walls of buildings all over Southern California. One of the murals that I helped design and paint was a children’s mural in a room down the hall from the Family Law department in one of the local Superior Courthouses. Our purpose was to create a welcoming environment for the children to have as a safe waiting room and play area, when their parents (and sometimes themselves) were scheduled to appear in court. Now, THAT was fulfilling. My heart swelled with every paint stroke as I brought fun pictures of farm animals and cute meadow scenes to life on those walls.

As I write this, I’m remembering and recapturing that which is the true essence of me. As I continue to listen closely to what my soul is calling me to embody next, I pledge to keep stepping forward to help serve those whom I’m most meant to serve.

Stay tuned!  I’m heading off to a remote setting, and will be “off the grid” for a vitality retreat led by one of my trusted spiritual advisors. I’ll be taking several days to discern and envision what the “whole”-istic approach to law may look like. And, I’m designing a program to help women lawyers do exactly that.

My idealism is back, front and center. I look forward to bringing it, and my new programs, to you!

Okay, your turn:

Where or when has your life path taken a sudden or surprising turn? What would you like to do differently going forward, given what you know now, that you didn’t know then?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.