I have enough problems working through my own life without giving advice to others.
And it seems like yesterday that I was the mentee, watching others closely to learn their secrets of success.
But when I look around at the so-called leaders of our state and nation, I guess I’m as qualified as they are to give my two cents. And I always appreciated that Ferris was right: Life moves pretty fast. I’ve travelled from Who’s Who to Who’s He, so I guess I can slide on over to the mentor’s seat with the qualification that my credentials are only relative.
I find these young lawyers need the most help in navigating outside of the law books. So here are a few of the things they seem to have appreciated.
You have to prioritize your own goals and then take concrete action steps to achieve them. Then re-evaluate and try again. I learned quickly that I could fill up my day responding to the things that naturally came my way. There were always calls to return and papers to write and projects to complete. But days turn to years before you know it and you discover that, although you have had busy days, you have not moved closer to your own goals. If you don’t prioritize your goals, nobody else will.
Make room in your day, every day, for things that make you happy. I play sports virtually every day. I do it because it is fun. And fun counts, especially when the rest of your day is practicing law. All of my career people have told me that they don’t have that much time. I make the time. There have been times in my life when I bet I was busier than you, but I made the time. It was important enough for me to schedule it and make it happen—because it was fun.
You were an excellent student. Don’t stop learning. I’m not talking about the law; in fact, I’m talking about everything but the law. You were one of the best at learning of any student at every school you attended. There have to be things you still would like to know. For me, right now, it’s classical music and dance and art. For you it could be anything, and whatever it is will make life (and you) more interesting.
Don’t forget your responsibility to make this community better. Very few people have the skills to do what you could do for others. We didn’t have a Boy’s and Girl’s Club, so we started one. We didn’t have a Children’s Museum, so we built one. The underprivileged kids didn’t have access to the arts, so we started a school for them. You can do amazing things and change people’s lives forever, including your own.
Finally, make sure to nurture your relationships with your friends and family. We men are the worst at this. And it shows. Your kids will grow up, with or without you. Your friends will move on. It takes time and it takes effort and it’s important. It’s more important than whatever project is keeping you late at the office tonight.
The practice of law is very demanding. If there is a theme to this advice from a reluctant mentor, it is that you have to demand that your life reflects your priorities.
Do what you want to do. Have fun. Expand your horizons. Make a difference.
Love the ones close to you. Live.
GRANT WOODS is a trial lawyer in Phoenix emphasizing complex litigation, plaintiffs’ personal injury, and government relations. He was Arizona Attorney General from 1991 to 1999.