Updated: May 20, 2019
This is part of a series where I want to share some of the things I learned along the way as a first-generation lawyer with a non-conventional pathway to law, and I hope that this space will serve as a tool for others to take and add value in their own life. This is not legal advice and as always, this represents my own views. Take what you like and leave what you don’t like. This is your journey—carve out your own pathway on your own terms! You can read more here. You can buy me a coffee here if you found anything that added value to your own journey, legal or not.
Self-care is bullshit. Do what makes you feel good. And, no, we don’t want to hear you talk about your weekend at your cottage or how your nannies help you feel soooo relaxed.
I remember the first women’s only CPD* event that I went to as an articling student. And, well, I thought I was going to receive some good womanly tips (whatever that means). I can’t remember the title. I can’t remember the law firm that hosted it (one of those fancy big law firms though). I can’t remember where I was in my articling stage, at the beginning, middle or end. And, tbh, all of articling is a blur. I went to this CPD event even though I didn’t have to because I was interested in figuring out what kind of CPD would be useful for me in my practice, once I was called to the bar. I was excited to go to this CPD because I thought, “Cool, maybe I can network.” I love networking and I love to meet new people. No, really, I do. I can give you some networking tips that are not a flashback from the 90s. Another time/post.
Once the CPD started and the conversations were happening, I knew I was in the wrong spot and oh boy, did I ever feel so out of place. The panel of woman lawyers started to talk about the ways that they became so successful in their practice and their tips? Hire a nanny. Take a weekend away at your cottage. No really, go to your cottage. Say no to things. Cool, cool. I can say no to things. The other stuff? Clearly a disconnect facing many of peers/colleagues/friends. We don’t hire nannies. We don’t own cottages, let alone go to cottages. We Netflix all weekend if we can. We maybe sit in the sun on a park bench because we are too tired to walk.
The questions even more disconnected. Or, perhaps, maybe the answers.
I left this CPD feeling even more isolated and alienated from the legal profession. Where did I fit in? Hi, maybe I can be your nanny? I like kids that aren’t my own.
Anyways, I knew from that point on these kinds of CPD programs were definitely not for me. “These kinds.” I mean, the kind of CPD programs that are so far removed from the experience of young lawyers. The CPD program, if I recall correctly, was not even about self-care but somehow it morphed into self-care. Vomit.
Let’s be real here, self-care narratives in the legal profession are just a nice way to hide all the ugly stuff we do not want to talk about (hi, systemic and institutional racism). Also, most self-care is bullshit. No, I don’t want to hear about how you pay for nannies and visit your cottage on the weekend because we all know that’s not helpful.
True to my own form, I thought of some useful (read: free and/or cheap) for young lawyers on how to take part in your own bullshit self-care:
Read books that inspire you
Watch Netflix whenever you want
Watch your fav shows online (go directly to the provider’s site and use your parent’s login if they have cable)
Invest in Hayu (no really, this is this shit)
Set a budget for things you like to buy, and buy those things only within your budget (it will feel like a gift/treat...trust me)
Meditate (or as I like to say, learn to breathe—that's all meditation really is)
Sign up for a subscription to your favourite news source if news is your jam (I like the Globe)
If I could provide one concrete takeaway is that, I really love to read books that inspire me. One author I really enjoy and selfishly wish he had more books is Adam Grant. He wrote three books and co-authored another book. Each time I read his work, I am inspired to continue to do good and continue to be the best version of myself. The last book I read by him was “Give and Take.” I recently had feedback that I was “too nice”. Meaning, I gave too much and cared too much, sometimes to my own detriment. Some people might call me “not confident” or “a pushover.” And, haha, I have been called those things. In his book, these people are called the givers. Well, I read this book and it was filled with stories from people who were also called those same things but eventually learned to set up boundaries in some way and at the end of the book, Adam offers tips for “givers”. I will try to practice those in my daily life. Read his work. It will change your life.
If you are like me and you are in law school and you are thinking about what next? Okay, maybe you are not like me but you want some tips about what associations to join, and really, are they actually useful?! They are. My two favs are the Ontario Bar Association and The Advocates Society.
You might want to consider signing up for memberships at the student rate. There is a small cost but signing up as a student will help you to figure out what the best membership is for you and your future practice. It’s a low commitment and you can see what kind of programs or benefits the membership provides. You will also make connections earlier on that may help you later, once you are a lawyer. You do not have to attend CPD as an articling student but if you can, go. You will also see what kind of CPD is useful for you (pssst, for the non-free CPD, student rates are a lot cheaper if you are a student member too and sometimes there is food).
*Note: CPD is continuing professional development for lawyers and it is required by our regulator. It’s sometimes cool and fun.