GREATER WASHINGTON AREA CHAPTER , WOMEN LAWYERS DIVISION, NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION (GWAC)

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  • January 16, 2022 12:26 AM | Anonymous

    by: Denise A. Robinson, GWAC member and Founding Principal, The Still Center LLC

    Do you make New Year’s resolutions? How long do they last? If you find yourself wavering on your resolutions just days or weeks into any new year, you are not alone: research suggests that less than 10 percent of people keep their resolutions. If you are looking for a way to better sustain your resolutions, consider setting an intention first. Here, intention refers to something I encourage my yoga students to create at the beginning of each class, which is an affirmation of what is already within you to be who you want to be. Resolutions are related, but focus more on the actions you need to take to get there. Both are essential to realizing one’s potential, but resolutions are hard to sustain without the foundation of a clear intention. Said another way, it is important to affirm who it is you seek to be before deciding what you want to do. Reversing the order might cost you more time and other resources than you are willing to invest.

    To set an intention that serves as a strong foundation for sustainable resolutions, follow these three ‘Ps’: 

    • Be Positive: Articulate how you want to be rather than the behaviors you want to stop. Just as telling a child “no” often yields more undesired behavior, telling ourselves we want to stop doing something tends to ramp up our focus on the very thing we are trying to avoid. Instead, shift those valuable attentional resources by creating a positive statement about the way you want to be with yourself, with others, and in the world. 
    • Be Purposeful: Focus on what is meaningful by honing in on the reason(s) behind your resolution. For example, if you’ve resolved to lose weight this year, ask yourself why and continue to do so until you end up with a response that resonates with you – not what others want for you. Seeking ways to align your behavior with what is at the personal root of your goal – good health, for example – can help broaden the ways in which you are able to meet the specific goal stated in your resolution.
    • Be Present: State your intention in the present tense. Neuroscience research shows that imagining an experience can shape our perception and behaviors as much as actually having the experience, supporting the notion that the voice in our head that tells us whether we can or cannot do something really matters. In the same vein, speaking your intention in the present tense – e.g., “I am well,” rather than, “I want to be well” – can influence you on a subconscious level to behave in ways that are consistent with that intention, rather than pushing the change you seek into the future.

    Once you have an intention that is positive, purposeful, and stated in the present tense, write it down, review it daily, and watch it manifest.


  • March 11, 2015 8:33 AM | Anonymous

    What We Can Learn from Stacey Abrams’ Book, “Minority Leader,”: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change – by Raziya Brumfield

    Motivated by Stacey Abrams’ democratic response to the State of the Union, I immediately purchased a copy of her book Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change.  Abrams’ address was historical, as she is the first African American Woman to deliver a State of the Union response.  Abrams is a lawyer, politician, business owner, and has authored several romance novels.  She also served as Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and gained widespread attention when she ran for governor of Georgia, again making history as the first Black female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the history of the United States.

     Although she was not elected governor of Georgia, I am sure that due to her charisma, steadfastness and utter grit, we will only continue to see more of Abrams.  She wrote Minority Leader for any individual who has been considered “other” whether it is because of their race, gender, socio-economic status or sexual orientation.  Abrams attempts not to provide solutions, but to arm minority leaders with tools that can be used to find your ambition, become more successful, and navigate both personal and professional goals.  Her book is filled with examples drawn from her personal life as well as situations of others, which provide context and relatable strategies.  In her book, Abrams constantly spreads gems of knowledge and insight, while boldly sharing both her weaknesses and strengths.  Here is what we can learn from this dynamic minority leader!  

    1. Be bold

    Abrams opens her book by discussing her unsuccessful attempt in applying for a Rhodes Scholarship.  She explains that the situation was not a defeat but instead propelled her to reach for outcomes and opportunities that before seemed unattainable.  In doing so, she learned that “failure is not fatal.”  Whether it is a job, a new hobby or speaking up for yourself in a meeting, it is vital to stand tall, be bold, learn from your mistakes and continue to challenge yourself and one another.  

    She discusses the challenges of attempting to reach new goals despite being afraid.  She cautions readers to watch what causes fear and attempt to understand why and where these feelings are coming from.  Gaining this understanding is essential to becoming an effective leader

    2. Know or attempt to figure out what you want.

    As minority leaders, Abrams explains the importance of being intentional about knowing who you are and what you want.  She shares with readers that after being hurt by a breakup while attending college at Spelman University, she decided to sit down and draft a spreadsheet, detailing her goals and ambitions for the next forty years!  This is a process that she has continued throughout her career.  She often assesses her accomplishments, sometimes even altering her goals.  

    When charting individual goals, she implores the necessity of dreaming big and internalizing your right to achieve greatness.  Abrams provides several beneficial tools that can be used to figure out your passion and refine your goals.  The following are several specific tools that Abrams employs in her life and suggests of others:

    • Take a personality test to better learn your leadership style;
    • Set a personal mantra that guides your life;
    • Employ a SWOT analysis – SWOT is a common technique used in the business world.  It is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats; and, lastly
    • Download the following exercises, provided by Abrams, and designed to guide you in revealing your ambitions, available here: http://minorityleaderbook.com/exercises.pdf

    3. Finding a balance between being authentic and fitting in

    Knowing or figuring out what you want is connected to knowing who you are and how others may perceive you.  Abrams further explains the importance of being aware of how you are being perceived by others and addresses the critical balance between fitting in and being yourself.  As an African American woman from Compton, California who has lived and worked in Berkley, California; Fairfax, Virginia; Washington D.C.; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, myself, I am familiar with adapting and navigating a multitude of various environments, which can often feel uncomfortable.  Inevitably, individuals have different life experiences which shape their understanding of the world.  Being aware of the differences that surround you, while remaining true to who you are is a balance that is worth achieving.

    4. Be open to having more than one passion.

                Abrams refutes the idea that you can only have one true life passion.  For individuals like myself who find a multitude of different topics interesting, this point of view is refreshing.  Abrams explains that your passion drives you.  She suggests that if you can go months or years without engaging in a particular activity or discussing a certain issue, it is not likely your passion.  If you are having trouble narrowing down your passion, consider the activities, ideas or thoughts that keep you engaged on a weekly or daily basis.  Additionally, use the tools mentioned above to better understand yourself and what drives you.

    5. Expand your idea of mentorship.

    Abrams pushes back on the conventional style of mentorship as the only way to build beneficial mentorships.  She explains the importance of peer mentors and situational mentors.  Peer mentors are individuals at your same level who can share valuable insight regarding the nuances of a new job, discuss pay salaries, and even provide constructive criticism of your work style and behavior.  Situational mentors are individuals who assist you in handling a particular issue whether it is advice on asking for a pay raise or handling a specific situation effectively.  Abrams suggests understanding your own style in determining what types of mentors will best suit you in a given situation or during a particular point in your life.

     I have only provided a glimpse of the multitude of lessons we can learn from Abrams’ book Minority Leader.  Her work ethic, passion to help others and bold ambition provides valuable insight, which I found to be truly inspiring and I hope you do too.

  • March 11, 2015 7:36 AM | Anonymous

    Why Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness So Unforgiving?

    In the midst of the longest government shutdown in history, there is one integral facet of the federal government that has been partially shutdown for much longer: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  This program is designed to alleviate the federal loan debt of borrowers who work in certain types of public service after 10 years of payments.

    Alarmingly, one report has stated that as of mid-last year, roughly 99% of processed applications for forgiveness under a government program aimed at helping public servants manage their federal student-loan debt had their applications rejected.[1] I’m not sure about you, but I went to law school on the condition that I would have a chance at having my enormous, at times paralyzing, amount of student loan debt forgiven. Apparently, I’m not alone. The current student loan debt is astounding, totaling over 1 trillion dollars across the country. Statistics show that millennials, who often minimally obtain a graduate degree to keep pace with our well-educated job market, are the most burdened with an average of $35,000 owed per person.

    Many who entered the program when it first started in the Fall of 2007 really had to sort it out in a way that made sense because it was not well-publicized or communicated to borrowers. “It’s obvious that a huge number of people that couldn’t meet the requirements did not understand that they weren’t meeting the requirements,” said Clare McCann, the deputy director for higher education policy in the think tank New America’s education policy program.[2]  Over the years, many loan servicers received conflicting guidance from the Department of Education, which they passed on to thousands of borrowers seeking guidance.  As a result, many faithfully make their payments while they work in the public sector hoping that they will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel, but are disappointed when they discover that they are not eligible.

    The first step to ensuring that forgiveness is attainable is to be armed with the basics:

    Make 120 qualifying payments while under an income based repayment plan. A “qualifying payment” is one that is (1) made on a Direct federal loan; (2) under an income-driven repayment plan, while (3) working full-time for a public service employer such as government or public entity, or a nonprofit organization.

    Also, a “qualifying payment” must be paid on time, or within fourteen days of the due date. That means fourteen days before or after the due date. One funky thing that I personally came across was when I used my Segal Education Award that I earned after my AmeriCorps service while working towards loan forgiveness. However, grants that are used towards loan repayment such as these will only make a lump sum payment on your behalf. So, even if the award amount covers multiple months’ worth of payments, you will only get credit for one payment.

    Payments don’t have to be consecutive, so you can switch between qualifying and non-qualifying employers without being reset to zero.  It’s also important to know that under public service loan forgiveness, your debt is forgiven tax-free.

    In the DMV, many attorneys work under government-contractor status and not government employee status.  This may not be enough to be considered a qualifying employer. As student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz has stated, “Government contractors must themselves be qualifying organizations for their employees to qualify for public service loan forgiveness.” [3]

    Given all of the tricks of this trade, the best thing you can do is to submit the employer certification form to your loan servicer, available at www.myfedloan.org, every year. This will especially become important if one of your previous employers no longer exists. Also, keep records of everything you submit, since it is not uncommon that your submissions become lost. Hopefully when your time for loan forgiveness comes, you will pass with flying colors. If not, roll up your sleeves and get ready for a fight because the challenging fight of getting out of student debt is worth it!

    [1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-government-loan-forgiveness-program-has-rejected-99-of-borrowers-so-far-2018-09-20

    [2] Id.

    [3] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/21/1-percent-of-people-were-approved-for-public-service-loan-forgiveness.html

  • March 11, 2015 6:37 AM | Anonymous

    By Roberta Oluwaseun Roberts, Esq.

    Seven Overlooked Self-Care & Goal-Setting Principles for the New Year

    (A shorter version of this post was originally published at https://robertaoroberts.com/2018/12/05/biblical-self-care-principles-fb-live/)

    A new year is here again and taking better care of one’s self is at the top of many people’s goals for the new year, especially for lawyers who are becoming more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy personal life while working in a high-stress profession such as the legal profession.  The concept of self-care has increased in popularity in recent years but it is often not discussed on a deeper level — while taking time for yourself and your physical health by getting your nails done and going to spin class does count as self-care, that is not all true, comprehensive self-care entails.  True self-care is not just physical self-care; true self-care addresses body, mind, and spirit.  So, I would love to share with my fellow black women lawyers seven commonly overlooked principles for self-care and goal-setting that I have recently learned and started to implement in my personal and professional life.   

    Let’s get to it!

    • Break out a big assignment into smaller chunks, and delegate where feasible.

    How many of us try to do too much at once and end up overwhelming ourselves, not just at work but in our personal lives?  And not just in terms of time you allocate to complete a task, but doing tasks that maybe we don’t need to be the ones doing?  Delegation is a sign of good stewardship, not a sign of not being able to “do the job.”  Think about some tasks you do at work or at home.  Are there some tasks you should be delegating to someone else instead of doing them yourself to not only free you up to do other things you love, but also empower others so they have a sense of ownership in something?  

    • Stop to pause and celebrate milestones instead of just rushing through to the next thing.

    Too often we only punish ourselves for what we did not do or did not do well and do not reward ourselves for what we do get done.  Sometimes the reward itself is getting the task done, but we do a disservice to ourselves when we never stop and reflect on good things we have accomplished.  What good things have you done lately that you need to acknowledge and be thankful for?  

    • Get some rest that is more than a nap.

    Resting is more than taking a long nap.  We need a spiritual retreat from the demands of everyday to unplug, reflect, and meditate.  In today’s world of being constantly connected by technology, it can be hard to unplug from work or social media — especially when we are expected to always be “on.”   In fact, we may even feel guilty or selfish for logging off to spend quiet time alone with ourselves.   This is where having boundaries and knowing what your priorities are come in handy.  If your spiritual and mental rest is important to you, you will have to create boundaries for yourself and others so you can carve out that offline time.

    • Be in a community with which you can relate.

    We were not created to go through life alone with no friends and no people who understand our struggles and what we are going through.  We are supposed to be in a community of people where we can be open and vulnerable and uplifted and encouraged.  Groups like GWAC and the group I founded, Grace for the Grind™ Career Mastermind, exist to help foster that type of community for women lawyers.

    • Free yourself of the weight of the world.

    There is a brand of “Superwoman Syndrome” that is unique to black women and the cause of stress, frustration, and feelings of not measuring up to the various roles we have taken on in life.   But the reality is that we — black women lawyers, lawyers, black women, women, human beings overall — were not designed to carry the burdens of everyone we know on our shoulders.  This is important to keep in mind when setting goals.  Ask yourself; are you setting this goal because it is something you want to do or solely because you think it is what is expected of you or what other people want you to do?  Does it align with your values and priorities?  Do you feel at peace pursuing this goal?

    • Do not despise small beginnings.

    As you review what you didn’t accomplish this past year, try not to be too hard on yourself for not being where you want to be yet.  True success is not measured by how fast you achieve a goal if you had to sacrifice your well-being to get there. You are doing well if you keep going and stick to your values.  Remember that the real measure is progress, not perfection!

    • Seek wise counsel.

    Seeking wise counsel for a plan of action offers stability and success.  The key word being wise counsel, though, and not just telling everyone you know about your plans.  Some people will give you bad advice or discourage you from doing what you are supposed to do and encourage you to do something you’re not supposed to.  This could happen both intentionally or unintentionally.  But, when we share our goals with the right people, we get valuable feedback to help avoid pitfalls and are provided with accountability to help us stay on track when we start to veer off.  

    I hope you will implement some (or all!) of these principles into your overall self-care and goal-setting process this new year, and I look forward to cheering you on in your journey!

    Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://linkedin.com/in/robertaoroberts (let me know you saw the article!), and check out more blog posts like this one and other resources at my website, https://robertaoroberts.com.

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