Sugarlaws: Living Sweetly.

to our baby boy, at nine months

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February 20th, 2015 · Print Print

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Baby Bear,

Remember these letters?  I wrote you one every month for your first five months, and then got so busy being your mom that I forgot to write another one all winter.  A lot has changed since that last letter!  You’re like a different little kid now — closer to a toddler than a newborn, and every day lately reveals some new skill or word or expression that I’ve never seen before.  We’re in the middle of a smooth patch, and parenting right now is mostly just fun

And yes, part of me misses that little baby who would snuggle for hours, who wanted nothing more than to sit in mom’s lap.  Now, you’re crawling everywhere, pulling yourself up on our furniture and trying to walk.  You’re tipping over the dogs’ water bowl and grabbing for our television remotes and generally wreaking havoc on our house, and we wouldn’t change it for a second.  (Ok, maybe we’d change the 5:30 a.m. wake-ups, but other than those, not a thing.) Sections of our house are baby-proofed and you mostly sleep through the night.  (FINALLY.) We have a routine.  That, actually, might just be the biggest victory. 

The best change in these last few months has been that parenting has finally gotten a little bit easier.  Sure, you’re still the boss of this house, but you’re not a lunatic dictator anymore.  You’re fairly reasonable in your demands, and we’ve gotten better at figuring out what you need.  Most of the time, except for the occasional sick day or tooth coming in, we all get along fairly well.

And those hazy first weeks and months, when I could barely see straight through the sleep deprivation and the all-consuming worries? 

They’re just memories now.  We made it.

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And you know who doesn’t always get enough credit on this blog?  Your dad.

Because, here’s the thing: If I’m the one keeping you sane, he’s the one keeping me sane.  On the days when it feels like starting a law firm and running a blog and being a mom are not just beyond my limits but beyond the limits of any human being… he’s the one who doesn’t give up.  It makes a huge difference to have someone in your corner, every day, certain that you can do it.  It makes you feel like, just maybe, you actually can. 

There are so many things I can say about the last few months, but I’ll keep this letter short and sweet.  I can’t believe it’s been nine months since you entered our lives.  We’ve had a lot of ups and downs along the way, but I wouldn’t trade a single second of them.  We’re so very lucky to have you.

I love you so much,

Your Mom.

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The Mommie Series!

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February 17th, 2015 · Print Print

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Last week, I had the most amazing time moderating a panel discussion for the Mommie Series!  As part of the Mommie Series, several times a year, speakers on fashion, finance, health and family gather to discuss topical issues on the minds of modern moms, and this season, I was thrilled to be part of the discussion.

Being a mom is an incredible privilege, and it’s also a huge challenge.  As modern mothers, we face pressure on all sides — from career choices to competing parenting philosophies to crafting modern marriages that are satisfying and fulfilling.  So nights like this one are incredibly special — they’re those rare nights out when we get to dress up, sip champagne, and discuss the issues that are important to us.  Our night of speakers tackled topics like charitable giving, access to social media for kids, thyroid function, and spring fashion trends.  Yup, all of it.  That’s why this event is so amazing: one moment you’re talking about the tax advantages of setting up a charitable foundation, the next you’re drooling over white leather for fall. 

That’s my kind of night, ladies.

So I wanted to share a few photos from the night with you guys, because it was such a fun, special experience.  I was honored to be asked to be part of this session, and can’t wait to be in the audience for many more to come. 

Photos by Quy Tan.

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four things i learned from being the boss for a year

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February 12th, 2015 · Print Print

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Many of you may remember that a little over a year ago, I left my job at a law firm to start my own legal practice. I was at a crossroads in my career, and I knew that if I ever wanted to make this jump, this was my window.

And oh my gosh: what a year it’s been.

{Actually, it’s been almost a year and a half at this point, but it took me about six months to have enough spare time to draft this post, ha.  Such is life.}

It’s been really, really amazing. And also really, really hard.

Sure, having a baby added a whole new set of complications (I touched on them a little bit when I wrote about being a working mom). But many of the challenges that I’ve worked through in the last year have nothing to do with being a mom, and everything to do with starting a business.

So I thought that I’d put together some small pieces of advice that I’ve gathered throughout the past year. Starting a business takes full commitment, all the hours you can devote to it, and a ton of creativity and energy. It takes flexibility, determination, and an incredible amount of grunt work.

And once you’re done with that, here are a few more things to keep on your mind.

Delegate Everything You Can.

My first day working at a huge law firm in Manhattan, we learned: When you can delegate, you should. I was 25 at the time, and honestly, I felt nervous and awkward at the idea that I was qualified to assign tasks to anyone (even my secretary, who at that point had more years of experience in the legal industry than I did).

But my firm made clear: this was the first and most crucial skill that I was expected to learn. A client would not put up with me spending two hours drafting mailing labels because I thought it was awkward to ask my assistant to do it. I was expected to take advantage of their resources, so that I could do what they paid me for: being a lawyer.

In retrospect, it was the best lesson I could have learned. Like many of us who are perfectionists, I have a tendency to micro-manage projects, and I worry that no one else is going to do every task as well as I can. But… that tendency sucks up a ton of time that’s better spent elsewhere.

Your time is valuable. Spend it challenging yourself, learning new skills, and pushing your brain to its limits. And when you can get help, do it. So delegate whatever you can, and focus your time accordingly.

Stop Worrying.

Ok, truthfully?

This one took me a long time to learn.

My first year in business, I worried a lot.  I worried when I quit my stable, high-paying job, I worried during my first few months as I waited for the phone to ring, and I sometimes still worry. There are so many worries for your mind to fixate on: What if I lose this case? What if I don’t get this client? What if my phone stops ringing?

But, you know what? All of those things are out of my control. They always were. Worrying is never going to make the phone ring, and it’s never going to change whether you succeed. It’s going to make you miserable, and distract you from taking chances that might just pay out in the long run.

So I’ve started to let go of my worries, and embrace the flexibility and creativity that get stifled when you spend every minute worrying about things in the future.  Right now, what I’m doing is working.  And focusing on that is more productive than all the worst- and best-case scenarios I can think of.

Build a Network.

Success isn’t just a measure of how hard you work; the relationships you build are equally important. I’ve been lucky throughout my career to work with incredible mentors and colleagues, many of whom I still regularly call on for advice. Especially when I first started my practice, my network of seasoned, experienced lawyers answered my questions, vetted my ideas, and provided me with countless hours of knowledge and advice.

And here’s the great thing about being a woman: we are natural networkers. We’re comfortable talking. We keep in touch. We maintain larger social networks, and we bond incredibly closely with our friends. This is one aspect of business that’s sitting there, waiting for us: all we have to do is reach for it.

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When the Going Gets Tough… Just Keep Going.

The biggest thing I worried about during my first year in business? The topic of all those sleepless nights?

Failure.

I worried that I’d spend a year, or five years, or ten years, doing this, and I wouldn’t be able to make it succeed. That my sheer force of will wouldn’t be strong enough.  I worried that no matter what I did, some element of success was out of my control.

Some days that failure felt imminent. When I didn’t get a case that I really wanted. When I was up at midnight because the baby hadn’t slept and I had a brief to finish. When I had to take a deep breath because my to-do list was a mile long and I was still on the first item.

In short: When any obstacle got thrown in my path, that fear re-emerged.

But it’s been a year, and I haven’t failed. Sure, there’s some relief there. But there’s also something even more valuable: I’ve come to terms with the fact that that even if I did, or if I still do, failure isn’t the end of the world.

So here’s what I say to someone who’s in the position I was in a year ago, worried about the uncertainty but itching to try anyway:

Life is long and you’ll have many chances to do many things. Maybe this one will work out — hopefully, it will. But if it doesn’t? You’ll pick up the pieces and move forward.

You will be wiser for the experience, even if it’s painful.  Failure can teach you lessons that you’ll never learn from success. That, in itself, has value.

One of my favorite pieces of inspiration is a speech that Steve Jobs gave for Stanford Commencement in 2005. I’ve probably read it a hundred times, particularly in moments of doubt and uncertainty.

His last few words are hanging on a print in my home office: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

My first year in business was hungry and foolish. It was scary and exhilarating and maddening and stressful beyond belief, and it was also one of the things that I will be proud of doing for the rest of my life. It was jumping off a cliff to see if I could fly, and it was unlike any experience I’ve ever had.

It has profoundly changed the way I think about my career, in ways that will be with me for the rest of my life. It has given me responsibility, discipline, and drive that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.

For every sleepless night, there was another full of exhilaration, full of celebration, and full of tiny little victories that kept me going, day after day.

I learned a thousand lessons — sometimes that were exciting, some that were painful.

I learned when to trust my gut and when to trust my experience… and when to just flip a coin and call it a day.

I learned that, at the end of your first year, the process of making these decisions is just getting started.

I learned that every day brings some new challenge that I am stronger and better for having overcome.

For a girl whose life has been spent on a pretty rigid trajectory, I learned the freedom of inventing a path for yourself, and the flexibility and grit that it requires.

And, you know what? I’m still learning, every single day.

So ask me again at the end of Year Two.

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