June 2, 2023
President’s Message By Erica L. Laughlin
As the ground thaws and temperatures slowly start to climb this signifies one thing…. it’s dance competition season. I have two young girls in competitive dance, and as I’ve watched my fellow dance moms this season schlep around dance bags and props far bigger than any trial prep materials you’ve seen; wrangle with tired, nervous kids anxiously prepping before being judged; celebrating wins; scrutinizing opinions after losses; and zealously advocating for our studio – it struck me – dance moms are uniquely suited to be great lawyers. For example:
1. We read the fine print.
Every competition has a unique set of criteria and rules. A birthday cut-off date can make the difference in whether a child gets to compete in a lower age bracket despite having turned a year older. You better believe every dance mom out there is reading the fine print to ensure the best odds for her kids. My girls are under contract with our studio. I read every word and explained it to them, so they understood that signing it meant something. Now on days when someone would rather watch an iPad than rehearse, I can tell them they’ll be sued if they miss. Ok maybe I don’t go quite that far, but I do remind my girls that they made a commitment in writing. Whether reviewing a studio contract, talent agency agreement, or competition criteria, we are skilled and trained to catch the details.
2. We’re good under pressure.
Two girls, two routines, back-to-back with less than a minute to change full costume and hairstyles…sometimes with headpieces that need to be sewn or zip-tied to their heads (yes that’s a thing) at just the right angle so as not to interfere with tumbling. You need to be calm and precise. There is no room for error. I’d put a dance mom on a tight briefing deadline or complex high-pressured case any day.
3. We’re zealous advocates.
Whether it’s advocating that your child deserves to be in a certain position or routine, or enthusiastically cheering from the audience in hopes of influencing the judges, dance moms and lawyers alike know what it means to get in the trenches and fight for your clients and kids to achieve the best possible outcome.
4. We can handle difficult people.
Kids can be brutal. Adults can be even worse. Judges (dance and legal alike) can be harsh. Clients can be challenging. Competition drives intensity whether in the auditorium or the court room. Being able to read personalities and appropriately respond when faced with adversity is critical in dance and the law.
5. We adapt.
Dance moms are trained for quick changes, last minute rehearsals, schedule revisions and working on several things at once. We can run a meeting and take calls while gluing hundreds of crystals individually onto costumes. When it comes to multi-tasking on cases, overlapping deadlines and professional commitments we’re right at home. As long as there is Wi-Fi in the studio parking lot, you can be sure we will get the task done.
6. We keep it professional.
Wins deserve to be celebrated, and losses can hit hard. Whether at competition or in the courtroom we are attuned to what it takes to be a good sport and handle success or defeat with grace. We stress this with our lawyers and we teach this to our kids. You shake your opponent’s hand and tell them they did a good job. You support your colleagues and teammates. You learn from your experiences and appreciate what skills you can improve upon.
7. We are good mentors.
It’s critical to the development and success of a young lawyer to have good mentors to work with, champion, and help grow personally and professionally. We strive to help our kids improve on the dance floor, at home, in school and in our communities. In law and dance we’re cultivating the next generation for the profession. That takes time, energy and resources. It takes a person who cares more about others than themselves – that’s a mom.
8. We understand the burden of proof and artful persuasion.
In both dance and law there is a set of criteria that must be proven or executed at the highest level of proficiency in order to achieve success. You have to understand your burden, apply it to your facts, and persuade the jury. You have to know high scoring criteria, perfect your skills and perform. There is a certain amount of subjectivity and discretion inherent to judging a case or routine. That’s your opportunity to “win” your audience with your best performance.
9. We can take a note.
Attorneys appreciate when a colleague redlines something we’ve written that improves and enhances the finished product. Dancers constantly receive feedback from teachers, choreographers and judges. Dance moms take note. We appreciate a good critique and help our kids understand that even a harsh comment is meant to make you better.
10. We are fierce.
Ever glue fake eyelashes on a 4-year-old at 5:30 a.m.? It’s not for the faint of heart. I dare you to find a more challenging opponent.
While this article was meant to be a little lighthearted, it was also meant to celebrate all the parents out there who are juggling career, kids and activities. I’m sure you could change the narrative a bit to apply just as equally to any parent out there with a child involved in competitive sports, stem, arts or other intense training regiments. Cheers to all our hardworking multi-tasking parents out there and best of luck in an award winning season!