Give grace

Nov. 3, 2023

President’s Message By Marla N. Presley

True to my message when I accepted the gavel from Erica, I have spent the better part of three months connecting with ACBA members at their offices, at events, and sometimes over a coffee or cocktail. I make an effort with every lawyer to ask about their practice, their lives, and how we/I can help. Now that we are inching toward 2024, I am hearing the same message: the end of the year is particularly challenging. We are ferociously trying to capture every available billable hour to meet our goal, agonizing over elevation decisions, and chasing clients for outstanding A/R, all while balancing life and everything that comes with it. What if the Elf forgets to relocate to the kitchen to bake cookies by morning? How will all the gifts get bought, the cards get mailed, and the house look like Martha Stewart just swung by? 

I share in all those stressors. I worry about important things, like how my office will fare against the others in my firm, whether the holidays have become too materialistic in light of the atrocities happening around the world, and whether I am putting enough time in relationships with family and friends who provide me with so much. But I also fret about things that I know to be wildly unimportant in the grand scheme of things: how I will make it to all the Divisions and Sections’ Holiday Parties, how I will stay (somewhat) on track with my newfound fitness routine, and how will I squeeze in travel, hydration, and sleep for the next few months?

The unease, apprehension, and worry are human nature. But lawyers are a different breed. In speaking to dozens and dozens of lawyers recently, it is clear to me that we collectively focus on what we can do better, what we can do more, and what we can do differently. And this is why, particularly as we approach year end, we have to remind ourselves and remind each other that we are doing a good job, we deserve good things, and there are good times to come. As someone regularly reminds me, we have to give ourselves grace.  And while we’re at it, we might as well give grace to each other.

But what exactly does this mean? It means to give yourself (and others) a chance, time, the ability to make mistakes without punishment, and forgiveness. Maybe we don’t have Pinterest-worthy homes, maybe our turkey is as dry as Catherine’s in Christmas Vacation, and maybe we brought store-bought cookies to school. Maybe we missed our billable target by 20 hours, or came in second on a significant RFP, or lost out on a lateral. You know what? It’s okay. We are doing the best that we can in a hectic and monumentally trying profession. Giving ourselves the grace that we deserve allows us to try hard and move on. Because bigger things are to come, I am sure of it. 

I received more comments to my 4,000 weeks message than other things I’ve written as President-Elect or President of the ACBA. And a number of you answered my calling: you reached out to tell me what you were going to do with your weeks. Many pledged to stop taking things for granted. Other promised to stop sweating the small stuff. And most vowed to take the trip, eat the dessert, or just say “yes” more frequently. I was humbled, moved, and inspired. Sure, sometimes lawyers get a bad rap. We’re the butt of jokes, the center of internet memes (or are they called gifs?), and often demonized by the community we seek to serve. By giving ourselves grace, we allow ourselves to stop agonizing over things and really focus on the more important aspects of our job, our community, and our life. We allow ourselves to focus on our weeks. I’ve tried to end every President’s message with a call to action. Mine for you in this edition is to give yourself grace.