What will you do with your 4,000 weeks?

Sept. 22, 2023

President’s Message By Marla N. Presley

Not long after I took the gavel as ACBA President, a friend forwarded me an internet post that said, “Life is short. You get 4,000 weeks if you’re lucky. Book that flight. Start that business. Stop putting limits on yourself.” The better part of six weeks later, those words have crossed my mind dozens of times: when the calendar is triple booked and prioritizing is impossible, when the hurdles come fast and seem insurmountable, or when everything feels like a race against a clock that doesn’t have enough hours. In those moments – when perspective is most elusive – I make a concerted effort to stop and think about my weeks, and whether I’m making them count. 

In the undeniably fast paced and demanding legal profession, where lawyers are known to immerse themselves in their cases, research, and legal arguments, it is easy to be become consumed by our ever-growing obligations and responsibilities. This all-encompassing approach to the practice, which so many of us take, can start to overshadow the other aspects of our lives. This is when we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look for a broader view. This is when we need to reevaluate the weeks that have passed and the weeks that are to come. This is my challenge to all of you.

Allegheny County is home to some of the best lawyers in the country. I am proud of this profession, my colleagues, and our collective fight for justice in our community. I am in awe of the warriors in the courtroom, the fierce advocates for the voiceless, and the sage counselors in the boardroom. But our careers should be only one part of our journey. 

As we head into fall, I encourage you to embrace every moment and savor each experience. To be present in the ordinary instances and find joy in the small things. To never underestimate the power of uncontrollable laughter. To create a network of resilience; surrounding yourself with people who celebrate your successes and help you navigate your tribulations. 

I urge you to meet new people – particularly other ACBA members – and to attend new events. Take time to support a committee’s CLE, or volunteer for a section’s project, or donate to a division’s cause. We are one of the preeminent bar associations in the country, because of the strength of our membership. Make the decision today to be a part of all that we do and all that we have to offer.

I ask you to pay attention to the lawyers in your office, on the other side of your cases, or who you see on Grant Street. This profession is hard and none of us are invincible. Ask someone how they are doing and really listen to the answer. Take that moment to be kind because sometimes the smallest gesture has the greatest impact. 

Outside of the bar association, I hope that you become engaged in an organization meaningful to you, that you offer your hand to someone less advantaged, and that you break free from the complacency. That you make time for what matters to you, without guilt or impatience. That you dance in morning, tell bad jokes, and make someone feel special every day. 

Over the next ten months, I look forward to meeting and collaborating with our members. Learning about your practice, your goals, and the challenges you face. Identifying ways in which the ACBA can better support you personally and professionally. Continuing to develop wellness initiatives and community outreach programs. Strengthening our charitable and public service work. Focusing on increasing attorney engagement in our committees, sections, and divisions. And amplifying our DEI efforts. But above all, I hope to connect more meaningfully with all of you. I want to learn about your weeks. What you’ve done, what you plan to do, and how I can help. 

Now is the time to dream big, embrace positivity, prioritize health and wellbeing, nurture relationships, welcome change, pursue your passions, express gratitude, take risks, travel and explore, continue to learn, and be generous. What will you do with your weeks?