The Changing Tide
by Hon. Carla N. Archie
Years ago, I read an article about our shifting perspective on life as we move through the decades. The author suggested that our personal motivation and focus is different, depending on whether we were in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. At the time I read the article, I was in my 30s and not completely convinced of the author’s theory. But now in my 40s, I believe the same is true of our professional motivation and focus, as I look back over the first two decades of my career and see the changing tide.
In my 20s, I was intently focused on cultivating my skills and establishing my reputation. It was critical that I learned to blend the art of practicing law with the black letter rule of law. So I spent time studying the “masters” in my field - experienced prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys - borrowing pages from their playbooks. I learned the importance of developing a litigation theme. I learned to keep the presentation simple and never talk above the audience. I learned that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
As I moved further into my 30s, my focus shifted to the business of practicing law - balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and my own personal net worth. I learned there is a cost-benefit analysis associated with every case/client. I learned the simple, but ofttimes difficult path to increased profitability (both personal and professional) is to grow income and/or reduce expenses. I adopted a personal net worth target of my age, multiplied by my income, divided by 10 (See Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter).
Now in my 40s, I am much more focused on putting my skills and assets to their highest and best use. We share a common profession, but I’m learning that we are all uniquely gifted. Numerous leadership and personality assessments have helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses. I’m learning to embrace mine, not in comparison to others, but in conjunction with skills and perspectives of other colleagues I can work with to achieve the most effective and efficient client outcome. I’m learning to divorce my purpose from my paycheck; but where I have the time, talent, or money, I should use it to further the greater good.
I suspect my 50s may shift toward building the next generation of lawyers and cultivating an interest in the profession among underrepresented populations. I feel that pull even now. The MCB Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee recently published its latest Benchmarking Report. The report provides descriptive statistics on the demographic composition of participating local firms, with special emphasis on representation of women and ethnic minorities. According to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, who analyzed the 2013 data, eight percent of lawyers in participating law firms were minorities and 31 percent were female. Minority representation dipped slightly since 2006, and female representation increased slightly since 2006, when the D&I Committee first began tracking local law firm representation.
Comparatively, census projections for 2013 show that racial minorities made up approximately 22 percent and females made up approximately 51 percent of the US population. (See www.factfinder.census.gov) That means we have significant work yet to do in order to advance the diversity of our profession and to better serve the needs of an increasingly diverse client base.
I’m wondering what I have to look forward to in my next couple of decades. But if it’s anything close to the first two decades, it will be filled with extraordinary people, lasting life lessons, and tremendous growth opportunities.
I look forward to taking the journey with you and seeing you at future Bar events!