The More Things Change…

By: Stacy Thompson

My law firm has undergone some huge changes recently – two of our partners are moving on to great professional ventures and as a business, we could not be happier for them. Personally, however, the transition will be anything but easy. As consumed as we’ve been in the pragmatic aspects of the change (complete overhaul of letterhead, business cards, website…and the list goes on and on and on) I personally can’t help but get the feeling we all have when faced with a ‘goodbye to the old and in with the new’ life event. I know our firm will continue to thrive, as will the careers of both our colleagues, but we will miss their friendship and personalities as much as we will miss their legal guidance.

In times like these, it’s natural to reflect back on the beginning as we face the change. Seventeen years ago, I was a baby-lawyer fresh out of law school, looking to do good and hopefully make a living. I had taken the South Carolina Bar Exam, a grueling three-day marathon that I hoped to pass, not because of my immense drive to succeed but mainly due to my inability to fathom having to study for and take that thing again. I was pursuing a potential career in the military, but in the interim, was working at my brother’s sandwich shop. Yes, the girl with a law degree was getting drink refills, chopping vegetables and bagging to-go orders. I was happy to have the distraction and interaction with customers and really enjoyed the time with my brother and mother, who worked the cash register. One of the ‘regulars’ came in for his usual lunch and my mom asked him how his new law practice was doing. He had recently gone into practice with another lawyer and starting the business was hectic, overwhelming, but certainly exciting. He happened to mention to her that they could use a little extra paralegal help to handle some of the day-to-day stuff, and my mother, in true momma-bear-mode, pointed to me, the one in the apron, baseball hat, and sneakers, and said, “My daughter has a paralegal degree, well, and a law degree, but she’s worked as a paralegal and has some time on her hands.” As I was getting said lawyer’s drink, we talked about his new practice and I explained that I had experience in drafting pleadings, answering interrogatories and writing demand letters. He brought his law partner back the next day, and I moved to the other side of the counter (still in my apron, baseball hat, and sneakers) for my first job interview post-law school. They asked me to come to their office the next day and were a little surprised to see me in a suit – I had changed after leaving my ‘other’ job and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to show them that I was serious about the part-time job they were offering.

Two weeks into the job, the work continued to flow and I was asked to come on board full time. A few months later, my bosses (by that time friends) asked if I would join them as an associate. The decision was an easy one – although I had other thoughts as to my future, I found myself in an office with people I respected and liked, doing work that I was proud of – truly, this was where I was meant to be.

Fast-forward to the present – I’m still in that same office with people I respect and truly like, doing work that I’m immensely proud of. I live close to my family and have the flexibility to balance my work life with travel, Gamecock games, and the occasional arts and crafts project.

Sometimes changes in our lives are intentional and other times changes drop into our laps or even blindside us. Regardless, change can be positive and may allow us the opportunity to reflect on how things were and how we want them to be. I’m grateful for the change that occurred seventeen years ago and look forward to the new change happening now. It may be that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ but sometimes it involves embracing a new ‘same’ and relishing the chance to create a new direction in life.

Counselors of Law

By: Stacy Thompson

I have been asked many times what drew me to the practice of law. Back in high school and college, I didn’t have any friends or family members who were lawyers, other than a distant cousin and my great-grandfather, who I was never fortunate enough to meet. I had never needed a lawyer (fortunately) for any civil or criminal matters and I wasn’t really a fan of LA Law or Ally McBeal – Judge Wapner seemed like a decent guy, but I had no real excitement for the show. I was an international studies major, Latin American studies minor, in college and as graduation approached, I was really uncertain about what I wanted to do or be in life. I knew what I liked, which was analyzing problems, writing, history and anything with people – but how to make a career and a life out of that?!? I was somewhat lost.

My last year of college I found a part-time job as a runner at a local law firm. Not good at being idle, I would make the rounds within the office asking the paralegals for any menial task that would keep me busy and teach me a little more about what a law office was about. In talking with one of the paralegals, I mentioned that I was thinking about law school, but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to take that leap. She suggested that I look into paralegal school and possibly work for some time before investing financially and emotionally in the rigors of law school. So off I went to Atlanta, and four months later I got my first paralegal job in Anderson, SC.

Other than the challenge of living that close to that school in the Upstate (for those that don’t know or haven’t followed this blog up until now, I am a huuuuge Gamecock fan), I learned a lot the year and a half I was there – first and foremost, I learned that I really needed to go on to law school, where I could eventually control the types of cases I took in, the clients I represented and the case development itself.

Next came law school itself – where, let’s be clear, you are NOT taught the practice of law, but how to best read voluminous case law, breaking down the issues and then articulating an argument on either side of the fence. It was both torture (especially the first year), a total blast (delving into the background of every Article within our Constitution is truly awesome, trust me), while giving me the base I needed to pursue a career and what I realized was a ‘vocation.’

So, seventeen years into the practice of law, I can truly say that I am doing what I was meant to do – I can make a living not only helping others, but making sure the rules are followed and applied to everyone equally. No two cases are identical and every day brings different challenges – some making the blood pressure rise and others bringing a tear to the eye. As attorneys, we are often called “counselors” of law, which I believe more accurately describes my profession – we counsel and guide people through somewhat difficult times and provide an ear, shoulder and helping hand. I can’t imagine any other true calling in life.

Remember the Net-lace

By: Chaunte McClure

Many of us have dreams, goals, and desires and most of us will work to fulfill them. In the process, we might want to relinquish our efforts because of heartaches, illnesses, disappointments, slothfulness, and even death. I’ve experienced all those setbacks on my journey to earning a master of divinity degree, but I never quit; although there were many
moments when I was ready for the journey to end. I kept my focus on the end —graduation and the opportunities God has lined up for me. With just a few more weeks of
reading and writing assignments, I’ll finally graduate in May. Had I quit, I wouldn’t be turning the tassel during next month’s ceremony.

Dawn Staley, the head basketball coach for the women’s basketball team, shared a similar message with thousands of fans and other supporters who gathered in downtown Columbia Sunday for the team’s welcome home parade and national championship celebration. (Yes, the Gamecocks are NCAA basketball champions! Go Cocks!) The championship is a first for the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team and a first for Coach Staley. They had their almost-made-it moments, but on Sunday, April 2, they garnered a national championship title. Coach could’ve lost hope in 2016 after not making it past the Final Four. The team could’ve given up in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State, but they stayed focused, played well until the end and had the privilege of cutting the net. Coach Staley proudly wears that net, affectionately referred to as her net-lace, around her neck. To anyone who has a belief or hope, she urged them on Sunday during her speech to “take a piece of our net and reflect on what we were able to accomplish.” If you want to earn a degree, remember the net-lace. If you want to earn your high school diploma, remember the net. If you want a promotion, remember the net. Whatever you are seeking, dreaming or hoping for, don’t forget about the net. It’s a reminder that yes, you can.

Click here to watch Coach Staley’s inspirational remarks.

As a former student at the University of South Carolina, I remember when just a handful of fans supported the women’s basketball team on game nights and you could sit wherever you wanted. Now, the Colonial Life Arena is packed with loyal fans who purchase season tickets and next year they’ll watch national champions take it to the hoop. I’m proud of the program’s growth and I look forward to watching Gamecocks play in seasons to come. I am forever to thee.

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

Back-to-Work Blues

By: Chaunte McClure 

How many of you spent Sunday evening dreading the fact that you had to go back to work this week? I wasn’t exactly dreading it, but the extra hours snugged in bed for the past week were much appreciated, and I’m not opposed to having more of those opportunities.

back to work blues

Remember how the week before Christmas you could hardly wait for your week off to begin so you could complete your Christmas shopping, run last minute errands, leave for vacation or just enjoy some time off? Then in seven, six, five, four, three two, one . . . it was time to prepare your mind for your normal routine of waking up to an early morning alarm and pressing snooze time after time before finally making your way to the bathroom.

With the rain pounding on the roof Tuesday morning, that made getting up a little harder, but I rolled out of bed, determined to get to work on time. I knew wet roads meant a higher possibility of accidents and traffic delays, so I made sure I had extra time for my morning commute.

With about eight minutes to spare, before walking into the building to unlock my office door for the first time since 2016, I skimmed my timeline and read a few posts from friends who had back-to-work blues. I think most of them started sharing days-off memes as early as last Thursday as the week gradually ended.

I survived the first day back in the office after the holiday break. I had meetings the first half of the day and I spent the second half responding to requests. Let’s see how these next three work days of the new year pan out.

Friends … Forever?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

 

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One of my dearest friends had a birthday a week ago. It was on my calendar (in two places). Did I send her a card or call or email or even text?

I’m really ashamed to admit it, but no.

I could blame the hurricane and the toll it took on our home near Beaufort, my time, energy and mental capacity, but that’s just a convenient excuse. The fact is, although we worked together for years and years, ran together and even travelled some together, nowadays we rarely see each other. A few years ago she left the company where I still work, so now it takes extra effort to keep in touch. Sometimes we do better than others.

 

forever friends

This got me thinking about the effect of changing work situations on friendships. All of us have had good friends who changed jobs or moved away or just aren’t right there every day any more. This is starting to concern me more as I near retirement and wonder what other friends might gradually slip away when they’re no longer part of my 8-5 routine.

Of course, it’s great to make new friends, too, and I’m doing that as my life patterns start to change. But there’s no replacement for friends who knew you back when … and still love you anyway. If you’re lucky, you have at least a few of these in your life. Forever friends.

How will I keep in touch? I have a few ideas, and I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

  • Always celebrate birthdays, even belatedly, even if it’s embarrassing to admit the date got away from you. OK, I just texted an invitation to my friend and she’s replying as I write. Stay tuned.
  • Meet for lunch or happy hour now and then. Include other long-lost friends and reconnect with several people at once.
  • Sign up for a race or volunteer event together.
  • Get tickets to a concert or play together.
  • Take a class or Bible study together. My church has short studies around Lent and the holidays that aren’t a big time commitment but remind me why we connected in the first place.
  • Follow each other on Instagram. I’m not a social media maven and have neither the time nor inclination for constant Facebook check-ins, but it takes seconds to post a photo on Instagram. And a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

Now, I may find I’m the one who has to take the initiative to make these things happen. I can either let that bother me or accept it as worth the value of keeping someone wonderful in my life. If it gets to the point that it’s not, it’s time to let her (or him) fly away.

Oh, this just in: She said yes! We’re meeting for lunch tomorrow. Better late than never, especially when it comes to old (forever) friends.

Making Work-Life Balance Work

By: Katie Austin

“If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance” – Nigel Marsh.

I love this quote because it gets to the heart of why I chose this topic! I struggle with balancing work and my personal life and I believe many others do, too.

I watched a TED Talk by Nigel Marsh called, “How to make work-life balance work.” Marsh stated, “With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, it can transform society.” He believes that we need to change society’s definition of success, moving away from the “person with the most money wins to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.” I agree!

 

What does work-life balance mean? It is the concept of properly prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

What happens to us when work and life are out of balance? A Mayo Clinic article, “Work-life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control,” describes the following consequences of a poor balance:

  • Fatigue – when you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffers.
  • Poor health – stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can put you at risk of substance abuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones – if you’re working too much, you will miss important family events and milestones. This will leave you feeling left out and can harm relationships.
  • Increased expectations – If you regularly work extra hours, you may be given more responsibility. This can lead to additional concerns and challenges.

Now let’s talk about how you can achieve balance in your life.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance you should strive for. Take small steps like these for long-term changes:

1. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing things differently.

Put simply – there is no room in your life to do anything more than you are already doing. Rather than making room for your new actions, make choices.

2. Free time doesn’t have to be available time. Make sure to schedule down time.

An example that I can easily relate to is when a friend asks you to attend an event. You check your calendar, see that the date is open and you say “yes,” marking it in your calendar. It isn’t until later that you realize that was the only block of time during the week that wasn’t filled. The only time you would have been able to take time to yourself, run errands, or simply watch your favorite TV show. If you’re like me and you need time to recharge, it’s important to remember that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself. Your free time can be just that – free.

3. Focus on thriving, not surviving.

This is key – you won’t thrive if your focus is on simply surviving the day or trying to make it to the end of the week.

4. Treat yourself like a dog.

I have to admit that I have never heard this before, but it is so true! Think of it this way – remember the last time you played with your dog (or maybe a friend’s dog)? What would you do if that dog did something for you like fetched a ball? You would praise them (good girl/boy), pat them on the head or maybe give them a treat. Why don’t you do that for yourself? We treat our dogs better than we treat ourselves. Anytime you do something that creates better work-life balance, reward yourself with a treat.

Not sure where you are in the work life balance? Take a look at these questions. For me, the greatest impact of this exercise was not just answering the questions, but the fact that I took the time to slow down long enough to go through the exercise, to focus on real questions about how I was spending my time. I do believe that if we make small changes over time, we can find balance.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson