Attorney at Law Dallas Publisher P.J Hines sat down with Laura Bemitez Geisler to discuss mentors and how she balances work and home life.
AALM: What is the best advice you received from a mentor figure?
Geisler: A mentor once told me that people are more likely to remember how you made them feel during a conversation than what you actually said, and that most people feel better about a conversation when they believe that they have been truly heard. That really resonated with me and caused me to focus on being a better listener. I noticed that when I focus on listening more and talking less, the overall quality of the communication is improved, issues are easier to identify and address, misunderstandings are avoided, and I am able to express myself better.
AALM: What advice would you offer a newly licensed attorney?
Geisler: Go back and read the Texas Lawyers Creed and take it to heart. When you received your license you took an oath to conduct yourself with integrity and civility – never forget that promise. It may not always be easy to take the high road and do the right thing, especially when doing so will upset a client, a supervising attorney, or your ego’s personal sense of justice. Do not underestimate the value of your credibility and reputation or how difficult it is to repair once damaged.
AALM: How do you work to maintain balance between your home life and work life? What single tip would you offer a young attorney?
Geisler: I think it is easier to find ways to balance home and work life when you are willing to adapt to the circumstances and focus on balancing the things that are truly important to you. For example, before I was a parent going to the gym after work was important to me because working out was how I relieved the stress of being a young associate. That changed after I had my daughter because after work it was more important to me to go straight home and spend time with her. Working out was still important to me but not as important as spending time with my daughter before bedtime. Instead of giving up my workouts altogether, I started going to the gym early in the morning while my daughter slept.
Later when Erika was a little older and I was serving as president of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers my balancing act was a little different. There were a lot of after work bar functions I was expected to attend. In an effort to balance the priorities that were competing for my time I found ways to involve Erika in my DAYL activities. I had her do things like lead the pledge of allegiance at the Dinner with the Judiciary, and work in the kid’s area at the DAYL Freedom Run.
My life wasn’t always perfectly in balance but I tried my best which is all we can ever do. There will be times when work demands will overtake the demands at home and vice versa, the key is to recognize when one completely overtakes the other and to figure out a way to restore some balance.
AALM: Would you encourage attorneys to become involved in legal associations? Where or how do you believe their involvement would be most beneficial?
Geisler: Absolutely! As the current first-vice president of the Dallas Bar Association and past president of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers I will admit that I am somewhat biased when it comes to the value of bar involvement. I believe that bar associations foster a sense of community and camaraderie that benefit not only association members but the profession as a whole. The value derived from bar association involvement will be different for everyone.
For example, although the Dallas Bar Association has 30 substantive practice sections and 31 different committees, some of the DBA’s 11,000-plus members find value in simply attending a few free CLE programs and networking at those functions. Others find value providing pro bono legal services through the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, helping build a Habitat home, or showcasing their creative talent on stage in Bar None, an annual show benefiting the Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarship. For some, meaningful bar participation includes taking on a leadership role in a section or committee.
The lawyers who seem to get the most benefit from bar involvement are the ones who are active in an association, sections, committees or project that they truly enjoy. The benefit and value of bar involvement comes from the quality of time spent not the quantity.
AALM: What is one experience you believe is essential for every attorney to experience?
Geisler: I think every lawyer should find a way to give back to the community or profession in a way that is personally meaningful, whether it is taking a pro bono case, mentoring a young lawyer, helping a colleague in crisis, raising money for Equal Access to Justice, or by simply spreading acts of kindness.