Oklahoma Bar Journal

Young Lawyers Division | Reflect on the Change of Plans in a Positive Light

By Caroline Shaffer Siex

The OBA YLD Board of Directors attends the ABA YLD Midyear Meeting in New Orleans in February. From left Alexandra Gage, Caroline Shaffer Siex, Taylor Venus, Dylan Erwin and Laura Talbert

            Already three months into this year, we look back on what has been accomplished and what has yet to be accomplished. The YLD has already hosted its first event and assembled the bar exam survival kits, and the Board of Directors attended the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans. I had looked forward to attending our ABA conference. We meet on several issues with lawyers across the county. Likewise, various issues are brought before the ABA to discuss and determine any resolutions to take up in guiding American jurisprudence as a whole.

            The trip, of course, was during the blistering ice storm that swept through Green Country Oklahoma, as well as other parts of the nation. The other officers and I, who were appearing to represent the OBA YLD community, found our plans changed. Our flights were canceled, rebooked and, for some of us, canceled again.

            The gauntlet of engaging in airline travel led me to reevaluate the entire trip. I found myself on an unexpected 10-hour drive to New Orleans. Of course, I felt frustration, annoyance and anger. This trip was carefully planned and prepared for months ahead of time – then I was trekking on something with little ability to plan. As I drove into Arkansas and headed south to Louisiana, I passed by the narrow and tall pines. I thought to myself, “Although it was not my original plan, it is not that bad.” Later I drove over the bayous and large bridges into the Big Easy. It was a different experience than if I had flown, one I would not have been able to enjoy.

            Our law careers sometimes start with well-thought-out plans. Sometimes we set out on getting our law degree to practice in a certain area of law, then find out that we prefer civil versus criminal procedure. Some of us left litigation or joint litigation after swearing off one or the other. However, adjusting our plans can be part of learning as a young lawyer. Rather than consider it a disaster, realize it may be a good change.

            A change of plan may not be something as drastic as switching your law area. You may just need to change how you prepare for depositions or how you will prepare for an argument before a particular judge. Changing the plan of action can be positive. Young lawyers are rarely told to reflect on the changes in their careers to look for the positive. However, these changes are often your progress.

            The progress young lawyers make is often not appreciated, and they do not find themselves celebrating it. Although this alone may not be what causes the disdain to practice law or the burnout, it certainly does not help.

            For young lawyers, especially those who are just starting, know that you can and should plan. However, you can lose your plan. You change jobs, an area of law or a focus. The loss of that plan, or even a failure, should not keep you from refocusing and continuing in your career. Rather, use it to reflect and make a new plan. You may find the new plan can be just as great or better.

Ms. Shaffer Siex practices in Tulsa and serves as the YLD chair. She may be contacted at cshaffer@gablawyers.com.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 3 (March 2023)