Oklahoma Bar Journal

Practicing Gratitude When Asked, ‘How is Work?’ During
the Holidays

By Caroline Shaffer Siex

OBA YLD members dress up for an event during the 2018 Annual Meeting.

I have memories of my childhood teachers during Thanksgiving asking, “What are you thankful for?” As a kid, that was a pretty simple response. I was thankful for the pie at Thanksgiving, days off school and a fountain of gravy on my mashed potatoes.

Would any of us today say, “I am thankful to be a lawyer”? Let’s be honest, many of us would not. Before you throw this article down, let’s ask, why aren’t we? There’s more to being a lawyer than hitting our billable hours and objecting to form in a deposition. I know that for me, part of being a lawyer is my experience on the OBA YLD Board of Directors. Without being a lawyer, I would not have met a group of amazing friends who practice across the state. These are now friends with whom I have traveled, texted when I have had a bad day and created some great memories. The way I have been able to give back to our membership would also not have been possible without the board.

From left YLD Chair Caroline Shaffer Siex, Treasurer Taylor Venus and Chair-Elect Laura Talbert attend the 2023 ABA YLD Spring Conference in New York.

That’s just one part of my being a lawyer. I have had shining moments (and, of course, bad ones too). If we can think of five good things every month about being a lawyer, we could respond to our loved ones asking, “How is work?” at holiday gatherings much easier. If we practice gratitude, we can probably say much more than, “It’s fine.”

Interestingly, gratitude improves our mental health.[1] If you are reading this article, you have probably read other articles from Oklahoma Bar Journal contributors talking about the importance of mental health. In fact, the OBA YLD collaborated with the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Assistance Program to host a CLE based on the number of responses reported from young lawyers that demonstrated a need to focus on mental health. I say we should add something to the mental health toolbox.

The practice of gratitude can unshackle us from toxic emotions. If you have worked as a litigator, you know about toxic emotions. Wouldn’t it be great to focus on the good to help dull the not-so-good? Even though it will take time, practicing gratitude will have a positive “snowball effect.” We probably snowball in stress, so the opposite sounds like a fresh breath of positive air. There are also lasting positive effects on the brain when practicing gratitude.

From left Taylor Venus, Caroline Shaffer Siex and Immediate Past Chair Dylan Erwin at the 2023 ABA YLD Spring Conference in Atlanta.

In an effort to kickstart all of our practicing gratitude, I want to share five things I am personally thankful for as a lawyer that occurred within just the past month:

  • I was able to help a business owner who, I could tell, cared deeply about his employees and business to get out of a bad situation.
  • I saw the spark of new lawyers excited about joining the OBA at the YLD New Lawyers Happy Hour event.
  • I had a new experience in a different town at a Board of Governors meeting.
  • I had great communication with an opposing party.
  • Hey, I got a paycheck to keep a roof over my head!

No matter how big or small, there must be something to be thankful for. As we enter this month, let’s start a list to show off at Thanksgiving about how well work is going for us. I can at least predict that better than the Dallas Cowboys.

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


[1] Joshua Brown and Joel Wong. “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” Greater Good Magazine, June 6, 2017. Greater Good Science Center. https://bit.ly/3FoZ6XT.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 95 Vol 9 (November 2023)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.