What is the most useful professional advice/feedback you ever got from a non-lawyer?

Erica Holzer

Erica Holzer represents clients in complex commercial disputes primarily in the areas of tort and product liability, business torts, insurance coverage, and breach-of-contract actions. She is also an experienced appellate attorney.

Erica-HolzerMany years ago, a good friend related the following quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

This quote really resonated with me when I heard it because it is so true. I try to remember this wise advice when I am interacting with people in life—whether it is with my colleagues at work, opposing counsel, my spouse, my kids, the store clerk, or a person walking in the skyway. 

I especially try to practice this when I am feeling stressed or tired, and thus might otherwise be inclined to use a curt tone or say an unkind word out of frustration. I believe most people are doing the best they can, that life can be hard at times, and I might not know what burdens another person is carrying on any given day. At a minimum, I try to move through the world in a manner that doesn’t cause any additional suffering to others. But when I am at my best, I try to make others feel valued by being fully present, generous with my time, and genuine in my words. 


Bethany Hurd

Bethany Hurd is a solo family law practitioner and an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. 

Bethany-HurdA friend who works in the mental health field once made an astute observation about me: I advocate for a living, but I rarely advocate for myself. My first instinct was to argue all the reasons why that statement was not true, but of course, they were right. This led to a conversation about the unique challenges of being a “professional helper” and culminated in a question that I will extend to you. What do you need in order to enjoy your work and excel at it in a sustainable way?

We know that work/life balance is important, but it’s not as simple as achieving an ideal ratio of working versus non-working hours. Everything is interconnected—our work, our health, our families, our hobbies. In order to be the most effective advocates for our clients, we need to advocate for ourselves first. 

I, like many others, find it difficult to ask for help or assert a need. It takes a certain amount of humility to state a need, because doing so inherently admits that you are lacking in some respect or unable to cope on your own. Perhaps you are struggling to manage your caseload. Option 1: Stay late at the office every night and order DoorDash instead of having dinner with your family. This is likely detrimental to your health and your relationships in the long term. Option 2: Identify the issue and propose a workable solution. This might mean speaking with your employer (which could be an honest conversation with yourself!) and saying, “I’m having trouble keeping up with my workload. It would be helpful to have a dedicated paralegal so that I can focus on client meetings and court. Here is a proposal showing how hiring a paralegal would add value to clients, benefit the firm, and enable me to continue doing top-notch work.” 

The temptation to sweep our own needs under the rug in service of others is strong, but ultimately this leads to burnout, not martyrdom. I challenge you to identify what you need in order to be the best version of yourself at work, and then to ask for it with the same respectful assertiveness you would use on behalf of a client. 


Steven Messick

B. Steven Messick is the founding attorney at Messick Law, PLLC. Steve started his practice as a solo attorney in June 2020 and has grown the firm to six attorneys, one law clerk, and two support staff. The firm provides family law, elder law, and civil litigation services. 

Steven-MessickI have been fortunate to surround myself with wonderful mental health professionals throughout my career. The work we do is stressful. If we have a bad day and miss a deadline, blunder in oral argument, or miscite a case, there are serious ramifications for our clients and our practices. Add the pressures of demanding clients, frequent interactions with difficult people, and the loneliness of managing a practice—you have the recipe for burnout (or worse). 

It is hard for me to pin down all the great advice I have received from my providers, as they provided many. The best I can recall is being told: My value does not come from my job; I will not be perfect at all times; and that I must give myself grace. Following this advice (which is easier said than done) has allowed me to extend grace to others, expand my capacity for empathy, and be confident in my work. When I approach cases in this manner, I am better able to understand the needs of the parties, think of creative solutions, and reduce unnecessary conflict. When conflict is unavoidable, I am better able to focus on the specific elements necessary to prosecute or defend my client’s case. 

I cannot recommend enough having a professional in your life. You don’t need to wait until you “need” it. A wise and available therapist/counselor can serve as your life coach. We go to the gym to take care of our bodies—to make them better, to be heathy. We should be doing the same with our minds. If you are unsure where to start, please contact Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. They are not just there for times of crisis. They have a multitude of resources to get you in touch with someone who can take you and your practice to the next level.