Pressing Pause on Your Legal Career

In this episode of Trying 2 Win, Sara Lincoln and Tricia Derr talk with Heather Fuller, a Lincoln Derr attorney and published author. Heather's professional journey includes passing the bar twice and 10 years of practicing law, over a 25-year span. Heather initially took a pause from her federal law position in Washington, D.C., to raise her children, and 14 years later, she reentered the workforce in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In our conversation this week, Heather takes us through her experiences, unpacking advice not just for women, but for anyone who is looking to take a career pause to explore new chapters and transitions in their lives.


Becoming a resource

While Heather has no regrets, she admittedly has some revisions. When she initially pressed pause on her career, she had not considered what re-entering the workforce would look like. When the time came to re-enter, she had no one - lawyer or otherwise - who she could reach out to who had done what she was about to do. Now that she has gone through it, she shares her advice and experiences through her blog posts, "Think Before You Pause" and "The Bar Exam for a Lawyer who Paused," so that her story can provide direction and/or perspective to anyone looking to do the same.

Considering a pause is a huge feat - and not just for women

On a human level, everyone strives to remain relevant in both their personal and professional lives, and Heather's story is proof that it is possible to achieve that balance. Since sharing her story, she has found that her blog posts have opened a line of communication with clients, opposing counsel and associates alike. Men and women value her courage to take a step back to enjoy/explore other aspects of life, as well as her drive to get back in the game. While everyone has a different story, most people can relate to at least considering a pause and are happy to see her succeed.

Heather's advice before taking the leap is to be intentional about the decision. This does not mean always having or sticking to a plan; rather, it simply means, before making any decision - particularly one involving a major life change - be thoughtful at each step. By considering all perspectives, you will be better prepared for where the new path leads.

A pause for the better

Heather explains how taking a pause made her a better person and a better professional, "not just because you naturally grow as a person with time, but because of the struggle to become relevant again in the legal field." She is grateful to be given the opportunity to fulfill her passion again and, for that reason, is incredibly motivated to prove it.

While Tricia and Sara knew the minute they met Heather that she held value, they acknowledge that not all employers share the same view of those who are re-entering the workforce after taking a pause: They also acknowledge those employers are missing out.

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