Pursuing a parallel career to beat the stress of legal job- Part 1
by Mary Waldron
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Now, here comes the best part of this story. When Tequila Mockingbird is not cruising the rink, she is busy practicing law. Yes, she is a lawyer by day, roller derby queen by night. So why does she feel the need to expand her horizons?
Being a lawyer is stressful. The pressure and anxiety of the profession can literally drive attorneys mad, or at least to the point where they, and many people who love them, think they have gone mad. This is why many of today's lawyers are venturing out from behind the dark and consuming courtroom doors to pursue hobbies and second careers that satisfy their adventurous and creative senses. Almost all attorneys agree that having another hobby or side career actually helps them stay focused and engaged in their work as attorneys.
Check out what the country's attorneys are doing in their spare time to keep their lives fulfilled and balanced outside of the law:
Uptown lawyer from Chicago Tahirah Johnson, known as Tequila Mockingbird #44 in the rink, joined an up-and-coming roller derby team, The Fury, almost three years ago after seeing an ad at The Note, a popular late-night spot in Chicago. With a background in figure skating from her youth, Johnson thought the opportunity "sounded outrageous" and was right up her alley.
The Windy City Rollers League in Chicago consists of four teams: Hell's Belles, The Double Crossers, The Manic Attackers, and Johnson's team, The Fury. Hmm...sounds outrageous enough.
At the last league championship, in which The Fury came up against Hell's Belles, all "hell" broke loose when a fight erupted during the last portion of the game.
"All of the sudden, they [the Hell's Belles] started swinging at us. The police threatened to shut it down—they didn't know what to do with a bunch of girls on skates," Johnson said.
Despite the outburst, The Fury took home the winning title for the second year in a row.
After recently wrapping up a tense and challenging third season and recovering from a back injury that she got in the roller derby, Johnson is now preparing to take on amateur boxing before she returns to the rink. She hopes to compete in the local "Golden Globes" white-collar fighting competition.
When she is not dominating the skating rink, Johnson works as a lawyer in the city doing contract work. Growing up, she met a lot of public special interest lawyers through her family who encouraged her to go to law school, which she did in the late 1990s. After graduating from John Marshall Law School in 1999, Johnson stayed local and worked at a few small family law and criminal defense firms before she began focusing on contract work.
"The roller derby has given me more confidence, and I'm now more aggressive. Actually, competing has also made me different—I don't feel as easily intimidated," she said. "In a criminal court, I used to feel so female and petite, but that's gone now."
After realizing that she had become a hostage of the law profession in the early 1990s, family law, real estate development, and estate planning lawyer Elaine Lee decided it was time to rethink her path. Lee took a European vacation in 1992, and that is where she discovered the key to her destiny. While in Paris, she met and befriended high-profile fashion photographer Richard Allen, who shared his exciting stories and lifestyle with Lee. When Lee came back to the States six months later, she went straight to a financial planner to "find a way" to work part-time and travel part-time. And she did.
Since then, Lee has established herself as a global traveler, adventurer, journalist, and author. Her travel and coverage of more than 46 countries have led Lee to a sea of opportunities, including numerous published articles for major publications, television and radio appearances, and her book, Go Girl: The Black Woman's Book of Travel and Adventure. She has also been featured in many anthologies, including Beyond L.A. Law: Break the Traditional "Lawyer" Mold.
Though Lee still happily practices law in the Bay Area part-time, her major career revamp has opened her eyes to what is really important in life for her.
"Take control. Decide what's important to you, and make it happen," she said.
Paul Geller: Jiu-Jitsu and Martial Arts Fighter—Boca Raton, Florida
Who would ever guess that this Jewish boy from New York would supplement his successful securities law career with professional fighting? When Geller was young, his parents enrolled him in karate. By the time he was a teen, he was a black belt.
Geller attended law school at Emory University and took a peculiar liking to the tedious work and study of law; he said he "read everything and really enjoyed it" in law school.
Despite his devotion to law school, Geller always made time for his other passion: professional fighting. Geller's success on the mat attests that he probably could have made a career out of fighting, but as the youngest partner at Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins, one of the most well-known securities firms in the country, Geller continues practicing jiu-jitsu and martial arts as "an outlet to release his tension and aggression." Representing various investors and consumers against large "bully" companies, Geller sees a distinct similarity between his fighting and his law career.
"It's like fighting against the bully. There is a comparison to class action litigation," he said.
When it comes to lawyers expanding their windows of interest to enjoy other elements besides law, Geller said that there are no excuses and that "work doesn't have to be your life." He went on, "So many say, 'I don't have the time.' We all have the time. But you need to arrange your schedule accordingly. No one worked harder in law school than I did, but I always found the time to train and still do—even if it is three hours per week." Finding the time and committing to his hobby have, in Geller's opinion, made him a better lawyer, husband, and person in general.
Growing up in busy New York City, Brian Lee began skateboarding to get around at the age of 12. In his late teens, Lee took his hobby even further, competing in approximately 60 amateur competitions.
Though the rebel skater image may not fit the stereotypical lawyer mold, Lee always knew that he was going to be a lawyer. He attended George Mason University School of Law in Washington, DC, and never stopped skating. While in law school, Lee said, he "skated around campus and always got reactions from his peers."
Now 34 and practicing law in Washington, DC, Lee still enjoys getting out to the local skate parks and skating around town when he is not working.
"Now I do it to get around, but I do like street skating, which includes ramps and obstacles. DC is great for skating because there's a lot of marble around town," he said.
After skating for 22 years, Lee is glad to have skating as a hobby because he finds it to be a "helpful release."
"It's impossible to focus exclusively on law. I think that could be a determinant. Sometimes you just need to step back and forget about it all," he said. "It's a way of letting out aggression—you fall, you get hurt. I'm more focused after I go skating and a lot friendlier."
Amy Stoody: Beauty Queen—Newport Beach, California
"You can have it all!" That is the life motto of single mother of two/senior partner at Stoody, Mills, Lansford, Walker & Doyle/beauty queen/singer/actor Amy Stoody. Coming from a family of aggressively ambitious women lawyers, Stoody has always pushed herself toward excellence, and at 48, she has yet to slow down.
Prior to becoming a senior partner at her firm, Stoody worked for IBM, started and sold a Santa Barbara nightclub, and adopted two daughters. She also has devoted, and still devotes, countless hours to volunteer work, assisting recovering alcoholics and addicts.
A few years ago, Stoody's daughters began competing in pageants throughout Southern California. At one pageant, she was asked by coordinators why she had not competed before. Having always been involved in singing and acting, Stoody asked herself the same question and decided to give it a shot.
In her first competition, the Gold Coast Women California Pageant, Stoody competed in the 30-to-50-years-old category but did not place. After getting the hang of things, Stoody went on to master beauty pageants, winning titles such as "California Beauties of America California 40's Decade Queen 2003-2004," "All-American Family West Coast Mini-Nationals Elite Supreme Queen 2003-2004," "Gold Coast Age 30+ Elegant Beauty Queen 2004-2005," "Universal Miss and Master West Coast Mini-Nationals Talent Queen 2004," and "America's Fabulous Faces California State Reigning Swimwear Winner 2006."
Stoody never planned on being a beauty queen, and she maintains a sense of humor about it all, never taking it too seriously.
"I find it humorous," she said. "As a lawyer/beauty queen, I think it's fun to have a personality that no one can figure out."
Stoody thinks it is important to have fun in whatever else you do outside of law and to never lose your sense of humor about anything.
Through her involvement in pageants and performance, Stoody has found the "yin and yang" of her personality.
"Law is a jealous mistress, so it's important to have a creative outlet—something you can call your own," she said. She likes being a part of the two different worlds, as being a lawyer allows her to be "tougher," and being a pageant queen allows her to be "more feminine."
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