Interview by Colin T. Darke
A young attorney has a difficult task in finding the right mix of time for work, family, friends, and other passions. This dilemma often results in the “time for other passions” ingredient being ignored. Some lawyers have found, however, that the time focused on something they feel passionate about enriches much of that other time spent at work, with family, and with friends. Just ask Marie Hejl, a young associate at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., in Austin, Texas. Marie has found an unusual way to incorporate one of her passions—cooking—into her lawyerly life by hosting a broadcast cooking show that airs on 70 stations, nationwide and in New Zealand and Canada.
In between time spent on our work, our families, and our friendships, Marie and I were able to sit down together so that I could ask her about being a young attorney and how she found the time to feed her creative side.
Your Web site ( www.CookingWithMarie.com) states that your goal is “to make cooking an accessible, easy, and fun activity.” How do you accomplish this?
I didn’t go to culinary school, so the “easy and accessible” part comes naturally. I usually make dishes on the show that I learned at home, growing up and then during and after college and law school. Almost all of these dishes require basic ingredients, simple cooking methods, and short cooking times. I truly believe that if I can make it, my viewers can, too, regardless of their experience in the kitchen.
The “fun” part comes naturally as well. I make mistakes all the time and laugh a lot during the show. If I have a guest, we often joke around. I hope the lighthearted and laid-back nature of the show conveys to viewers that cooking is an activity to enjoy.
How has your passion for cooking influenced your legal career and vice versa?
The two complement each other in ways I never expected: prim-arily in networking, public speaking, and thinking and listening.
I never thought that my show might lead to new relationships with people in the business and legal communities. Yet, over the past couple of years, I’ve met hundreds of new friends in Austin and around the country—people who saw the show or read an article about it, visited my Web site, served as a guest on the show, or participated in one of my classes. Networking “for the sake of networking” has never really appealed to me, but this is completely different. These friendships are natural connections based on a common interest, and I expect that many will last a lifetime.
I remember standing in front of a jury last year at a trial in federal court. As I began to speak, I realized that [the case theory] was much like explaining a recipe to the camera. I had to speak slowly and clearly, and in a way that people who didn’t know as much about the case as I did could understand. The same is true when I’m teaching people how to cook a new dish on television.
Having guests on my show also has taught me to think quickly on my feet. I never know what my guests are going to say. In order to ask intelligent follow-up questions and maintain interesting conversation, I have to listen well, host the show, and cook at the same time. This same “thinking/talking/listening” skill comes in handy during depositions. It has taught me to ask better questions, listen to answers, and make well-founded objections.
Many young attorneys feel overwhelmed by the transition from law school to law practice and have a feeling of constantly playing catch-up. What’s your advice for young attorneys who feel that they just don’t have any extra time to follow a passion outside of the law?
Accept the fact that you will never be “caught up.” If you want to pursue a passion outside of the law, you have to be willing to leave work at work. It’s not always easy. But I believe that you will be more successful at work (and happier at home) if you have balance in your life.
• The Lawyer’s Guide to Balancing Life and Work, Second Ed. 2006. PC # 5110566. Law Practice Management Section.
• Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers, Fifth Ed. 2006. PC # 5110567.
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