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Litigation Journal

Spring 2024 | Joy

The Joy of Connection

Anne Marie Seibel


  • Our connections make a difference; we simply need to take time to act to make that difference.
  • You can set off a chain reaction that can lead to deeper fulfillment, contributions to society, and a demonstration that we, as lawyers, can be a force for good.
  • Each connection you make will bring you and others a little more joy. 
The Joy of Connection
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Being a lawyer today can be a joyless profession. The statistics for mental health in the profession are worrisome, with high levels of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Many of you reading this will know this from firsthand experience. These obstacles are great, but they can be eased through recognition of the challenges and the support of community. As much pressure as we put on each other in the profession, we have equal power to lift each other up. Each of you reading this has the ability to make the difference in the life of someone and to bring out more joy and potential than that person thought possible.

Crossing Paths

I believe that people cross paths with each other for reasons, and those interactions can change lives. For me, joy lies in making connections for others as a way to pass forward what others have done for me. I share some of those connections here with the hope that you will reflect on the connections others sparked for you and commit to passing those forward.

I started law school without having any lawyers in my family. I was from a family of teachers and didn’t know anything about what to expect in the legal world. I did know how teachers could change the world, however, and was fortunate enough to have one change mine. A law school professor saw a spark of talent in me during an interview and changed my path by advocating for me and looking for opportunities I would have otherwise not known existed. In particular, in my first year, he set me up with an internship with a federal court judge in Washington, D.C., and then suggested that I interview in Birmingham, Alabama. Having grown up in Maryland, interviewing in Birmingham was not something that had crossed my mind. But, at that time, Alabama was considered “tort hell,” and he knew that if I wanted to practice in one of the most cutting-edge bars in the country, I should put myself in the middle of that high-stakes litigation. That was not a path I had expected, but it was a very fortunate recommendation from someone who took the time to counsel me even though he had plenty of other responsibilities and nothing to gain personally.

Despite my lack of ties to the South, when I interviewed at what is now Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, the lawyers with whom I interviewed decided to take a chance on me. I was mentored by individuals who did not care about my lack of familiarity with the law. Instead, they personally provided me opportunities to grow as a lawyer and fully experience the litigation skills that the plaintiff and defense bar were bringing to bear.

At that time, it wasn’t common to have female litigation partners; so most of my mentors were men. Thankfully, that difference did not stop them from making room for me at the table and elevating my voice. I was never going to litigate like any of them individually. But the ability to learn from so many mentors served me well over time as I picked up tactics and skills that I could meld with my own style.

Because there was no option to work remotely, connections were made naturally during the course of the workday. If I needed to get a partner’s attention, I would sit in his office until he got off the phone. That gave me the opportunity to observe how he interacted with clients, discuss the strategy and advice provided, but also have unforced conversations about what was going on outside of work. Those opportunities to develop ties that go deeper than the surface are much more seldom today with so many interactions happening remotely. However you find they can be replicated in today’s world, I urge you to try, as it is those deeper connections that lead to learning the unwritten rules of practice and to the sponsorship any young lawyer needs to find his or her own path.

Involvement Leads to Connections

My involvement in the Section also benefited from the same type of active creation of connections. I showed up at my very first Section event without knowing a single person in attendance. I signed up for a Woman Advocate Committee dine-around and nervously walked into the room. The very first person I met pulled me in, introduced me to attendees, and started making connections. The next thing I knew, I was the one planning dine-arounds with Section colleagues, working on subcommittee projects, and recording Sound Advice episodes. I urge our members to seek those opportunities. It is very possible I would not still be practicing had I not found that group of mentors—all from doing Section-related tasks. Critically, the Section provided a deep pool of female litigators who actively lifted up each successive generation behind them. And, beyond that circle, I found dedicated advocates from across the country who to this day would drop everything for each other—professionally or personally.

One of my partners summed it up well after I returned from a Section meeting I had attended despite being deep in trial preparation. He knew that it had been challenging to take time from witness sessions for bar work, but when I returned, he said, “Whatever you are doing there really energizes you; keep doing it.” I was being energized by being in the midst of the cutting-edge legal presentations we have at Section meetings. And I was motivated to keep attending by learning more about our good works, including the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program and our Children’s Rights Litigtion Committee. But it was really the energy from connections I was making across the country that kept me coming back.

This isn’t unique to me. When we lost Section leader and true legal superstar JoAnne Epps recently, I saw our leaders’ raw grief. It wasn’t just that she was an exceptional trial lawyer, educator, or communicator. It was that through doing work together on meaningful projects in the Section, relationships had formed that enriched their lives. The most common refrain I heard in the days following her passing was this: “I didn’t thank her enough for the difference she made in my life.” Isn’t that how we would all want to be remembered, both professionally and personally?

Our connections make a difference. We simply need to take time to act to make that difference. Connection cannot solve all of the challenges of working in a high-stress profession, but it is a gift that each of us has the ability to give those with whom we cross paths.

I know that each of you reading this has the ability to spark a connection that leads someone to a more fulfilling professional experience. You can take a mentee to lunch, invite a new member to come to a Section event, make an introduction across the miles, check on the mental health of a colleague. Whatever you choose, you can set off a chain reaction that can lead to deeper fulfillment, contributions to society, and a demonstration that we, as lawyers, can be a force for good. Each connection you make will bring you and others a little more joy. What’s not to love about that?

Anne Marie Seibel can be reached [email protected].