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Corporate, The Profession

Started from the bottom, now I’m here

By Inga Andriessen

I’m fortunate that as part of my career I have the opportunity to mentor students, beginning at the high school level and carrying on to lawyers about to be called to the Bar.

I’ve recently encountered some questions during mentoring interactions that have led me to realize some people seeking mentorship have an inaccurate belief as to what it took to get where I am now.

I was called to the Bar in 1993, so I’ve been doing this a while. When I started my firm, I generally worked 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. in order to get everything done. I couldn’t afford to hire the great support staff I have now, so a lot of things took longer as I was on my own. It was worth it.

Even today, while I’m happy to take time away from running my practice to speak to mentees, taking that time means that I’ll be at the gym a bit later than planned, unless that meeting was already scheduled, or I’ll add a task to my “to do” list for the following day.

Given how hard I worked in the early days and continue to work today, though not quite the 14 hour days of my youth, I was shocked to have one student recently ask me for advice on a well-paying career that doesn’t require a lot of hours of work. This student believed that I don’t work a lot of hours because I’m happy.

Well, that’s not true and the key to happiness is finding a career you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like work.

The “lack of hours” issue really grates on me. I’m not looking to dump on Millennials here, don’t worry. However, the reality is that any career, not just law, requires you put in the work in the early stages to build a solid foundation on which you will build your career. The phrase work/life balance does include the word “work” and you cannot forget that when you’re starting out.

Like Drake, I started from the bottom, now I’m here. Not going to say I’m at the “top” (whatever that means) but I am certainly enjoying the benefits of putting in the extra hard work in the early years, so I can work efficiently now.

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