Claire Parsons is an employment, litigation, and municipal lawyer at Wood + Lamping LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio. She's also a mindfulness and compassion teacher for lawyers and professionals, the founder of the Brilliant Legal Mind blog, and the author of two books, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, and Mommy Needs a Minute.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
Because I have two sides to my work life, I have two origin stories. My origin story as a lawyer is somewhat simple. I'm a third generation lawyer and was inspired by the work of my grandfather and parents. They used their law degrees to help people and serve their communities and I do the same by avoiding and resolving disputes for my clients or litigating them when needed. My origin story as a mindfulness and compassion teacher is more complex. I had struggled with most of my life with overthinking, anxiety, and depression. My pregnancy with my first daughter was a difficult one and led to an intense, but fortunately brief, period of post-partum depression. That experience led me to reevaluate and change my life, which included starting a meditation practice. The results were so surprising to me that I became obsessed with studying mindfulness to understand how it had helped me so much. Ultimately, I started writing and speaking about it and obtained additional training. As I did so, I discovered how my story was similar to so many others and I founded the blog and wrote my books to share my story and the practices that helped me with others.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
My parents were and are instrumental in my journey. They have been role models for me in law practice but, in life, they always encouraged me to be my own person. Both of them are leaders in my community in their own right but they never pushed me to follow their path. Instead, they always encouraged me to find my own and supported me when I wasn't sure where my path was leading.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
I had the wonderful fortune to have access to a mentoring program through my local chamber of commerce. My mentor, Angie Taylor, who is now an excellent career coach, told me to be cautious of the "grape nut effect." This meant that problems tend to get bigger the more you think about them. This advice helped me start to reckon with my overthinking and learn to take action on my ideas instead of simply ruminating about them. As you can imagine, that changed everything.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
You can't be a leader if you don't take action and taking action means taking responsibility. We can't guarantee that all of our efforts will be successful. Failure and adversity are part of the process. As a leader, you have to accept that if you are to take any meaningful action in life. To make this work, you have develop a high level of self-acceptance and self-compassion.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
1. Being different is a blessing. It can feel lonely but, when you learn to accept who you are, it is a superpower.
2. You don't have to do everything by yourself.
3. Learning to care for your emotions give you power to do almost anything.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
Get out of your office and get engaged in your community. There is so much good work to be done in your community or in professional associations and there are wonderful people to meet. Hard work is essential to moving forward in business but so are good networks. To build a network, you have to be involved in your community and doing work you care about is a wonderful way to showcase your skills, values, and personality. I was fortunate to have good mentors within my firm but my community work gave me access to a broader array of external mentors who helped me pursue the path that was best for me.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
I just made this decision and considered a variety of factors, including my current position and feelings, future prospects, and how I had felt over time. I considered growth prospects, both in terms of compensation and learning opportunities. My level of passion, engagement, and excitement for the work was a factor too, as well as the momentum of the company and work colleagues. In addition, I evaluated the time available for things like family, my other interests, and the encouragement the company would show for the things I valued.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
As a trial attorney, I have learned to understand that this is normal. When things are busy, I bill and work hard. When things slow down, I focus on marketing, networking, and building skills. Boredom can be a scary thing for high achievers but it is a blessing if you can maximize the gift of time. It can allow you to rest and heal, plan and envision your future or take on stretch but life-changing activities, like getting additional education or writing a book.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I would have started meditating sooner. I think I was afraid to get started because I was afraid of looking at who I really was and what was in my heart and mind. What I learned was that I was a wonderful person with a lot of gifts and a good heart, but I needed to learn some better ways to manage stress and to trust myself and other people more. I actually feel quite blessed that my mental health difficulties happened early in my professional life and early in my parenthood journey because it has helped make the next decade of my life so much richer. However, I do sometimes wonder what life might have been like if I had started this process sooner.
Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?