May 20, 2022

Here’s How I Found Happiness as a Lawyer

By Alison Schlick

Alison Schlick serves with ZeroWaste San Diego as Board Secretary. She has previously served with other meaningful non-profit organizations including the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs as VP of Legislation, and with the Public Interest Law Foundation at California Western School of Law. Alison Schlick studied at the University of California San Diego, and 10 years later, California Western School of Law. She has practiced law and life with a passion for public service and volunteerism.

Alison answers the question: "What has been my secret for finding a satisfying wayto enjoy life while practicing law?”

First of all, it’s important as a lawyer to be guided by your values and maintain connection to your inherent humanity.

This lesson was imparted to me by several wise law professors and mentors. Professor Finkmoore, now retired, taught both Property and Environmental Law when I attended Cal Western and his advice to us was to take a full break from law study one day a week.

Go on a hike, go to the beach, surf, do whatever it is that makes you connect with nature, family, friends, and life. The temptation for typepersonalities who work so hard to achieve our goals is that we tend to focus on the destination and miss the journey.

Family comes first. Personal health is a close second. Sometimes the two are tied together in mysterious ways.

A significant loss in the family and even happy events in the family cause stress which impacts health and well-being. I mention happy events and this includes weddings and welcoming children. Stress management takes time.

Since time is of the essence, I choose to pursue meaningful projects just as I did before law school. As a paralegal and a community volunteer I gained experience in non-profits, parliamentary procedure, and public policy issues surrounding public education. Then, in law school, I began my clinical volunteering in family law, mostly because the Family Law Facilitator’s Office helped my first partner and I divorce amicably. I knew that part of the reason my birth mother died was from suffering through marriage with an alcoholic, so I spent my first law summer in a dual internship with both the SDFLF and the YWCA Domestic Violence Clinic.

Ultimately, I want to use the law to protect the value of our environment for generations to come. I excelled in Environmental Law, Creative Problem Solving and Environmental Justice. I became a graduate student worker at the County of San Diego. I assisted Sally Lorang, Advocate for the San Diego County Dept. of Agriculture, Weights and Measures (now retired) in a variety of consumer and administrative cases, which gave me a broad base of experience that provided a great foundation for a practice in environmental law.

In other words, I found early ways to become good at the substantive area of the law that I was drawn to, and those early activities contributed to a happy career.

Hold yourself to a high level of professionalism, but understand imperfection is what makes us human. There was one memorable mistake I made in those years: one letter we sent out was one dollar off in the penalty imposed. Supervising Attorney Sally Lorang was so kind about it with me and other staff members who had overlooked this error before the letter was sent out. She paid for it out of her own pocket. Thereafter, she had a sign in her office, “The Buck Stops Here.”

I’m not a student anymore. If the buck stops here, then I had better be ready to account for my own mistakes. Maybe I’m a little too hard on myself and too conservative about growing my law practice. Yet, I have no regrets. I am teaching for Western Sierra Law School this Spring. I started during the pandemic. It's the lemonade I made out of year 2020. I’m going to keep growing my career, even in a pandemic, step by baby step, after all I still have two little ones at home.

Sometimes I wonder if I am making enough of a difference with my law career. My J.D. Honor’s thesis in Creative Problem Solving explored Honeybees in Peril. The humble honeybee, during its entire lifetime, will only produce enough honey to fill a couple of teaspoons. The hive will produce gallons of honey each season. The temptation as lawyers is to evaluate our work product as if we were an entire hive. The key to happiness is to evaluate one’s output like it is in reality: just one person.

I am enough.

For more about Alison Schlick find her on LinkedIn:

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