Friday, April 29, 2011

Are you Undecided about being a lawyer?

You did well in high school, so you got into a good college.  You did well in college, so you got into a good law school.   You did well in law school, so you got a job as a lawyer at a great firm.  Now what? You look at the partners in your firm, and you see how much they work and realize you might not want that.  You see your friend who chose a career as a photographer, and wonder if you should have done something more artistic.  You have kids, and wonder if you might love being a stay-at-home mom.  You are…UNDECIDED! 

Mother and daughter duo Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley recently came out with a new book Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career-and Life-That's Right for You. The book explores the burdensome weight of great expectations, the insidious deception in the message that you can “have it all”, and the difficulty in dealing with the illusion of unlimited options for women who were never taught how to deal with them.  What they found is that women as a whole are experiencing a collective bout of growing pains. While it may be great to have options, dealing with them can be a bitch.
What makes the book unique is that it’s a “big think” that provides resonance, understanding, background, and a route to – if not satisfaction – self-awareness.

Interview of Undecided Authors, Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley

Laurie Rowen: We are so excited that you are out with a book that can help all of the “undecided” women lawyers out there! For those attorneys who have not yet had a chance to read Undecided, can you provide us with a brief synopsis?

Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley: Thanks, Laurie! As far as we know, this is the first book to tackle the issues relating to choice from a feminist perspective, or to deal with career choice as a women’s issue.  We go far beyond the scope of the typical career guide in that Undecided is more about figuring yourself out—what you really want to do with your life, why it’s so hard to decide on the answer to that question, and how to wind your way through the uncharted territory of pressure, expectations, biases, and roadblocks of life as a working woman--as opposed to making your way up the career ladder.   We explore the concept with a lively and accessible combination of oral histories from real women who are grappling with career – and life -- decisions; interviews with known experts in various fields, the folks in the trenches—career counselors, professors, spiritual leaders, economists, life coaches, etc.—who have a birds’ eye view of these women; current research and media references; and a healthy dose of our own perspective – and attitude.  We also dig into all the factors as to why this is an issue now – and why it’s a women’s issue at this point in time, along with the different variables that help readers understand the phenomenon:  we explore the science of decision-making; the influence of technology; a look at how far women have come since the early days of the women’s movement – and how far we’ve yet to go; the elusive nature of “happiness”; and, ultimately, the importance of getting to know yourself—and how to go about doing that.
Laurie Rowen: Why did you decide to write this book?

Barbara Kelley:  Haha.  As we say in the prologue, it was born of booze and sweat.  As backstory: I had noticed something in my students, my kids (ahem), my friends' kids, and my kids' friends -- girls who were blessed to have all kinds of opportunity--the kind of opportunity their mothers never had:  And yet, they were dissatisfied, overwhelmed, and unhappy. The kicker was a friends' daughter -- bright, engaging, talented -- who once said she wished she was born into a culture where everything -- from spouse to career -- were chosen for her. So I wrote an op-ed about this for the Christian Science Monitor, and it got a tremendous response.  

Shannon Kelley: A few months later, after a hike up and down Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County -- and some cocktails – I convinced my mom that the topic was much too juicy to be contained in an 800-word piece.  We should write a book, and we should to it together.  We wanted to get to the root of it. To talk to these women. To explore the psychology of choice. To look at how feminism plays into it all. To talk to experts, academics, researchers, therapists, and coaches. To go deep into the trenches!

The topics we explore are analysis paralysis in the face of too many options, grass is greener syndrome, the lure of the road not traveled, what it means to be happy, how to discover your passion, how to get to know yourself, and how we--women--got to this point -- and where we should go from here. We want women to take away the idea that the choices you make to determine your life should be based on what feels right to YOU. Don't worry about chasing down anyone else's definition of success. Don't be afraid to take chances, to go out on a limb. Failure is recoverable, regret is much tougher. Dispense with the word "should."

Laurie Rowen: You talk in your book about the “grass is greener syndrome.”   What do you mean by that – and how can women get over it?

Barbara Kelley and Shannon KelleyGrass-is-greener syndrome is the feeling that no matter what you have chosen – there is something better out there.  When there are dozens of options, it’s easy to assume that one of them must be perfect.  So that, no matter what you choose – when it falls short of perfection – you feel disappointed.  That you should have, could have done better. It’s the blessing – and curse – of unlimited opportunity, something that is generationally new for women:  When you have the power to make your own choices, you’re responsible for their outcome—if you have no options, what can you do, right? It’s not your fault you’re unhappy—but now that we DO have the options, we also have the responsibility. So, often, when the outcome of a choice is a little south of fabulous, you get to wondering what life would be like, if only you’d done X instead.

We think today’s  women are held captive by their own high expectations, the myth that they can “have it all”, and the constant barrage of information (including constantly-updated, carefully curated social media profiles) selling the lie that other women out there are doing it better, faster, righter – and having more fun.  The other issue is this: when your expectations are sky high, when you are led to believe that you can do anything and everything, no matter what you choose, it never seems to measure up.

Can women get over it?  We think so.  But it takes a shift in perspective, a realization that having it all – at least all at the same time -- is an impossibility, and the realization that “good enough” really is good enough.  (laughs)  We have a chapter or two on that. 

I think one issue is the messaging about what constitutes "all." The media's image -- beautiful and fit, organic (and gluten-free!) gourmet cook, happily -- and sexily -- married, involved parent, doing important work that's fulfilling and makes the world a better place... That's a pretty tall order! Also, I think the messaging about 'having it all' can make women feel like they're missing out or not measuring up, no matter what they're actually doing. My life seems pretty great, but SHE gets to travel/has kids/is the president of Fantastic Company /doesn't have to work. No matter what we're doing, there's always something we're NOT doing. A fact of life is that if you're doing A, you by definition are not doing B. If I'm sitting here typing an email to you, I am not going for a run, you know? So if I'm in a job that's financially secure, I have financial security -- but I don't have freedom. If I'm married, I don't date. If I travel for work, I'm not home that often. The thing is, everything is a choice, everything is a trade-off. I think it's important to really realize and grasp that idea, and then to go into your choices consciously. We like to talk about choices in terms of what we're choosing -- but we leave out the rather unpalatable part about what we're leaving behind.

Laurie Rowen:  You come from  a family of lawyers, so you must be very familiar with the profession and the struggles many lawyers face, especially female lawyers.   Do you have any advice specific to our “undecided” lawyers out there?

Barbara Kelley:  Well, first:  forget about having it all.  You can’t.  At least, not at the same time. And then come to terms with how you want to live your life:  work to live or live to work.  (Not to continue to annoyingly plug the book, but look at what Jill, an attorney who just made partner in a fairly high-powered firm, has to say about that. )  The fact is, the workplace in general – and law firms in particular – were designed by and for men with someone at home to take care of business.  But who lives like that anymore, man or woman?  And when kids enter in, it all becomes more complicated. Men can go full-speed ahead with their careers if mom takes charge of the second shift.  But with two high level careers, it becomes very difficult to manage a family -- without a lot of outside help, or without one of the partners stepping off the career ladder.  Even given a good day care situation:  exactly how does someone who is expected to bill X-number of hours – or is in trial -- get to the day care center before it closes at 5 or 6?

So I guess the advice, if we have any, is this: until we can make some structural changes in the workplace – and we don’t think that’s an impossibility -- we need to redefine success - and happiness.  we believe -- and have devoted a couple of chapters in our book to this --that the trick is finding yourself and redefining what makes us happy in terms of internal markers rather than the external measures dictated by society and the media:  the title, the paycheck, the trophy kids.  Until workplaces in general and law firms in particular come to terms with the fact that two-career families are the norm, rather than the exception, it's a losing game trying to have it all, if that's how women define success.

Laurie Rowen: Where should our readers go if they would like to find out more about your book, Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career-and Life-That's Right for You?
Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley: We thought you’d never ask!  You can find the book on Amazon and other online outlets.  Meanwhile, it should be hitting the bookshelves this week.  You can also ask your local indie booksellers to order it for you.  You can keep up with book signing, etc, on our facebook page, and join the conversation on our blog.  Oh, and follow us on twitter.  Was that too obnoxious?!

Buy Undecided on

Undecided Blog

Twitter - Undecided Book

Facebook - Undecided Book

Barbara Kelley

Barbara Kelley has been a journalist for more than 25 years and a professor of journalism at Santa Clara University since 1997. She earned her master's degree in print journalism from Stanford. Barbara has written for publications including the Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, theLos Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, Salon, and Bay Area Parent, where she served as features editor and writer and won two national awards. Barbara is married to her college sweetheart and is the mother of two daughters, Colleen and Shannon, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Shannon Kelley
Shannon Kelley is a columnist at the Santa Barbara Independent, a freelance writer and photographer, and a corporate consultant. Her freelance work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Woman's Day, The Arizona Republic, Relevant Magazine, and Santa Barbara Magazine, and her essay "Something Worth Saving" from the anthology Submerged was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Montage Legal Group Congratulates Orange County Business Journal's 2011 Women in Business Award Nominees

Kandy Williams, an affiliated attorney with Montage Legal Group and owner of Williams Law Firm, is a nominee for the Orange County Business Journal's 2011 "Women in Business Awards."  The OCBJ "Women in Business Awards" is a program designed to recognize Orange County women who have made impactful contributions to their professions and as well as within their communities.  Kandy will be recognized on May 25th along with some of Orange County's most successful business women, including Trina Fleming of Women Helping Women, and several successful female lawyers who have helped pave the way for all women in law: Mary Christine “M.C.” Sungaila of Snell & Wilmer LLP, Gabrielle Wirth, Mandana Massoumi and Ellen Bancroft of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Inga Sanders of Sanders Law Group, Darlynn Morgan of Morgan Law Group, Antonella Castro of Paul Hastings, and Jennifer Irrgang Bojorquez of Troutman Sanders LLP.  Congratulations ladies!

To see the entire list of nominees, download the OCBJ Women in Business Awards Supplement.

Kandy was recently interviewed by “Critical Mass: The Radio Show” to talk about how entrepreneurs could benefit from engaging a business attorney in the early stages of the lives of their business. Click here to listen to her radio interview.  Critical Mass for Business also congratulated Kandy Williams for her nomination in a press release:  Kandy Williams is a nominee for the 2011 OCBJ Women in Business Award.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Small Firms Can Benefit From the Use of Freelance/Contract Lawyers

Erin Giglia and Dennis A. Stubblefield presented a CLE for the Orange County Bar Association’s Small Firm and Solo Section about the varied practice models used by solo practitioners and small firms to deliver legal services in a rapidly changing marketplace.   The panel “It’s Your Choice: Alternative Practice Models for Today’s Solos/Small Firms,” was incredibly successful, with attendance numbers close to double what the OCBA section usually sees at CLE presentations. 

Erin Giglia, co-owner/founder of the freelance attorney network, Montage Legal Group, explained how using freelance lawyers can help a small firm grow its practice and become more competitive in the legal market.   Unlike the inexperienced contract attorneys of the past, Erin Giglia explained that today's freelance attorney is frequently an extremely experienced lawyer, trained at a large law firm, who simply made a lifestyle choice to have more work life balance.

“Fortunately for all of us here, the days of the bottom of the barrel contract attorney who could not find a job to save their lives – those days are done,” said Giglia.  “There are a lot of people now, young and more senior attorneys, who just because of lifestyle choices, have decided they do not want to be at a big firm.  They do not want to be billing 250 hour months, month in and month out, for the rest of their lives.  That's a choice that so many make....These are folks that are now floating around out there who are trained and…able to assist small firms and solos with their growing practices.” 

Erin also spoke about the pros and cons regarding the use of freelance/contract attorneys, and briefly spoke about the ethical issues that are applicable to both the law firm and independent contractor attorney when a firm uses a freelance lawyer.  If you missed this CLE presentation, please see the video clip of Erin Giglia and Dennis A. Stubblefield below.

Montage Legal Group lawyers, Carolyn McKitterick, Kim Bick, Erin Giglia, Laurie Rowen and Christina Johnson were among the many lawyers who attended the April 21st CLE presentation in Newport Beach

Dan Nguyen ( commenting on Erin Giglia's presentation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making the Move: Financial Advice to Consider Before Becoming a Freelance Lawyer

By Nathan Fikse 

There are many considerations when taking a big step like leaving your job and your stable income to become a freelance lawyer.   Are there sufficient funds in your emergency account to keep your household afloat during the transition?  Does your significant other generate a consistent income?  What about your retirement accounts?

A lot of questions need to be answered, but where do you start?  The first step in the process is sitting down with yourself or your family and creating a realistic budget.  Understanding what money is needed for the essentials such as rent/mortgage, groceries, car payments (the needs), and what is set aside for running the business, miscellaneous items such as paper, folders, internet, etc.

How much do you need in your emergency fund?  Many agree that 3-6 months worth of your expenses for renters and 6-12 months worth of expenses for homeowners is an acceptable range, depending on how conservative you are.

After the budget has been set, take a look at what you have set aside and set up a meeting with your trusted advisor.  If you do not have an advisor, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, and set up a meeting.  Try to meet with at least three so that you can find the one that matches what you want in terms of advice and service, as well as resources to products that are applicable to your overall needs.

Areas to focus on now that you are on your own are: health insurance, disability income insurance, life insurance, and retirement.  Does your significant other's company provide health insurance, or would it be more cost effective to have your own coverage?  Is your income significant enough that in the event of a prolonged injury or illness the loss of income would cause financial strain for the family if they were dependant on the two income streams?  Are you going to have an office outside the home? Protecting your office space and overhead expenses to keep the practice running while you are not able to work is also important to give you some time to make a decision.  Also, in the event of a premature death, you must ensure that the family is protected, allowing the surviving spouse to have the option of going back to work, or if children are involved to stay at home and raise the family.

If you have a 401(k) from a previous job, you may have questions about the types of rollovers available to you.  Your advisor should be able to help you with the best decision to fit your situation.

The last part is your liability coverage.  Again, your advisor can help you find the best policy to help protect not only your business practice, but also to keep your business and personal accounts separate.

In all aspects of your transition, consult with your tax advisor, so that every decision is based on sound judgment and advice.  If you do not have a tax advisor, ask trusted friends and colleagues for recommendations.

 Nate Fikse - Biography

Nathan Fikse obtained his BA in psychology from UCLA in 2003. Nathan is a former Football player both in the college and professional arenas.  Nathan is a former All-American punter and place kicker at UCLA where he played for 4 years under Coach Bob Toledo.  Nathan had the great opportunity to spend time in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. 
Nathan went on to pursue a career in Asset Management where he gained the experience and also the skills in managing over 250 million dollars of property and other assets.  Nathan performed the duties of project and operations manager and also director of development for the Los Angeles based firm.
Since then Nathan has joined the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. As a Representative with the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, Nathan works with clients to identify their financial security needs and then focuses on solutions that can help make their goals a reality. Nathan relies not only on his own knowledge and experience, but also calls on the expertise of a team of specialists available through the Network.  Visit Nathan's Web site at for additional information.

Nathan Fikse
Financial Representative
1500 Quail St. #600
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 863-5817

Friday, April 15, 2011

MOMentum Interviews Freelance Lawyer Amy Guldner

The power of the internet and social media to connect people - both personally and professionally - never ceases to amaze us.  Amy Guldner, a freelance lawyer with Montage Legal Group, recently reconnected via Facebook with Amy Kolln, founder of MOMentum.  These two Amy's both grew up in Denison, Iowa - a very small town about 75 miles northeast of Omaha, Nebraska.  Amy Kolln, a former kindergarten teacher turned entrepreneur, started MOMentum to be a resource for mom entrepreneurs where they can gather together, share their journeys, build momentum and do business together.  When she learned about Montage Legal Group and the flexibility it affords freelance attorneys (especially moms), she decided to interview Amy Guldner for her website.  

Click here to listen to the Amy Guldner's MOMentum interview and to visit the MOMentum website.

Amy Leinen Guldner joined Montage Legal Group in January, 2010 after practicing for over thirteen years at Morgan Lewis and Bockius LLP and Snell and Wilmer LLP. Amy Guldner is Montage Legal's lead attorney, and has become an integral part of expanding Montage Legal to law firms in the Inland Empire, including Corona, Riverside and Temecula.  In addition to her legal work and caring for her two young children, Amy is a volunteer Court-Appointed Special Advocate with CASA of Orange County, mentoring and advocating in court on behalf of abused and neglected children. She is also involved with the Riverside County Bar Association and its publications committee. Amy lives with her husband, her almost five year old daughter and her seven year old son in Corona, CA.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 21st OCBA CLE on "Alternative Practice Models" with Montage Legal Speaker, Erin Giglia

On Thursday, April 21st, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Radisson Hotel in Newport Beach, Montage Legal's Erin Giglia will be speaking on a panel for the Orange County Bar Association’s Small Firm and Solo Section. This CLE, “It’s Your Choice: Alternative Practice Models for Today’s Solos/Small Firms,” will be a panel discussion about the varied practice models used by solo practitioners and small firms to deliver legal and related services in a rapidly changing marketplace. Erin will be speaking with Christele Demuro of Law Office of Christele Demuro and Dennis A. Stubblefield of the Law Offices of Dennis A. Stubblefield on the following issues:
  • Co-counsel, “of-counsel” and contract attorney services
  • Techniques to compete with larger, more conventional law firms: if the buck stops with you, what is your “value proposition” to savvy clients?
  • The pros and cons of the independent contractor model
  • Other current practice models being developed
  • Developing related mediation and expert witness practices
  • Navigating the challenging “lifestyle” issues in alternative models
Please attend this event! Clink here to download the flyer: Download 4/21 CLE Flyer. Please contact Erin Giglia at if you have any questions or would like any additional information.

For more information on using freelance/contract attorneys, see our December 10th blog entry Ten Benefits of Freelance Attorneys, which highlighted the following ways that using freelance attorneys can add value to a law firm:

1. Save Your Firm Money

2. Increase Your Profit in A Down Economy

3. Save Your Client Money

4. Add Skills To Your Firm

5. Lower Your Hiring Risk

6. Increase Efficiency

7. Grow Your Business

8. Effectively Manage Legal Projects

9. Maternity Leave Does Not Spell Disaster

10. Avoid Associate Burnout

Erin Giglia is an active speaker, recently speaking at Whittier Law School on Career Tips for New Lawyers - How to Create Your Ideal Life and Career, and at the Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law - Stand Up! Stand Out! Contact Erin Giglia at if you would like her to speak on a panel or at an event.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Montage Legal's Erin Giglia Speaks at the 4th Annual Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law - Stand Up! Stand Out!

By Erin Giglia

I had the honor and pleasure of taking part in the 4th annual Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law on April 1, 2011 at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles as a panel speaker. 
Ms. JD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.  Serving as a unique nexus between the profession and the pipeline of diverse attorneys, Ms. JD’s online community provides a forum for dialogue and networking among women lawyers and law students. With campus chapters throughout the nation, Ms. JD is also home to the National Women Law Students’ Organization. Ms. JD celebrates women’s achievements, addresses remaining challenges, and facilitates continued progress by bringing legal practitioners and law students together to share in an ongoing conversation about gender issues in law school and the profession.

Ms. JD’s Mission Statement is: “Ms. JD seeks to support and improve the experiences of women law students and lawyers. Obstacles to equal participation hinder not only women in the law but also their colleagues, clients, children, and communities. Ms. JD consequently strives to give voice to why it matters that women continue to overcome barriers to achieve gender parity in the profession. In doing so, Ms. JD spreads the word: women’s victories are everyone’s victories.”

Ms. JD supports and advances women in law through scholarships, conferences, networking, seminars, and through a partnership with University of Texas School of Law Center for Women in Law (also an excellent organization supporting women in law).

The Fourth Annual Conference featured excellent speakers like Debbie Epstein Henry, author of LAW & REORDER: Legal Industry Solutions for Restructure, Retention, Promotion & Work/Life Balance (American Bar Association, 2010), and had panel speakers on many topics pertinent to attorneys and law students.  There were also workshops for law students on communication skills and self-promotion.  I had the pleasure of speaking to young attorneys on the attorney panel “Making the Move to a Solo or Small Firm Practice” with Teddy Snyder and Jasmin French.  Teddy, Jasmin and I spoke about the challenges and joys of being in business for yourself.  We encouraged the attendees to create a plan, find a niche, and seek out leaders and mentors to increase their success.

I adore Ms. JD, its mission, and what it is doing to advance women in the legal profession.  I strongly encourage all female law students and attorneys to join at

Erin Giglia is a co-founder and co-owner of Montage Legal Group.  Montage Legal Group is a network of freelance attorneys who left big firm practice in favor of work/life balance and increased flexibility.   Erin Giglia and Laurie Rowen co-founded Montage Legal Group in 2009, added a third attorney in early 2010, and grew to a network of 20 freelance attorneys by April 2011.