by Meyling Ly
November 2014 Dicta

A few months ago, I ran into a young lawyer I hadn’t seen in a while. The last time we talked, he was transitioning from a smaller firm to a larger firm. When I asked him about his transition, his response was not necessarily surprising – some pros and cons – but what was surprising was his wife’s lower opinion of the larger firm and why. At the previous firm, the managing partner went out of his way to meet the young lawyer’s wife at a firm event. He also thanked her for the young lawyer’s time and acknowledged her contribution of running a household while the young lawyer could work more hours at the office. In contrast, few of the partners at the new firm even took the time to meet the young lawyer’s spouse at a firm event, and none of them expressed gratitude or acknowledged the long hours the young lawyer was working. Some may disagree and share the sentiment that one shouldn’t need to thank people for doing what they are supposed to do, but for those that bill those long hours, support and understanding from your significant other is priceless.

While anecdotal, this story resonates with me because it shows how powerful genuine gratitude can be…not that I need to be persuaded. I’m a huge believer in the power of gratitude (and kindness). I don’t mean the obligatory automatic muttering of one or two words that may occur in passing because we have been properly conditioned by our parents since the moment we could speak – but rather, the genuine feeling of warmth and interconnectedness brought on by one human being’s acknowledgment of another’s time, kindness, action, or words. Sincere gratitude has the ability to engage and encourage unpaid volunteers, the capability of turning an annoyed assistant or associate into a loyal team member, and the power to lessen the resentment of a  neglected spouse. It’s less about the actual words – and more about taking the time to acknowledge someone’s contribution in making your life, in many respects, exponentially better and most importantly, letting them know.

One of my favorite quotes about gratitude is from President John F. Kennedy, who said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” I love this quote because it emphasizes that true gratitude is not just saying “thank you,” but it is living in such a way that you honor that gift of time, kindness, actions, or words. Thankful for our freedom? Then vote, volunteer by helping a veteran, or let a soldier know. Thankful for the Waygu steak, truffled fries and Malbec you just had? Donate to the food bank, send your regards to the chef or leave a great review on social media. Thankful for a great secretary or legal assistant? Write him or her a thank you note, take them to lunch or get a gift card. Thankful you’re a lawyer? Mentor a law student, do some pro bono work or volunteer with DAYL [#shamelessplug] And this goes without saying, call Mom. (Or Dad/sibling/insertfamilymemberhere).

As Thanksgiving approaches and 2015 is coming to a close, I encourage you to not only share your gratitude with others during this holiday season, but also to continue to live your life in a way that honors all the good people and things in
your life. #payitforward #makeitcount

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