In honor of Women’s History Month, members of the Feldman, Kleidman, Coffey & Sappe LLP (FKC&S) staff were asked to share about women who have impacted their lives and those they have drawn professional inspiration from over the years. Check out their comments below.
Share about a woman who has impacted your life. What do you admire most about her?
I would be remiss if I did not say first that I have always been, but am now even more so, in awe of my mother. She has been the fearless leader and glue for her five children whom she raised somewhat singlehandedly while my father worked long hours honing his craft. My mother, whom I am sure will never see herself the way her children do, was/is a fierce mother who had an abundance of rules, and consequences for our failure to follow said rules, but she was just as fun as she was fierce. She was the one who introduced me to music, and we would sit for hours listening to her records. She was the one who introduced me to the library and was the foundation for my love of reading. We would spend afternoons at the library or laying on her bed reading together, her with her book and me with mine. She volunteered at our schools, for our sports or various other after school events. She was always present. She would somehow untangle us kids from each other during one of our 42 daily squabbles and amazingly she would still be standing at the end of the day. That alone is admirable. As we children got older and created our adult lives, my mother sort of reinvented herself. In her post-child-rearing life – to the extent that you are ever truly done with that job – my mother went on to explore her interests outside of the home. She went back to school, wrote for various local newspapers (she is an incredibly talented writer), became very involved in the local library and Putnam County Arts on the Lake, did PR work for the county in various areas and became politically involved.
For me, it is impossible to limit my admiration to only one thing when I think about my mother because, as she continues on in life, I continue to find new things to admire about her. I admire her ability to raise five children, all of whom are hardworking and successful, but more importantly are kind and respectful. I admire her presence for all five of us children. I admire her involvement in her community throughout our childhood as well as afterwards. She is the force behind our very tight knit family, and I strive to emulate her in the raising of my three children.
As corny as this may sound, but my mom has had a tremendous impact on my life. She showed me and my siblings the importance of the sacrifices to be made for your family in many aspects of your life. Unfortunately, I did not realize the significance of this until later in life after I had children and after most of them were in their teens. However, as I reflect on the question, I realize that how I now interact with my family is largely guided by how my mom interacted with me and my siblings. What I most admire about my mom is her cheery and never-say-die attitude, particularly when faced with significant adversity.
MJ, legal assistant:
My mom has impacted my life the most. She has always been my best friend, and I admire her incredible strength. She was a single parent of five children and got us through so many hard times. When we were growing up, she put a big sign up on the wall that said, “Life is a Test to Bear and to Hold; Hold it; Bear it; Grin it; and Be Bold!” Those words have never left me.
Jeff, founding partner:
There have been a lot of influential women in my life. My mom grew up during difficult times, has lost many siblings and persevered. My wife raised our three kids, shuttled them around to all of their activities with not much help from me because of my work/trial schedule. But if I had to pick one to write about it would be our daughter Ricki.
Ricki has always had a certain drive, and if someone told her that something she wanted to do was not possible, that person had better not get in her way. For example, when she went to Emerson College for her master’s degree in speech language pathology, she also wanted to be the assistant soccer coach for the Emerson Women’s team. The advisors at Emerson told her this was not possible, that soccer would take too much of her time and that she shouldn’t attempt this because it would interfere with her graduate studies. They were wrong! She excelled in school and continued to coach throughout.
In addition, while at Emerson, Ricki injured her shoulder and underwent major surgery. She was in a complicated device, where her arm was placed in a weird position for quite a while during her recovery. She continued to get around, do her graduate work, coached soccer AND obtained and completed the internship of her dreams. That internship required significant bus travel, in less-than-ideal circumstances because of the shoulder surgery and apparatus. Yet she persevered without complaint and just did it.
I could go on and give more examples. She’s now a mom to two great kids, has a crazy busy schedule but manages to fit it all in.
How have you drawn professional inspiration from women throughout your career?
Professionally there are multiple women who have inspired me. The first ones are sort of obvious, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice in a sea of men, and later Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who championed women’s rights essentially from the moment she became a lawyer. It was not that I had some grand desire to one day be on the Supreme Court, but rather, they were female lawyers who had successfully worked themselves right up the traditionally all-male ladder and they had done so with a ferocity that did not dull their grace. They were inspiring for any young woman who wanted to become a lawyer and were the first to shatter that glass ceiling in my future field.
In my field currently I find inspiration everywhere. When I was first coming up the ranks while practicing in NYC, there were very few female trial lawyers. Add in the full-time job of also being a mother and it feels like an impossible feat at times. There is always the constant internal struggle of wondering if being successful at work means you are being less successful as a mom. Less present. I will always view my most important job as raising my three children, being present for them as my mother was for me, but to be honest it is not an easy task when it is coupled with the job of litigator. What I have found remarkable about my field though is that those who are enduring the same struggle are supportive. They share their working mom hacks and the ways they have been able to become more efficient at work, which usually involves working while at kids’ events or at night when the kids are asleep, they offer advice or at times just listen to a stressed rant. I watch these women navigate the same difficult path that I am trying to navigate and rather than taking advantage of the situation, most will make room on the path right next to them or direct you to the area with the least number of potholes. While there are always exceptions to this, I have found that they are few and far between and I have been inspired by the support I have been given by my fellow litigator moms.
MJ, legal assistant:
I have learned so much from my female friends. My co-workers have made it easy to be a team player and have helped me grow and learn along the way, never getting tired of my many questions. The women in my life and in my career have taught me to always do my best at every task, and my mom taught me to never give up.
If you could meet any influential woman, who would you choose? What questions would you ask her?
The influential woman that I would like to meet is, of course, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Before asking her anything, I would thank her for her constant fight to allow both myself and my daughters to be in charge of our own destiny, with the same opportunities that are available to my husband and my son. I think the one question I would want to ask her is what is the one thing she wishes she could have accomplished prior to her passing.
I would want to meet Mary Magdalene. Among other things, I would ask her about her observations during her travels with Jesus. Particularly, I would be interested to discuss with her any conversations they had during his last several days and the resurrection.
MJ, legal assistant:
I would probably want to meet Sacagawea, the young Shoshone girl who helped Lewis & Clark on their expedition. Not only was she the only female involved in their expedition, but she also acted as interpreter and knew which plants were okay to eat along the way and which ones were poisonous. I think I would probably ask her, “How did you get so brave and so smart at 16 years old?!”