The Human Lawyer: Colleen Byers
Colleen knows wellness. She lives it and she inspires others to do the same. She’s a thought-leader for women searching to thrive in their dual roles as working moms. What’s super cool is Colleen has found a way to incorporate wellness into her law practice. And that’s not easy.
So, how’d she get there?
Let’s find out, in her words.
How’d you get to where you are today?
In large part, I’m here because of white, middle class privilege.
Also, I was privileged to grow up in the golden state of California where the sun shone most days and the weather was usually mild enough to play outside 365 days a year. Surrounded by a loving family and great friends, I attended an all-female high school before leaving the nest to attend Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, Omaha. For a time, I didn’t really feel Back Home in Omaha, but life works in mysterious ways (like when I met my husband at Creighton and we decided to both attend graduate school – business school and law school for me and medical school for him). My husband’s medical career brought us to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center more than a decade ago. We’ve been here since.
My journey to private practice was not quite as seamless as my husband’s “match” at Wake. Quick refresher: 2008 = terrible time for a newly-minted lawyer to find a job. Through dogged determination and desperation, I landed an interview with Bell, Davis & Pitt in Winston-Salem. The rest is “history.”
So, beyond my “built-in” life advantage, I’d say I’m here because of:
Hard work; and
I’ve also benefited greatly from the generosity of my grandparents, my great uncle, and my parents; the support of my life partner and several close friends; and the mentoring from my law partners. It has been, and continues to be, an honor to learn with and from some of the greatest legal minds in the State.
What inspires you or fulfills you in your practice?
It sounds cliché but I distinctly recall going to law school because I wanted to help people. At times in my legal career, I have not always felt like I was achieving my goal. So I took action. Best. Decision. Ever. Now, I’ve developed a law practice focusing on a more collaborative approach to conflict resolution. I have a growing mediation practice, which has been great because it has led to more personal fulfillment. When a client writes me a thank you note or tells me how important and meaningful my legal counsel has been to them, I know (finally!) the sacrifices were worth it.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
I love raising our two daughters and striving to improve the world in which they live. Almost equally, I’m passionate about supporting and elevating the platforms of other women. Finally, I love yoga - practicing it, studying the philosophy and ethics of it, and sharing its benefits with others (especially fellow lawyers and fellow working moms).
What’s one thing you would change about the practice of law?
The billable hour. Lawyers and clients alike despise it. I struggle turning off the billable hour mindset when I leave the office, which is not a good thing because measuring life in one-tenths of an hour is not an ideal way to deepen a relationship with my husband and our daughters. I enjoy offering flat fee arrangements; however, until there is greater acceptance of alternative fee arrangements across the industry, it remains difficult for individual lawyers, particularly those in a firm of our size, to break away from the dreaded billable hour.
One unique and personal fact about you that the world should know.
My husband and I once swam with whale sharks, the largest known fish in the ocean, averaging 32 feet in length and 21,000 pounds. Our whale shark adventure reminds me that: (1) things are worth doing and life is worth living, even in spite of our overwhelming fears; and (2) there’s always a bigger picture beyond the mundane of the day-to-day so I try to focus my energy on that higher life purpose, understanding that we all have our own distinct purpose guiding our respective lives.
To connect with or learn more about Colleen, find her here.