The Human Lawyer: Kelley Gondring
From headstands to French macarons, Kelley Gondring personifies the human lawyer experience. Kelley lives her life working relentlessly to defend the rights of the accused or preserve the future connectivity of broken families. She also lives her life as a wife, a mother, a runner, and a cycler. She makes intentional choices that allow her to live life her own way. Kelley’s story highlights the path to goal achievement through intentionality. Read Kelley’s story, in her words.
Your Journey; Describe It . . .
It is hard to know where to start because how far back does one go?
Professionally, no one thing has gotten me to where I am today. It has been a few things and let’s start with the obvious: I was born into upper-middle class, white privilege. I never went to school hungry. I never experienced abuse. I always felt loved. Everyone around me believed that I could be successful and therefore, I always thought that, if I worked hard, I could be successful.
Digging deeper, there was my parents’ and grandparents’ emphasis on education and hard work; my failures which were met with more hard work; my ability to swear and meet folks where they’re at without condescension; my husband’s encouragement to leave a toxic work environment (#metoo); and, a wise and caring law partner who has high expectations and takes his role as my mentor to heart. [It takes a village.]
Your Source of Inspiration and/or Fulfillment
When I meet a potential client for the first time, we exchange the usual pleasantries. “Hi, I’m Kelley. So nice to meet you in person. How are you today?” And every time this question involuntarily escapes from my mouth, I am instantly in disbelief that I’ve done it again.
If someone is sitting in my office, it is because they’re at some stage of the separation / divorce process. Even when the spouse initiates the separation, they still dread seeing me, and most certainly they dread answering a “usual pleasantry.” They’ve heard horror stories from friends (about lawyers). They’ve read blog posts filled with unfamiliar terms (about the legal process). They’ve perused law firm websites that feel impersonal, scary, homogenous, and dare I say institutionalized. And at least one loved one has given them legal advice that is likely incorrect. And then there’s someone like me, a person who doesn’t know them, who they’ve decided to give a shot at helping them through one of the hardest things in their life, and that person has the audacity to ask how they’re doing. So their response is normal—some variation of “well, I’ve been better” while thinking (or mumbling inaudibly), “I’m doing pretty terribly, thanks.”
Ill-timed pleasantries aside, it is these moments when I begin to connect to my client, having the opportunity to convey that it is my sincere privilege to listen to their stories, understand their worries, and share in their hopes.
I find that, after we’ve identified and articulated their needs, we begin the process of moving towards a palatable dissolution of their marriage. During that conversation, I enjoy providing clear and concise information about the legal process, so they have an honest perspective for the remainder of the case. Feeling connected and the growing depth of my relationships with clients are what keep me in this profession. I am fulfilled by meeting clients in what is often their worst moment and being trusted to guide them towards solutions mindful of their individual situation. I am inspired by seeing my clients empowered to make decisions about their finances and custody after I have had the privilege of advising them about the legal process.
I love so many things outside of work. Let’s start with my family—my husband, Jason Bragg, and daughters Audrey (6) and Alice (4). Then there’s baking. I taught myself to make fancy French pastries and macarons. I pair my love for baking with a complimentary love for hosting great dinner parties. Sometimes I even sell my goods at local dessert fairs. I used to maintain a cooking blog and, when on maternity leave with my first child, I started A Dash of Sweet. Yes, all the things, especially the sweet things.
And finally cycling and running. I am lucky to ride with a great group of folks at 0530, so I don’t have to choose between work and exercise. I also run with friends and recently participated in the Get Outside Mountain Relay. Last year I ran a mile in 6:05. My goal is to hit a sub-6-minute mile by the time I’m—wait a lady never tells her age. Let’s just say I have 4.5 years to get it done.
That One Thing You Would Change
I’d take the politics out of criminal law and the vindictiveness out of family law. Neither has a place. Both perpetuate cyclical societal problems. And it’s avoidable if we simply change the way we talk about and think about those issues.
Your Unique Thing the World Must Know
In 10th grade, I had to create a life goals list. It was written in blue marker and for a decade it lived tacked to the back of my various bedroom doors. At some point my dad suggested I add the goal of being able to stand on my head when I’m seventy, so I did. For years, I have practiced weekly. Yes, you read that correctly: I can stand on my head.