The Goal of Her Practice is to Facilitate Families Healthy Movement Through the Legal Process. Meet Family Law Attorney, Stephanie E. Goodenow
Q: What inspired you to attend law school?
SG: Two things. First, I liked school; the excitement of discovery and intellectual challenge that my liberal arts education provided me. But second, I wanted a practical way to translate that love of learning into a profession. The law seemed like a good fit.
Q: What expectations did you have after graduating and receiving your law degree?
SG: Good question! My goal was to become part of a profession that affects people’s lives in positive ways. Like most lawyers, I think, my expectation was that I could help.
Q: Can you share with our audience, the types of law you specialize in?
SG: Family law. I take a broad view of the family, representing children and families from birth to death and in between.
Q: What aspects of the daily job of being a lawyer interest you the most?
SG: The best part of my job is when I can be a problem-solver for clients, whether that is through successful litigation, mediation, or negotiation. By the time families reach me, their choices can seem quite binary to them. I like being able to widen their choices, more broadly define what a “win” actually is. I think this restores some feeling of agency or autonomy for clients whose situations often feel out of their control.
Q: What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
SG: Be hard on the problem, not the people. That is, I think it is most effective to deal in facts, and to try to check negative emotions, and avoid imputing negative motives. I prefer to spend energy building the facts of case.
Q: Why did you decide to go into business for yourself as opposed to working for a large law firm?
SG: Many of my peers from school enjoyed their experiences at large firms, and I am certain that the networking opportunities that big firms offer are second to none. That said, big firm life was not for me.
I began my career at Kansas Legal Services, where on the first day the managing attorney handed me a stack of files that were mine to manage. Practice – being in court, working directly with clients, being in charge of my cases -- has always been important to me. Once I knew I could do these things, it seemed logical that I should do it for myself. I enjoy the “business” part of running the practice.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
SG: Do it. Be strategic. It may seem that the “big firm route” is all anyone talks about, but the law is vast, and the degree translates to success in lots of fields: business, politics, education, service, science, scholarship, etc. Research across industries to find what might suit you.
More practically: Get involved in local bar associations. Take any opportunity to speak or write about what interests you: give CLEs, write articles, etc. Associate with people you trust and admire; take them to lunch and learn from them. Always – always – be kind to judges’ administrative assistants. Do not leave the office at day’s end until you have entered all your time for the day.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
SG: Clients become (more) anxious when they are unprepared, so over-prepare and be consistent. When clients know what to expect, they are better equipped to focus on the task at hand, whether that is preparing for trial, mediation, settlement negotiations, etc. Create opportunities for clients to trust the system: visit the courtroom, practice the videoconferencing technology, watch public hearings involving your assigned court, discuss best-case and worst-case scenarios. Educate clients on process and substance every time you have the chance.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
SG: I think some of the overt discrimination that the first women in practice faced has fallen away. I realize that I have the job I have because of women who came before me who had to deal with workplace discrimination I cannot imagine. I think that women (and men) new to the profession today have really blazed a trail in demanding more of a healthy work-life balance in a traditionally stoic field. I see more calls for collaboration and cooperation. We are seeing more women in leadership roles as judges, managing attorneys, professors, chairpersons, etc.
All that said, generally, it is still true that women are compensated less than males for the same work. So, while there are more women in the legal profession, men probably still make up a lot of the higher-compensated positions.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
SG: Do not be afraid to talk about money. Be clear about your professional goals and be clear about how to reach them financially. Research reasonable compensation, and expect that, either from supervisors or from clients. Be your own best brand.
Five Things About Stephanie E. Goodenow
1. Who is the most fascinating person you’ve ever met?
That is a tough one. In my family, we are big hoops fans, and probably watch more NBA games than is healthy. Recently, I commented via Twitter on a friend’s new podcast, and my comment was “hearted” by Hall of Famer, Sidney Moncrief. I count that as having “met.”
2. Best and worst ice cream you ever had?
Best: Jeni’s Darkest Chocolate
Worst: Nuts in ice cream seem like an abomination to me. Sorry, butter pecan peeps.
3. What is one of your favorite things to do on the weekend?
When not cheering my kids at their sporting events, a good book and a good libation on the patio is as good as it gets. Recently, I have also taken up quilting . . . with mixed results.
4. Where would you like to retire?
Somewhere near my kids. A beach or a mountain in the background would not hurt.
5. How many countries have you visited?