Reimagining Law: Embracing the Power of ‘No’ (Part 2)

In the second part of this Reimagining Law series focused on workplace equality in the legal profession, Lauren Tuckey, President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), and Katie Liss, Assistant Dean of Law Career Services and Executive Director of the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center at DePaul University College of Law, discuss emotional labor and the power of “no.”

Lauren and Katie talk about why women perform more emotional labor than their male counterparts, how women can benefit from setting boundaries, and the importance of finding a mentor.

If you didn’t catch Part 1 of the series, it’s available here:

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00:00:57 Can you share some examples of how women attorneys experience emotional labor and what the profession can do to change these expectations?

00:04:29 How can women embrace their “no” and empower others to do the same?

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About Lauren Tuckey

Lauren is the President of Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, where she has supported this bar year’s theme of “lifting while climbing” by leading programs that provide women the opportunity to support each other while working on their own professional development.

Lauren has previously served as a corporate litigator at BatesCarey LLP, handling some of the firm’s most complex insurance coverage and subrogation disputes in courts across the country.

Outside of the courtroom, Lauren serves as secretary of the Illinois Bar Foundation and a pro bono Guardian Ad Litem for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. Lauren’s exceptional insurance work and involvement in various legal organizations has led to her recognition as a Rising Star in Illinois by Super Lawyers.

About Katie Liss

Kathryn C. Liss (Katie) is the Assistant Dean of Law Career Services and Executive Director of the Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center at DePaul University College of Law. Before DePaul, Katie practiced solely in domestic relations for over 10 years. She is founder and chair of the CBA’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force.

Katie is active in professional organizations that support causes she cares about, including the Chicago Bar Association (secretary, 2021-present; board member, 2018-present; co-chair of the Alliance for Women, 2021-present; founder and chair of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Task Force, 2020-present; CBA Record editorial board, 2018-present; founder and past-chair of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, 2017-present; and past-chair of the Young Lawyers Section, 2016-2017); Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment (founder and member, 2020-present);  Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness, First District of Illinois (member, 2021-present); and Miami University’s Pre-Law Alumni Advisory Board (member, 2018-present).

This interview was recorded on March 21, 2022.


Kendra Abercrombie 0:07 

Hello, my name is Kendra Abercrombie, and I am the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. If you were not able to join us for Part 1 of this discussion, I would highly encourage you to go back and take part in the wonderful conversation as I am rejoined today by Katie Liss and Lauren Tuckey. We are going to continue that amazing conversation that we were having in honor of Women’s History Month and equality in the workplace for women. Lauren, many have heard that women disproportionately bear the brunt of emotional labor when it comes to managing routine family and household tasks. But emotional labor also means managing one’s emotions to align with the expectations of say, a workplace. Can you share examples of how women attorneys experience emotional labor and what the profession can do to change these expectations?

Lauren Tuckey 1:08 

There’s so much to unpack in that question. I see this all the time with our members and especially our executive board who really know each other well enough to share their experiences. We see this constantly, whether it’s the pressures of being a mom but also working in litigation, or whether it’s the pressure of conforming to what society expects a woman to be in a leadership role. For example, I can’t as women’s bar president be transactional. It’s not taken well. You have to be, “Transactional, exclamation point, transactional, smiley face, how’s your day?” That’s what society expects from women. We conform to the extent that we’re able, but it is absolutely true that the expectations are just much, much bigger for women. This concept of emotional labor is absolutely true. Honestly, this is exactly why women need a bar organization, other organizations, and networks of other women going through this, because we really need support, because it’s not easy. In recognition of this issue, we created the Top Women Lawyers in Leadership Award to allow these women who have risen through the ranks to share their advice with other women. One of the biggest things, and actually a commonality among all of them, was flexibility. They just need flexibility at home to be at work when they need to be, flexibility at work to be at home when they need to be. And they just need understanding superiors who recognize this emotional burden, this emotional labor, that’s carried by women, especially in litigation and the practice of law. It should be met with support, and not a sense of piling on or, “This is the threshold needed or else.” It’s just so important to have that support at home, work, in bar associations, friends, family—it’s just very important.

Kendra Abercrombie 3:42 

Thank you. I’m going to ask this next question to both of you because I would love for our viewers to get both of your perspectives. Recently, I was able to talk to some women’s law student associations about the power of “no,” and how women in the legal field often end up with more on their plates because they say “yes” more than their male counterparts. For example, women are asked and agree to perform clerical tasks that male counterparts aren’t. I really think that forming this part of your professional identity starts before you enter your first law firm. And so how can we assist women embracing their “no” and empowering others to do the same, starting in law school and continuing to hold on to that once you enter the legal field?

Lauren Tuckey 4:49 

I love this question so much. It was never so easy for me personally to reach this point. There have been a lot of instances where I’ve maybe rolled over and done certain things that I’m like, “I really can’t deal with this, but I’ll just add it to the plate.” But the feeling of power that you get when you are able to respectfully articulate “no” is wonderful. At the end of the day, some people just don’t know that they might be pushing you over the edge a little bit. And I think it’s completely okay to say no, and it’s empowering. I love it. It’s wonderful.

Katie Liss 5:40 

I agree, Lauren, it’s something that I struggled with because I want to do things and it’s just about understanding your time management. It’s okay to say no, and that’s what I tell my students, too. You have to understand your boundaries. What’s your capacity? Don’t go over it because you’re going to burn out. And that can happen very, very quickly. As Lauren said, do it respectfully, make sure that you understand that there is there’s a ranking when you’re at a job, so you need to do that respectfully, but know that your time is important. And if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. As long as you get your job done, that should be number one. That should be the focus of what you do. Beyond that, that’s definitely up to you. It’s okay to say no if that is not technically your job. But there’s a fine balance to it. It’s something that that I work on every day, and it’s something that I think everyone should work on. And Kendra, I applaud you for talking to law students about that, because that’s something you absolutely should learn early on.

Lauren Tuckey 6:48 

Even on a practical level, I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s so important to have a mentor. Because if you’re confronted with a certain issue, sometimes it’s really helpful to talk through it and to understand, “Is this normal? Is this not? How should I confront this?” And I guess I make it sound too easy to say no, because sometimes, there really are situations that you find yourself in where it’s like, “Okay, if I say no, there might be real consequences. But on the other hand, if I don’t say no, then there are mental consequences or emotional consequences.” And so, it’s not easy to navigate. But I think people need to hear that they’re not alone. And we’re not reinventing the wheel here. I think that women have faced this for forever. It’s so important to have people you trust and mentors who you trust, who you can really talk things through with.

Kendra Abercrombie 7:47 

I definitely agree with having a mentor that you feel that you can trust in the legal field. Mentors are one of the most valuable assets I think you can have throughout your career. I know I’ve had several different types of mentors for several different aspects of my life and career and that trust aspect of knowing that they’re there to help guide you and that they know the lay of the land definitely makes a difference. Lauren and Katie, I want to thank both of you so much for joining us today. This has definitely been a lot of great information, a lot of great resources provided for our listeners who may not have known about some of what both of your organizations do or provide for people in the profession. I hope that they have been listening and they take advantage of some of those resources that we discussed today. If you are joining us for the first time, please like and share this video and subscribe to our channel to stay updated on future Reimagining Law episodes. Thank you for joining us. Have a great day.

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