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Barriers to Leadership While Fathering & Lawyering

By Quinton G. Washington, Esq. Founding Partner Washington, Dreyer & Associates Law Firm Edited by Anana Harris Parris and Nadia Lowe   After being injured in a horrible car accident as a young man, I remember sitting in pain, pinned between the seat and the dashboard, waiting for someone to get… me …out. If I close my eyes, I could visualize myself right back there. I questioned so many things while waiting. I questioned everything except my family and my faith. I learned the true meaning and power of family when that accident happened. Once I was out of that crushed car and hospitalized, my family was there for me every step of the way as I healed. I needed them and their support. It was a lifeline for me. Today, I am not just an attorney; I am a believer in and advocate for family. Family means blood relatives you care about or people who commit to caring about each other. Family helps people to sustain difficult times, be nourished when depleted, and to grow beyond our fears. I became an attorney because I realized after my accident I wanted to help and advocate for others to help strengthen families. What no one prepares you for is the reality that holding a family together as a father while being an attorney can feel impossible some days. The weight of expectations you put on yourself as a father, an attorney, a CEO, a community leader, a city attorney, a brother, a husband, and a son, can crush you if you don’t have a plan and support.    My law practice has now grown through the years and now expanded into Washington, Dreyer & Associates. In the role of founding partner, I not only advocate for my clients at my firm, but I also lead the legal departments of cities and governments as their City Attorney to use the law to help families in communities daily. Public advocacy is more than a position;  it includes helping the government provide quality and fair social services and government programming to all in our communities. Communities are collections of families and individuals who all deserve advocacy.    This leadership journey has not been easy. In the past, I have hidden my struggles and ignored my own needs thinking this was the answer to sound leadership. When I was tired of struggling in silence, I asked for help, accepted advice, and reached out to other fathers, lawyers, business owners, and leaders, which expanded my capacity and family of supporters. I now lead from experience as a father and a lawyer. I now accept help.  Statistically, men struggle with accepting help. According to a Psychology Today article, “Men Are Afraid to Ask for Help The negative outcomes of not seeking help.” The article states, “Men associate seeking assistance for a psychological or emotional problem with shame or weakness.” Excerpt from [3]Addis, M. E. & Mahalik, J. R. (2003). Men, masculinity, and the contexts of help-seeking. American Psychologist, 58(1): 5–14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.58.1.5   I practice considering the aversion some men have to asking for help. Because I care about the entire family, I am one of the few male lawyers who has practiced family law for over a decade at a high level.  The reason why I work in this area is because I want men to get quality legal advice and not rely on the barbershop environment to guide their decision- making with family law cases.  As a family lawyer, I want men to see that the court system is not rigged against them.  I also work in personal injury so that I can help families get past accidents or the hurtful actions of others and move forward with the compensation and representation they deserve.   The biggest barriers to leadership while fathering and lawyering that become lessons I have learned from my work.     Stay in until it’s over. Do not abandon your case or your goal for family!  The law does not favor one sex over another.  The law favors those who play all in.  Anyone can win their case, but it requires becoming committed to staying  in until it’s over.   Ask for help. Your lawyer is there to help. Prepare your questions before your meeting and email them to your lawyer. You may be comfortable with barbershop or hair salon environments; however, an experienced attorney is the best way to position yourself to win your case.   Prioritize your mental health and well-being while going through your challenges. Your children and family need you, well no matter the struggles you are facing.   Join a support group. If you are a lawyer, business owner, or father needing support, there are several support groups dedicated to offering support. Be sure to ask our community engagement division for a referral.  Write it down. Many of us cram details, emotions, and critical case information in our minds where it gets all scrambled up. Find a journal or a special location in your phone notepad to write down your case facts or personal needs so you can have them ready when you are in the company of help.
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