Thursday, September 25, 2014

Using Your Skills as a Lawyer to Achieve Personal Goals Outside the Office

For a lot of lawyers, they have both professional and personal goals that they would like to accomplish during their lifetime. These goals can range from making partner in a firm to traveling across the world. Most people call this the “bucket list”. For Dickinson Wright Lawyer Michelle Alamo, she was able to cross one item off her bucket list this past fall – IRONMAN®.

Michelle recently completed the IRONMAN® Wisconsin 2014. She began her journey over a year ago when a friend mentioned that completing an Ironman was one of his “bucket list” items. Inspired by her friend, she committed to getting him to the start line and cheering him across the finish line. Before she knew it, she was training alongside him.

“Not one to let me sit on the sidelines, my friend responded that it would be even better if I completed it with him,” Michelle says. “Inspired by my friend, and never one to back down from a challenge, I said “why not?”. Looking back, I am so glad that I accepted his challenge.”

Preparing for an IRONMAN® is not unlike preparing for litigation, according to Michelle. It requires learning new subject matter areas, from how to train effectively for all three disciplines (swimming, bicycling and running) of an endurance event to what to eat and drink during an over 12 hour event. It requires developing a plan and strategy, with both short-term and long-term goals, and sticking to it, while at the same time being able to adjust when things don’t go exactly as planned. It requires time management skills as you try to balance hours of training on top of other work and personal commitments.

“But perhaps most importantly,” says Michelle. “it requires commitment and dedication to an end goal, and a desire to be and do your best. These are the same skills I use when approaching any new case or issue on behalf of a client.”

One of the most important aspects of being an IRONMAN® is the mental aspect of the challenge. According to the IRONMAN® Web site (, mental strength comes from understanding how you deal with physical challenges day in and day out. Michelle compares the mental preparation to studying for the bar exam.

“You develop your training plan and strategy, you stick to it, you put the time and miles in, and then you trust that you’ve done what you needed to do to prepare and that your plan will work,” says Michelle. “That’s what I did. And the day before the race, knowing that I had stuck to my plan and put the time and miles in, I took to heart the words of one of my best friends and training buddies – now that you’re all checked in, just put your feet up, relax, and let the day come to you.”

And that’s what she did. Michelle finished the IRONMAN® Wisconsin with her family and friends cheering her across the finish line. She says crossing the finish line was only a small part of what made the day special. It was also one of the most inspiring days of her life. From her friend who completed his bucket list item to the oldest competitor at age 75 completing his twelfth IRONMAN® and to so many other stories from people she met that day. Just like the legal profession, they all came together to achieve one goal.

Now that it’s over, Michelle turns the page to the coming year. Personally, she will move on to the IRONMAN® Chattanooga next year, where she plans to race on behalf of a charitable cause. Professionally, she will focus the coming year not only on her practice, where she is hoping to grow her intellectual property litigation and counseling practice area, but as well as growing the DRI’s Intellectual Property Committee, which she is Vice Chair.

To accomplish all this, she will put to use the skills she has learned as a lawyer as well as her IRONMAN® determination.