February 2017Volume 22Number 4PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Using your voice

As lawyers, we may sometimes take for granted our education, reputation, and our ability to use our voice. I have an example close to home and on a relatively small scale, but just as important to my family, where I have been using my voice to try and help my children.

On January 10th, I received an email from my daughter’s preschool Board of Directors (which run 6 locations), telling us that they were selling the building in which her preschool is housed and they were both unsure if they would have the space available for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year or whether they would be securing a new space for the 2018-2019 school year. My first reaction was shock, panic and sadness. You have to understand, my daughter cried on the first day of preschool only at pick-up. She loves school, and we think it’s an amazing place. My second reaction was to look for other school options for next year, which at this time of year are limited, and not something we even wanted to change.

My third, and ongoing reaction, was to try and save her school. So the following morning, I started a series of events that to me seemed fairly innocuous – a conversation with the center’s director, emails with the parents, and eventually a first email to the President and Executive Director of the Board of Directors. Next, I urged the other parents to send similar emails to the Board, and gave them an example to use based on my email. In a span about 48 hours, with the mounting pressure, the Board promised to remain open for next year, while they figure out the lease situation for the 2018-2019 school year. This was important.

Since that time, I’ve attended a parent forum organized by the Board of Directors at the school, had individual meetings with the former and current president of the Board, and formed a Parent Committee, with the goal of fundraising for a new center, marketing to attract students and keep our teachers. I am committed to continuing to put pressure on the Board because while I disagree with the Board’s actions and the way this was communicated, I know the preschool itself and its teachers and directors are wholly separate, and this is a good place for my family.

My point in writing this article is that my voice; my ability to draft strong, clear, and concise emails; my ability to ask the teachers and directors the right questions to get the information I needed; and my confidence to reach out to the parents; has been helpful in making sure my daughter has a place to attend school. Obviously this has benefited many other families too and the teachers who were at risk of losing their jobs, but I did this thinking of my family, including my daughter who attends the school now and hopefully my son who will in the future.

As lawyers, we have a unique ability to use our education, voice, and reputation for the better. It has become clear to me from comments of teachers and parents within this process that as a lawyer, I command a higher level of respect. Now I like to think I don’t act this way, but by holding the title of lawyer, it is assumed. I encourage all of you to remember that, and use your skills and training when necessary for the better. This can be for your families, or given what is happening in society right now, for others.

Erin Wilson practices family law at O’Connor Family Law, PC. She is actively involved in the ISBA Young Lawyer Division, The Standing Committee on Women and the Law and Assembly.

Login to post comments