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How She Did It: Judie Saunders

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

This article is a part of our monthly Women Evolve(d): How She Did It Series

Each month we feature inspirational women who are undergoing career reinvention or have made it to the other side. Read about how they did it and take away usable tips from their career journeys! To kickstart this year, we're featuring Judie Saunders, Esq. Judie is an

owner of a boutique litigation firm with offices in NY and NJ.

What inspired you to relaunch your career?

JS: The relaunching of my current career, as a litigator, was not so much an inspiration as it was an irrefutable drive to reclaim the work and projects that I love.

In 2004, I was working for the New York City Office of the Mayor under Michael Bloomberg. I resigned from that position because, as a new mother, I struggled for sustainable solutions to reliable child-care. Additionally, during that time our family relocated to a new state and my husband’s legal career become more demanding.

Over the course of the next 15 years, while working full-time managing the family and home, I also worked part-time with a small number of clients.

What remained consistent during that 15 years period was an almost electric pull that I needed to create, build and share with others. Never for a day did I doubt that I would rebuild my professional career.

I am deeply grateful that I was able to stay home with my two sons. I am also grateful that I am relaunching my career at a time in history where people practice new business values. I am excited that co-working spaces, remote working, and digital nomads are a part of the professional dialogue. These new business values allow me the work-life balance I could not achieve before leaving the workforce.

What is unique about returning or pivoting in the workforce in midlife? What are the specific challenges and opportunities?

JS: I am calmer and more self-assured. I have some mileage behind me, and I know definitively that everything will work out. I am confident in my skills. I am confident using the tools of curiosity and inquiry to resolve problems.

Returning to the workforce midlife is challenging if you have a family who still needs and wants you to be available to them full-time. It can also be a challenge convincing employers that your time away from the workforce was not time away from work and growth.

What does a typical day look like for you?

JS: The concept of a typical day does not exist for me. I am actually happy that I do not have typical days because I thrive on variety. I do, however, have consistent themes in my day. For example, I try to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to workout. Thereafter, walk the dog, straighten the house and get my two sons to school.

Three to four days a week I commute to New York City for court appearances, client meetings, and networking events. I have an office in Red Bank, NJ, close to home, where I can work late or on weekends.

What’s the one thing that has advanced your career in the last year?

JS: My career has advanced tremendously by expanding my networking circle and meeting other women. The support, encouragement, and insight of other women has been instrumental to the relaunch of my career. The women I met through my 2019 Inspiring Capital Fellowship are phenomenal. I was among a cohort of approximately 15 women from diverse backgrounds and professional careers. Our cohort was led by Linda Lautenberg and Judy Schoenberg who challenged us to expand ourselves and stretch our imaginations.

Another piece that advanced my career this year was a mindset shift (i.e. mommy is not around, and you will be o.k.) Babysitters, dog walkers and prepared meals from Instacart also helped tremendously.

Favorite book, app or podcast?

JS: I am the biggest podcast geek/enthusiast. I am a visual and auditory learner, so podcasts and audiobooks are incredibly satisfying and directly address the way I digest information. I listen to podcasts while I commute, clean, work, and exercise. I have a variety of favorite podcasts and audiobooks. A few of the podcasts in my current rotation are, Bigger Pockets Real Estate, The Business of Architecture, Hidden Brain, Masters of Scale, Mediation Oasis, On Being, Side Hustle Pro, the Intelligence, What Works and Where Should We Begin?

The advice I wish I had given to my 20-year-old self is…

JS: The advice I wish I had given my 20-year-old self, was to stop. Stop, sit and be quiet. Feel your emotions. Sit down and face your trauma and know that you will be ok. You are good enough. You do not need a boyfriend, titles or anything to make you worthy. Do not hate your skin, hair, gender, sexuality, the way you learn or see the world. Do not apologize for being.

I would also tell the 20-year-old me, that you are supposed to be at the tables and rooms you find yourself in. You do not need labels to be valued. You do not need an identity. Spend some time with yourself. Stop trying to please your parents, friends, and others. Speak the truth that’s inside of you. Stop being a box checker.

The advice that I want to give to my 75-year-old self is...

JS: I would tell my 75-year-old self to stop whining about the training schedule and sign up for one more NYC marathon

If every time you walked into the room, your theme song would play, what song would it be?

This is a fun question. I have to pick two theme songs. One song would be “Before I let go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze. The second song is “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor. These are such great dance songs and I love to dance!

Best career advice for other women?

JS: Your career pivot, relaunch or next project is not about you. The Universe, God or whatever name you call the force that guides you, will allow big ideas to be born and come through you. It is your duty to bring those ideas into the world. Every time you feel fearful, anxious or symptoms of imposter syndrome, repeat that “it is not about me…” You will know your idea is inspired because you feel pulled or propelled in a particular direction.

Do not be discouraged by the obstacles that appear as you birth your idea, instead take small consistent micro-steps toward the larger goal.

For example, if you are inspired to solve the problem of providing organic prepared meals to busy families start following organic food providers on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Take the step of signing up for newsletters authored by certified B Corps. Also, go outside of your current network and attend a panel discussion hosted by organic farmers. Even listening to a podcast about your idea is a step to bring that idea into the world.

What’s up next?

JS: Next up for me is to focus on the skill “gaps” in my business. I am taking a deep dive into learning the mechanics of running a business. I know how to “lawyer”, but I am not as proficient in running a profitable business. I have completed a 2020 strategic plan for the firm. I am eliminating firm services that are not creating revenue. Instead, I am focusing on litigation services for businesses, employees, and individuals accused of crimes.


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