March 2022 Out of Office - Where Will A Book Take You?

by Dana M. Heyde

I read books to take a journey, but I never imagined the personal journey my love of books would take me on. As a child, I devoured the entire series of The Baby-Sitters Club. In the seventh grade, I decided to become a lawyer after reading John Grisham’s A Time To Kill. In college, my passion for the written word allowed me to breeze through classes as an English major. I actually enjoyed going to the campus bookstore to buy the books.

Once I passed the bar, I worried that my high billing requirements would limit my reading, but the opposite happened. During those first years as a young lawyer, it felt as if I was sent to a million case management conferences and depositions. To capitalize on all the down time, I always carried a book with me. I easily met my hours with all the traveling, and the waiting gave me time to read three books a week!

But once I advanced from the newbie attending hearings to a seasoned associate pouring over case law and motions every day, the joy of reading was almost extinguished. It is nearly impossible to articulate to a layperson how the daily demands of the legal profession present a unique level of stress. The amount of attention needed to accurately dissect legal authority and the requirement to divide each workday into six-minute increments all contribute to an immense amount of pressure to read efficiently and quickly.

It became apparent that spending time on something enjoyable each night was crucial to balancing the rigors of the profession. I turned to books to help me reset. Perusing the London shops with a Shopaholic, plotting revenge with Gone Girl, and trying to break The Rose Code, were exciting adventures that made me think differently than I had earlier in the day. I also only read actual books to give my eyes a break from the screen.

Suddenly, I was reading 150 books a year! I started a blog where I shared my opinions of the books I read. Now, I’ve posted over 1,600 blogs at fastpageturner.wordpress.com. I usually read 200 books each year.

In 2016, I was on the board of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association and shared my passion for reading with President Allyson Thompson. She encouraged me to lead a book club for OCWLA. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet other attorneys who shared my passion for reading. I crossed my fingers as the first few book clubs were scheduled and hoped it would be successful. The result was immediately positive!

I was surprised how the solitary activity of reading a book led to my favorite way to connect with other attorneys. Let’s be honest, attorneys are a little intimidating. We can have a tough exterior that makes casual interactions awkward. That’s why it has been so rewarding to gather with attorneys who are also book lovers. Once this shared interest is known, we become kindred spirits instead of adversaries.

Over the past six years, the OCWLA Book Club has grown to be a thriving group of professionals who, like me, feel compelled to discuss the books they read. By reminiscing about our favorite reads, an immediate connection is forged, and networking comes easily.

Daunted by the prospect of arriving at a large event, countless new OCWLA members first attend the Book Club to meet others in a small group setting. They experience the genuine camaraderie of the Book Club that reflects the larger membership of OCWLA and become regular attendees at all of our events.

The OCWLA Book Club environment allows members to feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions about the monthly selections. It takes courage to admit that I enjoyed The Duke and I, and didn’t finish The Gentleman in Moscow even though everyone else gushed about it.

The members are courteous of others’ views, even when they are in complete opposition to their own. Still, the deep level of respect shared by the group allows plenty of room to razz each other about liking less popular selections.

I am proud that my passion for reading led to the creation of the OCWLA Book Club, which offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and networking. Book Club members have been elected to the OCWLA Board of Directors and appointed to the OCWLA Foundation. It became so easy for me to connect with the membership that I developed a deeper appreciation for OCWLA. That inspired me to advance from a Director to a member of the Executive Board. This year, I am the President of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association.

The OCWLA Book Club is perfect, fun, and professional. I look forward to encouraging other OCWLA members to develop creative ways to connect with each other. Tonight, once my five-year-old pirate is asleep, I can be found curled up with a book eager to see where the story will take me. After all, I’ve got 196 more books to read.

Dana M. Heyde is a Partner at Cottle Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP, where she practices Family Law and Trust Litigation. She loves giving book recommendations. Find her on Goodreads or email her at dana@cklhllaw.com.

Out of Office is an occasional column in which authors share ways to make life meaningful and fulfilling during and outside of the practice of law.