Her Goal is to Help You Minimize The Damage & Help You Move Forward. Meet Raleigh Family Law Attorney, Kimberly Bryan
Q: Can you share with our audience, the types of law you specialize in?
KM: I am a board-certified specialist in Family Law. I’ve been focused on family law for nearly my entire career and since 1994 exclusively.
Q: What aspects of the daily job of being a lawyer interest you the most?
KM: I love being a lawyer; I really do. Admittedly, there are days when I would happily quit to bag groceries, which, like Tetris, I find oddly satisfying. Overall, however, I love the intellectual stimulation of my work. I am rarely bored. No two days are the same. Family law, in particular, is complex. The legal issues are hard, and they evolve as society evolves and changes. I love and admire the people that I work with. The lawyers and staff at my office all bring his or her own particular skill and expertise, and I benefit from their collective genius.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with your law firm?
KM: I suspect my clients would say, “she gave it to me direct with a *&^# for emphasis.” Our clients know we are right there with them, step-for-step, doing our very best to get them as close as possible to their goals. But we are real with our clients and don’t sugar-coat it or make promises we can’t keep. Most family law cases, probably 98% settle without being fully litigated. No one gets everything they ask for, regardless of whether the case is settled or tried.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
KM: Don’t go it alone. Even if you are a one-woman law firm; find a mentor. Seek out other lawyers you can talk to, confide in, and ask for advice on all manner of issues. Join a group – if there is not one, form one. If you are a young associate in a firm with other lawyers, ask to sit in on client conferences & meetings. Learn by example. I was “made” to sit in my mentor’s office while he dictated (yes, I know, ancient times) a contract. He would stop the recorder to explain why he was including each provision. At the time I was sooooo annoyed that I was ‘wasting time’ and it was only when I started drafting my own documents that I understood the value in that experience.
Q: What are the best practices you have employed to build a successful career?
KM: I believe it is crucial to continue to be a good student of the law after law school. I stay aware of case law and new opinions. I have always gone to CLE programs to learn (and play, speaking of work-life balance). I read the statute before I draft every pleading or motion. That seems pretty basic, doesn’t it; but I’m shocked at how often this basic principle is ignored. I never go to court, to a mediation, a meeting, or to any other proceeding without being fully prepared. Not half-assed prepared; not just enough to get by; I mean really prepared. Again, this seems basic, right? But it is shocking how often this fundamental principle is not followed. To me, other crucial elements for success as a lawyer are 1) to listen first and talk second; 2) be empathetic; 3) be kind. To offer the best advice, a lawyer needs to listen, ask questions, and listen harder to understand the client’s needs, which may not be apparent at first. A successful lawyer does not have to be a jackass (not all the time anyway). A successful lawyer can be aggressive and zealous, and still be kind.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
KM: Gosh, this is a nuanced question. My first suggestion is to find other women in the field to talk to, meet with, collaborate with, and lean on. The #MeToo movement has brought sexism, misogynism, and harassment into the open. I have several women-lawyer groups that I treasure and recently we gathered for dinner. In a group of 15 women, all of whom are involved in the family law field, every single person had a story of harassment, patronizing put-downs, mistreatment, and similar stories. There was a common core to each story: every one of us had shrugged off the maltreatment, internalized it, and never really spoke about it openly. Men just do not have to deal with this kind of struggle, but for women, it is real.
The advice I give to my daughter and to the young women who work in our office, is 1) you are not to blame; 2) stand up for your self-worth and dignity and find an appropriate way to call out the offending behavior. It’s terrifying to call out someone else’s oafish behavior, especially if the oaf is senior to you or powerful, but change is not brought about by silence. I have not always followed this advice and I recognize that, after 25+ years of being a lawyer and having some success at it, I now feel more comfortable speaking out than I did as a baby associate. The sentence in my arsenal at the moment is, “would you say or do that if I was a man?”
My second suggestion is to be assertive. Men have learned to ask for what they want without any shyness, hesitation, or embarrassment, and that’s a characteristic women need to adopt. When woman is assertive its negatively characterized but so what.
I also want to say to women, “stop apologizing.” Example, “I’m sorry but I disagree.” Skip that qualifier.
Final suggestion, if you want to make a point that sticks, be succinct.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
KM: HA! I’m still scared! Fear still motivates me to be prepared. It’s vital to me that I offer solid advice, fierce representation, good role-modeling, and teaching. I stay motivated by the fear that I won’t do those things well. I use fear as a motivator and not as an obstacle. I work hard to not allow fear to limit my actions and create a barrier to achieving my goals, so I just take a deep breath and step forward.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
KM: There are many, but when I need to summon internal fortitude, I summon Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and all of the thousands of women who suffered and fought through the women’s suffrage movement. I am standing on the shoulders of those women, and I am a woman lawyer because of their courage and action.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
KM: Gender Bias. I read a story about a CPA-candidate who was struggling to get an interview. She changed her name from “Erin” to “Mack” and received a response rate of 70% to her resume submissions. Sadly, it may be fortunate to have named my daughter, “Stuart.” There are good journal articles, research papers, and stories with suggestions for handling gender bias in the workplace – I have read and adopted many of the strategies suggested.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
KM: This is a never-ending struggle and I do not always manage this aspect well. The oft-quoted statement by Justice Story, “The law is a jealous mistress and requires long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage” is pretty accurate. It seems like there is an issue my brain is always unknotting or working on, and, for me, it requires determination and discipline to turn the noise off. I’m in the empty-nest phase of my life and I find that turning the noise off is harder now than it was when my kids lived at home.
If I have a robust life outside of the practice of law I feel like I’m able to listen better, have more empathy, focus, and energy to be a better lawyer. The after-effects of the pandemic that have allowed me to truly be able to work from any location has significantly helped me balance work and play.
Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?
KM: “F* that Shit with Heels On.”
Six Things About Attorney Kimberly Bryan
1. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Almost anything outdoors. Run, bike, swim, float, boat, paddle. I love to read but I don’t sit still so Audible has become my best friend.
2. What’s your favorite app on your phone?
The New York Times.
3. What TV shows did you watch when you were a kid?
As a family, we would watch Laugh In, which sometimes could get awkward when watching with your parents! I never missed an episode of The Mod Squad and I tried to copy all of the fashion. I had a hard crush on all three of the main characters. LOL.
4. Favorite Dessert?
I have a serious sugar addiction. If there was a Betty Ford clinic for sweet abuse, I would have to check in. I like so many kinds of sweet treats, but I have to say that my favorite is a gooey chocolate chip cookie.
5. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I would listen to the old me telling the young me to use sunscreen and avoid regular sunburns.
6. Cake or pie?
BOTH! Why discriminate? Have you ever tried a Piecaken???