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Session 301: Protecting Your Mental Health As A Black Woman Attorney

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Last week we shared part 1 of a conversation about exploring non traditional pathways as a Black woman in the legal field and this week we’re back with part 2. For this conversation, I’m joined by Patrice Perkins, a business and intellectual property attorney with a focus on arts and culture, new media, and entertainment. She is also the founder of Creative Genius Law — a strategic legal partner that helps traditionally disempowered creatives use their intellectual property to build impact, generational wealth, and legacy. Patrice and I discussed the path to becoming a partner or opening your own firm, the importance of setting boundaries as an attorney, how she protects her mental health, and the importance of protecting your ideas as a creative entrepreneur.


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Session 301: Protecting Your Mental Health as A Black Woman Attorney

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 301 of the Therapy for Black Girls Podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Last week, we shared part one of a conversation about exploring nontraditional pathways as a black woman in the legal field. And this week, we're back with part two. This week, I'm joined by Patrice Perkins, a business and intellectual property attorney with a focus on arts and culture, new media and entertainment. She's also the founder of Creative Genius Law, a strategic legal partner that helps traditionally disempowered creatives use their intellectual property to build impact, generational wealth and legacy. Patrice and I discussed the path to becoming a partner or opening your own firm, the importance of setting boundaries as an attorney, how she protects her mental health, and the importance of protecting your ideas as a creative entrepreneur. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, be sure to share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us today, Patrice.

Patrice: Absolutely. I'm thrilled to be here.

Dr. Joy: Very exciting to have our very own Therapy for Black Girls attorney joining us here on the podcast. So Patrice, you are the founder and principal attorney of your legal firm, Creative Genius Law. Can you say what it means to be the principal attorney? And how is that similar or different to being a partner at a law firm?

Patrice: It is simply meaning that I am the key attorney for the firm, and so it's very much similar. The only difference is that we probably wear multiple hats just because we are in a smaller firm.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Before you started Creative Genius, you have worked in a variety of different settings as an attorney. What is the path to becoming a partner at a traditional law firm?

Patrice: Typically, the path to becoming a partner starts before you even leave law school, so you are typically looking for a summer associate position at a law firm (which is basically a summer internship) and that begins the relationship with firms that you've identified as firms of interest. And then once you are ready to exit law school, assuming that summer internship or summer associateship went well, then there may be an offer coming from that firm or you may learn from that experience that you're not interested in that firm. But the process starts pretty early. The path to partnership is typically being on your A game from the moment you step foot in the door, and also being in close contact with whoever your assigned mentors are at the firm so they can help you craft a career plan that's suited to your goal.

Dr. Joy: Okay, so I want to stop here, Patrice, because… You tell me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like because that process starts so early, like if you are starting this process basically before you graduate, do most law students then go to law school knowing that this is what I want to do? It seems like you almost have to, to be able to put yourself on that track. I guess what I'm wanting to know is where is the space for exploration if you have to decide so early that you want to be on this partner track?

Patrice: That is an excellent question, because one of my gripes with law school was really centered around the fact that you're steered in one of two directions. You're either steered down the big law path, which is what I just described, or you're typically steered down the Public Service path. At least when I was in law school, there really wasn't an in between. And so for anyone who wanted to do something that was maybe a little bit nontraditional, you had to really use your own personal resources to plot out what that path looked like for you. There was definitely no blueprint.

Dr. Joy: Okay. So what are some nontraditional spaces in the law?

Patrice: Some people go into policy as lawyers, and they may have gone into law school thinking they wanted to be a lawyer, and then leaving realizing that they could impact the law in different ways through policy. And I actually have seen that happen a lot with people who carry public service interests, specifically interests around education or things of that nature. Another nontraditional path is actually starting your own law firm. Even though we have more recent law grads who are kind of branching out on their own sooner, that's definitely considered an out of the box path. And then also in-house counsel for a corporation. So you could work for like a Blue Cross Blue Shield or any of these corporations who need to have attorneys in-house. I would say even though that is a popular path, it's still a little bit out of the box because, based on my experience, law school didn't really necessarily train you or groom you towards that path.

Dr. Joy: Okay, that's really interesting because I feel like a lot of lawyers end up opening their own firm, but it sounds like that is still considered nontraditional. Can you say why that is?

Patrice: Absolutely. Usually when lawyers start their own firm, it's because maybe they had the entrepreneurial bug to begin with and so that was always a part of their vision. And I think that those lawyers are actually still in the minority, just because we are not wired to really think that way. We think we go to law school, we get the plush law firm job, and that is the American dream for many lawyers. For other lawyers, it's usually in response to some sort of external circumstance. It could be that the jobs aren't there. When I was graduating from law school, it was very tough because I'm in a market where there are five law schools, five respected law schools. And so when everyone is graduating at the same time, you have a lot of competition for essentially the same roles. And we were dealing with a recession at the time, this was in 2008, so there just weren't a lot of jobs available. So some people launched their firms in response to not being able to find other work. And then I think that you do have people who are realizing that the quality of life at a larger firm in particular is not really aligned with what they want for themselves personally. So they may have worked in big law, or a more traditional job for maybe one to three years and then realize, hey, this is not as suited to me maybe building a family, it's not suited to me having a more flexible lifestyle. And so they are branching out for that reason as well to have more control over their own lifestyle.

Dr. Joy: I wanna get a little bit more granular. When we say big law, what does that mean? What qualifies a firm as a big law firm?

Patrice: A big law firm is typically operating in multiple states and they typically have thousands of attorneys. Even a midsize firm is typically a firm that may have a couple of hundred attorneys. And so when we're talking big law, we're talking about a firm that has thousands of attorneys across the country, usually multiple offices, and there's a hierarchy. When you are starting at a law firm, you're starting as an associate, which is essentially the entry-level position. And then throughout your career, you probably are looking to move yourself up the ranks. You mentioned earlier partner track, and that is typically a goal of someone who wants to work in big law. So it's the size of the firm that qualifies it.

Dr. Joy: Got it, okay. You've already started to give us a little bit about your background before opening your firm. But can you tell us a little bit more about your journey, like what actually led to you opening your own firm?

Patrice: I worked full time, and it's funny, Dr. Joy, because I didn't answer that question. I don't know how I skipped over it! But I started my employment journey while in law school, initially for a two-attorney law firm. That was excellent experience because not only did I get to do real attorney work because the law firm was so small, I also got to see what it looked like for a law firm's owners to split up. The partners split up while I was there and so I went from working for a two-partner firm to a solo attorney firm. And so I would say that was the best experience ever, because when you're in a shop that small, you learn some of the business of the law and you start to learn how to lawyer before you are really a lawyer.

From there, I went to working for a legal aid organization that serviced people with disabilities and the elderly, and I ran their continuing legal education program. With that opportunity, I was able to develop a lot of attorney relationships because I was working with the volunteer network of attorneys, and I was also able to really get the feel of launching something from the ground up. At that time, continuing legal education was a new thing that was required of us and so this was the first time the organization had to launch a continuing legal aid program. And I got to do that while in law school, from the ground up. From there, I went to a government position. My office was appointed by the federal courts, and I got to oversee what we call illegal patronage hiring in Illinois, meaning you are hired because of your political affiliation and not because of merits, and I was in that role for five years. So I was in that role while in law school, and then when I became licensed, I became a staff attorney overseeing a large part of that office. And then I branched out on my own.

The wonderful thing about me branching out on my own was, number one, I had clarity around what I wanted to do. I had always worked with populations that were underserved through all of my work and through my employment journey, my personal life was revealing to me that creatives that I knew didn't have attorneys. And I decided that that would be the next underserved population that I would work with, and I had a boss that was very supportive. Because my office was temporary, we were going to go away as soon as a federal judge said we no longer needed to exist. And she was very supportive about essentially supporting my path forward, as long as it didn't interfere with that current job. I was able to step out of that role into my firm pretty seamlessly, with about two years of planning, though.

Dr. Joy: Love that. So what have been some of the unforeseen challenges that you didn't expect in opening your own firm?

Patrice: The biggest was the emotional journey that came along with it. Most people will probably think the financial commitment, but I had taken two years to kind of plot out my path from my prior job– meaning I had saved the money, I had begun to develop a group of clientele. The part that I was not prepared for was the emotional strain that starting a firm would have on me. And I say all the time, there needs to be training for that. Because that was, for me, the biggest piece of the puzzle that presented the biggest challenge for me.

Dr. Joy: So when you say emotional strain, what do you mean? Can you give us some examples?

Patrice: One part of it came from the fact that I was dealing with a major lifestyle change. Because I had started my legal career fairly early, I went from a job where I was making almost $200,000 as a very young person. And for someone who didn't go the big law path to be making that amount of money before you even graduated law school, that was pretty rare, especially at that time. And so naturally, when you step out on your own, you're not living that same six-figure lifestyle anymore. So that was really the first thing. I went from being able to essentially do what I wanted as a young person to now literally dotting the i and carrying the ones to make sure I could pay my bills. And so there was a mental shift because I couldn't do all the brunches, I couldn't hang out as much, I had to spend more time at home to save money because I live in a large city and things were getting expensive.

It was the mental impact of just a different lifestyle and then there was the mental impact of being the person that it felt like people dumped on. When you are an attorney, you're essentially wearing multiple hats, in my opinion. And so you get clients on their good days, but you also get clients when they are stressed and on their bad days. That was the other piece of it, just learning how to navigate clients who were having tough days, continue to be client-centered, and manage to not carry whatever was weighing on them, or weighing on me during the work day, outside of work. And that honestly is still a work in progress. It's become easier, but it's certainly a work in progress.

Dr. Joy: Can you share what kinds of things helped you to really get some skills and some help around releasing this emotional strain, and how you've been able to set boundaries with clients? I think that that's typically a very hard thing to do.

Patrice: Yes. What helped was taking myself out of isolation. I’d isolated myself because I am a person that when I'm stressed and I'm overwhelmed, I draw inward. I’d completely isolated myself at one point from good friends and family and so it was really kind of forcing myself out of isolation, and getting therapy was one of the first things. And one of the first things my therapist said to me was, in this change in your career path, you've stripped yourself of everything that you've identified as bringing you enjoyment. And everything that you identified as bringing you enjoyment costs money. Let's identify some ways that you can care for yourself and that you can enjoy yourself that doesn't cost a thing. And so that was the first thing, that helped tremendously. And then along the way, journaling became a more frequent practice for me and also working with a life coach. And again, making the commitment to therapy. When I worked with a life coach, I literally remember having a talk with my now fiancé around, "Should I do it? I really don't have the money for it but I feel I can use this sort of support in my journey." And I ended up working with a life coach and that was groundbreaking. And so I've learned that having those resources along the way are critical and absolutely necessary for this path.

In terms of the boundary setting, that is something else that has been a work in progress. For me, it looks like removing email from my phone. I removed email from my phone about five or six years ago and I remember sharing that on Facebook, and people were like, "Oh, my God, what do you mean?” I took off the app. I don't use the Mail app on Apple anymore. So I took off the app, I don't stay logged in to Gmail on my phone. I also cut off as many notifications as possible. And I have a very firm policy around not giving people my cell phone for them to communicate with me because that was something that I learned early on — people didn't necessarily care if it was 8 am. They would text you with a legal question and they would say it's gonna be real quick, real short, at 8am on a Saturday. And so I quickly learned I needed that boundary. In terms of other boundaries with clients, honoring our hours of 9:00 to 6 pm, allowing my team to deal with client matters when it's within their skill set to do so, so that it creates a buffer for me and I don't have to be the one doing all of the things when it comes to the clients and all of the other work.

Dr. Joy: I love that. It's interesting because I'm having this conversation with you as an attorney, but you're also my attorney. And so I love that I still feel very taken care of and I don't feel like I'm ever being brushed aside, even though you have very strong boundaries in place. And so I think that that is just an example for people, of when we are afraid to set boundaries because we're worried about how will they take it, and will I lose business — that your business is still thriving, even though you have these things set in place to protect yourself.

Patrice: And I appreciate that coming from you firsthand because that was the biggest fear I felt. I equated boundary setting with not providing good client service. And my therapist said to me, what if people receive the best version of you because you set boundaries? And I really do feel that I see that happening at play. So when I show up for my client calls, unless I've just spent all night at the New Edition concert like I did last Thursday…! Typically, I'm able to show up and you're not getting like the burned out, stretched too thin version of me because of those boundaries that have been set.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Thank you for that. I love that your firm operates in all of these very new spaces, which is a part of why I was attracted to being a client of the firm anyway. You do a lot in stuff like art law, cannabis businesses, new media. Can you talk a little bit about what each of these is, and what drew you to operating in these more new age kinds of spaces in the law?

Patrice: Absolutely. Art law is my number one love. And that is really because I realized, especially here in my hometown of Chicago, that artists were really underrepresented across the board in terms of not having lawyers, not having managers and things of that nature. And what I learned along the way was that artists and other creatives didn't feel that lawyers would really get them. They felt that lawyers would restrict them, they would tell them all the things they couldn't do. And for them, it was just a misalignment from a values perspective. And so we really approach the law from the lens of "we use the law to help nurture your creativity instead of restricting it." And to the extent we can do that legally, that's what we do. And so that was really how I began with the artists but what I realized was that I really was drawn to working with clients who were big thinkers, who were a bit against the grain in terms of how they did things in their industry, and just who had these major wild, crazy ideas. And that really could come across from any industry.

The other thing that I realized was that I might start with a client who is an artist on year one of our work together, and then by year four, they’re a chef. And that has happened. Because typically people who are creatives are moving in and out of disciplines. And so while art is my number one love because I see the need there, I also see the value from an economics perspective. Because one of the things that I will always think about was, if more artists knew about how to protect their intellectual property, I could help them increase the value of their art by protecting it more, which ultimately will help improve their position today, and be the foundation for a stronger legacy. So that was how I began in art. Now, with the other industries that I work in new media at the same time, I was recognizing new media as a field.

And so for anyone who doesn't know what new media is, that's anyone who is creating media outside of the traditional platforms, so traditional newspaper, or even blogs at this point. And so it’s what we refer to as our content creators. You're creating new media across different platforms. So similarly, y'all weren't represented. And one of the things that I quickly learned was that, without having representation who really understood the value of your contributions, you were really in a vulnerable position. Meaning, as you started to get new deals and opportunities your way, you may not know how to engage in a negotiation process or what the real value of your creative work is. And when you are engaged in this negotiation process, ultimately, each business opportunity sets the foundation for the next one, and the next one, and the next one. And so I really wanted to play a key role in helping people in new media capture the value so that they can essentially earn more money and set their families up for more.

The other industries have come because I am a creative myself who just happens to be a lawyer. And so I like to learn about these new industries and then share that in terms of rolling that out to service my clients as well. The cannabis piece you mentioned, we quickly pulled it back... What we focus on with that is all of our other service areas. So if you need a trademark, if you need counsel around your business, we'll work with you on that. But in terms of the cannabis licensing, here in my state, so many games were being played, particularly with minorities where getting through the process was just a challenge, if not impossible. And we didn't have enough minority representation in the field and there were attorneys who were beginning to only focus on cannabis law to help people get through the process. And because we offer other service areas, that was the area where we kind of said, let those attorneys who are only doing this and who are really figuring out how to help people move through the system and can focus on it, do that work. And then we can do the work to support them as needed, which would be if your client needs a trademark or needs a business set up or a partnership agreement.

Dr. Joy: So as I'm listening to you talk, Patrice, if I think about my own journey, I have taken you on some wild rides, like oh, now I want to do this thing. How do you stay up to date with all of the different things that your creatives are exploring within their businesses?

Patrice: There's multiple layers to it. A friend actually said to me the other day, she said, "You couldn't do what you do if you weren't genuinely interested in the culture, if you weren't genuinely interested in creatives." Because so much of my learning and my team's learning comes from us being in the loop of what's on trend and what's new and developing. And that's something that we just enjoy to do. So just by virtue of that being an interest, we are reading up on the newest licensing deals, or what deal Tyler Perry is considering right now. We're reading up on those things because that's our version of pop culture. And then professionally, I have always invested in developing out our research databases. So for anyone who is considering a path in law, even if you're branching out on your own, in my opinion, one of the most important investments you can make is in your research skills and development. And so from early on, we were spending a significant amount of money making sure I had access to the latest research. If I'm offering a client the opportunity to work with me on negotiating their licensing deals, that means that I need to know the trends in the licensing industry. So I have a resource, a paid resource, that tells me what the trends are in each industry, where the money is being spent most in licensing. And so it's really investing in those paid resources, plus keeping up with our requirement for continuing legal education. Meaning we have so many hours of legal education that we have to get on a regular basis.

Dr. Joy: And this is not at all the topic of the conversation, but because you are so passionate about creatives, is there one piece of information that you want creatives listening to know about, like the first steps they should take in terms of protecting their creative assets? What would you say to them?

Patrice: I would say… This is a loaded question, Dr. Joy, because how am I supposed to give one? The one is actually always engage in a negotiation process. So if you have an opportunity, and quite honestly even if you're faced with an opportunity that starts off as unpaid, always be negotiating is my tip because you need to practice at it. And for people to really take you seriously and value you as a businessperson, they expect you to engage in some sort of negotiation process. And so when you don't, you kind of mess with how the power is distributed in that exchange. And so you need to level it out a bit and always engage in a negotiation process. If you don't have an attorney, there are a few really great books around that. One is Getting to Yes and that is written for non-lawyers. And so if you feel you don't know how to start the process of negotiating, you can begin to read up on your own and then, when the time is right for you, hire an attorney to support you.

Dr. Joy: I appreciate you picking out of all of the things that you could have said, giving us that one. And a resource as a bonus, so I love that. More from my conversation with Patrice after the break.


Dr. Joy: One of the other things I love about Creative Genius Law is that you have a team of all black women supporting you in the firm. Have you gotten any feedback about needing to diversify your firm? And if so, how have you handled that feedback?

Patrice: We haven't gotten any feedback. And I do want to shout out, we have a few team members that are more back office for us and so you don't see them. They are not black women, they are women. And so we have maintained our commitment to making sure that we create an opportunity that is attractive for women. Because honestly, in law, it starts there. So many of the firms run their operations in a way where it's not suited for women who wanna have families or it makes it really difficult, it's not suited for women who maybe have multiple interests. And so I think because we've prioritized those things in our firm culture, then it has made it an attractive place for women. And I've certainly prioritized black women and women in general. I've never gotten feedback that I need to diversify. And I do expect it at one point, but my commitment is to making sure that we have a safe place to work in the legal industry. Some of the feedback that I would get early on when people started seeing my face associated with Creative Genius Law, from aspiring lawyers, was that they wanted more places like Creative Genius Law. I get so much interest from people who wanna work with us, and we can't hire everyone. And so I think there's a need for more firms who prioritize black women as well.

Dr. Joy: Can you say a little bit about how you have been able to create a company culture that is focused on women being able to kind of embrace all of who they are, that's supportive as they go through changes in their life? Because I do think sometimes it feels like there is some tension between what an ideal working environment looks like versus capitalism. Like let's just get the most money out of everybody, you put in the most hours, you do what you need to do, we make this money. How have you been able to really craft that?

Patrice: The very first thing was, as soon as I was in a position to rollout benefits, the very first benefit I rolled out was health care. And I was very intentional about making sure I didn't go with the cheapest policy or the policy that would be easy for me to secure for the team but it clearly had negative reviews. So I invested in top notch health insurance for the team, that was number one. Because I never wanted someone to have to make a major sacrifice just to get medical care and so that was number one for me.
The second thing was we had a physical office and we still do, but we were working in the office every day and we have since shifted to a work from home policy because of COVID. And when we were in office, I always looked for places that offered as many amenities as possible because I wanted people to look forward to coming to work and feel cared for at work.

Our last office had put out breakfast every day, they did monthly massages, monthly manicures. And so those were things that I paid a little more for but my team certainly enjoyed coming to work and they looked forward to being able to have that reprieve. We have workout space and things of that nature. And then I very much encourage work life balance to the extent that it can exist so we do have a kind of a flexible work policy. To be honest, I don't really care when people start their workday, I just want the work done. And so the team is able to really manage other components of their life with their work at Creative Genius Law. We've gifted team members with subscriptions to meditation apps and things of that nature to help support them having balance outside of work as well.

Dr. Joy: I love that. I feel like I am following in your footsteps in my dream company culture to create some of those same things so I appreciate you sharing that with us. So we've been talking a little bit about media and media representation. What are some common depictions of lawyers that you see on television? And how accurate or inaccurate are they from reality?

Patrice: The biggest common depiction is just how dramatic things get.One of my favorite legal dramas is The Good Wife. You know, if you were watching The Good Wife or any of these legal dramas, just seeing the foolery that takes place in the courtroom and the drama attached to it. And I think that is just a common misconception. Usually, when you are even engaging in a negotiation process on behalf of a client, it's not going to benefit you to pull out all of the dramatics. It is a very specific skill set, and usually drama is going to frustrate the process for everyone. So I will say that's a common misconception.
Another common misconception is that lawyers, I feel, are presented on TV often as dark. I used to have a favorite legal drama with Glenn Close and at her law firm she'd brought in a young associate. And once we figure out the name of the show, we probably will charge you all with watching a few episodes, but the lawyers were just presented as dark and twisted, and they were doing all of the illegal things behind closed doors. And I feel like that's also a theme that just plays out, just the darkness and the twisted nature of it all. And that is not the case. Lawyers have ethical guidelines that we have to abide by and most lawyers want to do the right thing because we don't want our license taken from us. And so that's another one.

Dr. Joy: The show is called Damages.

Patrice: Thank you. Oh my god, that was… I might watch a few episodes today.

Dr. Joy: That was so good. I remember that because that was my nursing break. When I had my first little one, I would put on an episode of Damages and pump so I remembered that. I remember that show very, very fondly. I agree with you, it definitely feels like media representations of lawyers often feel like they are not ethical. And so I think that that can leave people feeling that lawyers are largely like ambulance chasers or they will do anything to win the case, when that really is not the truth.

Patrice: It's not the truth. And that doesn't mean that there are not bad apples in the bunch. Just like with every industry, you do have people who are not doing the right thing and who may take advantage of situations. And so I would say, as a potential client of any law firm, you've got to do your due diligence. And a gut check. It's very important to do your own gut check to make sure that you are comfortable with the person that you're working for. But most lawyers really just wanna help our clients.

Dr. Joy: Can you give us any other green flags we should be looking for in terms of vetting an attorney we're considering working with?

Patrice: I would say there are a ton of good lawyers out there. And so what you wanna get a feel for is you wanna be clear on what values and what characteristics are important to you beyond someone being a good lawyer. What I mean by that is, do you want a lawyer who has routinely worked with people in your particular industry? Someone else outside of your industry may be able to provide good legal services to you but there are things that someone who is knee-deep into your industry is going to be able to pick up. So what is their track record in your particular industry?

Do you get a feel for the fact that the lawyer sees you as a peer? For example, our team's approach is that we are collaborators with our clients. We advise you on what to do, but we don't make the decisions for you. If you tell me that you're not aligned with a particular recommendation, we are going to explore other options for you until we can't anymore. And so is it a law firm or a lawyer who’s willing to collaborate with you and not just tell you what to do? And do they actually listen? A lot of times when you are reaching out to a law firm, you may not actually talk to the lawyer. Initially, you may talk to someone else on the staff, but those same values should trickle down to the staff. So are they taking the time to hear you out and listen to your specific needs. I would say if you have those green flags, along with the fact that you have some proof that they're probably a good lawyer, then that probably is enough to at least deepen your engagement with them.

Dr. Joy: Thank you. I think that that will be very helpful for people who are considering finding legal representation. So I'm not sure how much you are in these TikTok streets, Patrice. Are you? Yes?

Patrice: I am.

Dr. Joy: Okay, all right. There was a recent video that went viral of a black woman attorney who resigned from her role at a big law firm because the firm told her she could no longer make money online through paid partnerships. And that her work online was a clear violation of outside work activities or moonlighting. Can you say a little bit about what this means? What was the concern there?

Patrice: That's huge. And I actually did not see that so that tells me my algorithm in TikTok is focused on other things, which we won't mention. But that's huge. Usually, when you are working with a large firm in particular, some midsize firms and some small firms, depending on the owner, you're going to have an outside work restriction. Meaning you can't work with clients on the side. And that is because they don't want you essentially competing for the firm's business. The firm is investing in your growth and development, and they want their investment to be used for their benefit. Now, we have to keep in mind that when it comes to being a content creator, this is still considered a new developing industry. Historically, law firms, while they wanted their attorneys to develop their own kind of personal reputation (because that will ultimately help bring business into the firm), there were parameters around it. For instance, the law firm was managing who did your professional headshots and things of that nature, there was a team that was probably putting the final stamp on your professional bio. Because any development of your personal brand, again, is seen as a way to help benefit the firm. The better your personal brand is, the more likely you are to bring business into the firm.

With this scenario, I would say that the firm has probably not had to deal with this a lot in their practice. They've dealt with other types of outside business, but not this. Also, the firm would probably see it as creating a liability issue. Meaning if she's creating content and giving misinformation or even voicing a perspective on something that is completely different from the firm's values, then the firm would see that as a liability issue and now they're looking at managing the risk of it. And so for them, managing the risk is saying you can't do this anymore. I think it's probably a tough hill to climb but I would seek out my internal advocates at the law firm, so the mentor relationships that I've developed, get their insight on a few things. And I probably would really dig into the firm policy to get real clear around, does it actually say that I can't do this? Or are you guys making this up as you go along, because you've never had to deal with it? And if you're making it up as you go along, let me help you craft this policy in a way that doesn't restrict me from pursuing work that really shouldn't hurt the firm in the first place. So I would really kind of be a little bit of a renegade in that situation and use that as an opportunity to position myself to help the firm draft a new policy that was more equitable around those opportunities.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Patrice after the break.


Dr. Joy: You've already given us such a great example of the culture you're trying to set. You mentioned that you realize that a lot of people on your team have lots of different interests and so I'm guessing this could be something that comes up for you. How can multi-talented, multi interested black women in the legal space negotiate around some of these things? Maybe still wanting to work in the legal firm, but maybe creating content that has nothing to do with law. So in this particular case, it was beauty content. It wasn't anything law related. So what kinds of things can they do to be able to embrace all of their passions?

Patrice: I would say it starts with a commitment not to ignore those other passions. Because I feel that there could be an inclination to think, oh well, I should only focus on lawyering, or I can do that later. So I think really being honest about the fact that if this is something that's important to you, then you can do it, and your job is then to figure out what the path there is. I missed that this was beauty content, so I would absolutely be a renegade in that scenario and push back with the firm. But what I would say is, if you are employed somewhere else, I'm a fan of seeking out those internal advocates, talking to them about what you wanna do. And I'm not a fan of hiding, just because in this day and age, people are gonna find you and so it's better just to be transparent, and then just do it.

I know that may sound like oversimplifying it, but if I think back to my job before Creative Genius Law, the one I was at for five years, I started a food truck and art festival while I was at that job. And that festival ran for three years and it was pretty big. And I also was a lifestyle writer and I had a blog, so I did have things outside of work. But the key was that I invited my bosses to my art and food truck festival. And they came and they told their kids. And so I did have a scenario where at one point, someone came forward because they saw something posted about one of my outside endeavors. They came forward, in fact, with the whole packet and handed it to my boss and said, “I don't know if you know that this is what Patrice has going on outside of work.” And they did it because they were someone who reported to me and they got angry with some feedback that I had to give them. When they did that, my boss said we know, we went to the event, it was fantastic, you should come next time. She's doing her job, she hasn't done anything wrong. So I think transparency is key. And honoring your own desires around what you want to do and create.

And then the other thing is if you're worried about your capacity in terms of time, I've always treated my personal interests as almost like a part time job. For instance, I have said I'll dedicate five hours a week or five to 10 hours a week to this other thing that I wanna do because I know that that feeds me. And I'm experiencing the same thing right now. Even though I run my own firm, I had a realization a few months ago that I really wanted to get back to creating content. I've always been a writer, I've always put out content, and it slowed down because I was running my firm. But that is my creative outlet and so now Saturdays is when I'm making it a content day. And just making it fun for me and still having that exploration and joy outside of the work. So that's what I've done, and that's what I recommend.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. You've already given us a couple of things that you do to take care of your mental health but a lot of what we hear about being a lawyer is how stressful it is. So what other kinds of things do you do? You talked about therapy, life coach, taking breaks. What other kinds of things do you do to really take care of your mental health?

Patrice: I have gotten back into reading fiction. I've always been an avid reader but about five years ago, I realized everything I was reading was personal development or business — because I wanted to be a great law firm owner. But also that didn't give my brain a chance to rest and I decided that I would put all of that down and really prioritize just reading fiction. And reading fiction for me has been one of the best outlets ever because I find that my brain starts to think in different ways and I'm unlocking my creativity more, and I'm able to just truly escape into a good novel. Where even with having the TV on, it's not fully an escape because I still might have my phone in my hand or other things. So fiction, for me has been an outstanding outlet.

I'm not huge on working out, I'm working on it, but trying to build more physical activity into my routine. I have found that if I get stressed in the middle of a workday, just to put everything down. And so I will put everything down. I have a book that has writing prompts and so I'll just flip to a page and it's like, “In your wildest dreams if you were able to travel anywhere in the world, tell us five places you would travel.” And so I'll just do little exercises like that and I find that it really helps center me. And I've really more recently embraced gaming as a way of just having an outlet. And so for me, it could be video gaming, but I've gotten into puzzles and so I just have that stuff loaded on my iPad. My sister and I both ended a stressful work week and I'm like, hey, let's play a game really quick. My sister's in Georgia and so we were able to do that virtually. So just infusing a little more fun into my life has been a huge way that I've dealt with stress and overwhelm. And I'm always out with the girls and my fiancé. We're always out, so there's that. But just the fun that I can have when no one else is around, making sure I'm intentional around that as an outlet.

Dr. Joy: I always love seeing your outings because I love to see that the people that are on the team are also taking good care of themselves, so I appreciate you sharing that. So just around 5% of lawyers are black. Can you talk a little bit about what kinds of things maybe you've done to create community for yourself or others? And are there any organizations that you feel like are doing a really great job with that for black lawyers?

Patrice: Creating community, for me has looked different at different phases, and it is one of the most important things I believe for a black lawyer so I'm glad that you asked the question. Early on for me, it looked like identifying potential mentors or connecting with lawyers, to be honest, that I knew I could learn from. And so early on, I had a mentor who was a seasoned entertainment attorney here in Chicago. I had the mentor who I had previously worked for his law firm and then I was able to find a black woman attorney to serve as a mentor. Now she's like "stop calling me that" because we're good friends, this was a long time ago. She's like, you mentored me. So my community at that time was three mentors, and they were critical in helping me develop as a better attorney, but also a better business owner. For a long time, I didn't have community after that point because I had the three mentors and I just didn't have the time to get out to various mixers and things of that nature. And it's actually something that I regret. My head was in the books just trying to build this thing, and I just didn't have the time, is what I saw.

And so if I can give anyone advice, it would be to just carve out a little bit of time to go to the mixers and do that sort of thing. Because those relationships are going to be valuable, for just maintaining, to be honest. And so what community has evolved into for me has been really intentional about when I'm in a room, and I see specifically rooms where I'm getting my own training, so legal education… Usually you're not gonna have that many black attorneys in the room because of what Dr. Joy shared. I'm very intentional around if there is a black woman on the other side of the room, I'm gonna have a conversation with her before this day is over. And so I have picked up a number of relationships that are so incredibly special to me, with other black women lawyers in particular, because we were intentional about making sure that we connected in the room. And so I still am not going to the big conferences or mixers. I'm an introvert and so it is much more comfortable for me to connect one on one with people. And so I've still not done that thing, but I've found a way to develop the community in a way that is suited for me.

In terms of organizations to connect with, most states have a version of Black Women Lawyers Association. And I can speak for the one here in Chicago, they do outstanding work. There are women from different facets of the legal industry and so I think Black Women Lawyers Association would be fantastic. And then in Chicago, we have the Cook County Bar Association, which is the oldest black bar association in the country. And so I would say if you're in Chicago, that definitely is an option. But if you're not, you do probably, at least if you're in a Metro City, have a black lawyers' bar association. Connect with them. And these lawyers, whether they are your peers, younger than you or older than you, they are all going to be so valuable to your journey.

And the last thing I’ll add is don't underestimate the value in reaching back and lifting people up as you go along. One thing that has been a huge commitment for me has been whenever a black law student or a young black woman attorney in particular has reached out to me and asked for a few moments of my time, I always give it. Because when I was at that stage, I actually had a very hard time with finding lawyers who were willing to kind of give back in that way. And it's probably because we're so stressed. And so I feel in order to help improve the industry overall, to help support black women as they're trying to find their way in the industry. Just take five minutes if people reach out and have a conversation with them about it, and let them know that you have an open door policy. They are not going to, in most instances, abuse the open door policy, but the nuggets that you're able to give them are going to stick with them through their whole career. And so people who have been the law student or the young person reaching out to me, there has been a situation or multiple situations where they have reached certain points in their career and they're now saying, “Hey, Patrice, can I bring you in on this particular deal or this particular opportunity?” And so while I served as a mentor for them in some capacity, that comes back around because now they're in opportunities where they're wanting to bring me in as kinda like a senior attorney on an opportunity.

Dr. Joy: I love that. Such actionable steps for people to really take to kinda continue to develop themselves and their community around them so I appreciate you sharing that. This has been such great information, Patrice. I know that the community is really going to love everything that you've shared here today. Can you share your website as well as any social media handles for people who want to stay connected with you?

Patrice: Sure. We can be found at and we are on Instagram @creativegeniuslaw. And I'm on Instagram @creative_esq.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. We'll be sure to include all of that in the show notes. Thank you for spending some time with us today, Patrice.

Patrice: Thank you.

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Patrice was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her or her work, visit the show notes at And be sure to text two of your girls right now and tell them to check out the episode.

Award season continues, y'all. And the podcast has again been nominated for a Webby Award for best health, wellness and lifestyle podcast. The last time I checked, we were in first place so if you can take a moment to keep us there, I'd really appreciate it. You can vote at The link is also in the show notes.

If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Pre-order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
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Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Pre-order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Pre-order here