The next woman who wows is Dallas-based employee benefits and executive compensation lawyer Misty Leon. Misty is a tax lawyer who also specializes in laws that apply to employer-sponsored benefit plans, such as ERISA, the Affordable Care Act, COBRA and HIPAA.
Misty has represented both public and private employers, including state and local governmental entities. She has extensive experience representing companies that provide services to employee benefit plans, which means she’s seen both sides of many employee benefit transactions. She worked at several global firms and now is at an employee benefits boutique firm where she says she is able to continue doing interesting work with more flexibility and direction over her practice.
In addition to practicing law, Misty is interested in innovating and improving upon the delivery of legal services to clients.
Learn more about her in this Women Who Wow profile and connect with her on LinkedIn.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
To not give up right away if I felt overwhelmed when I returned to work from maternity leave. When my son (now 8) was born my husband traveled for work regularly and there were times that I was not sure I could juggle working full-time with our situation at that time.
I struggled even more with the return to work after my daughter (6) was born. However, both times, I remembered the advice that things would get better once I found my bearings, even though it did not always feel that way. It has turned out to be the right choice for me and I am glad that I stuck it out and was eventually able to settle into a routine.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I’m not convinced this is really possible, but we have thankfully been in a position to outsource a lot of household tasks which allows my husband and I to focus on work when we are working and quality time with the kids when we are not.
Having a supportive partner has also been an important part of my ability to continue practicing law full-time, and maintain the type of practice I want to have, with two young kids. I used to feel guilty about not being the “Pinterest mom” who sends in cute snacks and Valentine’s Day treats, but I think it is important to maintain perspective and focus on the things that really matter.
Self-care and giving yourself grace on not being able to attain perfection is important whether you are single, in a relationship, caring for kids or an aging parent, or pursuing a side hustle or hobbies that you enjoy in your free time.
How has social media helped you build your brand?
Social media was not a huge part of my professional life prior to the pandemic, but last summer I discovered that LinkedIn was a great way to continue making connections and building relationships despite being stuck at home. Initially, I struggled with creating my own content, but have found that it gets easier once you get started and have even posted a few videos over the past few weeks, which is not something I would have ever pictured myself doing (or wanting to do).
I did not realize in the past that LinkedIn could provide a community of professionals who seem genuinely interested in getting to know each other, rather than being a place to post job announcements and client alerts. I am fairly introverted and often a bit out of my element at traditional networking events, so it has been great to find a forum where I can share knowledge with truly interesting people without it feeling like I am making a sales pitch.
How has the pandemic changed you?
It has helped me to become less focused on having control and trying to plan everything in advance. I have gotten better at prioritizing and being intentional, with less time spent worrying about things that are not important.
Early in the pandemic I found that it was important for my mental well-being to limit my exposure to social media (other than LinkedIn) and the 24/7 cable news cycle. Some of the things I started spending time on instead, such as joining a virtual gym and listening to podcasts, have helped me develop healthier habits and a better mindset overall.
What advice would you give to women in your field?
Be confident in your abilities – they have gotten you to the point that you are at now – and treat yourself the same way you would treat a close friend. Women can be very self-critical and too quick to opt out of opportunities because they think they are underqualified. I have been guilty of this many times myself, but one thing that has helped is surrounding myself with amazing, sharp women who remind me that I can accomplish great things.
Lawyers often want to stick with the status quo rather than risk failure, but I believe the practice of law is evolving based on the pandemic and other factors. I would like to see women, who tend to be natural problem solvers, embrace legal technology and innovation as a way to work smarter and more efficiently.
For younger women getting started, be on the lookout for other professionals, whether they are women or men, who are willing to help mentor and sponsor you along the way. A mentor is someone who can give you advice, but it is also important to find someone who will include you in opportunities and open doors for you. I like the concept of building a “personal board of directors,” or network of people you can consult for advice and help. Keep in touch with former professors, classmates, bosses, and co-workers and look for ways you can provide value to others, and your personal network will come together with time.