Darlene Gartrell Senior Vice President at Aon
Overwhelmed by insecurity and feeling locked into a legal career that she didn’t enjoy, Darlene’s self-confidence plunged ─ until her mother stepped in and empowered her with a new appreciation for the many career opportunities available to women today.
I remember my first court appearance as a new attorney like the back of my hand. “Good Morning Your Honor. My name is Darlene Gartrell representing the City of Los Angeles.” I did an outstanding job considering that I only said a few words and had practiced them a thousand times.
The judge asked me two questions, and I replied, “Yes, Your Honor. No, Your Honor.” That was the extent of the appearance. It was terrifying to face the bench not knowing if the course I was recommending for my client was the best way to win the case.
I hadn’t really understood the responsibilities of being a new lawyer when I worked as a paralegal for a small litigation firm. After passing the bar, clients were asking me for legal advice. Two months later I thought, “I can’t do this! I have made a terrible mistake! I’ve got to get out!” Feeling overwhelmed and locked into a career that I didn’t enjoy, my self-confidence plunged.
One day my mother saw me crying and asked what was wrong. I explained that I didn’t have all the answers for my clients and was scared to be entrusted with so much responsibility. “Darlene,” she said, “you have invested a lot of money, blood, sweat and tears into passing the bar. You can stay in the legal profession unhappy and fearful, or you can embrace the privilege of being an attorney and do great things.
“And if it doesn’t work out, guess what! That’s okay! It’s a big world! There’s a host of other things you can do. If you don’t like the direction your life is taking, you can always switch gears and do something else.”
She was right! I didn’t have to stay in a job where I was unhappy. I decided to take the bull by the horns and never allow myself to feel intimidated or insecure again. It was empowering to realize that I am the artist of my own life. If I didn’t succeed in what I was doing, I could try again or do something different.
My mother’s words of wisdom set me free. I had allowed myself to become engulfed by fear. And in that moment of clarity I knew that I wanted to stay in the legal profession after all.
Darlene Gartrell, a Senior Vice President at Aon, the leading global provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resource and benefits consulting, is a highly experienced executive liability claims professional. She has been recognized as one of Diversity MBA magazine’s 2010 Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Executives & Emerging Leaders..