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Women's Leadership InitiativeQ&A with Marilyn Maag

Marilyn Maag is a partner in the firm's Cincinnati office where she facilitates the decision-making processes of individuals and families who are working on estate planning, trust and probate law issues. At the end of December 2019, Marilyn is retiring after practicing law for more than 30 years.

Describe a pivotal moment that influenced your career path.

I did not grow up thinking that I would work as a lawyer someday. I thought that I would be a wife and mother, and perhaps work as a teacher or a nurse. It was not until I was in college, and the Women’s Movement was in full swing in our country, that some of my very talented female professors had a powerful impact on my career planning. My vision for my life changed dramatically. I began the process of expanding my career options, and made a conscious decision to pursue a career that would be both challenging and rewarding to me.

What advice would you give to women just starting out at a law firm?  What are some important first steps they can take to lay the groundwork for a successful career?

I think each of us has to find an area of law, and a style of practicing law, that builds on our strengths. The realization that I could practice law in my own way, as opposed to pressuring myself to fit into roles that just weren’t right for me, was an important breakthrough.

I encourage young lawyers to seek out, and nurture, relationships with mentors, because they open doors for us and present opportunities.

What are the biggest issues women lawyers face?

The area of business generation continues to be challenging. I recall that when I was a young lawyer, it often felt like women were on the outside of the business generation process, trying to break in. Men (white men, that is) in the business world naturally, and without really thinking about it, referred business to each other, including legal business. Over the past thirty-three years that I have worked as a lawyer, I have noticed the old patterns gradually shift and change. At times I still notice the expectation, however, that the most complex legal matters will be handled by men.

The process of creating healthy and happy personal relationships, and raising children, and working in the private practice of law, all at the same time, can be overwhelming, for both female and male lawyers. One of the most stressful periods of my life was when I was working as a young partner in a law firm, was married, and had a two-year-old son and a newborn daughter. I did my best every day to manage all areas of my life – that was tough. I don’t think there is a magic solution that reduces the stress; each of us has to make choices and find our way.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

When I was a very young lawyer, I was given the opportunity, by a mentor, to update one of the leading books about the practice of probate law in Ohio. I decided to take on this challenge, which turned out to be central in my efforts to establish myself as an leader in this area of law. It lead to many relationships with other lawyers, to an enhanced reputation within the community – and new business that came along with that reputation, and, eventually, to my peers honoring me by voting me into the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

Additionally, when I was a very young lawyer, I was trained to do estate planning and trust work by two lawyers at my previous firm. Their time, effort and mentorship made it possible for me to have a successful career in this area of law. I have felt grateful to them always, and have thanked them personally many times.

What are your plans for retirement?

I have worked very hard for a long time, and have experienced a challenging and meaningful career. My heart and soul are telling me it’s time to ease up and to focus more on aspects of life other than work. I have always loved photography, especially photojournalism, so I will explore the creation of my own art (for fun, not money), do some gardening and some cooking, get plenty of exercise, and travel as much as I can. The rest is unknown at the moment. I am deliberately giving myself plenty of time and space and freedom to recreate my life!