In this episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast from the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, host Rocky Dhir talks to Sally Pretorius, the new president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, about the projects she will be working on during her term. She plans to provide mentorship to women in law and young lawyers fresh out of law school, educate on healthy ways to handle stress, and create a K-12 program that talks about the rights and duties we have as Americans.
Sally Pretorius is an associate attorney with KoonsFuller Family Law.
State Bar of Texas Podcast
State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2018: The New Face of the Texas Young Lawyers Association
Intro: Welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice, with your host Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir: Hello there. This is Rocky Dhir coming to you from the State Bar of Texas Podcast in association with the Legal Talk Network.
Guys, I got some bad news today. not for you, it’s for me. It’s bad news for me. So, it turns out I’m no longer a young lawyer, like I’m totally dating myself. Like, the other day I just talked about the show Three’s Company and there were some young lawyers who looked at me like, they are like, what is that? What is it?
And then, I mentioned I Dream of Jeannie, nobody knew what I was talking about. It was like Dhir in the headlights, and my last name is Dhir, so it was like, me in the headlights, saying, you don’t know what I Dream of Jeannie is? Well now, I’ve actually got a young person, an actual young lawyer, who’s here with me.
I am so honored and excited to introduce to you, Sally Pretorius, she is from Dallas and she is as of this taping, she’s a few hours away from becoming the President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. Sally welcome.
Sally Pretorius: Thank you. It’s exciting.
Rocky Dhir: Is it exciting? Or are you like — are you little scared?
Sally Pretorius: Yes. That’s an understatement to say that I am sacred, I think.
Rocky Dhir: Really?
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, so TYLA has just had these amazing leaders that have come before me and they’ve done all these great things. And I am like, oh, why if I don’t live up to them? What if it’s not as great as the people before me and everybody has these great expectations; so that part is super-scary.
Rocky Dhir: You are like what if on the Millard Fillmore, a TYLA President, right?
Sally Pretorius: Or, what if nothing gets done?
Rocky Dhir: It’ll be fine. You are going to do great. For any of us, who have read your columns in the ‘Texas Bar Journal’, you’ve got some ambitious plans. Do you want to tell us about some of them?
Sally Pretorius: Yeah — no, let’s talk about them all.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, well – all right, you thrown down the gauntlet, this is the lady who thinks we are not going to get anything done. It’s like let’s talk about all of it, let’s do it.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, so we have a really good year coming up, one of — so each year, the President typically picks a theme and so the theme for this year is ‘Our Time, Our Year, Our Community.”
Rocky Dhir: Oh wow, okay.
Sally Pretorius: And so, we are working on just embracing this year and young lawyers. It’s our time to step up and make a difference in the community.
So, a lot of the projects kind of focus around taking advantage of it being our time and our opportunity to make a difference.
Rocky Dhir: I also would like to take advantage of people, this is great. Taking advantage is part of my whole ammo in life. I like this. See, I’m a young, I am with it.
Sally Pretorius: You got it.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, yes, I could qualify but for my ancient status.
Sally Pretorius: Hey, you are not ancient.
Rocky Dhir: Oh, well, thank you.
Sally Pretorius: Nowhere near it, nowhere near it.
Rocky Dhir: This is why she’s the President, this is why she is —
Sally Pretorius: Well, there is no gray hair even.
Rocky Dhir: That’s because you’re sitting far away and there is like light shining behind me, it’s backlighting, that’s what it is.
Sally Pretorius: It’s good backlighting then.
Rocky Dhir: That’s a great thing about being the host of this show. I have got this huge hair and makeup team. You probably seen them walking around, they avoid me like the plague because my face has to look good for a podcast.
You said you want to take advantage of some of the opportunities out there. What are we talking about here?
Sally Pretorius: Right. One of our projects this year is called The Shero Project, that’s a plan Hero, but Shero.
Rocky Dhir: Shero, okay; so female heroes?
Sally Pretorius: Female heroes.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, there is plenty of those.
Sally Pretorius: Yes, and it is a great time just within the Bar, the Chair of the current Bar is Laura Gibson, so she is a female.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Sally Pretorius: Outgoing TYLA President is Baili Rhodes, and then incoming — or I will be President, a female, and then following us, we just have our Board this year is comprised of a lot of really awesome females.
Rocky Dhir: Okay.
Sally Pretorius: And I think that there has been a ton of advancement for lawyer ladies as we call them.
Rocky Dhir: Lawyer ladies, not lady lawyers.
Sally Pretorius: Lawyer ladies.
Rocky Dhir: Lawyer ladies, okay.
Sally Pretorius: And so, we are going to take advantage of that and really try to share stories of women who have been leaders throughout. We had Harriet Miers and we’ve had all these great women and I really want to document. We are going to do a series of podcasts and we are also going to do a series of CLEs where we document their stories.
So that way, other women can take advantage of them and sort of do podcast mentoring or CLE mentoring and allow other young attorneys to hear their stories and learn from them.
Rocky Dhir: Now, when you are talking about these female heroes, these are female heroes that are within the Texas Bar, I am assuming, right?
Sally Pretorius: Correct.
Rocky Dhir: Are there some stories that have particularly inspired you from amongst these amazing women?
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, so this project was inspired in part by Dallas Young Lawyers, their current president is Jennifer Larson Ryback and she started this — she calls it continuing the conversation out in Dallas, and they started this program where they have a lawyer lady interviewed by somebody that’s really close with her. So, they had Judge Parker interviewed by her best friend Sean Brown.
Rocky Dhir: Okay.
Sally Pretorius: And so it was this awesome conversation where you got to hear from her best friend interviewing her, talking her through everything that she been through and just hearing her story and how she went through it was everybody who was sitting in the audience just inspired.
And so, I think that conversations like that and hearing every women’s story just reminds all of us like there has been people here before and you can raise kids, and you can have it all not at just the same time. So, I think that’s a good story.
Rocky Dhir: Now, that’s interesting, so you could have it all just not at the same time.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, tell us more about that.
Sally Pretorius: That’s one of my personal sort of goals is I think it’s important for young attorneys to realize in society, especially with like Facebook and Instagram and everybody sees these perfect lives out there and you think that everybody has it all.
Rocky Dhir: It’s tough, right?
Sally Pretorius: It’s hard.
Rocky Dhir: And it’s all in here, right? Once you scratch beneath the surface, you see the struggles they have been going through.
Sally Pretorius: What’s going on?
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely.
Sally Pretorius: And so, I think it’s important for people to see that but — and this was something that Judge Parker talked about was I think that every — whether you are a female lawyer or a lawyer, I think that’s important to realize that you are just not going to have it all at the same time, right?
So, right now, for me, this TYLA is my — this is going to be my priority, but my billable hours at work aren’t going to be as great. And you know —
Rocky Dhir: Have you talked to the folks at work about this or is this going to be the first time they hear it?
Sally Pretorius: No, no, no, they are very well aware of it.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, good. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.
Sally Pretorius: Like fired.
Rocky Dhir: It’s like, I have been on the State Bar of Texas Podcast and then I said something and now I am in trouble.
Sally Pretorius: Fired. Well, I mean I haven’t been at work all week, so I am sure they’re wondering where I’ve been.
Rocky Dhir: So, if I ran for president of something, does that mean I could skip out on work too because maybe I have been doing everything all wrong.
Sally Pretorius: Well, I mean, I do answer emails and this is one of those not having it all at the same time. I don’t have a lot of sleep, I had to get up at 5, and I answer e-mails so I could be at breakfast at 7:30.
Rocky Dhir: Who needs sleep?
Sally Pretorius: Right.
Rocky Dhir: I mean, yeah.
Sally Pretorius: Who needs it?
Rocky Dhir: So, when we are talking about Sheroes, is this — are we talking about female empowerment or is this something a little different, it sounds different to me that’s why I am asking.
Sally Pretorius: I am picturing it be more of journaling and hearing other women stories just to remind us what the journey has been. So, maybe I think like podcast mentoring might be a really good term for it.
Rocky Dhir: Podcast mentoring.
Sally Pretorius: Right, so like you get to hear other people’s stories. You may not have access to all these leaders and they may not have time to take you out to coffee but you can hear their story on your way to work while you’re drinking your coffee or you can hear their story while you are walking your dog.
Rocky Dhir: Do you feel that as a young woman attorney or a young lady lawyer, lawyer lady.
Sally Pretorius: Lawyer lady. Lawyer lady
Rocky Dhir: Young lawyer lady, it’s like boss lady, except with a low degree, right> A young —
Sally Pretorius: She has some coffee cups made.
Rocky Dhir: I would love that, yes. Some mugs and like T-shirts.
Sally Pretorius: Yes.
Rocky Dhir: And like maybe those little tennis visors that just say Lawyer Lady up at the top of it.
Sally Pretorius: Sky is the limit.
Rocky Dhir: It is, it is. I should make these and sell them to all of you. I would be like, yes, this is about me empowerment; yes, this is about — this goes beyond mentoring.
So, when we are talking about lawyer ladies, like yourself, do you feel that the struggle to have that career, is it different, is it more difficult than you think it is may be for men who are coming out of law school?
Sally Pretorius: No, I don’t think so. But Sheryl Sandberg has this really good quote and I am going to totally get it wrong. But she says something like, we will be at a place, we will be at a really good place when there’s no female leaders, there is just leaders in general. And so, I think it’s the same thing to lawyers, right?
So, we don’t want to be talking about what are the numbers of Bar leadership that are female or what are the numbers that are male? It’s just, do we have the right leaders up there and we know that everybody has the same opportunity to get there and that we have the right mentorship to get there?
Rocky Dhir: How close are we to that point?
Sally Pretorius: I think we’re still talking about female leaders and trying to make sure that we have them up there, so I don’t think we are there yet, but we are getting close.
Rocky Dhir: Now, whenever we talk about diversity and inclusion, so what you are saying is kind of at odds with the current discussion or the discourse on diversity and inclusion in the sense that we always say, well, you have to be aware of diversity and inclusion.
Sally Pretorius: Right.
Rocky Dhir: What you are envisioning is a day when we don’t have to be aware of it because it just sort of happens.
Sally Pretorius: Right.
Rocky Dhir: What are the steps you think we need to take in order to move from where we are today, which is awareness to getting to the point where it just automatically happens?
Sally Pretorius: That’s a good question. I feel like that’s almost like solving world peace.
Rocky Dhir: Well, world peace is a couple of rungs down.
Sally Pretorius: So — but I think this is a good step. I think sharing stories and people being open and honest about their — and sharing the struggles that goes back to what we are talking about like this whole social media, everybody just sees like, oh, she is there in this gorgeous dress, getting sworn in as President, but nobody sees the underlying struggle, right? That I am scared and then —
Rocky Dhir: She has got a gorgeous dress, is what you are telling us.
Sally Pretorius: It is a great dress.
Rocky Dhir: We are going to have to tweet that. We are going to put that up on social media, for sure.
Sally Pretorius: But I think seeing a lot of the struggle and Victor sitting right next to me, but I think that a lot of people didn’t see the sleepless nights that went into it and just the struggles and the stress and having to make billable hours and making sure that everything is lined up and your family doesn’t fall by the wayside. I think that that story is really important to share with other lawyers to say, there is a struggle behind this picture.
Rocky Dhir: And just to make clear, Victor is your successor?
Sally Pretorius: He is.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, he is. So, he is not in the line of fire today, he is going to be there —
Sally Pretorius: He will be here next year.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, he will.
Sally Pretorius: And I will be on the sideline cycling him.
Rocky Dhir: You can and you can still wear the gorgeous dress while you do it.
Sally Pretorius: I might do it. I am going to wear a tiara while I do it.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, you can take hackle selfies, #hackleselfie.
Sally Pretorius: And probably yesterday was Selfie Day.
Rocky Dhir: Was it?
Sally Pretorius: Did you know that?
Rocky Dhir: I didn’t know.
Sally Pretorius: The National Selfie Day.
Rocky Dhir: Was it really? I didn’t take a single selfie.
Sally Pretorius: And post it.
Rocky Dhir: This is how old I am. Like in my day, taking a selfie was like having a Canon camera and like holding and then dropping it and then break the camera.
Sally Pretorius: And then waiting the three days to get the photos back.
Rocky Dhir: Oh at least, at least; unless you had a Polaroid.
Sally Pretorius: Those were good.
Rocky Dhir: Yeah, those were —
Sally Pretorius: They are still around. They are novelty.
Rocky Dhir: Yeah, they are. It’s like at vintage shops. So, let’s talk for a moment about young lawyers coming straight out of law school.
Sally Pretorius: Right.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, so we’ve talked a bit about the Sheroes, we’ve talked about the struggles, and I guess it almost sounds like you are saying, we need to be willing to be vulnerable. So, how does that relate to say, young lawyers coming out to law school because a lot of them are struggling to find jobs, or at least struggling to find the jobs that they want. What can the folks like you, folks like me, all of us, what can we do to help them?
Sally Pretorius: To bring it back to TYLA, but we have two great projects that are coming out this year and these weren’t even projects. One of them wasn’t a project that I thought of. It was something that somebody came to me about. It comes back to the mentorship. I think that we can mentor young attorneys and we can really help them, but one of them is — and it’s cool that we are doing this podcast because we are going to turn — it’s called the Practice Series Guide. So, we are going to do podcasts about things that affect people or young attorneys when they are coming out. So, we will do how to take your first deposition, what to wear to court?
Rocky Dhir: I could use some of that.
Sally Pretorius: Well, yeah, but that will be one of them and the other really good project we have is, there is sort of a crisis going on within the legal community of depression and alcoholism. So, we are going to be creating a project that helps bring awareness to that and talks about, that stress is a very real part about being a young attorney.
Rocky Dhir: It goes back to vulnerability, it sounds like. Right? I mean, how do you — because if you are not willing to show your vulnerabilities and everybody else things you’ve got it all together and they are the only one struggling.
Sally Pretorius: Right and I think that — yeah maybe I should change my theme of the year.
Rocky Dhir: Vulnerability.
Sally Pretorius: Vulnerable Leaders.
Rocky Dhir: We need to find some kind of alliteration for that.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, I don’t know what we will do. We will figure it out. But yeah – no, I agree. I think it comes back. I am just sharing this story and making people — making lawyers realize that they are not alone out there.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely. So, in order to say, you have to reveal your own, but what are some of the strugglers, the vulnerabilities that you have found that lawyers have experienced that maybe young lawyers, or even other more experienced lawyers, just not aware, take place.
Sally Pretorius: This is one — so one of our projects is focusing on compassion fatigue, some are family law attorney, and I think that with family law when I first started, I really struggled with leaving it at work because it was very real, like, if I had a case and it depended whether or not my client got custody or not or if there was a protective order and there is family violence with my client, would something bad happen to them, if we need to get this protective order granted or just were they struggling with money, they are not getting their payments.
So things like that I couldn’t leave at the office, and so I would take it home and it would be getting up in the middle of the night to check my email or just not being able to sleep and deal with all of these things and it got to the point while I was taking it out on people that I loved. So you get home and you just are so mad at the world that you yell at your mom, or you yell at your boyfriend.
So, I think that was one of the things that I struggled with, and until I got to the point where I was at a bigger firm, in the firm you kind of got mentors that told you, this is how, you should just leave it at work and you have to shut off and you have to start taking up a hobby, to go to 14:10, go for a run, do something, but disconnect. That was a really hard struggle for me. At the beginning of it, it was hard.
Rocky Dhir: Do you find it hard to not let your clients contact you after hours, I mean was that —
Sally Pretorius: Oh, so, I have this rule. I give all my clients my cell phone. They want my cell phone number, it’s okay, because I have learnt that if they can get themselves into more trouble, if I don’t just respond, if it’s like, do I do this? A yes or no will make them feel much better and make them make a better decision for their case or just make them feel comforted, but my rule is, if I have had two glasses of wine or I am at dinner with my husband, I am not answering.
So, I tell them that, like here is my cell phone, you don’t get a response because I’ve had two glasses of wine or I am at dinner with my husband and it’s our family time.
Rocky Dhir: So, when you say, you are not responding, it’s only to the client. You will respond to your husband if you are at dinner with your husband. Well, hey, sometimes you need to shut that down.
Sally Pretorius: Maybe I should give him a two glass of wine too; but if I’ve had two glasses of wine, I am not responding to you.
Rocky Dhir: I am not listening to anything you say; even if you ask me what I want for dinner.
Sally Pretorius: I am not responding at all.
Rocky Dhir: We are not doing this ever, ever. So, okay, we’ve talked about mentorship, we’ve talked about the Sheroes and I love that term. I think I am going to hashtag that too. We are going to add that to the tennis visors15:25.
Sally Pretorius: Vulnerable, hashtag, Shero all the hashtags.
Rocky Dhir: Lawyer ladies.
Sally Pretorius: Yes.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, we are going to take all the hashtags. Are there other aspects to your presidency that you see unveiling this?
Sally Pretorius: Yes, so one of our exciting ones and it’s interesting to see that it’s going to be a good project in time. When I came up with the project, I don’t think it was intended to be this way, but Baili who is the outgoing President, we have the opportunity to go down to the borders and view the detention centers back in November.
We went on a trip with ABA and we got to see the border and we got to talk with some other kids that were there in the detention center and hear their stories, their translators and visit with them and it was a really eye-opening experience for both of us.
We sat in our hotel room afterwards and we talked about how we could make a difference without being too political, because nobody wants to be political, especially when you are creating resources for the entire State.
So, something that occurred to me was, I think, we all took advantage of what it means to be an American when we were down there and you see these —
Rocky Dhir: What do you mean by that?
Sally Pretorius: So, you see these kids coming over and writing on trains and being surrendered at the borders just at the chance to be an American, and think that we are Americans sometimes may not appreciate all the rights and duties that come with being an American.
Rocky Dhir: We take it for granted?
Sally Pretorius: We take it for granted. So, we’re going to create a project and it’s being brought to you by the Texas Bar Foundation. They gave us a grant and we are going to create a K-12 program that talks about the rights and duties you have as an American.
Rocky Dhir: So, again, this is non-political.
Sally Pretorius: Non-political.
Rocky Dhir: This is not about supporting one view versus the other.
Sally Pretorius: Neither.
Rocky Dhir: This is helping those who are here to understand what it means.
Sally Pretorius: Right, and so we’re going to work with Law Focused Education and make sure that we have all the TEEX centers met so that way we can show it in schools and they can qualify as part of the curriculum, and then we are going to also incorporate some of the stories that come out. 100-year citizens of Texas, people that just got their citizenship and talk to them about what it means to be an American and share those stories as part of the curriculum.
I think, it’s important for us to just come back to why we are all here and it’s the liberties that we take it for granted every day.
Rocky Dhir: Wow. Here’s what’s kind of concerning me a little bit. What you said is, I don’t know how you’re going to get all this done in 24 hours in a given day. So, what do you use? Do you use something — do you have like a really souped up iPad or something? How do you do this?
Sally Pretorius: We have the same iPad.
Rocky Dhir: Really?
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, we have that Pro.
Rocky Dhir: How come mine doesn’t do what yours does?
Sally Pretorius: They all do the same thing and I have this wonderful Moleskine that we talked about a little bit before. I am a hand-writer, I like to write all my notes, but what’s really cool is none of this would be possible without the Board. So, we have 40 Board members from across the State and they —
Rocky Dhir: That’s like your own platoon.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah.
Rocky Dhir: You’ve got your own platoon. You’re like the general of this army.
Sally Pretorius: And they are great, like these are the best of the best people, and they give their heart and soul to stuff, and I email out to the Board the list of projects and initiatives and this year I asked them to tell me what inspired them and what they had envisioned for their each project. It was kind of cool to see each Board member what they were drawn to and just the ideas that came forward. So people were like, I want to work, I am proud to be an American. Here are all my ideas for it. Here’s how I am going to make it happen. You’re like, yes, you are going to make this happen and I am going to support you in whatever way I can. So, it comes back to the Board. That’s how it gets done.
Rocky Dhir: So, you’re leveraging the talents of these amazing people.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah, it’s an amazing experience to see everything that they can get done. It’s great.
Rocky Dhir: Well, Sally, this is — we could talk all day.
Sally Pretorius: We could.
Rocky Dhir: You are a fountain of wisdom. Even though you are a young lawyer, you are a fountain of wisdom even for some of us —
Sally Pretorius: Well, thank you.
Rocky Dhir: — even for some of us old-timers. Let’s say we’ve got a young lawyer out there who wants to get involved.
Sally Pretorius: Yes.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, they want to contact you and they want to figure how to get involved. What do they do? How do they get a hold of you?
Sally Pretorius: They can email me, [email protected], but they can also just go to tyla.org.
Rocky Dhir: It’s Sally, you’ve got the first name?
Sally Pretorius: I got first names.
Rocky Dhir: You’ve got the first –
Sally Pretorius: I have first names.
Rocky Dhir: This is — you’re like Silicon Valley level.
Sally Pretorius: Yeah. I got sally@koonsfuller.
Rocky Dhir: Yey, oh wow.
Sally Pretorius: I know. I even got my own office. I am kidding.
Rocky Dhir: You’re kidding about having your own office?
Sally Pretorius: No, I do have my own office.
Rocky Dhir: Well, okay. Then you weren’t kidding.
Sally Pretorius: With a window.
Rocky Dhir: You only got a few more hours. You’re going to be a President and you can’t be kidding about stuff you’re not joking about.
Sally Pretorius: I know. But yeah, go to the website, reach out to us. If anybody is interested in any of these projects I’d love to have them on our committee and be a part of it. Even if they want to present any of our projects in their community, we’d love to have them.
Rocky Dhir: And the website again is tyla.org. Okay, well, Sally, it’s been fantastic having you here. Thank you.
Sally Pretorius: So much fun.
Rocky Dhir: Thank you for taking time out of your very busy inaugural day to come on out here.
Sally Pretorius: Thank you.
Rocky Dhir: This has been another fantastic edition of the State Bar of Texas Podcast in conjunction with the Legal Talk Network; we want to thank our friends at Legal Talk Network. So, please do go to legaltalknetwork.com. You’ll find a number of amazing podcasts there, including this podcast. So, please do learn more about it.
I also want to ask you if you enjoyed what you heard today please do go on to Apple Podcasts and rate us. Do the same thing on Google Play or your favorite podcast app.
Guys, as you can see Sally is going to be taking the TYLA places and here on the podcast, we’d like to take you places, because after all, life is a journey, so, thanks for tuning in.
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