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Former President George H.W. Bush, Sr. has made it a tradition to do it on his birthday the last few years. Actor Bill Murray just did it last month as sort of a “cleansing” after weathering an emotional divorce recently, and golf sensation Tiger Woods and TV star Chuck Norris did it with a group sponsored by the U.S. Army known as the Golden Knights. Not only that, Michelle Tice also did it several times before becoming a wife and mother, at which time she knew she couldn’t continue her “extreme” habit.
So, I bet you’re not only wondering what they all did, but you’re asking, “Who is Michelle Tice?”
Well, Michelle Tice is one of our readers who has been an Executive Legal Secretary at Baker & McKenzie in San Diego for almost six years and, like those famous people mentioned, she took courage to the highest level (literally) and has been an avid skydiver for a couple of years.
Michelle has jumped several hundred times out of an airplane, with her adrenaline pumping through every vein and her heart feeling like a tribal drum being struck by the heaviest piece of wood. Each time Michelle fell to the ground at 120 miles per hour, she faithfully pulled her rip chord and, when hearing the beautiful sound of her parachute fully opening, her childlike excitement was accompanied by a large smile as she was able to relax and enjoy the ride.
When I first learned of Michelle through a coworker, I was impressed by her deep level of involvement and her sincere passion for her professional commitments. My respect for her grew even more when she talked about her number one priorities of being a wife and mother to her “perfect” son, Jack, age nine.
With so many important elements in Michelle’s life, I asked her how she does it all without having things seem watered down or out of whack.
“I have a very supportive husband who shares in our home and family responsibilities,” Michelle says with sincere gratitude. “Without this type of partnership, I would definitely be unable to balance my work and personal life.”
In the law firm arena, not only does Michelle juggle the daily pressures of supporting three attorneys’ workload (one of which is Chair of the North American Litigation Practice Group and another is H.R. counsel to the North American region), but she continuously hones her skills and stays pliable as her role evolves, making sure it parallels the changing needs of her attorneys.
Michelle also carries over her genuinely-fueled passion into her leadership role as President of the San Diego Legal Secretaries Association. Three years ago, her peers nominated her for a Director position, in which she served two years on the Board. Last April, her peers nominated her for the position as President and in this challenging and instrumental role, she’s been continually an inspiration and motivator to legal professionals throughout San Diego County.
Michelle’s firm not only acknowledges her valuable contributions to their efforts but they are very supportive.
“Baker & McKenzie is very supportive of my solid commitments for SDLSA and they encourage me to attend and participate in events and conferences throughout the year,” she said.
The SDLSA now has over 170 active members and is growing rapidly. They are committed to supporting legal secretaries by providing educational and networking opportunities so that they can keep up with the increasing demands of the legal profession. Their mission is to increase the competence of legal secretaries who value ethics, professionalism and continuing legal education.
“We’ve definitely made a name for ourselves this year. We are all over the legal community and participate in events with other local associations, which, among other things, has allowed us to raise much needed funds for our sponsorship charity, The Storefront Emergency Shelter for Homeless, Missing and Exploited Teenagers.”
Over these last three years, Michelle feels very blessed by her leadership position and she finds it continues to be extremely beneficial to her – both professionally and personally – and she has been very humbled by the overall experience.
“Being in the Presidential role has given me the chance to meet people from every aspect of the legal community,” she said. “The networking opportunities have allowed me to contact others if I need assistance with challenges that arise and has given me ideas on how to promote the firm I’m currently working for.”
“I think that the entire experience of being a leader is a huge benefit. Leadership roles open up many doors and oftentimes you will find yourself in a situation you have never encountered,” she said with passionate gratitude. “It has given me the chance to learn how to deal with certain situations, meet new people, and build up a network of like-minded colleagues.”
Essential attributes of a successful leader includes the ability to take charge and be able to motivate people without being forceful but rather providing an environment of encouragement for people to reach their potential.
“They must be able to provide inspiration for those people who normally sit on the sidelines to get involved and move forward.” Michelle believes. “I try to encourage a collegial, collaborative and supportive style to build a strong team. I also seek and welcome feedback from our members, whether it involves successes or failures.”
Michelle’s leadership style also consists of sharing goals and visions, showing fairness and good judgment and acting in a compassionate manner, without being overbearing. The people who have inspired her and became her role models over the years have exhibited these same strong qualities, which made her even more determined to be in a position where she can make a difference.
People with leadership skills that positively impact large groups of people are hard to find and, according to Michelle, in order to become a leader, the most important characteristic is the decision to actually become a leader.
So, it’s not a surprise that this wife, mother, Executive Legal Secretary and Association President who jumps out of airplanes for fun, also takes passionate leaps in leadership which, for the last three years has made quite a difference in the lives of legal professionals.
By Barbara Lynch, ABI Staff Writer