Jill Hubbard Bowman is an independent intellectual property (IP) attorney with more than ten years of experience in protecting, enforcing and licensing intellectual property rights, the mother of two children, and the founder of IP Law for Startups, and Lookilulu, a website that helps girls and women see their career possibilities.
I had a dream to be a trial attorney who would fight big legal battles and win. And then my dream was derailed by a twin pregnancy that almost killed me—literally. It was a shock and awe pregnancy. It caused the death, destruction, and rebirth of my identity and legal career.
I was working as an intellectual property litigation attorney for a large law firm in Chicago when a pregnancy with twins caused my heart to fail. After fifteen years of infertility, the twin pregnancy was an unexpected surprise. Heart failure because of the pregnancy was an even bigger shock. The toll on my legal career was even more unexpected.
Although I was fortunate to survive without a heart transplant, I eventually realized that I needed a career transplant. As my heart function recovered, I valiantly tried to cling to my career dream and do the hard work I loved. But the long hours and travel necessary for trial work were too much for my physical self. I was exhausted with chronic chest pain, two clinging toddlers, and a disgruntled husband. I was tired of being tired. My law firm was exceptionally supportive but I didn’t have the stamina to keep all of the pieces of my life together.
Overwhelmed, I let go of my original dream. I backed down, retrenched, and regrouped. I took a year off from legal work to rest, recover, spend time with my toddlers, and open myself to new possibilities.
During my hiatus, I rethought my legal career. I had long discussions with other women who were juggling motherhood and career dreams. I identified the things that gave me energy and passion including counseling, sharing information, and writing. I realized that I was motivated to help people, especially women, avoid suffering, whether from ignorance of the law or simply because they aren't aware of the opportunities available to them.
In my repose, I also took stock of my assets. I’m a walking treatise on intellectual property law. I’ve done intellectual property clean up and dispute resolution for many years and I’ve seen the variety of mistakes that companies make. Moreover, in over twenty-five years, I’ve learned a lot about professional careers and finding work that is fulfilling and rewarding based on individual strengths and interests.
Revitalized and healthy, I started dreaming new dreams. I saw ways that I could make a significant contribution by sharing what I’ve learned. I decided to refocus my legal practice on counseling and helping startup companies avoid liability and protect their intellectual property.
To share some of what I know, I started a blog, IPLawforStartups.com, where I teach basic lessons on trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and patents and give tips for avoiding the biggest blunders that destroy the value of intellectual assets. Few start-up companies, especially women-owned companies that rarely get venture capital funding, can afford the expensive hourly rates of a large law firm to the get the critical information they need. I feel deeply rewarded when I help a company create a strategy that protects the value of their company and supports their business dreams.
Further, I had the dream to help young women see their career possibilities. In partnership with my sister Julie Simmons, I created Lookilulu (see details below), a website where women share their insights, career paths, and ways they have integrated motherhood with their professional pursuits. When my sister and I were growing up on a farm, we had a hard time seeing that women could have rewarding careers. With Lookilulu we want to help young women see what we couldn't see: that dreams are not linear—they take many twists and unexpected turns.
Source: istockphoto, Chinese angel riding a phoenix
As I’ve learned the hard way, dreams change and shift as life happens. I’ve learned the value of continuing to dream new dreams after other dreams are derailed. I’m sure I’ll have many more dreams in my future. I’ve learned to be open to new and unexpected opportunities.
What are your thoughts?
How have you reshaped and redefined your dreams?