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I Wish I’d Known – Mary Cranston


By Mary Cranston.

Mary Cranston is the firm senior partner and immediate past chair for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. She practices complex litigation, including antitrust, telecommunications, and securities litigation. Among many other honors, she was the 2005 recipient of the ABA Margaret Brent Award, which recognizes women lawyers for their legal excellence and for paving the way for other women lawyers.

Prioritizing your most important goals can change your life.

I wish I had known the power of prioritization. Of course I knew in law school that some things are more important than others, but I had not yet experienced the magic of getting clear on a couple of personal strategic goals and then making sure that every day, I made time to take steps through my activities and choices to move toward those goals.

Prioritizing your most important goals can change your life. I now understand that the selection of the goals is the most critical step, and that it can’t be rushed. I usually spend a weekend every year contemplating my life and choosing my goals. The goals have to be deeply authentic and aligned with what gives me happiness—and I measure the value of the goals by seeing how peaceful they make me feel in my body. I don’t pay too much attention to the pros and cons that my thoughts throw up—I have found that my mind’s pros and cons are based on old fears, and that the sense of peace in my gut is a much more reliable predictor of whether I will be successful.

I also make the goals an absolute priority. If I am offered opportunities that don’t move me towards my goals, I say, “No thanks.” Even if a very senior person asks me, I still say “no.” The truth is, we always have more coming our way than we can do. We can either learn to say “no” strategically—doing only things that are a “win-win” to both the asker and the doer—or we can wait until we have said “yes” to everything thrown at us, and when our backs are to the wall, end up saying “no” as our only option.

I use prioritization in all aspects of my life: business, community, friends, and family. Try it—you’ll like it.


Vol. 39 No. 9

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.