Lindsey Burwell, Esq.
Partner, D'Arcy Johnson Day
Interviewer: Nicole McCann, Esq.
On May 3, 2019, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Burwell, Esq., the newest Partner at D’Arcy Johnson Day (“DJD”). In 2009, Lindsey earned her Juris Doctorate and graduated cum laude from Rutgers Law School – Camden. In November 2010, she joined D’Arcy Johnson Day, where she still practices in the Workers’ Compensation department. Lindsey is involved in the Atlantic County Bar Association (“ACBA”), New Jersey Association for Justice, and New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Inn of Court. When she is not practicing law or serving her community, Lindsey is busy raising her four wonderful daughters! From concocting the most creative treats for the Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”) Children’s Holiday Party to volunteering at the Special Olympics, Lindsey leaves everyone wondering, “How does she do it all?”
How did you first get involved with the ACBA?
I first got involved with the ACBA through the YLD Children’s Holiday Party. I have had the pleasure of volunteering for this amazing event for the past three years. I have wrapped presents, made themed desserts and decorations, crafted party games, and personalized stockings. Last year I even learned how to face paint. The smiles on the faces of the 60 elementary school children who attend the party, and their excitement at seeing the presents, Santa Claus, and all that is planned for them, are indescribable. I would do anything to see those little smiles.
What other ways are you involved in the Atlantic County community?
Last year, I coached my daughter’s taxi cheerleading squad. I participated in sports growing up and was lucky to have the most amazing coaches. Youth sports teach children so many valuable lessons and can foster leadership skills, teamwork and sportsmanship. Coaching was also an opportunity to have my daughter’s attention for a few hours a week without competing with a screen.
In addition, there are so many organizations and charity events in Atlantic County. Through DJD and the YLD, I have been able to participate in a number of them. With DJD, I have volunteered with South Jersey Field of Dreams in my hometown of Absecon. My daughters and I also participate in the Shirley Mae Run each year. I recently joined the YLD in volunteering at the Special Olympics at Stockton. The athletes’ excitement to compete, despite the cold and rainy weather, was inspiring. I am also involved with the ACBA Rogue Running for Charity, which benefits South Jersey Field of Dreams, the ACBA Senior and Youth Art Center at the Jewish Community Center, and the ACBA Scholarship Fund. This year, DJD will participate in the Gilda’s Club’s Dragon Boat Festival for the first time, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve already starting working on our t-shirts and the decorations for our tent.
Did you always know you wanted to be an attorney?
The short answer is “no.” My father was an attorney, and seeing the hours that he put into the job dissuaded me. I majored in psychology and communications in college, and always planned to work with children. My Amazon account, as well as many people who meet me for the first time, think that I am a kindergarten teacher.
I started law school about three years after graduating from college. In those three years, I worked in two law firms, one in Florida and one in Northfield, New Jersey. Both of the attorneys for whom I worked questioned my decision not to pursue law, and I began to question it myself. I worked as a legal secretary during the day and went to Rutgers Camden at night. I took the bar exam six months pregnant, which I do not recommend, and was admitted on my due date with my first child. I have to admit, things probably would have been a lot easier if I had always known that I wanted to be a lawyer. It’s a demanding profession, but I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else (except maybe party planning).
Do you have any advice for those considering law school or starting their legal careers?
My advice would be different for those considering law school from those starting their legal careers.
For those considering law school, I would recommend working in a law office so that you understand the nature of the work that we do. Law school is a major commitment, not just financially, but also in the amount of time and effort it demands, but that is one of the most important ways that law school prepares you for a legal career.
For those starting their careers, I would urge you to establish a work/life balance early as it is hard to break habits once they have been established. This is an extremely rewarding career in so many ways, but attorneys have one of the highest rates of depression and substance abuse when compared to other professions. It’s important to find what releases that tension for you whether it’s yoga, running, or Ben and Jerry’s, in moderation of course. In addition, always be honest with the Court, your adversaries, and your clients. It takes years to establish a good reputation, but you can tarnish it very quickly if you subvert the truth.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced during your legal career?
My biggest obstacle is an ongoing one – this job is never done. I know that I could work until midnight every day of the week for a year, and still find “one more thing” that needs to be done. It is difficult for me to leave the office with the unsettling feeling that I have not accomplished all that I should have, but that is the type of job this is. I am very organized and try to utilize every minute as efficiently as possible, but there will always be more to do. I am still striving to establish a better work/life balance. Working from home at night helps relieve some stress for me because I feel like I have already started on the next day.
Have you always exclusively practiced Workers’ Compensation law?
I have exclusively practiced Workers’ Compensation law since I started working at DJD in November of 2010. There are so many aspects of the Workers’ Compensation practice that are appealing to me personally. I enjoy the fast-paced nature of this system. One of the primary goals of the Workers’ Compensation Act is to provide the injured worker with much needed medical and wage replacement benefits on an expedited basis. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can procure those benefits for my client(s) and ease their physical, financial and emotional distress during a difficult time. I am grateful for the collegiality of the Workers’ Compensation bar. There is a mutual respect among the attorneys, and I have been fortunate to develop good working relationships with colleagues and adversaries, which benefits my clients and furthers the goals of the Statute. I do not know if there are ever dull moments in other practice areas, but there are none in mine. It is a volume practice, so there is always a new challenge awaiting my attention as soon as the last one has been met.
What does one need to be a successful Workers’ Compensation attorney?
A successful Workers’ Compensation attorney must be extremely organized, prepared, and knowledgeable. If you are a Petitioner’s attorney, you also must be compassionate and understanding. Organizational skills are important because of the number of clients we service. Preparing in advance and documenting the file with important information saves time during negotiations and conferences. You can answer questions while your adversary may be looking through a stack of papers. A high level of efficiency projects to the judge that you have a factual basis for your position, which is very persuasive. It is imperative to stay on top of the relevant case law because there are many issues that arise repeatedly in this practice, and those decisions can change the way that you need to approach a particular issue. To be a successful Workers’ Compensation attorney, you must also remember that these are not just files; each file is someone’s life, which has taken an unforeseen turn. No one plans to get hurt, and many people live paycheck to paycheck. Delays in treatment and the issuance of temporary disability benefits can impose a lot of stress on an individual who is already dealing with pain. Letting your client know that you are there for him or her, and that you understand what he or she is going through, is one of the best ways you can nurture the attorney/client relationship. How you treat your client throughout your representation of him or her is often as important as the results you secure.
Probably the most important question anyone could ask you: How do you do it all?
I do not sleep! Not much anyway. I believe you can have it all, as long as you are at terms with a semi-perpetual state of sleep deprivation. Organization and multi-tasking really help. I try to be as productive as I can be when I am at work, so that I can make the most of my time with my family. I hope that I am setting a good example for my four daughters. I tell them every day that they are strong, smart, beautiful, and kind, and that they can do anything they put their minds to. I am trying to instill in them a work ethic, a strong sense of self and family, compassion, and responsibility; but in setting that example, I never want them to feel that I am not here for them. I have working mom guilt, but I am proud to be a hardworking lawyer and mom. I am happy to subsist on minimal sleep in the pursuit of performing at the highest level I can at the two jobs I was born to do.