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Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

I first heard this phrase in middle school when Ms. Tevis, our literary teacher, believed all 14-year-olds were hoodlums in need of refinement and culture. So one day, she marched the entire 8th grade into the auditorium to watch the black and white film, Romeo and Juliet. I often wonder if she regretted that decision...

But actually, the first person to write this famous phrase was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. She was an author and included the phrase in her book, Molly Bawn in 1878. “It's true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It is another way of saying that beauty is subjective.

Shakespeare was also mystified by beauty and wrote, “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” You may know this famous line from his “Sonnet 18.” Literary historians speculate that Shakespeare is saying that beauty is fleeting and everyone grows old.

Some have said that Shakespeare gets a bit narcissistic in the rest of the sonnet when he says that the beauty and fame of the woman in question is only relevant because he wrote about her. Her beauty will fade, but his words will live on. Nice guy, right?

But what happens when we become the subject? Much of my profession involves having authentic conversations with lawyers who feel they are no longer valued by their law firm. In other words, their beholders aren’t seeing their beauty anymore; has their value faded or has their law firm somehow changed? In fact, over time, everything does change and I’m convinced that this very issue leads to partners choosing to pursue their career at a different law firm more than any other.

Of course, these feelings don’t occur all at once. It’s generally an awareness they come to realize over time. But why? The reasons vary, but in many ways, they are quite the same.

Partners have shared “they feel” some of the following:

· They feel their ideas are rejected.

· They feel their opinions are not asked or considered.

· They feel their successes are not recognized.

· They feel their needs of support are not being met.

This may surprise you, but rarely is it because “they feel” under compensated.

Hopefully you’re not looking for answers with a dagger as Juliet did, but if you can relate, contact us at for a confidential conversation. These feelings could be the motivation you need to help move you to consider new options at this stage of your career.

Lastly, of course, Ms. Tevis was right that we needed some culture. But before you judge her too harshly, think back to the time when you were 14 years old!

Click this link here to read Shakespeare’s "Sonnet 18."

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