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Local Profile’s 2023 Women in Business: Amber Russell

The annual Women in Business Summit is scheduled for September 8, 2023

Women in Business brings together over 600 influential women from various sectors such as global enterprises, non-profit organizations, small businesses and government agencies within the North Texas community. It serves as a platform to celebrate, unite and empower the leading ladies of the DFW area.

On September 8, 2023, women across North Texas have the opportunity to connect with notable guest speakers, participate in enlightening panel discussions and meet like-minded professionals.

Meet one of our speakers:

Amber L. Russell is a highly skilled personal injury attorney based in Austin. She is the esteemed founder of LOAR and possesses more than ten years of expertise in managing legal matters pertaining to personal injury, medical malpractice and eminent domain. Russell also holds the position of president at the Mother Attorney Mentor Association of Austin. She actively contributes to legal discourse by participating in panel discussions and speaking at continuing legal education conferences. In acknowledgment of her dedication, she was honored with the esteemed Advancement of Women's Interests Award by the Travis County Women Lawyers' Association in 2018. 

What is the biggest challenge women face in the workforce? How can they overcome it? 

Women are rocking it when it comes to professional success!  However, I still see many friends and colleagues (actually, both women and men) getting bogged down juggling responsibilities and priorities.  We all expect to excel in our careers while also fulfilling our roles of mothers/fathers, wives/husbands, daughters/sons, and friends. This can lead to burnout, stress, and guilt as we struggle to find a balance. 

A mentor once told me, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” So, I stopped trying to make each day, or even each week, balanced. When work is hectic, it is okay to step back from other responsibilities and give yourself permission to focus on it, being totally present for the issue at hand. Similarly, when your family, friends or your health require more of your time, it's important to allow that to become more of a priority.  It's essential to love the one you're with, whatever it is. 

By prioritizing and focusing on the most pressing issues, we can all achieve a better work-life balance. Finding the right balance may be challenging, but it's important to remember that it's a continuous process, and it requires patience, practice, and perseverance.

What's your biggest motivation?

The ability to have an impact on someone’s life is my biggest motivation. I’ve worked with people who have been through terrible experiences, things that even a multi-million-dollar result cannot fix. But I get to know my clients, walk through some of the dark times with them, and often times we can find a way to make a bigger impact beyond money.  For example, I help clients fight to make changes locally and at the state level in the enforcement of intoxicated driving laws.  And sometimes I’m able to help people I don’t even represent.  A small example of this was a case I investigated for a family who lost their mother. I concluded there was no negligence and no case to bring regarding her death, but in the course of the investigation answered some hard questions that gave them peace.  They brought me cupcakes to thank me for not taking their case. It was a surprise but reminded me how special it is to be able to help people get answers.

How do you change a company's culture to promote inclusivity and diversity? What are you leaving for future women now that wasn't there before?

No one bats an eye at an all-male personal injury law firm, but it has certainly drawn attention when people see our firm picture and realize we are an all-female firm. I hope that seeing a woman-owned, woman-run business in a traditionally male-dominated area gives future women more confidence to go in and flip tradition on its head. That goes beyond just gender norms — I am determined to do things differently and change the way personal injury law firms (and all lawyers for that matter) have been viewed for the last several decades. I’ve built my firm, LOAR, on the principles of doing things the right way, for the right reasons. I hope that inspires women and anyone in a field that they think needs a reboot to go for it.

What was the most difficult decision you’ve made in your career so far?

The traditional model for ‘success’ in my field is to advertise a lot and in such a loud, and sometimes obnoxious, way that people will remember your schtick when they get hurt. These firms typically take on a large volume of cases, with little personal attention to each case. It was scary to say we’re going to have the same level of impact without doing that, but time has proven that being authentic really does allow us to compete and still maintain our integrity. 

What was your breakthrough moment? 

The moment I started believing in myself. I’ve always been a very positive person, so it wasn’t negative self-talk, it was just limiting self-talk. I found that many of the boxes I was in were of my own making. Once I started taking risks and fighting for my ideas, my success took off.    

What advice do you have for women hoping to break through? 

Take risks, and realize that there is more than one right outcome. Our current system is set up in such a way that it appears the only possible route to success is perfection. But when you peel back the layers of people’s success, you see how many times they had to course-correct and try something new. 

How do you promote a healthy environment for yourself and your employees? 

I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I believe in taking care of our health first so we can be better equipped to care for others. What I found was that even when I told people we believe this and encouraged them to do self-care, they kept putting it off (and so did I by the way, the first year I launched the firm, I had to fight to get back to taking care of myself).  So, I launched a “wellness benefit” in our firm.  Each team member has a set amount to spend on “self-care” every quarter. Self-care is pretty loosely defined and can be massage, exercise classes, doctor visits, supplements, golf, spa days, etc. The key to the program, it is a use-it-or-lose-it system.  If you don’t do something good for yourself by the end of the quarter, it doesn’t roll over. I can’t tell you how often we see our team all taking time to do something healthy for themselves during the last week of the quarter. And I love it because we all come back refreshed and ready to do our best work.

What is your most noteworthy achievement as an agent of change? What are you most proud of?

When we started the firm, I had a long-range plan that involved giving back in a way totally separate from our work.  My husband and I are deeply committed to education and the ability for education to change individuals’ lives and for those individuals to change the world. When we were able to start SOAR in 2022, our dreams fell into place. We launched SOAR Texas, a nonprofit scholarship foundation, to award annual college scholarships to outstanding female students who are the future leaders of their schools, communities, and businesses. SOAR selects young women who are the first in their families to pursue higher education or who have overcome significant challenges. For the 2023-2024 academic year, SOAR awarded a total of $100,000 in scholarship funding to 20 young women, each receiving $5,000.

The scholarship program goes beyond financial resources by giving access to professional development and mentoring resources for these women as they go through school. As new scholarship recipients are chosen each year, previous recipients will be invited to continue participating in SOAR activities. Ongoing participants will be able to pay it forward by providing mentorship to the new recipients and continue to benefit from the ongoing relationships these circles will build. 

This is a new and more holistic approach to investing in the future. It is what I am most proud of and most grateful to be a part of.

How long should you be willing to fail before you succeed?

Are you still breathing, then keep on going. And I don’t mean keep running into the same brick wall 1,000 times. Be flexible, re-evaluate your approach and the end goal, and never stop trying. Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Believe in yourself and never give in.

If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you keep the same?

I’m a big believer in embracing your story, the good, the bad and the ugly, so in truth I would not change anything. I am so grateful for the path that brought me to where I am today.  I would go through all the hard things again, all the pain and all the fun, to learn the lessons and grow into the person I am today. I am thankful for being able to share those lessons with others and hope that maybe they can skip the pain and go straight to learning. 

What do you do if you find yourself in situations where things are not going the way you want them to?

Stop, drop and roll. It is not just for fire drills. Stop means you have to pause long enough to calmly evaluate the situation. Drop means make a change.  If you stay in the same posture when there’s a fire, you’ll be trapped in the smoke and unable to get to safety.  And roll means, once you’ve paused to reassess (“stop”) and changed posture to a more tenable position (“drop”), you better get moving to make progress on the new path you’ve charted (“roll”). Don’t stop, keep pushing forward.

What's the best advice you've received in your career? Who gave it to you?

I started my career at a top 100, international law firm.  It was an amazing training ground with lots of pressure and some of the best talent under one roof. I was very fortunate to have a mentor there, a female partner, who invested her time in me and shared her wisdom. When she saw me burning the candle at both ends (really just setting the whole thing on fire at once), she told me, “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” 

She encouraged me to step back and see things from a wider angle. So, I stopped trying to make each day, or even each week, balanced. Instead, I looked at things on a monthly or even yearly basis.  When work was hectic, I realized it was okay to step back from other responsibilities and allow others to pitch in.  Being focused at those key times then allowed me to give myself permission to focus on being totally present with family and friends when work was not so demanding, and the same with focusing on my health. I had a baseline I needed to maintain, but during the busy season at work or graduation season with kids was not the time to train for a marathon.  

By prioritizing and focusing on the most pressing issues, it allowed me to achieve a better work-life balance overall.

Who is your biggest role model? How can you be a role model to others?  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (late Supreme Court Justice) is one of the most important role models in my life. Ginsburg dedicated her life to fighting for gender equality and was innovative and strategic. It was both her heart and her mind that inspired me. For example, Ginsburg brought several landmark cases on behalf of men who faced gender-based discrimination, to combat gender equality.  She cleverly demonstrated that gender discrimination harms both sexes and that true equality benefits everyone. This trailblazing approach not only transformed the legal landscape but also elevated Ginsburg to become an icon, inspiring generations of women and men to challenge societal norms and fight for justice. Her ability to think beyond conventional boundaries and find creative solutions solidified her legacy as a true pioneer in the pursuit of equality.

I aim to inspire others to help connect and lift up those around them, and the best way for me to do that is to demonstrate it in my own life.  For example, I can talk to my kids about the same issue until I’m blue in the face, but ultimately when I see them making decisions, the bigger influence on them is what they observe me doing in my own life.  It is the same with the women in our SOAR scholarship program and the interns with LOAR, our law firm. For both, we offer formal training programs, but it is more in the day-to-day interactions that I find we are able to make connections.  

What is your motto?

My motto is “success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” It is a reminder that we have to be intentional and thoughtful in setting our goals, because success is merely achieving goals, and it is not always the same as happiness. When I was in law school, it seemed like everyone’s goal was to be hired by and promoted within a big law firm. I followed that blueprint and poured my energy into achieving that goal.  But the more success I achieved, the more I realized that it was not what I wanted. I had to reset my goals, which ultimately led to me founding my own law firm, and now I work toward what is important and fulfilling for me.  

What book do you recommend every professional woman read? 

Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection

This insightful book offers a powerful roadmap to embracing imperfections, cultivating resilience, and finding authentic connections that can propel you forward in your journey.

For professional women seeking breakthrough, vulnerability may seem like a risky proposition. However, Brene Brown skillfully shows that vulnerability is not a weakness, but a powerful tool that can unlock creativity, innovation, and meaningful relationships. Through her research and personal anecdotes, Brown illustrates how vulnerability allows us to step into our true selves, conquer shame and self-doubt, and forge genuine connections with others. By exploring the concept of vulnerability, we gain the courage to take calculated risks, share ideas, and ultimately propel ourselves forward both personally and professionally. 

Tickets are still available for the summit but are selling fast. Click here to reserve your spot.