Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode 21 · 1 year ago

Advocacy and Empowerment

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On Episode 21 of Decision Dialogues, Mindy Neira joins Jennifer Faherty to speak with Maria McGinley, Managing Partner at Mayerson and Associates. Maria discusses how she decided on a major career shift from teaching to law, through which she represents the families of children with autism and other disabilities. She also offers advice to other women pursuing law, emphasizing the importance of mentorship and empowering, supportive networks. 

Get the full show notes and more resources at ModeraWealth.com/DecisionDialogues 

Are you paving the way for the life you want facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by MODARA wealth management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs. Thanks for joining us on decision dialogs or thrilled to have you along. My name is Jennifer Farty and I'm the chief client experience officer at Madera Wealth Management Llc. Today, my colleague, Mindy Nara, senior financial advisor, and I will be chatting with Maria B Ginley, managing partner at Mayorson and associates. Mayor Son and associates is a law firm dedicated to representing individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Welcome everyone to the show. Thanks, enterfer for that intro and Riam so happy to be here with you today. Thank you, Jennifer and mendate. Thank you for having me. I know that we've now known each other for a couple of years and I just think your story is amazing. I know you're a lawyer and partner at your firm now, but that's not where you started. He started as a teacher in New York City, so I'd love to start there and hear about that. And how did you make the decision to get to where you are now? Sure that's right. So I started my career, my first career, as a special education teacher working for the New York City Department of Education, and I worked with students with autism as well as students with other developmental disabilities or students who had IEPS, and I loved being a teacher. It was extremely rewarding. It was also extremely challenging at many times...

...and it was really a wonderful career. But through my experiences I saw that there was a great disparity between a lot of the students needs and the services that they were being provided, and I personally got to a point where I felt as though my advocacy abilities might be better suited in more of a legal context. So I decided to go to law school and pursue representing families, specifically families with autism. But but any families with children with IEPS in more of a legal capacity. Wow, well, what a decision. I mean to change careers midway through a career or, you know, a few years into your career, and that's just amazing. Thank you. It's a big decision. Yeah, and then since then, I know you who've represented your firm and you've been a part of this represented some cases that have gone to the Supreme Court. Is that right? Yes, so we work not only with families in administrative contexts as well as families who have children in public school who feel as though their child needs different supports or more supports in that public school environment, but we've also been involved in quite a number of cases at the federal level, the appellate level and through autism speaks and otherwise. We have served as a meekst council in a number of cases that could potentially have a broader impact on the autism community, either in a specific region or nationally. It's great so that you just been to the impact and the community. And so how do you feel that your decision to change career paths in the space? How do you think that you've been able to make an impact the same or different at this point in your career. You know, as a...

...teacher you definitely have an impact on your students right you're with them all day, every day, so you're inevitably going to have an impact on them and the programming that they receive. But in the legal context your impact can be seen sometimes a little bit more clearer than this, more amorphous in fact that you may have on a student, wherein when you're representing a family, they often come to you in a state of crisis. They are in extremists, they have a problem, they need a solution. So you work with them not only to get through those challenges and sometimes the challenges identify the solution to begin with. Many families come to us and they don't know what their options are, they don't know what solutions exist. So it's counseling them through what avenues they might be able to go down and then taking action on trying to meet their objectives. So, for example, with a family who is in a public school program and their child is languishing or regressing and having a really challenging time and they're able to identify an alternate option, maybe that's a private school program, maybe it's something else. We can work with that family to secure that placement or that program and try to seek some financial relief from their school district to compensate them for that program and then, throughout that process you can see the child make a transition from a program whereas I said before, they may be regressing or languishing, to a place where they're enabled to access their education and make meaningful educational progress. I mean, that's huge. You know, my specialty and financial planning is working with special needs families and people with disabilities, and that finally will help and relief is is hugely impactful, not only on their current finances but the compounding effect in the future most certainly.

I mean the cost of special education programming is large and when you put appropriate and effective programs in place, sometimes those those programs can be more costly than perhaps a public school program but the benefit can be huge. If you particularly with kids, with younger kids who present with significant needs. You know, the research shows the earlier the intervention, the more likely a more positive outcome will be, and so if we're able to get effective programming in place earlier on, it's possible that that child, over the span of their educational career can get to a point where service it those more costly services and supports are faded out and they are able to access more of a general education curriculum or something that's less restrictive and potentially less costly. So the financial impact is huge and then, especially when you're looking at it over the span of a child's entire school career, it can be enormous. And then that makes me think put my financial planning cap on and beyond just the educational years, but then life after and the impact of the families. So I applaud you for making that career change and making that decision to go back to law school. I that's not it's not an easy one. So let's go back to let's go back to that decision. So when you made the decision to become a partner of the firm, you were, I believe, your track with that. You worked there first, you became a partner and so that has expanded. Can you talk to me about what you know? How did that impact you your family? How did you make that decision specifically? So when I was in law school, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of special education law so that was not even a question for me. I...

...didn't go to law school thinking, well, maybe I'll go into something else like that was an option and I identified meyrison associates as a firm that I wanted to be affiliated with. I did start with them when I was still in law school as an intern. I then became an associate there and I was an associate for about six years before the partnership question really came up. You know, I kind of think about it a little bit like the phrase from Spider Man. With great power comes great responsibility. Not from a power perspective so much, but you know, it's this increased position that carries with it increased responsibility but also potentially increase advantages financially and otherwise for myself, my family and my career. And so I knew I wanted to continue to be associated with the firm. I had taken on a tremendous amount of additional responsibility even as an associate, and I believe in our firm. I believe in our team. We have an amazing team. I work with people who are dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities. So for me it was in some respects, a no brainer that that would be my natural progression. And then, of course there are certain other aspects, financially and otherwise, that became considerations as well. So one considerational I guess now this this happened after is you just had a baby. So congratulations a few months ago. Yes, thank you. So how do you feel this decision has impacted now your family and growing family? You know, it's such an interesting question. I was a working woman in both of my careers for twenty years before having a child, and your financial planning and your goals and your objectives and your...

...day in and day out management is significantly different when you're only looking so to worry about yourself and your needs now and in the future. And so having a child from a financial perspective, obviously as a humongoust change, both like the day and a day out expenses, as well as the planning feature. And now you're not planning for one person, you're planning for your whole family. So that is a huge consideration. But I also think, in connection with that, there's a practical consideration as well, and so I have many female colleagues who work in law firms, whether they're small law firms or large law firms, and I do think that there is a distinction there in some respects. Not all, but some who made the decision, either very intentionally or somewhat unintentionally, to put off having a family so that they could address their career first. And that can be great, but it also can can have its challenges as well, because you get to a point where you've established yourself, you've established your career, your reputation, the quality of work that you want to provide your clients, and then you have a baby who needs you seven and it become the work life balance really gets called into question. But on the flip side, I also know a number of a female colleagues who chose to start families earlier and they were met at times with certain challenges of their own trying to get back on track, and what they may have felt was the perception of other people that, for whatever reason, their value might not be the exact same as their male counterparts, despite the fact that many of their male counterparts and children all sell. So it's been it's been really interesting for me in that it's been a huge change and having that change...

...so much later in life than a number of other people has really called into question just about everything for me, practically, financially, professionally and otherwise. What would you say to someone, a young female entering the law profession, as they make navigate these decisions throughout their career? Well, one or two pieces of advice would you give them? The first piece of a device I would give them is certainly identify a mentor or mentors, especially if they can find female mentors who have gone through the same legal trajectory, and really learn from them and absorb everything and ask questions and really try to get a perspective of what they've gone through and what's not only been successful for them and put them in a position of success, but also what hasn't worked for them and identify how, if at all, that comports with their own sense of what they want to see and what they want to do and what their objectives are. And I also think something you know in society. I think we've made a lot of improvement with respect to advancing women's rights and we have a lot of discussions and small firms and large firms generally speaking, outside the legal field, regarding equality and diversity. I think that that has improved. I think we have a really long way to go and I think one of the things that, if I were talking to my younger self, I would say is to have really frank, real candid discussions with your inner circle, especially your inner female circle, but your inner circle generally, about everything. You don't know where you are until you can kind of see where other people are and...

...what they've gone through and what you're going through and how they've handled things, even when it comes to things like salary and benefits and you know performance reviews and how to prepare for that and how to present your arguments potentially to an employer for an an increase salary or additional benefits, additional compensation. I don't know that those conversations happen as much as they should and I have found that when I've done that with my innermal circle, not only have I learned so much about other people's paths, which has helped me figure out will do. I want to do the same thing with that work for me? Wouldn't it work for me? Why wouldn't it? But it also makes you feel like you're part of a community and I think that inherently builds your confidence in your self esteem. To know what you're worth is. So identify what you're worth is and then to feel comfortable appropriately asserting that in a professional context. Is that something now that you're kind of later on in your career, do you see yourself doing more with regard to mentorship or, you know, and and maybe even drawing from your past career and education, maybe doing more within your industry in terms of females or diversity or anything that is and that's something that might interest you or have you've thought about? Definitely I you know, I've had the opportunity to teach a number of continuing legal education classes. I've been able to go back to my Alma moder and teach some classes there as well, and we've on boarded younger lawyers or parallelals at our firm over the years. I really enjoy that aspect of my professional career because I think it's so important and I think building someone's confidence and enabling them to see what's out there and what they're capable of is huge from a team perspective, within an organization...

...or within a firm. You really are only as good as your weakest link. So you can look on instagram or social media and all the memes that say, you know, we have to build up other women, but like we have to build up other women. I just can't impress upon everyone enough how critical that is to really creating not only a good atmosphere right now, but also developing the next generation of people who are going to come into these roles and hopefully continue the work that we're doing right now. Yeah, I think that's huge. You brought up salary and discussing salary. It's so maybe you called Taboo to talk about what you earn or you feel like you can't tell people what you earn, but unless we all talk about it, that transparency, it doesn't exist. And how do you know? And we hear all the statistics about how women are paid less than men, and you know, person of colors paid less and a white man, and so you know all those disparities. In order to make the progress that you're talking about, we need to discuss it. It's really great point. You can ask a question that might kind of turns into a little bit different direction. Yeah, I'm curious because you know many you mentioned that your specialty is working. One of the one of your specialties you have many is working with families. Special needs, children dependence. How would you too might work together at some point? Are you with an attorney like Maria, or a firm like mayor and associates and and similar same question with you, Maria. How might you work with other professionals? I can. I can go first and the work that I do at the families that I have, you know, I am building up a client base of families with special needs and a lot in New Jersey, a lot of families you have children with autism, actually tend to be a Maria, correct me if I'm wrong, one of the better states to be in for education and advocating for education. And so I may have a client who comes in and they're just starting that process and I'm not an expert...

...and you know how to do that. I don't. I'm not a lawyer. So I'll bring in Maria in that case and introduce them to my clients and say here's an attorney who can help you advocate for your child to see what else is out there. If you were school is not providing the education that they need to progress and and from my perspective, I am a lawyer. I work with families in the educational context, but I usually typically don't go too far afield from that. That really is my area of expertise and I like to stay within my area of expertise. So while the educational costs and the programming for so many of these families, and especially all of the families that I'm working with, can be a huge price tag, there are so many other financial considerations that are outside of my fields and outside of my scope where, you know, if a family needs to start doing financial planning or considering what investment vehicles are appropriate for their children or their adult children with autism or other various like able accounts or other investment vehicles or financial considerations, that might be a point in time where I would refer them to Mandy and say, you know, she really can can provide you more insight and guidance throughout that process. That collaborated nature for helping these families think will help them over a long term. Right sure. And I think if I may just add in one other point, you know, I feel like when I started my first career there was such a focus on early intervention, and and by that I mean legitimate early intervention. What is considered services from a child's age birth through three and for reasons I said earlier. You know, getting that earlier in intervention can lead to potentially better outcomes later on. But the focus has progressed and we have kids with autism or becoming adults with autism. So...

...from my perspective, in the legal aspect, there is an entire section of the individuals with Disabilities Education Act that speaks to transition planning for students when they reach a certain age. That age is different in every state, but when their school district is required to start having assessments and discussions with the student and the students family and students educational team about what is to come. But the planning piece of it, as many mentioned, is so important. You can't, you can't ever be too early in considering what's potentially coming down the line. And so that's not only just from an educational perspective but an overarching perspective because at the end of the day all of our clients, my clients and many's clients alike, are people and they have a whole host of needs that really need to be not only addressed but plan for. Yeah, it's a great point. I'm so glad you mentioned that. We have, as many mentioned, you know, there's we're in our area, there's so many families in need and you're right, there has been such a focus, in a good way, on the early intervention. But I've as I'm seeing many of my my colleague my friends where I live, they're really at a point now where, you know, their child is older, they're their adult children, they're older now and and and they haven't really thought about what to do next in the services out there are really not you know, there's just so much more opportunity to have more services for those young adults. So, you know, Kudos to you in the work that you do. Yeah, and it's a good point you bring up, Jennifer, because a big discussion within the autism community of services beyond education. And to Maria's point on starting to plan early and starting to think about these things now. It's it's really hard. I mean you have competing priorities, you're trying to just get through your day.

We just went through a pandemic in your home with with your kid or your multiple children and so much to take care of. But thinking about the future is it's really going to be key and making sure that you have services at that point, having support systems like myself a Maria, who, even if we're not the expert in that field, or we may know someone or have a resource that you can talk with. Sort of speaking of that, Maria, I know that you're also involved in external organization. So your decision to get involved to help the autism community outside of just the law work you do and helping other attorneys come come up the pipeline and do the same thing, you're also involved outside. How did you decide on? Which organization do you work with and actually what do you do for them? So I have been associated with autism speaks for quite a number of years. I originally got started with them doing their walks, which are pretty popular throughout the country, as well as my work at Mayerson and in working with the organization and the staff and the board members and the overall team. I just identify that their mission was something that was directly in line with my professional mission as a partner Mayorson and so that seemed to be a natural marriage, if you will, of kind of putting myself in a position working with them, and I have been the chair of the board of directors here in New Jersey for the past couple of years and I find that it's important to not only focus your your interests in your career, but also to take that over and to be able to pay that back to the community. So, you know, it's not the only organization that I'm affiliated with, but for me, the priority in determining who I want to affiliate myself with or what organization I want to affiliate myself with, comes down to how much their mission aligns with my general philosophy...

...on meeting the needs of either the autism community or students with special needs or the disability community in general, and then the work that they're doing and how it is having an impact on the community that we're trying to target. It's great. So I have one more question related to this and then our final question to wrap up. This is kind of elaborating on, you know, some of what autism speaks of a lot of research. There's a lot of other organizations that also do research and when we talk about the autism spectrum. You know, I don't know how much of this you can comment on, but it's just an interest of mine. Is that, generally speaking, we hear that males have autism more often than females do, but in recent years we've learned that actually females are going undiagnosed and so a lot of females are being diagnosed at much older ages. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on that and sort of, you know, what should families be thinking about and what should we expect going forward with this, especially for a DI elaborate for a minute for those families who have children in school now and thinking about, you know, what are some key identifiers to start helping my child if they may or may have autism? You're right, while the national incidence of autism has increased pretty significantly year over year, or at least the years in which the CDC is reporting the research, the diagnosis recurrently is one and thirty four boys and one in a hundred and forty four girls. So it's a very despair. It representation and I think you know, the research is certainly suggesting that there are quite a number of females who may go undiagnosed. I think there are a number of reasons that can contribute to that. I have worked with a number of families who have come to me with a somewhat older child,...

...who just received an older female child who just received a diagnosis, and some of those families have reported. Well, we didn't really see a lot of the same signs that you might typically, and I'm using that in air quotes. I know we're on a podcast, but but you might what you might assume would be ear marks or or way point or early identifiers, and that can be for a host of reasons. One of the things that I always tell all families is, first of all, you have to go with your gut. You're a parent and you're a parent to a child. You know that child better than anyone else, even if they're in school all day or they're in daycare, you know your child and if you have a gut feeling that something just isn't right or something's a little bit off, it's worth exploring. School districts have requirements in terms of evaluations and sometimes they may not, though. They have a they have a requirement to evaluate any child who suspected of having a disability in any area of development. They may not do that. They may see that things are fine. Maybe a student, maybe a female student, is, for all intents and purposes, when you're looking at them in the classroom, doing okay and some of the silent struggles that they may be having might not be a parent to the common eye. So I always tell parents that they have the right to request evaluations of their school district if they believe that there is an Aryan which they suspect something maybe off or something might might constitute a diagnosis or a disability. They're also, you know, in getting back to what we're saying earlier about professionals and different from people having different areas of expertise, you know, families have a whole team worth of people. It's not just their special education attorney, it's not just...

...their financial advisor, it's it's a whole host of professionals that can be available to them. And so there are various neuropsychologists who can conduct pretty extensive evaluations and testing and sometimes families go through that process regularly, yearly or every other year just to kind of see where their child is. Maybe maybe there isn't as big of a concern as they thought there was. But when you have data and you have testing results and you've had an outside, unbiased third party come in and observe what's happening, there's credibility and there's value in that. Assessment and the recommendations that are being set forth by the person who's conducting that evaluation. So I think that's one piece of it. I anticipate that we're going to continue, at least in the near future, to see that there are quite a number of people, not just females, although I think the incidents will continue to be higher in females, but a number of people who may receive a diagnosis a lot later than anyone might have otherwise wanted to see happen, because it's great perspective, and I know that from people I know personally and from there's a lot of online videos and a lot of people with aught of them who receive diagnosis and their late s and s and sort of speaking out as to how life changing, in a positive way, it's been to receive a diagnosis, to know that you know things that are happening behind the scenes that others didn't know about. It's not, you know, a bad thing, it's just the way you where your brains wired and that you know you kind of make sense of the world a little bit better. Absolutely, yeah, it's in some ways. I don't know that this is the best analogy to use, but it would be as though you know you presented with a certain medical condition, like, let's say you have diabetes and you don't know that you have it and your body feels a certain kind of way because you don't know that you're supposed to be targeting certain things and not targeting...

...other things. And then, with that diagnosis, it enables you to take action and ownership and it enables you to address what needs to be addressed, and I think that that's an excellent pointment day, where it it empowers individuals to know, okay, like this is, this is where I'm at and this is what's happening, and it gives a sense of confidence, I think. Also, yes, what one hundred percent. That's what I've heard consistently. So so, this has been great. I do have one last question for you as we wrap up the PODCAST, and this is more of a fun one. What is the last decision you made today that was not financial? Wow, I I chose to wear a pink shirt because, as pink is my favorite color and I thought that that would brighten up what has already been a bright and lively discussion. And so it might be silly, but that was my last decision. Oh, that's great. Thank you so much for you. This has been so much fun. I'm always, I always admire everything you do and and love having these discussions, so I appreciate the time today. I thank you you all for inviting me here today and it has been a great conversation and they look forward to continuing to work with you guys going forward. So thanks very much to Mindi and Maria for letting US listen in on their conversation. We appreciate their time and perspective and thank you for tuning in. We hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. WWW DOT willcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has...

...been a production of twin flames studios.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (34)