The Mary Vandenack that readers may know as the managing member of the law firm that bears her name, Vandenack Weaver LLC, is also the definition of a “Renaissance woman.”
“I was going to quit practicing law at one point to become a yoga and Pilates teacher,” Vandenack said. “I trained across the country from some amazing teachers.”
In fact, the classical and contemporary Pilates enthusiast recalled wanting to go to New York City to train under the direct progeny of the Pilates, Joseph Pilates, the inventor of the physical fitness method.
“Instead of leaving law to teach yoga, Pilates, meditation and mindfulness,” Vandenack continued, “the process of really grounding myself with these practices helped me rediscover my passion for practicing law and finding a way to do it that has filled my heart every day since I founded my own firm.”
Diverse and colorful interests and proficiencies have characterized Vandenack’s life well before her legal career.
“My initial college majors included psychology, social work and journalism,” Vandenack said. “Ultimately, I graduated with a business degree, but took a break between my original college efforts and finishing to train thoroughbred racehorses.”
The thoroughbred racehorse trainer also considered teaching humans. “The joy of how my career has evolved is that I get to incorporate all of my passions,” she said. “I work with people in a relational career. Most of my clients have been part of my life for the entirety of my career. Some were part of the life of my parents and brothers, as I ultimately chose the practice area my father worked in.”
To that end, after graduating from law school, Vandenack decided against “big law” in favor of working at her tax lawyer father’s family firm.
She recalled the words of Creighton University School of Law Professor Emeritus Richard Shugrue: “Think long and hard about making your decision. But, once you make it, never look back.” I followed his advice and am incredibly grateful for the decision I made.”
Vandenack worked with her father daily during the last five years of his life. After he passed away, she and brother Joe continued to practice together, while brother Matt pursued the path that ultimately led to his career as a wealth strategist.
“We were blessed to be busy but struggled to keep up with the workload and hiring,” she said.
Joe would go in house to work for one of their clients, while she would
eventually serve as partner at three different “excellent” Omaha firms.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “But I wanted to start a law firm that was dedicated
to innovation and technology and delivering services differently.”
A PIONEER IN THE FIELD
“I have long been on the forefront of using technology in the legal profession
and have launched services such as www.formyourbusiness.com,” she said. “Today, we are launching a national firm with affiliated services, have launched
a podcast called ‘Legal Visionaries,’ have launched Synergistic Estate and Care Management Services, and are launching a unique business model that will offer collaborative and cost-effective services to clients in certain areas.”
These accomplishments also represent some of her career highlights and proudest professional moments; for instance, Synergistic Estate and Care Coordination Services provides care management services, bridging the gap between legal services and incapacity.
“We recently formed Elite Trust and Estate Services LLC, which will include high net worth trust and estate lawyers nationally,” she added. “We have launched concierge legal service offerings as part of our trust and estate offerings.”
The Flourishing Professional, a joint venture, offers collaborative services to certain professional markets. Additionally, Vandenack presents professionally on practice management, innovation, technology and wellness topics, and is a commentator for the premier trust and estate industry publication, Leimberg Services.
A series of designations have also followed Vandenack; American College of Trust and Estate Counsel fellow, College of Law Practice Management inductee, Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center “Women of Legal Tech,” James I. Keane Memorial Award recipient (for e-learning). And she is a “regular” on the Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers and Marquis Who’s Who.
Vandenack has managed to find time for another notable: completing a Certificate of Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
“In the trust and estate and business planning realm, collaborative planning has become very important,” she said. “I decided to pursue training in positive fashion.”
A College of Saint Mary business degree (summa cum laude) and Creighton University School of Law (magna cum laude) graduate, Vandenack intends to pursue advanced certification and, possibly, a master’s degree in the positive psychology area.
In addition, she is a 14-year attendee of New York University’s Institute on Federal Taxation and an 11-year attendee of the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning.
“At the time I entered the profession, there were very few women practicing in the tax law arena,” Vandenack said. “I wanted to become a top-notch tax attorney who was recognized for my work. I also always wanted to support other lawyers in practice development and have had the opportunity to do so through mentoring, writing, presenting and working in various positions in the state bar association and the American Bar Association.”
LAW REMAINS CHALLENGING FOR WOMEN
“Many law firms still fail to create cultures that allow lawyers to be at different places at different times,” she said. “Many firms still have one billable hour requirement for all, and one track to partnership.”
The result? “Women are still leaving large law firms in large numbers and express career dissatisfaction,” she said. “Fortunately, the bar associations are recognizing this and there are moves for change.”
Vandenack was challenged during her career as a single mom. “Filling the dual roles of career and mom is just difficult,” she said. “My thought process was that I had two choices: I could stay at home and be poor and ask others for help, or I could work hard and have a good career and be in a position to hire some of the assistance that I needed.”
Vandenack attributes her personal success to self-confidence, what positive psychologists deem as “grit.”
“When the going gets tough, and it has, I stay focused,” she said. “I have long believed in the importance of wellness — both physical and mental.”
A lifelong athlete, Vandenack works out daily and is dedicated to wellness practices and emotional resilience.
“I have a gratitude practice. I meditate. I practice — and teach — yoga,” she said. “I do work hard, but I also take time for relationships, physical health and well-being.”
The science of positive psychology, she continued, supports that a lot of depression and anxiety can be headed off by practices that enhance well-being. “I was blessed to come from a family that pursued wellness as much as hard work,” Vandenack said.
Fittingly, Vandenack is an avid college and professional women’s basketball and volleyball fan and rarely misses an NCAA volleyball final four.
She is also passionate about helping others find their own calling and path.
“I try to encourage others to seek coaching, to find a career path that supports their passions, and to learn resilience and strong self-perception,” Vandenack said.
At this juncture in Vandenack’s journey, she is focused on mentoring and supporting the profession.
“I believe that if you ask, ‘How can I help people?’ then what you should do is obvious and those who join you will be engaged in what they are doing,” she said.
“The relationships in my life, with those I work with, my friends, my clients and my family, are everything to me. I aspire to support others on their paths.”
Similarly, Vandenack said she wants to make a difference in her profession, supporting change and evolution in law.
“So, that the business is a career path that young lawyers want to pursue.”