Meredith Coffman comes to Pink Granite through our newest contributor Jillian Bliss! Meredith stops by to share a little bit about her career path, a unique hobby and how she keeps it all organized!
Tell us about your job…
I am a drafting attorney in the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General. My elevator pitch about my job is that when governmental bodies receive a request for information under the Public Information Act and want to withhold that information for various legal reasons, my office reviews that information and tells the governmental body whether that information is to be to withheld or released pursuant to the laws at issue in that instance. I also interact with the public, both governmental bodies and citizens, via our Open Government Hotline and have some other related tasks. (Note: My comments and opinions in this interview are not reflective of and/or cannot be attributed to the Office of the Attorney General.)
How long have you been performing this work?
I have been there about 5 ½ years now.
Where are you from?
I am a born and raised Texan who grew up in a small town in the Panhandle near Amarillo.
What did you study in college and where did you attend school?
I went to Texas Tech University where I majored in Political Science, and I received my law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law.
How did you get your start in government?
It sounds like an easy answer, but as long as I can remember wanting to be an attorney and knowing what type of law I wanted to practice, I wanted to be a government attorney. Granted, I had envisioned being a criminal prosecutor than the administrative attorney I actually became, but I wouldn’t trade the experience. Upon becoming a fully licensed attorney, I was open to opportunities that I hadn’t envisioned in my criminal law tunnel vision, which resulted in my first job with another state agency. I learned a lot there, including that I enjoyed this path I hadn’t expected.
What is the most rewarding part of your current job? Biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is the times when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, but it always works out one way or another. One of the most rewarding parts is the relationships I’ve made with both former and current coworkers, along with the work itself.
Describe a time that you knew you were “good” at your job.
Any time there’s an unusual fact pattern in a file or a set of circumstances that requires more research or applying multiple statutes to come to the right solution, I feel like I’ve done well on that task and at my job.
Do you mind sharing a little bit about your relationship working with other women (or supportive men)?
I am fortunate to work with so many talented women in my division who support each other rather than work against each other, which is key. I’ve had multiple experiences of others helping me with work tasks when work or personal life circumstances have not gone as planned for various reasons over the last few years, and I’ve been able to return that favor to others in kind. That sort of cooperative atmosphere makes such a difference in the workplace, and I’m grateful since I know that isn’t the norm everywhere.
You could never do your job without __________.
Starbucks and sticky notes. I go to Starbucks a few times a week for a mid-morning caffeine fix (sometimes on top of the latte I make at home), and sticky notes are vital for so many types of note taking during the workday.
Best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Just because it’s not the option you wanted doesn’t mean it’s the wrong option. Sometimes it’s worth it to step outside of your comfort zone of what you wanted or expected and discover there was a better option you hadn’t yet considered.
Advice you wish you could give your younger self?
Develop more time management skills!
I have multiple calendars and lists to help me stay organized. At work, I have a color-coded calendar of deadlines and notes, and I use my phone calendar and lists app to keep track of personal obligations. I also have a separate color-coded planner and shared Google spreadsheet to keep track of logistics and tasks for the podcast I co-host with a friend (The Parabatai Podcast, where we cover Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters Chronicles books and its adaptations).
Best tip(s) for networking? Building your tribe in a potentially contentious or political environment?
At Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year Awards, Reese Witherspoon’s acceptance speech included the statement, “I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities.” One of the lessons I’ve learned from co-hosting a podcast for the past three years is that you can’t be afraid to promote yourself or your skills. Being aware of your worth can feel like a challenge, but it’s so worth it. Also, connect with people on mutual ground. If you’re genuinely interested in that other person and not just for what that person can do for you, that will come across in the conversation (and vice versa). The process of networking can be a lot like the process of making a new friend: I’ve connected with colleagues over anything from Gilmore Girls to Cassandra Clare’s books to going to the same law school.
You can have dinner with anyone, living or dead – who and why?
Reese Witherspoon. I’ve admired her since Legally Blonde, and she is so talented at everything she does, whether that’s acting, her clothing line, or creating a production company so that she could create more female-driven works in Hollywood (Big Little Lies, anyone?). She comes across as a genuine Southern woman, and I’d love to sit down and chat about her movies, her business ambitions, and the rest of her life.
Favorite place for a business lunch?
I love any reason to go to Caroline.
Favorite place to get your news?
I follow some news sources on Twitter and subscribe to a few e-mail newsletters, including The Skimm and Washington Post.
Favorite political TV show/movie?
Parks and Recreation is hilariously accurate about a lot of aspects of government life. The miniseries Political Animals is another favorite.
Favorite social media apps?
Twitter and Instagram are definitely my most used social media apps since I use them to both keep up with friends and what’s going on in the world.
If you weren’t in your current role you’d definitely be a ____________.
One of my college minors was English, and I’ve always said that if I wasn’t an attorney I’d be in a copy editor-type position.
Such big thanks to Meredith for stopping by Pink Granite to share her story and more about how she came to work for the Attorney General’s office. If you’re interested in contacting Meredith or learning more about her podcast, the podcast Twitter and Instagram are both @theparabataipod, the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the website is theparabataipodcast.com.