Don't Settle For Less

with Yasmine Salem Hamdan

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! I’m Yasmine. I am a business + brand protection lawyer. I am also a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. Most of my days (& sometimes nights) are spent working on/in my law firm business, the YSH Law Firm (, where I work to support entrepreneurs in protecting their businesses & intellectual property. I’m also known as @startuplawyerlady on social media!

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
Some people close to me know that I had planned to go to law school since I was a kid. Not many people know that my original plan was to go into criminal defense; I studied criminology in undergrad & have always been passionate about criminal justice reform & civil rights here in the U.S. and abroad. After my first year of law school, I interned with a criminal defense attorney. It was a great experience, however, I did not feel that it was my path. It takes a very special and resilient individual to work in that field. That’s not to say I’m not special, or resilient 😉 But I recognized by the end of my internship that it was not for me. I spent the other half of my summer interning with a civil rights organization based in Dallas (amazing experience there! Shout out to you, Alia.), and went back to school the next semester thinking, WTH am I going to do. Long story short: I loaded up my schedule with business & intellectual property courses and fell in love.
Another thing many people may not know: I’m one of 6 sisters!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It sounds so cliché, but the best advice I received was, “Yasmine, don’t settle for less.” The giver of this advice? My mother. For a short time while I was in college, I began to have doubts about law school and felt like it would take too long, was too expensive, etc. Making ridiculous excuses. I considered studying to become a paralegal instead. I visited with the academic advisor for paralegal studies and came back home to see my mother. I told her about my thoughts & possible change of plans and she told me just that: “Yasmine, don’t settle for less than you want and are capable of. And do not doubt yourself.” That snapped me out of my cloud of self-doubt REAL QUICK. A few months later, I applied to law school.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
Pay no mind to what others expect of you. Focus. Have fun.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is to become obsessed with this temporary, materialistic life and become blind to the bigger purpose.

Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Ha, probably. I actually don’t mind it, I like to overdeliver 😉

What message do you think every woman should hear?
Every woman needs to know that she is not defined by the relationships she has, she is not defined by what others expect of her, view her to be, or say about her. You are the only one that can define what place in this world you hold & who you are. Also, don’t say ‘yes’ out of fear or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I’m from the DFW area, but my husband & I recently moved to Waco for business. Waco is about halfway between Dallas-Fort Worth & Austin, roughly a 90 minute drive to each. It’s been quite a change. One of my favorite things about Waco? The lack of traffic, for sure. Going from dealing with downtown Dallas traffic to the calm, easily accessible downtown Waco area has been heavenly! I don’t have to drive more than 15 minutes to get anywhere.
Another favorite thing about Waco is the warmth of its residents. I had never been to Waco prior to moving here and did not have any contacts in the city. The first thing I did was dive into the professional community & begin to develop relationships with others. Everyone was (and has been) so warm and welcoming of us.
My least favorite thing? The lack of good sushi. Time to step it up, Wacotown.

What do you love most about yourself?
What I love most about myself is my ability to empathize with others. This is also sometimes what I dislike about myself, as it can become overwhelming at times. When I see somebody hurting, struggling, being wronged or in an unjust situation, I find myself feeling what I imagine they must feel. I love this about myself because it enables me to place myself into the shoes of others and to experience different perspectives. At the same time, it can get to be overwhelming.

What motivates you most?
What motivates me most is my family. Each time in my life that I considered throwing in the towel, I thought of my family, and all that my parents sacrificed in order to provide us (my sisters & I). My husband & I would also like to have a family of our own one day (God willing) & I think of that often for motivation also.
My relationship with God is also a significant motivator for me. This relationship is an incredibly personal one and is one where I derive much of my inspiration and motivation.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
LOL, good one.
Sigh. This is something I’m trying to figure out on a daily basis. Time blocking helps. Let me get back to you on that.

What is your favorite meal?
Breakfast.. for dinner, especially! Chocolate chip pancakes or waffles, please.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I constantly assess myself. It can be easy to go overboard and be way too harsh on yourself. It can also be easy to go way too easy on yourself. The key for me is to consistently ask myself, “Am I operating in excellence?” I had developed perfectionist tendencies throughout school and college. When I got to law school, that wasn’t going to cut it anymore. A wise woman once told me, do not aim for perfection. Aim for excellence. And since then, this is the standard I hold myself to. Perfection is not real. It is not attainable. Excellence is. And the great part is that YOU get to decide what excellence is and hold yourself accountable.

What is something on your bucket list?
To travel to South Africa and study the country’s history of apartheid and how its people ultimately eradicated racist state policies.

Where do you find inspiration?
I am blessed to find inspiration all around me. I find it in my relationship with God first & foremost. I find it in my husband and our relationship, I find it in my family, my parents, my sisters (including friends-turned-sisters), in my clients, I find it in the women of our world and the resilience they possess. I find it in my people; I am a Palestinian-American woman. The Palestinian people are some of the most resilient and determined people in the history of the world.
If I am looking for inspo, I like to read (auto)biographies. I’ve enjoyed biographies since I was very young, now that I think about it. Some of my more recent favorites include those of Trevor Noah, Malala Yousafzai, and anything by Mindy Kaling or Chelsea Handler. I’ve also read the Wikipedia page of nearly every public figure, ha!
A good Ted Talk is always nice, too.

What are your biggest passions?
Hmmm my biggest passions… Inner and world peace, civil rights, criminal justice, and of course, entrepreneurship!

yasmine salem hamdan

Yasmine Salem Hamdan is a Business + Brand Protection lawyer based in Waco, TX

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