Category Archives: Livables

Big Law Associate Skills to Develop

Practicing in Big Law requires a lot of things, but here are 3 key skills that span all practice groups:

  1. Self Advocacy. Know how to clearly state your position. Be able to explain why you did what you did, why you are the best person to staff and why you deserve what you want.
  2. Delegation. Know how and when to effectively delegate tasks. Your time and skill set is valuable. It can be easy to want to do everything yourself. It can be great for hours to do everything yourself. You cannot and should not do everything yourself, that is why big law has the structure it has. Learning how to effectively delegate will help you build the practice you want.
  3. Receiving and Processing Tough Feedback. A senior associate once told me, if I give you constructive criticism it’s because I care about your career- If I didn’t care, I would just let you make mistakes and never get better. It can hurt to get feedback, but learning how to receive and respond with appreciation will get you far in this job. Further, processing that feedback in a constructive manner is also important. Do not ruminate for too long. Learn the lesson, accept the punches and move on.

How My Mentors Found Me

Finding a mentor is like looking for the Perseid meteor shower in the city. It takes time, dedication and a bit of luck to see 1 falling star.

Like a stylish black blazer, mentors have become part of the must haves of the professional world. Mentors provide invaluable advice, connections, advocacy and strength. We are in the thick of on campus recruiting  and the most frequent question I get from candidates is how does your firm assign mentors. I tell them, we have a formal program, but honestly, my mentors found me.

While there are hundreds of articles that talk about how to find a mentor, there are less that talk about how a mentor finds you. I am fortunate to have several mentors but the ones that have impacted my life the most are those who decided they would invest time in me not those who were told to invest time in me. These senior rain makers and influencers recognized the commitment I had to their clients and the firm at large. They recognized that my success would translate to success for others. No discussions were had about this wonderful development. It was not like in the movies where I was ushered into a corner office and told I had become the heir apparent.

It started with receiving more feedback (both positive and negative). It grew to invitations to events and emails suggesting I take certain actions. Eventually it peaked with positive endorsements and them knocking down doors. I acted quickly on every single suggestion given. Most challenging was accepting the criticism. I ruminated for days and a few times was inconsolable. Eventually the haze would clear and I would remind myself something an early mentor told me- If I did not care about your growth, I would never bother to say anything to you. 

This is not to say that all it takes to get a mentor is to do good work and they will find you. I stepped up my game every project I could, actively finding ways to get in front and show everyone what I had to offer. I lost hours of sleep. I spent too many non-billable hours refining my process. I missed a few fun events in the name of professional growth. I did these things not because I was looking to attract a mentor but because I wanted to be great at what I do. I crave the happiness that comes from doing what you love well.

The great mentors are busy people and they will not waste time on someone who isn’t hustling for excellence. Mentors help those who can bring something to their mentors. Mentors help those who can bring something to others, be it the law firm at large, an alma mater or even a specific cause.

Mentors offer opportunities and inspiration. You should absolutely be on the lookout for them. Just remember mentors are on the lookout as well and you can actively take steps for them to find and choose you.


Point One- Links of Note

The weekend proved to require more work than I expected. During these times, I make a conscious effort to ensure time I do have with my family is quality time. Whether that’s a house hockey match with my son, or enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband, it’s all about the quality. I am doing what is best for my family every day, even if I’m not physically there each moment. In my heart I know that is true, but it doesn’t always stop the guilt. Moments like this, I know it’s time to take a Point One break- 0.1 hour or 6 minutes to remember that I am very happy at being a working mom and I am doing right by my family.

Drop the guilt fellow working moms. It will be ok.

Having a working mom is a positive thing.

There was a moment of guilt before eating this duck and bacon pizza. And then the pizza was consumed.

Point One- Links of Note

Although the life of a big law attorney means always being available, weekends can provide a respite. I typically devote Sunday night to two things: Spending some time outdoors and preparing for the week ahead. The former means sunset walks while the latter means sending emails and scheduling commitments. Sometimes all you need is a Point One break- 0.1 hour or 6 minutes off from preparing for the work week to catch up on links of note.

Some career tips for women I haven’t heard put this way

I struggle with how to heed this advice given the job

I can read about the habits of successful people all day


Finding Happy

Practicing law can be intense, especially big law. We are always available to clients and constantly churning work product. It can be exhausting but the key to longevity is to find happiness wherever you can, each and every day, no matter how small.

My happiness of the day was trying out a new coffee shop. I had extra time before attending a Board of Directors meeting for a client so I took the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood and see where I could find some coffee. When I’m near home or work, I always default to my favorite coffee shop but I love any excuse to try new places to eat. Trying out this new to me coffee shop was my way of finding happy. And the extra caffeine to get through a full day of meetings was a bonus.