The new year may have started over a month ago, but we here at Tipping the Scales are still in the mood for some reflection. After all, we’ve come a long way since June 13 – and have managed to miss a few anniversaries in that time. At this point, we’ve interviewed over thirty of the best and brightest minds in the legal profession, with many more to come. It’s been a privilege to hear firsthand the stories behind their accomplishments and how they’ve risen to become leaders in the field.
Of course, with that many different perspectives, we’ve learned a range of very valuable information that covers topics from how to lead tough groups to general practice tips. We’ve noticed that while these leaders come from distinct backgrounds and each brings something new to the table, there are common themes that keep coming up across the board. Tipping the Scales can connect the dots: these threads that tie many of the profiles together may represent some of the most crucial aspects of leadership and characteristics of a great leader.
So for newer readers just joining us, or for those who may have missed some posts along the way, here’s a retrospective of some of the best leadership tips we have heard while we have Tipped the Scales:
A leader is not an island – empowering other members of a team to add their voices to the conversation and making sure everyone is heard and respected is an integral part of being a leader.
A leader should not be afraid to delegate…no one person has to shoulder the entire load! The Boston legal community and BBA are full of extremely talented lawyers, so collaboration and playing to the strengths of others will achieve better results.
There may be “natural” leaders, but with hard work and a clear focus, every person has the potential to reach that level.
Clear communication from the top down and conviction, all while keeping an open mind, can make all the difference when working with others, especially in sensitive situations.
In the digital age, attorneys need to remember that the best way to engage with people is face-to-face.
One key to attaining leadership positions may be as simple as letting others in charge know that you are ready to take on that responsibility, and making it clear that you are engaged in the work at hand.
Finding a mentor early on, and later paying it forward by acting as a mentor to someone else, can offer a dynamic boost and provide support in the face of discouragement.
Participating in public service, whether it’s being the board member of a community organization or doing pro bono work, is an excellent way to take on even more leadership responsibility. The people you meet through this can help diversify your network, and the more people who recognize you as a leader outside the profession, the more credible you become.
Above all, love what you do; otherwise, there’s no point in doing it.
We have learned this – and so much more – over the last half a year; here’s to many more entertaining anecdotes, pieces of wisdom, and best ways for you to tip the scales in the future.
Kurt Somerville is the managing partner of Hemenway & Barnes LLP. He advises families and individuals in the areas of wealth management, estate, financial, and tax planning, and probate matters. As a lawyer and trustee, Kurt advises high net worth clients on a variety of issues and concerns related to preserving, enhancing, and transferring family wealth. He is a former Olympic rower and Founder and Trustee of Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI), the country’s largest public access rowing program.
1. In general, what is something that is key to a successful leadership style or approach that many people are often missing? How did you learn it?
I think a lot of people envision leaders as rugged individualists – when people think of a successful leader, you think of a Winston Churchill or Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill – these larger than life figures. But having a light touch and empowering others to contribute to a common goal is sometimes overlooked. I don’t think leadership is about ego or personal glorification. For me, it’s been leading by example and having some measure of success in the field so you have the confidence to step up and do what you think is right – but it’s also always been a collaborative process. Certainly in rowing, and for almost any shared endeavor, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If you can get that boat so everyone is pulling at the same time and in the same way, the boat is going to sing and it’s going to feel effortless. If you can do that in an organization, hopefully the same thing is going to happen. Using the individualistic approach has the potential to burn too many bridges along the way.
2. Can you tell us a little more about your background in rowing? What did it teach you about leadership?
I started rowing in 9th grade at the Noble & Greenough School. My brother rowed, so I thought to myself, “I’ll try this,” and I never looked back. I rowed for four years in high school, was the captain of my high school team, and continued when I went to Dartmouth for undergrad.
I really knew I had potential probably after freshman year of college when I went to the Olympic trials. I was the youngest guy in my boat; we came in third, but it was still a very respectable showing. After my sophomore year I tried out for the national team and made the eight, which was the priority boat, and was a very big deal for a sophomore. The following year, I was named captain of my Dartmouth team.
The point is, in any leadership role, the best thing you can do is set an example. For me, my attitude was (and still is): even if you do have some innate talent, if you work harder and you put in the time, you get some measure of success. In that way, rowing is a very pure equation. If you’re additionally a good person, thoughtful, and kind, you’ll make a great leader.
I think the fact that I made those teams and rose to that level gave me the confidence to try other things. My coaches helped me to grow as a person and a leader as well. My Olympic coach was Harry Parker, arguably the most successful rowing coach in the U.S., and his style was also quiet and to lead by example…he managed to just get the best out of his oarsmen. I can still hear his words from the launch: as you’re getting to the end of practice and your muscles are telling you, ‘stop, stop!’ – and he knows that’s happening – he would say, “Be stubborn.” I will never forget those words. If I’m grinding it out in my profession, where you do put in long hours and work hard, having that perseverance to push through is important.
3. What did you learn from your predecessor Steve Kidder, the previous managing partner of H&B? What initiatives or approach are you hoping to bring to the position?
Steve Kidder was managing partner of Hemenway & Barnes for the last eight years, and he was excellent at it. He’s very good at getting out of his office and feeling the pulse of his colleagues and employees. They don’t call it “managing” partner for nothing — Steve was good at delegating to capable people, being the face of the firm, meeting with clients, and getting new business; that’s something I want to emulate.
My style is going to be focused on team-building: hopefully my legacy will be making people feel that they’re part of the team. People work better when they know what their role is and know that they are contributing to the whole. I remember when I started as an associate here, some associates at other firms said to me, “your group meets at a weekly meeting, you feel like you’re on a team, and we don’t have that camaraderie.” That was over 20 years ago but I remember that. I don’t think people should feel that way at work.
Overall, the firm is in great shape and steaming ahead in the right direction. We’ve done a wonderful job in the past few years creating the Hemenway Trust Company, and that has enhanced our fiduciary services significantly. We are still in process of integrating that with the law firm, and realizing all of the potential of that organization – it’s very entrepreneurial for we conservative lawyers — so it’s been fun and has helped raise the game of our fiduciary practice. A goal is to continue to increase assets under management and while we do that, never, ever lose sight of why clients entrust us with those assets in the first place: a very high level of professional service. We also have very important partners nearing retirement, and in this practice, more years of experience translates to more wisdom. Planning for those departures is critical.
4. Can you give a brief background about the Jane’s Trust and your trustee duties? Is there anything fundamentally different about this role that has affected your approach to leadership?
Jane’s Trust is a large charitable trust established by Jane Cook, who named partners at Hemenway & Barnes as trustees along with her daughters. As with our other trust clients, our charge is to fulfill the purposes of the trust, which is largely focused on charitable grants to organizations that improve the environment and the health, education, and welfare of people primarily in northern New England. Our role is trust administration –investing the assets and making sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s – and we meet regularly with the family and family trustees to determine the appropriate grantees of these distributions.
I think leadership in this context is about figuring out your audience and your role. These clients are very intelligent, very active and involved in their communities, and very vocal. We’re there to listen to the client, make sure they get the help they need from our in-house experts to make decisions, and if they need a suggestion or a nudge in a certain direction, we can do that too. We’re helping them realize and put into action what Jane Cook set up, and have them feel that the dollars put into this trust are being put to the most effective use possible. This is an example of that light touch, because you don’t need that inspirational guy charging up a hill – it needs someone who knows what they’re doing and won’t overshadow the family. This is not for our personal enhancement – it’s all about getting the family’s goals accomplished.
Rachel Hershfang is a trial attorney in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Boston Regional Office, where she has worked since the spring of 2008. Her practice to date has included insider trading, accounting fraud, prime bank schemes, offering fraud, cherry‐picking, and market manipulation. Rachel began her career in 1995 as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay for the District of Massachusetts. An alum of Ropes & Gray, she spent 7 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, where she worked in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. At the BBA, Rachel serves as Chair of the Boston Bar Journal Board of Editors and is a member of the Criminal Law Section.
As Chair of the BBJ, what have you found the most rewarding so far? What do you feel you carry away from the experience?
I am consistently impressed with the breadth and diversity of experience in our bar, as exemplified by the members of the BBJ’s Board of Editors and by the variety of articles we publish. It’s incredibly humbling (and exciting) to be regularly surrounded by such smart, engaged, and well-read lawyers and judges. The intellectual give-and-take of both editorial board meetings and email exchanges has pushed me to think about areas of the law that are outside my usual ambit, an experience one doesn’t get often enough after law school. In a typical meeting, we might hear from Land Court judges and practitioners on the hot-button issues in their fields; from intellectual property and cybersecurity experts about the new skirmishes in the data world; from corporate lawyers on the newest form of deal-related litigation; and from criminal law practitioners about the ever-changing law on electronic surveillance, juvenile justice, and other state and federal issues. I learn more in a one-hour meeting than I would by reading the newspaper, cover to cover, every day. Which is lucky, because who can manage that regularly?
As a specific example, although I was in a bit of a sleep-deprived fog because I’d recently had a baby, I was very proud to be involved with our publication this fall of the Goodridge anniversary issue. It provided an opportunity to reflect on the incredible, nationwide changes to our law and practices toward same-sex couples in the course of only ten years. What a long, great trip it’s been!
As for what I can carry away – I hope it’s too early to tell! I’ve got more than half of my tenure ahead of me, and am very much looking forward to continuing to work with the Board of Editors and our authors. And now a shameless pitch – do you have a great idea for an article? Please pass it along!
You served as a clerk to Judge Reginald Lindsay in the MA District Court at the start of your career. How do you feel that influenced where you’ve ended up? Do you have any stories or specific memories of the judge serving as a mentor or helping you figure out where you wanted to go in the profession?
Clerking for Judge Lindsay was such a pleasure. He referred to his former clerks as his “children in the law,” and it felt like family in his chambers. I particularly cherished how seriously he took our ideas, and the care and attention he devoted to thinking through legal issues with his clerks. Memos didn’t just vanish into his lobby; he would meet with us, noodle through the issues, and then (with his Southern charm) politely disagree, or not. He loved being a judge, and it showed in his good humor on the bench. I remember one case when I was clerking, a long civil case that was tried over three months during the snowiest winter ever. All the counsel were from California (including one who seemed to believe that cowboy boots were suitable for snow-boot service), and he never tired of teasing them about the weather.
Judge Lindsay didn’t do anything (that I recall) to steer my career in any particular direction, but, like a good parent, he was always willing to listen and talk, and offered advice along the way. His support and evident pride were so important during the early years of my career. I still remember (with no little embarrassment – like a parent, he also had that ability) his incredibly sweet, personal speech when he swore me in as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. There I was, brand new to the office, in front of many of my colleagues, and a federal judge was talking about seeing me running around in diapers. (That was when I was a child, just to be clear, and not when I was clerking.) Lunches with him were long and entertaining, full of his hilarious reminiscences about his college days and his not-so-hilarious stories of growing up in the segregated south. He was generous with his time, thoughtful in his responses, and dedicated to trying to achieve justice for the litigants before him. It was inspiring to see.
What advice do you have for younger attorneys looking to the S.E.C. as a desired career option?
First, I would congratulate them on their good judgment. The S.E.C. is a marvelous place to work, offering that elusive blend of challenging, varied, stimulating legal work, government service, and a humane work environment.
Second, I would say there is no single path to the S.E.C. Because the legal roles in our office vary, there are different types of experience that may be relevant. We have a small group of trial attorneys, comprised of relatively experienced practitioners with experience in civil litigation, trial practice, or both. If that is what a younger attorney wants to do, there is no substitute for courtroom time. Whatever you can do to get in front of a jury – work for a DA’s office, join a litigation boutique, volunteer through your law firm for a pro bono opportunity that involves trials – will help your case.
But don’t neglect your civil discovery and litigation background! The largest group of lawyers in our office are staff attorneys, who are our front-line investigators. General civil (or criminal) litigation background is a good training ground for that job, since it involves legal writing and reasoning. If you have specialized knowledge about securities regulation or compliance, so much the better. The securities laws are complex and many, so lawyers who come into the office with a firm grounding in securities practice have a leg up. Some lawyers also work on our examination side, going out to check compliance at the many entities the S.E.C. is responsible for regulating. Not all of our examiners are lawyers, but it makes for a double threat when they are. Most of all, I would encourage people to apply whenever they see a job that may appeal to them. It often takes more than one try to get a position at the S.E.C., and it’s worth the effort.
Jeffrey Pyle is a partner at Prince Lobel Tye LLP, where he focuses on commercial, First Amendment, and media litigation matters. He has represented media organizations and individuals in a range of matters involving constitutional rights, including defamation cases, disputes over subpoenas to the press, and proceedings for access to sealed court documents. Jeff also serves on the firm’s pro bono committee. At the BBA, Jeff is a member of the Council. He previously served as Chair of the Amicus Committee, Co-Chair of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Section, and on several ad-hoc committees and working groups. Jeff is the Treasurer of the Petra Foundation and serves on the Boards of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, Inc.
You have been on the Amicus Committee since 2007, and I’m sure have seen it change over time. From this perspective, what do you think is the most effective team dynamic? As Chair, how did you work to achieve that?
The Amicus Committee has worked consistently well in a consensus fashion ever since I joined it. We typically discuss amicus proposals over the phone and come to positions, arguments, and decisions in a collegial way that exemplifies what is great about the BBA. The best courses of action we have taken have been those in which the entire leadership of the BBA has become involved. The great strength of our approach is that we solicit and receive viewpoints from all the relevant Sections of our members when making a decision about whether to weigh in on an issue before the courts, and if so, what to say. The BBA doesn’t take positions in cases solely for the purpose “weighing in” alone – it does so when it believes that it can offer something different from what the parties are already arguing, and where it can offer something that reflects the views of the organization in an appropriate and constructive way. It has been quite impressive and humbling to see the kind of effect our briefs can have in important cases, and the work the Amicus Committee does on these briefs makes me very proud.
The key thing to achieve this team dynamic is to allow the conversation to go where it leads. I often find that when a conversation begins on a particular subject, I have an idea where I think it’ll end up, and we often end up in a very different place from where I thought we’d be. That is because we have smart people on the Amicus Committee with a great deal of varied experiences, and they are all people capable of expressing their views in a way that keeps us moving forward toward a position, in a way that is efficient but also thoughtful and thorough. The other great dynamic is that people step up to volunteer to lead the efforts of different briefs – no one person is ever doing the lion’s share of the work. Everyone contributes and everyone is really capable at editing the drafts, seeing trouble spots, and appreciating how judges might react. What keeps the committee running as a well-oiled machine is the talent and dedication of the members of the committee.
What drew you to media law and encouraged you to hone your expertise in it? What tips would you give to anybody looking to do similarly?
My love of media law derives from my love of constitutional law more generally. From a young age I was interested in civil liberties and civil rights issues, and became involved in the ACLU while still in high school. When I joined Hill & Barlow, my first law firm, I discovered that there was this subset of law practice called media law that deals with constitutional questions on a routine basis. Obviously, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press governs the law of defamation and the prohibition on prior restraints, but there are also First Amendment interests held by the public that we defend. The First Amendment right of the public to know what its government is doing is the basis of the rule that that court proceedings must be open to the public, except in rare cases where impoundment or closure is necessary to protect higher interest. Representing the media in access cases has been one of my specialties. At the end of an access case you don’t get a settlement agreement, you have a newspaper article that informs the public. That’s pretty fun.
The media practice has also led me to pro bono work on SLAPP suits – law suits intended to intimidate people from petitioning the government – and helping individuals who have been sued in SLAPP suits has been very fulfilling. I am a member of the pro bono committee at Prince Lobel, and I’m proud of the other pro bono work our firm has been doing. Last year, for example, we represented a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, and helping her recover her life after losing a leg was a really important part of the firm’s year.
The advice I often give people considering law school or in law school is: the happiest lawyers I know are those who went to law school with a sense of purpose – they had an idea of the kinds of work they wanted to do. That purpose may change over time, but those lawyers who come out saying that they want to be experts in a particular field are those who will be seen as having direction and be sought out for work they’re enthusiastic about. Within a law firm culture, I think it’s helpful to make your interests widely known so that partners in a firm will give you a shot at working on cases that interest you if they come up. Publish blog posts about your areas of interest, and come to be seen as someone who knows a thing or two about your chosen subject area; that will help you distinguish yourself and develop into a lawyer with a specialty. In today’s world, every lawyer needs a specialty, even if it only takes up thirty percent of his or her practice.
You are involved with the ACLU and other organizations that embrace or encourage social activism. Why do you think these types of involvements – that is to say, outside the billable hour – are important to leadership?
I have found that becoming involved in small organizations that need help is one of the best ways to develop leadership skills. It can be easy to get lost in a large organization, but if you join a committee or board and take on responsibility, then you’re able to be seen as someone who can lead on larger issues. Every lawyer ought to be involved in some organization that serves the public interest. A law degree is seen by the outside world as a credential of competence (until you demonstrate otherwise!), and I think having legal experience and training can allow one to contribute positively the governance of public interest groups. But the best reason to get involved is that you meet interesting people, and often have a lot of fun.
I understand feeling like you don’t have time for “extracurricular activities.” I have a law practice and a family, and I know what it feels like to think that you don’t have time to do everything, or at least not do everything well. But I don’t view public service as something “extra” that I can opt out of. When I look back on my year, at the end of the year, and consider what it was I did that was meaningful, it is often things I did outside the billable hour that I reflect on the most.
Samantha J. Morton is Executive Director of Medical Legal Partnership | Boston (MLP | Boston), the founding site of the national MLP network. She previously served as Deputy Director and Staff Attorney at Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, the precursor organization to MLP | Boston that housed both national and local programs and focused on pediatric populations. Samantha is a national expert on how legal strategies can be deployed to address social determinants of health, and how the healthcare community and legal community can better align to leverage these strategies in service of patients’ health and well-being. At the BBA, she is a Co-Chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section and a member of the Health Law Section; she was also a member of the second ever Public Interest Leadership Program Class.
1. What experiences in your early career most encouraged you to seek further leadership opportunities? For example, how did PILP help to shape your approach towards seeking leadership?
I was very lucky to be a member of the second PILP class in 2004-05. Our class didn’t have a signature project — PILP as a program was still very early in development — but we did work to launch a non-profit governance training that the BBA went on to institutionalize.
The PILP experience reinforced for me that effective leadership can take many different forms and scales — from steering an initiative from A to Z, to modeling public interest values through dedicating scarce time and effort to pro bono/public service, to posing questions or ideas that are “outside the box” during meetings, or going out of one’s way to spotlight a quieter but important voice in a deliberative setting. The PILP seminars with legal community leaders from a range of sectors were also really inspiring and helped me feel more comfortable with networking. I realized that even an exceptionally busy leader conducting high-stakes work may be enthusiastic to provide mentoring in many helpful ways. But it’s on the young lawyer to seek out those opportunities! Ultimately, I learned that leadership isn’t about a job title or committee chairmanship or even assumption of a major responsibility — a range of leadership opportunities are available to us every day, in almost every setting, and we just have to seize them.
2. Part of leadership is creative thinking. What is your process of innovation and planning unique programs within the DLS section?
I’m thrilled to be in my second year of co-chairing the Delivery of Legal Services Section, first with Roz Nasdor of Ropes & Gray and now with Tammie Garner of Nutter McClennen & Fish. The Steering Committee’s passion for advancing access to justice has made program planning pretty easy — they are full of great ideas and will dedicate some of their leadership energy to getting individual programs off the ground.
I think that inviting all ideas is essential — but in order to harness that energy, a group needs a structure. We’ve worked hard to create more structure within DLS so that this talented team’s ideas can successfully convert into action, and they definitely have. This year, we’ve introduced some new Committees focused on Public Policy – many high-stakes topics have been under consideration, such as juvenile life without parole sentences – and Human Trafficking, building on a successful event hosted by PILP last June on this sobering human rights issue. Thanks to these strategies, membership in the Section and Steering Committee continues to grow and diversify. Our Membership reflects that every corner of the legal profession has a critical stake in ensuring access to justice for all.
3. As the Executive Director of MLP Boston, how do you help to create the bridge between the medical and the legal entities? What kind of collaborative work is necessary?
A significant volume of legal problems confronting low-income people — like a landlord’s failure to remedy poor housing conditions despite a legal obligation to do so — have negative health consequences. If the legal community wants to partner with the healthcare community to tackle these social determinants of health through legal remedies, we must get to know our healthcare collaborators and the perspectives they bring to these issues well. As lawyers we are trained to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, and we often are very good at that. It can be less intuitive to “think like a doctor” or like a hospital administrator when attempting to craft a medical-legal partnership strategy.
As Executive Director, I spend a lot of my time talking with and learning from healthcare- and public health-based colleagues about “social determinants of health,” and how the evolving health reform landscape will increase attention to them. I also work with many legal collaborators, both in the legal services and pro bono contexts, to help ensure that communication between the access to justice community and the healthcare community is as successful as possible. We come from different professional cultures, bring different (though often aligned) professional values, and use quite different language. This part of my job is especially rewarding. One way I keep a foot in both worlds at the BBA is to sit on the Health Law Section Steering Committee in addition to the DLS role.
While we must invest in substantial partnership-building time and effort for an MLP project to succeed, the rewards for the shared patient-client population are substantial. In the bigger picture, these successful partnerships and projects help to establish that access to justice not only advances a value central to the legal profession — justice — but also other values central to our society, such as health and well-being.
Traci Lovitt is the Partner-in-Charge of Jones Day’s Boston office. She has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and authored briefs raising significant issues for every level of the federal and state judiciaries. Traci is regularly involved in high-profile matters, including for IBM, Yamaha and Exxon-Mobil. She was a member of the brief writing team that successfully represented Sherwin-Williams in the landmark public nuisance action before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. She also served as primary brief writer in The Sherwin-Williams Company v. Holmes County, a novel and successful declaratory action against Mississippi counties.
1. If you were to pinpoint the single most crucial leadership skill that has helped you as the Partner in Charge of Jones Day Boston, what would it be? Why?
It has been the combination of a few things: conviction, clear direction, and communication. Because Jones Day was entering the Boston legal market for the first time, I needed to have a clear vision of what we were trying to accomplish and hold fast to it. I also had to articulate that vision and purpose to existing clients, potential clients, and to potential lateral partners and associates so the community could understand why Jones Day was opening in Boston and how we are different.
In the case of opening the Boston office, formulating that kind of vision took work! Before the Firm decided to open, I studied in depth the Boston legal market and business community, interviewed 20-30 local general counsels, spoke with the practice and other office leadership within Jones Day, and even met with potential laterals. I came at the issue like client work, like a legal problem, and took a very thorough, analytical approach to it. The work made it incredibly clear that Jones Day should be in Boston. It became fairly obvious that the Firm’s unique practice offerings, international coverage, and talent could benefit Boston, and that Boston had a lot of talented lawyers and fantastic businesses that could partner well with Jones Day. Understanding how and why we should open was a very hands-on process for me. Delegation is an important skill and something a leader must do, but sometimes good leadership requires getting into the trenches. Coming to a clear vision is something no one should delegate.
2. You have worked on brief writing teams, including as the primary writer, in several high-profile cases; how do you manage these teams to produce the best results?
First you have to know your people – you really have to know your partners and associates and where their skills lie, particularly on high-profile matters. If the work involves a novel preemption question, my job as the briefing team leader is to staff the team with those individuals who have a strong preemption background, as well as forward-looking thinkers and great writers. Second, you must constantly think about the client and the client’s interests. Nine times out of ten, a client has me working on a matter because it wants to ensure the best arguments are developed and preserved, with an eye towards the Supreme Court. You have to think about legal strategy far in advance, “What are we going to do at the Supreme Court if this case has to go that far?”
On this point, Jones Day prides itself on having offices without borders. Even as the office leader, I don’t work exclusively with people in the Boston office. We staff projects with the best people for the job regardless of location, which can mean looking at the international roster. We’re not limited by location but by skill sets, matching the best skills to the project. Again, you really have to know your people! If you don’t know your partners and talk amongst yourselves, then you can’t manage projects well. Part of the expectation of the Firm is that each partner understands our own strengths and weaknesses as a Firm.
3. How do you help preserve Jones Day’s firm culture within the Boston office?
We have an extremely strong firm culture that is very value laden. To distill it to 2 points: we always work for the best interest of the client, and the partners truly act like members of a partnership – we treat each other and our associates with respect, and are always all looking out for the client. It is important for the Firm to maintain that culture not only in Boston, but in any new office. We purposefully opened the Boston office with partners who transferred from other offices. This was both for business reasons — the partners had good client relationships here or skills that were suitable to the market — and to have some “culture police” — people who brought with them the values of Jones Day, and who could help integrate new laterals and steep them in those values. It was a very conscious decision on the part of the Firm. 4. What can young lawyers getting started do at the beginning of their careers – i.e., what actions can they take or opportunities can they explore, etc. – that will pay off later down the line as they aim for leadership opportunities?
There’s an old quote from Charlie Munger to the effect of “the best way to get new business is to do great work on your current business.” This applies not only to client work, but to firm and administrative work: if you want to have more of a leadership role, or more of a managerial role, treat every single task you get that falls into those buckets like your most important client work. Early in my career, I was asked to critique the Firm’s website, and I treated the task like client work. I produced a paper on how to improve the design and search functions, and was subsequently asked to be on a committee to redesign the website, which was another task that I took incredibly seriously. A lot of times, lawyers view those kinds of administrative assignments as fluff work, and they don’t give it their all. But if you take the work seriously, you will be asked to do more of it. I would give this advice in every facet of law firm life – do your best on everything that comes across your desk.
For young attorneys who might be having trouble securing a job in private practice, I think government service is a great alternative. I would encourage 3Ls who are looking for a law firm job but cannot find one to look at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, the DA’s Office — all have really great positions that can get you on your feet with trial experience or appellate argument experience. Those are fantastic jobs. They can help segue lawyers back into private practice, too. Of course, some people start in government and love it so much they stay there. Also, getting a second degree is not a bad thing, like an L.L.M. in banking law or an accounting degree, to help distinguish yourself in the market. Increasingly, the legal services industry is becoming more specialized, because clients are more willing to pay for honed, specific skill sets.
5. Is there anything else about leadership that you would want to include?
This is a life lesson more than anything…it’s very important to always treat everyone with whom you’re working — whether it’s someone who is across the table, on the same side of the table, or waiting on the table — with respect and in exactly the way you want to be treated. It’s important not only to leadership, but to being a good person. If you want to set a good tone in the office, treating everyone up and down the line professionally, fairly, and with respect is very important.
Paul Cushing is the head of the Litigation and Compliance Section in the Office of General Counsel at Partners HealthCare. He is also the Secretary and coordinates legal services for Partners Continuing care, which includes the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners HealthCare at Home. Paul is a member of the BBA’s Executive Committee and Council. He has served as Co-Chair of the BBA Ethics Committee and the Annual Meeting Steering Committee, and he has served as a member of various other committees. He is also a member of the BBF Society of Fellows and its recruiting committee. Paul is on the board and is a past president of the Northeast Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and is a founder and past chair of the chapter’s Ethics Committee and its Diversity Committee. He is a frequent panelist for in-house counsel events and has taught as an adjunct professor at New England Law | Boston.
1. You’re a longtime member of the BBA’s Ethics Committee and have served multiple stints as Co-Chair; why has this been something you return to, and how has it helped to shape you as a leader?
The Ethics Committee is an important committee in my mind because it serves as the Association’s sounding board for ethical issues. It provides an opportunity to stay abreast of developing issues in ethics and offer ethical guidance to the Association with respect to its various initiatives. For example, the committee recently provided guidance around some modifications to the Lawyer Referral Service and also contributed hypothetical questions and answers to be used in the CLE training to be offered to new lawyers. Currently, the committee is reviewing proposed changes to the Model Rules. Occasionally the committee also can serve as a resource to members of the bar who might be encountering a thorny ethical issue in practice.
I like being a part of a committee that helps to promote the ethical practice of law. The rules of professional conduct are the soul of our profession and ensure that we deal with clients, the courts, and adversaries with honesty and integrity. The rule of law depends on the trust that the public places in us as lawyers, and the professional rules facilitate that trust. The work of the committee helps to keep me grounded in these issues. Ethics isn’t something that you learn once and put aside – it is essential to daily practice, both in private practice and in-house practice.
Leading the Ethics Committee reinforced for me the importance of process. Issues that come before the committee can be challenging and at times controversial. Providing all voices an opportunity to be heard, and making sure that the substance of people’s input is vetted properly and respectfully is essential to achieving durable outcomes that are well supported. I have discovered that the BBA has very good procedures in place to enable thorough process and is very consistent in the way that it deals with challenging issues in the context of carrying out its mission. Each committee has a charter that guides its decision making.
I also learned the importance of fairly distributing the work of the committee. Because much of the work of the Association is done on a volunteer basis by busy professionals, committee chairs need to find ways to spread the work appropriately to achieve good results. I think we’re pretty good at that on the Ethics Committee. I have found that those who volunteer their time are incredibly dedicated and engaged with the work of the Association, so everyone seems to recognize the need to pitch in.
2. What have you found most surprising as head of Litigation & Compliance within the legal department of a Healthcare organization that might not be expected?
I wear two distinct hats in the organization – and they compete for my attention on a daily basis! The first is as head of the Litigation & Compliance Section within the legal department. We have a very substantial compliance infrastructure throughout Partners, and our section provides legal support to those teams in connection with all manner of compliance issues, from billing and reimbursement, export control and other day to day compliance issues, to advising around internal and external audits and investigations regarding various aspects of our operations. The second hat is as Secretary and Client Coordinator of the PCC or Spaulding and home care entities. These are very different responsibilities that expose me to very different types of work. The variety, complexity and volume of issues are challenging in both of those roles, as you’d expect. What I have found pleasantly surprising, however, is the incredible thoughtfulness and responsiveness of our client base. They invariably take a keen interest in the legal process and have a respect for lawyers. They give generously of their time and knowledge to help solve the problem at hand. I attribute this to the basic nature of our clientele. They are problem-solvers dedicated to the mission of our institutions. If you give them a task, they do it and do it well, and they typically do it quickly.
What I like about the litigation and compliance role is that it presents opportunities to help clients manage and reduce risk. These issues can be distracting and we work had to minimize the disruption to people’s mission critical work. I also like the variety of issues and clients in that role, which takes you to different institutions and departments throughout the system. By contrast, the Secretary and Client Coordinator role aligns me with a business and affords me the opportunity to advise senior management and the board in more of a general counsel capacity. It involves general issue spotting and sometimes jumping in and doing things you haven’t done before. You have to be flexible, able to think on your feet, and creative.
3. What benefits has sitting on a wide variety of BBA Committees provided? What have you learned?
I would say that through involvement with BBF activities like the Society of Fellows and the Adams Benefit Committee, as well as the Annual Meeting Luncheon Committee, the Executive Committee, and Council, I have a greater understanding of how the pieces fit together and a greater appreciation for the mission of the BBA and the BBF combined. As a member, I don’t think I was as tuned in to all the Association and Foundation do in service of the profession and in service of the community. I also have a greater appreciation for the depth of talented and dedicated lawyers involved in the work of the Association and Foundation, as well as the terrific staff , all working together to carry out the mission. The Association has an influential voice in the community and uses it to have a positive impact on access to justice and diversity issues, jobs for youth, legal services, and important legislation. The Association truly does a lot, but in a focused way and with an eye on consistency.
4. How would you describe your time as a leader in the classroom to new generations of lawyers – i.e., as an adjunct professor at New England Law | Boston?
I enjoyed teaching immensely and plan to go back to it when time allows. Preparing the syllabus and organizing the course material was a challenge and very satisfying once it took shape. Then being in the classroom and engaging with young budding lawyers and teaching them with the benefit of my own experiences and war stories was really fun. I found teaching negotiation skills particularly satisfying because I saw opportunities to help shape the students’ perspectives on the profession and our role as lawyers. This included promoting civility in the negotiation context as well as generally. I also was impressed with New England School of Law, which has an accomplished faculty and administration, and the students are engaging.
5. Anything else you want to share about leadership?
To be an effective leader, you have to be a good listener first. You have to consider the views of others and then be prepared to make sometimes difficult decisions in a way that is respectful and confident. Process is so important. When you make a decision, people will better understand it and be more willing to support it if they have had input, even if they might disagree with the ultimate decision. The people you are leading need to feel respected and they need to feel led.
Glenn Mangurian is the Chairman of the Court Management Advisory Board. He is a non-lawyer and a respected leader with a 35-year track record in industry and management consulting. He has worked with Global 500 business executives in North America and Europe on managing large scale change and performance improvement. In 2001, Mangurian suffered an injury to his spinal cord which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He continues to be active in consulting, speaking and coaching to business leaders. Mangurian also teaches leadership at the University of Massachusetts.
1. You have people from many different backgrounds and perspectives working together on the Court Management Advisory Board. What benefits does that provide?
The Board is a group of very accomplished peers. I come from a consulting background where a core principle was to incorporate a diversity of backgrounds and thinking styles. In this environment there was a lot of innovative energy applied to creating value by solving intractable problems, and you might encounter what seemed like conflict but was really more like aggressive “thought partnering.” If everybody is more similar than different, then it’s easy to come to consensus without a full exploration of non-obvious options.
I respect this advisory board because each member brings a diverse set of backgrounds and commitment to the judicial system. There are not only lawyers and non-lawyers, but people in different career stages and legal practices, as well as generational differences. Mutual respect is the foundation of any team. While we may not always agree, respect and dedication to justice are cornerstones of our interactions. There’s a presumption that the Board members believe that their advice will help improve the management of the courts and it is a worthy sacrifice of their time.
As we start to hone in on sites of action where we would work with courts, I’m always looking to see how that maps against the interests and passions of the members. My professional style is to constantly ask, “How can we tap into passion related to justice that exists inside each board member?” Everyone wants to make a difference.
Similarly, the courts are full of very dedicated and talent people who resonate with the courts mission. I think there is an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of the courts’ workforce. If you can marry daily responsibilities with a sense of fulfillment, then the work doesn’t seem so much like work. The judicial system has the benefit of being a mission-driven organization, moreover with a noble mission to deliver justice. While we’ve got an imperfect system (which will always be imperfect), that mission has transcended hundreds of years of judicial practice and allowed us to live in a civilized society.
Each of the judges I have come in contact with is a dedicated person who could be doing better financially in private law, but at the end of the day, they believe in what they do; the same goes for the rest of the court staff I’ve met. Part of what I’m saying is that during these difficult economic times there’s an opportunity and need for self-motivation based on shared values.
2. From your perspective, how can you see leadership in Boston’s legal community continuing to develop? What is needed?
I am a business guy and not inside the legal community. I know that lawyers, like doctors, have to be smart. But there are different types of ‘smart.’ For the past 20 years, leaders have recognized that success requires different forms of “emotional intelligence.” For some, these forms of intelligence come naturally; but for others they are elusive.
Law school is about creating depth of legal knowledge. The practice of law is very specialized in advancing narrow and deep competencies. I suspect there are some superb legal scholars who are not as adept at communicating with or managing people. National law practice heads and managing partners need more than legal excellence to succeed – they need leadership. Lawyers and judges aren’t explicitly trained in leadership, though some may have developed leadership skills along the way. In business, leadership is developed on the job – first as an apprentice manager and then through exposure to a broad set of issues, cultures and functional experiences. So essentially, it’s about balance.
I teach a master’s level course on leadership called “Discover the Leader Within.” What I try to do is encourage people to look inside themselves and recognize instances where they have acted as leaders. My premise is that we all have leadership skills, they just may be dormant. Sometimes we’re using them without even knowing.
Finally, developing leadership individually is about asking yourself broadly: “Where do I excel, and how relevant is that to the task at hand? Where do I not naturally gravitate?” Then you can look at a specific task and ask: “What does it need? What do I bring; what’s missing, or not there sufficiently, and where can I get it?” The solo hero as a leader is a fixture of the past (if it ever existed). No leader knows it all or has all the skills. Rather, leadership is about mobilizing others toward a common goal using the unique strengths and interests of team members. This may not be taught in law school but it is the reality of today.
3. What is the greatest challenge facing the Court Management Advisory Board, and how do you overcome it?
The Board has to be relevant; otherwise it wastes time. One of the first tools to navigate to relevance is the recently completed strategic plan. The plan provides points to domains for action. The court metrics represent a second tool. How do individual courts perform and how do they perform in aggregate? For the Board the metrics are less of an evaluation instrument and more of a pointer for learning by asking “why”. There is danger in dealing with averages. Rather, we want to understand why there is so much variation around the averages. The third tool is listening to the court leaders and workforce on the ground delivering justice every day. We are not dealing with an abstraction called the courts. Every day over 40,000 people visit the courts – different people with different issues trusting that justice will be delivered. It is an enormous responsibility. We need to work to improve the experience of everyone that visits the court and maintain public trust.
Right now there is a unique opportunity to take a leap forward in building the 21st century judicial system. In addition to the strategic plan three important changes are occurring concurrently: two new trial court leaders – court administrator Harry Spence and new Chief Justice Paula Carey, five new departmental leaders and six new members of the Advisory Board. This is an opportunity that can’t be missed. Building on this, the challenge that any leader has is not necessarily deciding what to do, but what not to do. Focus is an essential part of leadership and execution. If you take on too much, you run the risk of not getting anything done. Organizations and the people embedded in them want to know priorities. The challenge is finding a focus that is relevant and sticking with it long enough to have an impact.
Funding has been a significant challenge in the past four or five years. The courts have shouldered more than its share of budget reductions. We live in a time where, for the foreseeable future, budgets will continued to be constrained with modest increases at best. You want to get your fair share, but you have to recognize you’ll never get as much as you like. The Board and others advocate for the value that the courts play in society. But the reality is that doing more won’t necessarily come with more money. Continuous improvement must become a shared value. I am confident that there are many pockets of innovation around the state improving local operations. A challenge is to encourage more of that and share the experiences more broadly. I am very optimistic that the court leadership with advice from the Board is up for that challenge.
4. What advice would you give to a leader of any group of lawyers about encouraging performance improvements among his or her team?
You should start with figuring out how to build an ethic of continuous improvement – you cannot rest on laurels. Whether it is competition or society, change is ongoing and often unpredictable. We used to be able to anticipate the future by extrapolating the past. Today, change is more discontinuous and disruptive. Strategy is not deciding what to do but rather what not to do. Focus and execution are paramount. Law firms like other sectors of our economy need to be keenly aware of what is going on around them and try to make sense of it.
Associations like the Boston Bar can play an important role in bringing the issues of tomorrow to the forefront today. For example, firm leaders must figure out what to do with professionals who aren’t growing and staying abreast of the knowledge curve. More importantly, firm leaders need to be investing in and developing the next generation of leaders now. None of this is easy but, that’s why leaders get paid the “big bucks”. Who will be the winners and losers? Well, the “jury is still out” – but if you don’t know the game is changing, you are more likely to be a spectator than a player. Playing to not lose is a losing proposition. If you have gotten this far in this blog, you are at least interested and likely a player in the future. Good luck.
Mark Fleming is a partner in Wilmer Hale’s Litigation/Controversy Department, and a member of the Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice Group. His practice focuses on appellate litigation and other complex litigation matters. Mark has argued cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, the US Courts of Appeals for the First, Third, Eighth, Ninth, District of Columbia, and Federal Circuits and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court. Mark’s prior experience includes clerkships with the Honorable David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Honorable Michael Boudin of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and the Honorable John C. Major of the Supreme Court of Canada. Mark also served as an associate legal officer in the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. A member of the BBA’s Amicus Committee since 2007, he became Chair starting in 2013. He also served as Co-Chair of the International Law Section from 2007-2009.
1.You will soon be arguing your third case before the Supreme Court, which very few attorneys have the opportunity to do. Can you explain a little bit about the case, and how you have mentally prepared for it? What have you learned with each new appearance in front of the Court?
It’s an immigration case involving the family-based visa system. Imagine that your brother is a U.S. citizen and you’re a foreign citizen – your brother can petition for you to come into the country. If the petition is granted, you can bring your spouse and any children younger than 21 with you as derivatives, but often since lines to get visas are so long, children under 21 may turn 21 while you’re waiting and then can’t come in as derivatives. When you get a green card you can petition for your adult children to come to the country. But at that point, under the prior law, the clock was reset to zero, so to speak. The child effectively lost her ‘place’ in line for the visa and had to restart the process, which can take years. So you face a difficult choice – do you come into country and leave your kids behind, or do you just give up on coming at all?
Congress tried to fix this in 2002 with the Child Status Protection Act, which provided that children who “age out” can keep their place in line as adults – basically that they get credit for the time they have already waited. But agencies have been construing the law in a narrow way so it will not apply to people who are coming in as derivatives on petitions filed by U.S. citizens. The Fifth Circuit in Texas held that these agencies were acting contrary to statute, and by a 6-5 vote, so did the Ninth Circuit in California; the Second Circuit in New York said that it was fine. Our clients are the winners in the California case; the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to take the case. In addition to filing our clients’ brief on the merits, we also worked with counsel for some “friends of the court” who filed amicus briefs supporting us. A brief by former and current Senators who were in the Senate (many on the Judiciary Committee) when the law was passed said that their intention in crafting the law was aligned with our position. It was signed by three Democratic senators and three Republican – including some really well-known figures, like Senator John McCain and Senator Dianne Feinstein – and for them to come together to speak with one voice is very telling. While I think we are right on the merits, I expect the oral argument to be challenging; the Administration is represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, which always comes to the Court with real credibility.
My preparation, as with any case, is to practice as much as I can. I try to figure out what points I want to do my best to get out in that half hour before the Court. This includes having moot courts, where I ask people who are not familiar with the case to read the briefs and ask hard questions. The team that has been working with me for months critiques my answers. And then I stand in my office and talk out the case to myself. Overall, I try to get used to what it’s like, either being barraged by questions or having uninterrupted time to speak – it’s rare in front of that bench, but sometimes it does happen.
Honestly, I don’t think I’m any less nervous now than I was the first time. My first Supreme Court argument was a patent case, and our opponents were the U.S. government and Stanford University, both of which had very capable advocates. I was a rookie doing it for the first time. It’s not as though you ever stop worrying about getting a question that trips you up – the fear is always there. The only thing I can do is to try to know a case inside and out, so that I can talk to Justices in a conversational manner and given them the information that’s helpful to them in deciding a case, hopefully in our favor.
2. During your clerkship with Justice Souter, what did you learn from him about leadership? How did this inform the way you approach your work?
On my first day on the job, I arrived at the Court’s entrance – the guards didn’t know who I was, and I had no badge since I was just starting work as law clerk. One guard asked, “Who are you working for?” I answered, “Justice Souter.” He said, “Ah, he’s the best of the nine.” I always remembered that, and I understood why as I continued, because Justice Souter was somebody who would take the time to talk to everybody he encountered. He was polite, gentlemanly, and genuinely interested in every conversation – he remembered people’s names and details of their lives. That struck me as a thing he was able to do better than others, and because of it, he would always have people willing to stretch and help him. Even though people might disagree with him, they would never dislike him. I can never be as good at it as he is, but that taught me the importance of doing your best to be nice, even though the nature of the profession can be confrontational. Our job is to clash and disagree – doing it without being a jerk is the hallmark is a really good advocate. People who inspire the best work in their teams do it by being respectful and understanding.
In another instance, when I was thinking of what I wanted to do after my clerkship ended, I asked Justice Souter if he could give any advice about what I should be considering. He suggested that we get lunch in his office and talk. We did, and I was amazed not only about the amount of time he took, but also the perspective he offered. I was seriously considering living in Washington and joining a firm that practices in front of the Supreme Court often, and he told me, “You should think hard about whether you want to live in Washington.” One of the lessons he was keen to impart was that you do a lot better if you’re from somewhere else. Not only did he take the time to give me this advice, he explained why he felt this way, and his reasons were quite compelling in many ways. It was an easy sell for me to choose Boston over Washington, but it was good to be reminded that place matters. I was very lucky that I was able to work at WilmerHale, where I could live in Boston, but work on cases—like the Child Status Protection Act case—that have a solid Washington component.
3.Knowing that amicus briefs are going to be representative of the entire BBA, what are the dos and don’ts for leading a group with diverse backgrounds to support one ideology?
The most important thing is to get a clear position formulated as concretely as possible early on. If you can do that, then you can go to relevant Sections for input, and then present the position to the Executive Committee and Council. The issues for which we produce amicus briefs are usually ones where the legal profession has a pretty clear interest one way or the other, and it’s usually cases where the BBA has taken a position before, or it’s clear what position it might want to take. We’ve had some situations where the Council couldn’t come to an agreement, so in the end, the proposal was dropped and nothing was done – and that’s fine. What’s most difficult is when everyone thinks a brief should be filed, but no one has thought of what it should actually say. As a Committee, we have instituted procedures about how a proposal is brought, and to make sure there’s an understanding of what position the BBA is to take. It is the Committee’s job to flesh that out, identify counsel as possible authors, and make sure there’s enough time to make outline or draft, so that it’s a proposal that the Council and Executive Committee can evaluate fully.
4. Is there any other advice or experience about leadership that you would want to share?
There is one thing that I think we’re in danger of losing in the profession: because people work so hard and are so tethered to their devices, it’s harder and harder to get out and just talk to people. You don’t have to go back that far to find senior lawyers who say that, in days past, you used to go over to a club or bar association and talk about issues of relevance to profession. This is not the case as much as it used to be, and it’s something we need to be careful not to lose. Whenever you are sitting talking to intelligent people who share an interest in law, far more often than not, you end up learning something of value to you in your practice. That type of interaction is not something our generation makes time for as much anymore, but we really should.
A partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, Lisa Goodheart concentrates in environmental, real estate and general business litigation. She has extensive experience in cost recovery cases, permitting appeals, land use disputes, enforcement actions, insurance coverage disputes, design and construction matters, and a broad range of business litigation matters. Also an active supporter of the arts community, Lisa has served as a director and officer of several nonprofit corporations operating modern and jazz dance companies. Lisa has served as President, President-Elect, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the BBA, and has been a member of the Executive Committee, Council, and Environmental Law Section, for which she also served as co-chair. She is also President-Elect of the Boston Bar Foundation, as well as a member of its Executive Committee, Grants Committee, Board of Trustees, and Society of Fellows.
What did you learn over the course of your Presidency at the BBA? What was the biggest difference from where you started to where you ended?
I think one of the things that the BBA presidency provides for anyone in the position is an amazing perspective on the whole breadth of what goes on in the Greater Boston legal community. I got to see how much range there is in the scope of what lawyers do, both in terms of their substantive practices and in terms of civic engagement and public service activities in the community. In particular, I learned a lot about the many different ways in which lawyers contribute to their communities and our government, and I think about that now in a more expansive way than I had before.
One hugely educational opportunity for me was the opportunity that every BBA President has to work with leaders of the judiciary on various issues. Those included concerns about ensuring adequate funding for judiciary, the development of pro bono initiatives, and a whole range of access to justice concerns and administration of justice proposals that are very important to the system. The judiciary properly counts on having the engagement and support of the legal community for those things.
As Chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission (and in other leadership roles as well), how did you filter the directives or mandates handed down to you and communicate them with other members of the group?
At the JNC, I did not view my responsibility as one of filtering and communicating mandates; it was much more a matter of trying to be faithful to what I understood and believed Governor Patrick to be looking for in terms of the qualities of judicial candidates. What I tried most to do as Chair was to help set a tone and create an opening for a discussion that would produce good results. The goal is to present the Governor with a slate of recommended candidates for every judicial position who have the best quality of mind, personal demeanor and character, integrity, and work ethic, and who can give the Commonwealth what it deserves. So I was mostly focused on trying to create an environment that would allow the necessary questions to be asked and answered, which meant – for all of us on the Commission – showing respect for the different experiences of different people, listening with an open mind to others’ points of view, and, when necessary, finding ways to disagree without being disagreeable.
All of the members of the Commission were very conscious of trying to honor the values that we heard Governor Patrick articulate. At every swearing-in for every new judge, he talks about what he considers to be the qualities of a good judge, and they include being humane as well as smart, wise, and hard-working; being patient and respectful to people who come before the court feeling frightened, confused, and under great stress about whatever their problem might be; and working to make sure that everyone who comes before the court leaves with the feeling that they have been listened to and heard, and will be treated fairly. These were things that we all took to heart and worked together to try to bring about, and I know that the current JNC Chair, Macey Russell, continues to be focused on those things.
What advice or wisdom do you know now that you wish you had known or someone had told you when you were just starting your career?
I haven’t really had one particular “a-ha!” moment where I felt like I finally unlocked the secret! But when I look back on my early experiences when I was just starting out, I did get something very important, which was encouragement from more senior lawyers whom I respected. That was so very important to me when I was starting my career, so it is something that I hope I will remember to do for others now that I’m further along, because it is even more daunting now to begin a legal career than it was when I started. I think people may get discouraged from time to time, and having a more senior person provide support and offer confidence is extremely valuable.
Relationships are so important in this profession – in many ways they are at the heart of what we do. Sometimes the kinds of professional relationships that young lawyers need will develop organically, and sometimes it takes bit more effort to get them to develop. There are a lot of different ways for making that happen, ranging from just working closely with people to more structured formal mentoring programs to social relationships of various kinds. The most important thing is to connect yourself, one way or another, with those who are going to be supportive when you need support, and for whom you can do the same.
How has your leadership in the legal community, both at your firm and at the BBA, translated to and helped in other areas, such as your leadership within the arts community?
In a sense, any leadership opportunity you have in one context will help you be a better leader in other settings. But the connections are not always very direct or obvious. I got involved in the arts community because I was a dancer and I loved that world, and at a certain point in time it became clear that my legal skills could be helpful, in terms of helping the small dance companies I was involved with to become incorporated, gain tax-exempt status, develop a management structure and run in a more businesslike fashion – all of which does not necessarily come naturally to people in the dance world! I found myself getting involved because I loved particular groups of dancers and I wanted to support them and they asked me, and not at all because I was looking for a possible leadership opportunity. My law partner Alan Geismer is also a long-time dance lover and he has done the same for other groups, and probably for many of the same reasons. It is a great feeling to contribute to something that moves you.