The most significant opportunities I have been given in my career have involved taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. My father taught his daughters to dream big and never put self-imposed limits on what we could do. When evaluating a risk, I always try to remember that not taking a risk is a risk in and of itself.

Without change, we cannot grow personally or professionally. And standing still is not an option. Early lessons in embracing change and facing challenges head-on have afforded me opportunities to advance my career and much greater causes.

By taking on leadership roles in my firm as a young partner, I was given a stronger voice early. This seat at the table allowed me to spearhead the Sutherland Scholars program, a pipeline summer pre-law school “boot camp” offered at no cost for students from historically black schools, which has become a key part of our firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

On Getting People to Know Who You Are and What You Can Do
Early in my career, I realized that I was never going to “blend in,” so I have used that fact to my advantage. I embrace my authenticity as a competitive advantage, and I encourage young women to find their authentic voices and strive to have them heard.

On the Importance of Doing the Inner Work that Supports Success
The book, How Remarkable Women Lead by Susan Cranston and Joanna Barsh changed how I thought about my life and career. The authors identified five competences at the heart of centered leadership—finding meaning in work, converting fear or stress into opportunity, leveraging connections and community, acting in the face of risk, and sustaining the energy that supports change.

I focus on these areas in leading and empowering my team. I work hard to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various team members, so that I can help them succeed individually and as a group.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Embrace lifelong learning, practice resilience, and have the courage to take responsible risks.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
Many members of my personal board of directors have had a profound impact on my career and life. Because space is limited, I will mention two. The first is Judge Susan Black of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, for whom I clerked following law school. The second is former Sutherland partner Teresa Wynn Roseborough, now general counsel for Home Depot, with whom I worked during my early years as an associate at Sutherland. Both set a standard of excellence in training me as a lawyer that demanded no excuses or exceptions. And despite having extraordinarily successful careers, both have shown how they are able to prioritize their roles as wives and mothers.

Allegra’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. You are more talented and more courageous than you know.