Preparation is always key but especially as you launch a new career
Before I became a lawyer, my father passed along a piece of advice that has helped shape my professional career: Preparation is the best substitute for experience. In the early years of practice, I was regularly humbled by how much there was to learn. There were so many first-time experiences and avenues for growth. Frequently, I found myself submitting a brief, taking or defending a deposition, and arguing a motion opposite a lawyer with significantly more experience. A juxtaposition that some opposing counsel went out of their way to highlight.
Over and over, I returned to preparation and tried to make the most of each opportunity. Robins Kaplan’s trial advocacy and writing programs were safe spaces to develop skills and incorporate tailored feedback. For client matters, I immersed myself in the facts of the cases, strove to deeply understand the legal issues, revised—and revised again—legal briefs and memos, and mooted oral arguments. Clients and partners trusted me with substantive opportunities early and often. Sponsors and mentors generously and consistently invested in my development. All of this helped me to cultivate a growth mindset. With each new experience, I felt more comfortable being uncomfortable. Even now, with more than a decade of practice to guide me, meticulous preparation is an essential component of my work.
Today, it is my privilege to pay it forward and I do so through mentoring and sponsoring lawyers in the early stages of their careers. I regularly repeat: Preparation is the best substitute for experience. And strive to provide meaningful avenues in my cases for young lawyers to develop and demonstrate their skills, encouraging my partners to do the same. As co-chair of Robins Kaplan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, my work includes evaluating and helping ensure that mentoring and substantive opportunities are available to all of our developing lawyers, including those who identify as belonging to historically underrepresented groups.
I hope that a sustained focus on preparation and making the most of each experience will help our lawyers to develop both competence and confidence. That it will fortify them against opponents who may seek to exploit differences in experience, age, gender, race, or cultural heritage for some perceived advantage. I hope that this advice and approach is as empowering for them, as it has been for me.