The pandemic taught me the importance of connecting with people – and I won’t forget it

Along with humility and levity, a big part of my leadership style is vulnerability, particularly in terms of sharing stories and lessons. Vulnerability has always been a paramount quality for me – it’s part of my communication style so by default it’s part of my leadership style – but I think what really changed during the pandemic is that I learned to lean more heavily into it and meet people where they are. I understand that every person I interact with is going through something in their lives and I try to be mindful about those experiences. I think about how what I am going through might affect what I’m asked to do and then use that perspective to think through what others are experiencing with their responsibilities and as a leader, help guide them through that process.

I’ve always been an empath by nature, it’s just who I am as a person, and it’s a way for me to connect. I believe connecting to people and building strong relationships is an important way to lead and I would say the pandemic made that really hit home. During the pandemic we were all dealing with this unexpected and unfamiliar situation and while I always have been compassionate and empathetic, it really opened up a way for me to see the scope of how every single person has challenges they are facing at any given time.

Working remotely made it harder in terms of frequency and organic opportunities to connect, but at the same time, it made it easier because we were all so fragile and raw during that time. Any conversation could turn into a conversation about life – any meeting, any hearing, any Zoom happy hour – and everything else became an opportunity to connect about something more significant than our meeting topic. It was a silver lining that I kept from the pandemic and that applies to life now. I didn’t forget those lessons and like most people, I’m not going back to how things were before.

Recently over the summer while engaging with our summer associates, I focused on putting myself in their shoes and having conversations with them about what it really means to move into this phase of their careers, recognizing that they are going to make mistakes, and then talking them through those instances and helping them build trust in themselves. I think it’s important for lawyers who have been practicing for a long time to be mentors because it’s easy to forget how hard it can be in the beginning. Remembering that with students makes me better with everyone that I engage with.