To keep growing as a litigator (or in any other position), don’t get too comfortable in your comfort zone
I have been a litigator for almost thirty years. What I like most about my job is that it allows me to challenge myself and to learn new things all the time. The key to being a successful litigator is being willing to dive in and do the work to understand your client’s business and the problems it is facing. That process has taken me on some fascinating journeys. A few years ago, I was hired by a Brazilian power plant whose fleet of U.S.-manufactured generator sets exploded when they were put into full operation. I flew down to Brazil with our mechanical expert, and only a basic understanding of how a diesel engine worked. After several days in the garage with the expert, taking engines apart piece by piece, I got a whole new understanding of the case. I learned so much more than I would have by merely reading his report. That is what’s exciting to me about being a litigator. Each new case gives you an opportunity to learn or do something new, especially something that might be out of your comfort zone.
Recently, I was appointed the co-chair of Venable’s Commercial Litigation Group in New York. I would say that my guiding principle in this new role is the development and training of our up-and-coming attorneys. I believe that junior lawyers learn best by getting the opportunity to take on real responsibility, including taking the lead in court and at depositions. There’s a real difference between doing the research for a brief, maybe even writing it, and being the one to argue it. When you’re the one standing in front of the judge, answering her questions, you begin to appreciate even more the time and effort you put into crafting your argument.
I have also been the chair of the Partnership Selection Committee, and a member of the Summer Associate Hiring Committee, for a number of years. Both of these roles are important to me because I believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the development and career advancement of our attorneys go hand-in-hand. To achieve a balanced partnership, we have to invest in the selection of our most junior associates, and the mentorship and sponsorship of all of them along the way. These two roles give me the opportunity to impact the development of our lawyers at two key points in their careers: when they come to us as rising 2Ls seeking summer associate positions, and again at the point where they are being considered for promotion to partner. Through these roles, I’ve also gotten to learn more about the incredible lawyers and practices we have across the Firm. In my new role as co-chair of our group, I think my most important jobs are to help all of our lawyers develop and grow their businesses, and for our more junior professionals to help them get to the next level in their career.