Don’t be intimidated by loud mouths. Know your subject and harness your strengths.
It can sometimes be challenging for a woman to stand out and be regarded as an excellent negotiator and litigator. Many people may believe that it is essential for a litigator to be loud and aggressive in order to win cases, but I was lucky early in my career to have a female partner as a mentor who demonstrated that there is another path.
My mentor was a petite and soft-spoken female litigator who admitted to me that she was very uncomfortable with public speaking. I was able to see her in action – in bankruptcy court, during settlement negotiations, in a room full of male partners, virtually all of whom were both much larger and louder than she was. But as she began negotiating on behalf of our client, her quiet assuredness and confidence, and deep knowledge of the facts at issue, led to her being able to persuade others in the room to see her client’s point of view, which ultimately led to a successful settlement. It was clear that she held the attention and respect of every person in that room without needing to raise her voice or intimidate opposing counsel. She impressed upon me that being prepared and having confidence in that preparation can lead to great success, without the need for bluster, and inspired me to trust my work and be able to argue effectively for my clients.
Over the course of my career, I have had several experiences where opposing counsel tried to bully me into changing my position and agreeing to his client’s demands, whether in depositions, in settlement discussions, or before the court, by being the loudest or most aggressive person in the room. I have learned that I do not need to match this style in response, but rather can stay calm, lean on my preparedness to confidently articulate my points, and stand my ground to win the day.
At Kasowitz, I have spent a significant amount of time advising on structured finance and real estate-related litigation. I have continued to find success by digging deep into the business issues at play, and always being incredibly well prepared, whether we are planning for a trial or negotiating a settlement, earning the trust and respect of my clients.
To achieve success, it is imperative to know that you have something important to contribute and do not have to be the loudest person in the room. Instead, it is important to harness your strengths and use them to your – and your clients’ – advantage.