It’s up to You to Make Your Career, and Your Life, a Success

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes: Benjamin Franklin may have said it first, but I learned it from my grandmother at an early age. The rest of your life, grandmother taught and my parents reinforced, is up to you to make happen or not. Based upon that premise, I have always tried to rely upon those things—God, hard work, perseverance, and manners—that I know will shape my life and help to develop a law practice that would make me proud (My other grandmother would always tell me that you get more with sugar than salt.)

I began practicing in 1995 and joined a mid-size management-side firm practicing securities litigation and labor and employment law. There were not very many women or attorneys of color practicing in mid- to large-size firms, or in labor and employment law. Often, I was the only female and only African-American in practice group meetings, section conferences, and even the office. Notwithstanding, I never let that limit or define me, or the type of lawyer I wanted to and did become. I knew that I had to do that myself. And to do that, I would have to work hard and be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity presented, whether to first-chair a case or make a presentation to the board of a client. Then and now, I am always going to bet on myself, be prepared, and create and embody my brand, and deliver the best possible service to clients as you remain true to yourself.

Throughout my career, I have shared an iteration of my grandmother’s nugget of wisdom with other young attorneys, particularly with female attorneys. I encourage them to define and determine the type of lawyer they want to become; I tell them that “you are your brand.” Your reputation and work product should always reflect who you aspire to become, not the environment in which you work or with whom you work. This holds true no matter if you are a first-year attorney, entry-level executive, or C-Suite executive.

I have been blessed to have great, prominent mentors throughout my career. Even with that opportunity, I have had to be smart enough to know that I do not know everything, and whatever I do has to be true to who I am and my practice. With that, there are things that I have adopted completely from my mentors and there are other suggestions for which I thanked them and kindly put aside in my memory bank. Staying true to myself is how I have and can guarantee that my brand reflects who I am—rooted in faith, hard work, perseverance, and manners—and, it has been the basis for any success that I have achieved. I hope that I can also encourage others by my reflection to create their own reflection.