Getting your name “out there” is one of the biggest challenges for lawyers. It goes without saying that doing quality work will help move your career forward. But there are many, many exceptional attorneys that no one ever hears about, and many attorneys some might think are mediocre that have huge name recognition. What is the reason for this? To me, it’s one word: Marketing. I mean this in the broadest sense—promoting yourself within your organization, promoting yourself among your peers in your practice area, talking with clients and potential clients, speaking, writing, and networking.
For some, marketing comes naturally. I envy those people, because that’s not me. I have gotten better over the years at extolling my own virtues, but I have also had to find other ways to promote myself that fit my strengths and personality.
One of the most important factors in my career success—indeed, the biggest factor—was finding truly amazing mentors who were vested in me and my success. Two people in particular, John Heintz and Donna Wilson, have made a huge difference in my career. They not only helped me become a better lawyer, they promoted me with other lawyers in my firm and with clients, they helped me with articles and speaking engagements, and they helped push me to develop my business plan. In short, they pushed me to get better at marketing myself. In fact, they’re still helping me to this day.
Finding mentors who truly care and are willing to spend the time to help you can make all the difference in a career. My advice to women professionals is to seek out these relationships and nurture them. They are worth the investment.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
In the legal world, competition is tough. Staying competitive in a crowded field requires a commitment, not only to the continual development of your skills as an advocate, but also an equal commitment to the development of your practice. Many focus on their work, but the most successful lawyers place an equal (or greater) emphasis on networking, marketing, and developing relationships with clients and potential clients.
On Facing Challenges
Balancing work and my personal life has been, and continues to be, the hardest challenge I face. To find a balance, I have had to learn to say “no” in my professional life, which is incredibly difficult when you want to be a team player and want to advance. But I have found that taking time for myself has actually benefited me professionally—I do better work, I am more relaxed, and I am able to better focus.
Marla’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
My advice is to take ownership. This applies to the projects you are working on and your career as a whole. A good support network is invaluable, but at the end of the day, you will be the person who makes your career a success.