Despite what some may suggest, women can have it all: a successful career and a loving family – the whole package. But I find that in my effort to have it all, I have to work hard to strike a balance between the two.
First, as a woman your work absolutely has to speak for itself. At the same time I have found that when clients see me as essential to their business, they are willing to accommodate my needs. For instance, I once asked an important client to reschedule a meeting in South Dakota so that I wouldn’t miss my son’s all-star baseball game. I admit it – I was nervous making that phone call. But the client moved the meeting because they valued my work highly.
Second, good mentors can be found in unexpected places. One of my greatest female friends and advisors has been my secretary, Cindy. As a non-attorney, she offers me a perspective often unavailable elsewhere. Moreover, she has taught me the delicate skill of being assertive while hitting the right tone. On the other end of the spectrum of mentors is my colleague Leon Kellner. Leon is a former U.S. Attorney appointed by Ronald Reagan; I used to intern for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. While we may disagree on a few issues from time to time – especially political ones – we still respect each other as attorneys and professionals. Moreover, Leon’s wealth of knowledge regarding insurance coverage law and how to navigate the legal world has provided me with innumerable lessons in practice.
Third, talent needs to be cultivated. Bringing associates into cases early and providing them with the experience to shadow a partner benefits not only the associate but the firm itself. Training those that work for you is imperative if you want your practice to succeed.
Anyone can mentor a superstar and mold her into a profile for success. It is the real challenge to take the underachieving hard worker and guide her in the right direction. Sometimes even a small nudge towards success can lead to a flourishing performer. To lead you must choose the challenging path and assist others in strengthening their own capabilities, growing their networks of reliable and trustworthy colleagues and working towards ensuring the success of their own team and its members. By doing so you can ensure the success of your practice and your firm.