Our legal mavericks featured throughout this magazine share advice that they either found beneficial as a young lawyer or wish they had known back then.
Brett Pletcher: Have a sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, and keep your eye on that. It doesn’t mean that you always have to take big steps toward it, but know what your goal is and head in that general direction.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and get people’s perspectives. Attorneys tend to be very busy and may forget to talk to people and mentor. But if you stop them, they’re often very willing to give you their advice, thoughts and counsel. Don’t wait for people to come to you and tell you how and what you should be doing. Ask them—and don’t worry about how busy they are.
Khiara Bridges: You can do everything. Often, young lawyers think they have to choose and everything is a fork in the road. If you reconcile the two paths in the road and create one path that enables you to pursue both destinies at the same time, you’ll have a more fulfilling experience. You hear no so many times—what if you approached your career as if everything is possible?
Chris Fawzy: Two pieces of advice: Don’t fall in love with a case or position in a way that skews your judgment. It’s easy as an attorney to become entrenched in a view and think we know more than our clients. We have to listen to our clients to gain other perspectives, not offer feedback until we’ve taken everything in, ask all the right questions and do so openly. When we do that, we’re generally able to help achieve an optimal outcome.
The other piece: Don’t care about how you’re perceived or how you look. Don’t get distracted by trying to make sure people know what you’ve accomplished. Focus only on your client’s objectives and the end product. People are looking for results, and if you contribute consistently as a team player and help achieve results, in the end you, will be viewed as the person who helps get them there. You will be sought after as a trusted partner for both your internal and external clients.
Willy Ferrer: My parents taught me three lessons as a child: 1) There is no substitute for hard work. 2) Never say no to yourself and aspire to every opportunity. 3) Do good. Doing good for your colleagues and your community—and treating everybody with respect—will catapult your career in ways that you would never have imagined.
Also remember that your opposition is not your enemy; he or she is doing their job. The justice system requires a balanced approach—that all arguments get aired out and all issues get assessed by the judge. As lawyers, we’re taught that we’re measured by how many cases we win. But when people are driven just by winning and not making sure that justice is done, they sometimes do things that could affect their credibility. Remember that your reputation, integrity and credibility are your most prized possessions and you cannot ever do anything that will compromise them.
Lillian Hardy: Be open, be true to yourself and be bold.
Trey Muldrow: What we’re going through now is unique and no one has meaningful experiences on how to handle it. Young lawyers can see how more senior attorneys operate during an unsettled period, and more importantly, can contribute in ways they may not have been able to a few months ago. We’re completing transactions in different ways with new technologies, allowing young attorneys to have a voice.
Right now, I believe that there is so much to learn about one’s practice, firm, colleagues and the challenges confronting the legal profession. Therefore, I encourage young lawyers to keep their eyes open and pay attention to the rapidly changing world around them.
Deborah Rasin: Opportunities come in ways you didn’t necessarily plan. I’ve signed up for many paths that were not the most attractive or coveted by others, but every time I took a chance, it led to something bigger and better. You have to recognize the opportunity when it comes to you, say yes and do the best you can with it even if it’s not what you want to do. Recognize it, grab it and take it.
Mark Schwarz: There are many routes to becoming the lawyer you want to be—which might mean moving to a different country, changing roles, etc. I’ve had many changes in direction. Try to end up in a company or area of law you are passionate about, because there is nothing like enjoying what you do. If you thrive, it shows in so many ways.
Marcia Valente: Most legal careers will have many chapters with unexpected twists and turns. Your ability to adapt is the key to managing a successful career. For me, that meant taking time away from practicing law to raise my daughters. But I continued believing in myself, and with the support of family and colleagues, I realized that I can meaningfully contribute as a commercial litigator who also happens to be a mother and woman of color.