I attended a breakfast meeting at the New York City Bar Association. The meeting was filled with beautiful women attorneys seeking advice on how to better their careers in Intellectual Property Law. The panel included, Ayala Deutsch, Senior Vice President & Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for NBA Properties, Inc., Lisa Gigliotti, Vice President & Chief Trademark Counsel for L’Oreal USA, Inc., Lori Lesser for Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett and Veronica Mullally for Lovells. The meeting was sponsored by the Committee on Women in the Profession.
Pictured Left to Right: Priscilya Hawkes, Leila Amineddoleh, Veronica Mullally,
Monique Cofer-Delbridge, Mavis K. Fowler-Williams & Myself
The panelists gave great suggestions on how to better navigate your legal career. The resounding sentiment was that you have to work hard, be innovative with getting your foot in the door, and network. Working hard, people tend to throw this saying around and very rarely live up to the expectations, of what “working hard” really means. As attorneys, we should stay abreast with the law by attending Continuing Legal Education Classes (CLE), conferences, breakfast meetings where you meet with other attorneys, events related to your practice area, and maintain memberships with the different organizations, especially Bar Associations.
You have to be innovative in getting the proverbial foot in the door, which can range from being an associate at a law firm or being a solo practitioner. The panelist suggested writing as a vehicle to navigating your legal career. Being able to bring information to people on topics that are important in any aspect of life can be extremely helpful. Write an article on a Intellectual Property topic that has yet to be resolved or on legislation that has yet to be decided, what you’ve just done is made yourself an expert in that particular area. If you need the weight of a more experienced attorney associated with the article, then do the research and writing and ask that attorney to assist you and co-author the article. This is a great way to get exposure and also a way to become a recognizable expert.
Fellow colleagues, you have to network, but there is an art to the beast. I didn’t always like the concept of networking, believe it or not. But, it has its advantages. I think you should not approach people with the sole purpose of wanting something, a job! Your words will fall on deaf ears. Don’t make networking contrived, coupled with a “gold-digging” state of mind. You will loose the purpose of it all. The purpose of networking for me is to merely make connections, if you don’t connect with people it doesn’t work. Don’t force a situation. You should be able to bring something to the table. It’s a business strategy of sorts. This ties back into writing the article, by bringing that to the table you’ve already intrigued the person into listening to more of what you have to offer. In turn, they may want to assist you in your legal endeavors. No guarantee of course, always keep that in mind.
Another issue for us in our careers, is maintaining a healthy balance between our career, our family life, and just being happy people. The women on the panel have been able to maintain a balance by choosing the career path that made the most sense to them. Lisa told us about an employment opportunity with a company, where she would have had to relocate. Her and her husband realized that although the position had its advantages she ultimately would not have been happy relocating. Happiness is a big part of your career and the lack of it can have a direct affect on your work. But, you have to figure out what the balance is between your career and your life. What is a deal breaker in taking on that new position? Will your family be happy, will you be happy? Important questions to address.
Lori stated, “Your clients do not need to know that your out of the office for your daughter’s birthday, not their business. Let them think you’re the greatest sought after attorney and you’re busy!” You’re not lying, your just being inventive, and you are probably the best attorney 🙂 This made perfect sense to me because finding balance when dealing with clients is difficult, especially when you have your own practice. I am trying to maintain my own practice, networking and then my life. You can’t have too much of one without the other.
Last piece of advice, research, research, research! Asking expereinced attorneys for advice is great, but you have to be willing to find anwers on your own. There are so many resources that you can tap into to educate yourself. So, there really is no excuse. You will have the advantage of developing a work ethic that allows you to not become dependent on others for your legal questions.
Alright, now get out there!