What’s been the biggest change, day-to-day, in your routine since joining firm leadership? As the chief legal officer, I manage our litigation department. Day-to-day that means looking for ways our department can increase efficiency in handling and resolving cases. As a high-volume law firm, in addition to meeting with attorneys one-on-one to discuss issues in their cases, we must respond to emergencies that arise, look for ways to mitigate any risks to the firm, and communicate with clients, or with our chief financial officer about business goals. I still handle a small caseload of my own, so it can be very busy at times. I have a great team though, and they help make it happen.

What do you think was the deciding point for the firm in bringing you into firm leadership? I’m sure my background and experience played a part. I’ve worked in government affairs, private practice and as in-house counsel. My willingness to contribute is another factor. When I joined the firm, we only worked in personal injury and bankruptcy. I had been practicing employment law for almost 10 years, so a few months after I started, I put together a proposal for the leadership team for us to build an employment law practice. I was always willing to take on a new project, or try to help someone solve a problem.

Was your career goal to reach the leadership levels at a law firm? I did not have the specific goal of being a chief legal officer. I just knew I wanted to make an impact. My advice for anyone who wants to be a part of firm leadership is to make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to add unique value.

Who had the greatest influence in your career that helped propel you to your leadership role? My uncle Lawrence. He’s not an attorney. He’s retired now, but he was a very successful sales executive. He is brilliant and was really good at what he did. I always admired his success and wanted to achieve the same. He taught me the importance of always being level-headed and not jumping to conclusions so you can make good decisions. He has also taught me not to catastrophize—rarely is an issue truly catastrophic. It may be difficult, but most things can be worked out and things will generally be OK.

 How can women better position themselves for leadership roles in law firms? Trust yourself. A lot of women, myself included, can suffer from imposter syndrome. You have to know that you know what you’re doing, and you deserve a seat at the table. I think it’s also important to learn how to promote yourself, your unique skills, your successes, and your contributions.

Knowing what you know now what advice would you give to yourself and what would you do differently? I would tell my younger self so many things. I would tell her not to compare herself with others because everyone’s journey is different and what is for you is for you. I would tell her to separate her self-worth from her work. There will be some hard days, but they do not define who you are. Fake it ’til you make it and don’t give up.

How do you keep your teams motivated during these unprecedented times? I listen. Most people want to be heard. I try to be accessible and check in with my teams regularly, not just about work, but life. I’m also a pretty casual person. Being accessible is very important..

What’s the one characteristic that you believe every firm leader should possess? A tie between self-awareness and emotional intelligence. You should have a good sense of your strengths and weaknesses. It’s very important to know when you are the best-suited person to do something, and when you’re not, when something should be delegated and when it shouldn’t be. I think emotional intelligence goes a long way in everything we do, be it communication with your clients, your co-workers and even opposing counsel. The relationships you build are critical to long-term success.

Find more career advancement stories and career advice from our “How I Made It” Q&A series on Law.com

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