What was your route to the top? I joined Paul, Weiss as a corporate associate after graduating from NYU School of Law 30 years ago. The 1980s M&A boom was just peaking, and I cut my teeth as a finance lawyer on some of the world’s largest transactions at a time when there were relatively few women in the area. I led financings for clients including MacAndrews & Forbes, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Revlon, Silver Point Capital, Time Warner Cable and Wendy’s. From the start, I embraced opportunities to take on firm leadership positions, serving in a succession of leadership roles, including as hiring partner; women’s initiatives committee chair; as a member of the management, finance and partnership committees; and now as the firm’s first deputy chair. Today, there is no issue that doesn’t come across my desk. On any day, I may be addressing the firm’s key strategic initiatives, practice area investment, diversity initiatives, pro bono matters or our alumni. Although I remain engaged with many longtime clients, I’m not in the trenches doing deals; I’m engaged in consulting about trends and other matters.
What keeps you up at night? (i.e. What are your biggest business-related concerns?) I am laser-focused on how Paul, Weiss preserves its uniquely collaborative and collegial culture in today’s environment of fierce competition for talent and increased partner mobility. Our strong cultural connection is the “glue” that ties our lawyers to the firm. We invest an enormous amount of time and energy into fostering a culture that promotes collaboration, loyalty, mutual respect, and a strong commitment to pro bono and diversity. We consistently remind ourselves about our special culture – it’s always top of mind.
What is the best leadership advice you provided, or received, and why do you think it was effective? The most effective way to develop leadership abilities is to step out of your comfort zone. As a young lawyer, I was encouraged to take on greater responsibilities with client relationships, to join committees and to be a leader within the firm. Today, I encourage others to think about possibilities beyond the here and now—to look ahead, to stretch and to grow. Although it may feel most comfortable to do stellar legal work on matters before you, it is critical to move beyond and to develop other skills you need to succeed and to lead.
Looking back, what do you wish you had known when you started out in the legal profession? While having strong mentors and sponsors is key to your success, it is really on you to search out your own opportunities, be your own advocate and own your individual definition of “success.” At any point in time, handling work and life may feel overwhelming. Sometimes you will be going at 110 percent, but other times you can step back and slow down. Take the time to pave your own path.