In a discussion on mentorship, Nancy Winkelman recalled a pivotal moment in her career, while working with partner Ralph Wellington at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.
“Ralph, with me in his office, had a very serious conversation with the client about why I should be the one to do the oral argument,” said Winkelman, who is currently on leave from Schnader Harrison for a one-year leadership role in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. And then, she said, Wellington shared the origination credit with her, 50-50.
“Sharing origination in a private firm really helps mentees,” Wellington said.
At a panel discussion Friday held by the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, mentor-mentee pairs from large and midsize law firms discussed what made their dynamic work, and how others can promote women and diverse attorneys at their firms. Patti Santelle, chair and managing partner of White and Williams, noted while moderating the panel that white males play a crucial role in furthering diversity by being effective mentors to women and diverse lawyers.
That goes past throwing work their way, panelists said, requiring mentors to foster meaningful relationships between clients and mentees, and sharing the rewards of those relationships.
“He had me client-facing from the beginning,” said DLA Piper’s Nancy Rappaport of her mentor Jim Brogan, whom she referred to as her “champion” for how he helped her advance her legal career. Importantly, she said, Brogan also shared credit with her, first managing credit, then origination credit.
Brogan said it can be difficult, particularly for trial lawyers, “to let go.” But leaders will not make their firms stronger or bigger if they don’t recognize what other colleagues contribute and share credit, he said.
Danielle Banks, of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, said she had multiple mentors at her firm. But she credited Bill Sasso, the firm’s chairman, with teaching her the business of law as it relates to her career trajectory.
That included, she said, “what it meant to have origination credit, and giving me origination credit.”
Stephanie Resnick, managing partner of Fox Rothschild’s Philadelphia office, noted that she, too, had client contact immediately when she started her legal career. Fox Rothschild chair emeritus Abraham Reich, who sat on the panel as one of her mentors, said metrics are important in measuring the effectiveness of a firm’s efforts to advance women.
“One of my proudest moments at the firm was seeing Stephanie pass me on the economic scale,” Reich said.
Winkelman also said it was key that she was given the flexibility early in her career to shape her work schedule around caring for her two children. She was told “‘as long as you’re doing the work, I don’t care where you’re doing it from,’” she said.
Banks echoed that sentiment, noting that she started at her firm already a mother of two children. Rappaport, too, noted that she took on a four-day schedule earlier in her career. But, she said, it takes more than a static policy to retain lawyers.
For instance, she said, lawyers who are part-time, for purposes of compensation and number of days in the office, can end up billing as many hours as those who are designated as full-time, leading to frustration. When she found herself in that position and brought it to Brogan’s attention, she said, he re-designated her as a full-time lawyer, while still allowing her the needed flexibility, because regardless of her face-time she was “getting the job done.”
“We need to be more proactive in going to associates and saying, ‘How’s it working out?’” Rappaport said.