I Wish I'd Known

Vol. 39 No. 7

By

Catherine Lamboley is retired as senior vice president and general counsel of Shell Oil Company. She is a past chair of the board of directors of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, served on the ABA Racial and Ethnic Diversity Commission, and currently serves on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. Among many other honors, Lamboley has received the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

Reach out to others, reach within yourself, and reach out for experiences. It is critically important to take risks (stepping out of what is usual or comfortable for you) in at least three different aspects: reaching out to others, reaching within yourself, and reaching out for experiences.

 

 

Reaching out to others could mean asking others for advice, setting up a mentoring relationship, or talking informally with a law professor or someone in a law firm. It also means getting to know your classmates—they are future colleagues and perhaps clients. Much of the success and satisfaction of practicing law depends on your relationships, and it’s important to start building them while in law school.

Reaching within means challenging yourself not to sit in the backseat. Smarts and hard work are necessary but generally not sufficient to get you to the front seat. Have confidence in yourself and project that confidence. If you seem confident, not arrogant, others will want to invest time in you—whether that investment is hiring you, mentoring you, or going to lunch with you.

Reaching out for experiences could mean taking on a special project in law school, working on law review, or helping a professor. Once you’re out of school and working, you’ll need to seek new, more difficult assignments. It’s important to seek those experiences that broaden your skills, your perspective, and your relationships with decision makers.

Much of taking risk is about the individual and that individual’s talents and skills becoming more known to a broader group of people. When you take a risk, you also have to be cognizant of the context. Any environment with a number of people has politics involved. Be politically savvy about where you are and what will work in your environment.

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