I attended law school straight out of college. Upon graduating, I relocated to the Midwest and joined State Farm, where I worked in a large loss casualty unit—taking time to learn the business. The invaluable exposure and opportunities yielded by this experience opened the door to an extraordinarily diverse, fulfilling, and successful legal career.
How did you become involved with the ABA?
I became involved in the ABA through a law firm relationship connection. I was actively recruited by Bob Hirshon, the law partner of one of our retained counsel in Maine. Bob’s outreach and strong encouragement made the difference, along with the support of my leadership and several other active ABA TIPS members on our team.
What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?
The ABA provides tremendous value for new—and veteran—lawyers through the professional and personal connections made, an abundance of substantive learning opportunities, leadership development, the chance to hone practice area and rainmaking skills, and the endless potential to simply improve your outcomes. The collegial and collaborative nature of the ABA membership opens doors to experiences that can help new lawyers thrive.
What early career practices led to your success?
The value of sponsorship and mentors can never be overstated. Being proactive in seeking out mentors—formal and informal—is an easy and invaluable way to learn, build trust, confidence, and success. I’ve had many mentors along the way whose perspectives and assistance helped me build the competencies needed to be successful and the experiences required to be effective and perform at a high level. Thoroughness is also a skill I embraced early in my career. It helped minimize or eliminate the opportunity for mistakes but not without a few important lessons. Understanding how to prioritize workload and manage my time in a way that allowed me to get the job done and achieve the balance needed to perform well—be accurate, timely, and complete —required an upfront commitment and a level of self-awareness that I am happy to have nurtured and never lose sight of.
What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?
Let civility be your strongest attribute. Choose courage over comfort—don’t be afraid or reluctant to take on a challenging discussion. Share your perspective and push back when needed but do it in a way that is thoughtful and considerate. Recognize when your emotions have been hijacked. Stand back and stand down to give yourself time to reset and make a different approach. Be guided by your passion to uphold the law and your conviction to do what’s ethical. Rely on your experiences to help you grow personally and professionally. It will serve you well in every encounter, no matter how difficult.
What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?
Use the resources available to you to learn about and know the client’s business. Be prepared and transparent about what you don’t know. Ask questions and strive to become a trusted source and collaborative partner. Understand the client’s mission and growth strategy so that you make yourself an indispensable part of their journey and outcomes. Be honest and authentic. Communicate clearly, succinctly, and with intent. You’ll often find that many times “less” really is “more.” Be a continuous learner, know your blind spots, show interest in the business and in those with whom you have a relationship, and remain flexible.
What are your future ambitions for the next five to ten years?
The experiences I’ve had across my career—internal and external—have made me a better lawyer and leader. Through the time I retire (in the next decade) and beyond, I will leverage those experiences to support the continuing success of my organization, while also helping other lawyers, and non-lawyers, find their passion, learn and grow, and achieve successful and rewarding careers. Finding opportunities to impact the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways is part of my DNA. Volunteering, lending a hand, and simply doing what I can to make and be the difference I’d like to see in our profession and the world.