Starting a career in BigLaw is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. And, unfortunately, it can be downright depressing to read stories in the news about the relatively small number of women who make it to the top in this industry and others. My advice: Do NOT let this hold you back.
Success, like anything in life, won’t come easy, but it is yours to be had. How do you achieve it? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but hard work, saying “yes” to opportunities to stretch yourself, and seeking out and nurturing relationships with a diverse range of colleagues helps.
Many of us BigLaw partners—male and female—know that we would not have made it to where we are today without mentors and sponsors who have advised and advocated for us along the way. I spend a great deal of time doing what I can to support rising associates, particularly women.
I know first-hand what it is like to confront and navigate some of the challenges that are unique to women in the workplace. When I first joined Weil, I was pregnant with my first child, and later I was weighing when to have my second one in light of when I would be up for partner. I asked the department head if I should wait. He told me that I should do what was right for me and my family, which is what I did, and all worked out.
Reflecting on my career as an M&A partner in BigLaw, my advice is that no one does it by themselves. We need the contributions of our colleagues to make our work product the best it can be. So, whether you receive constructive feedback on an assignment or even make a mistake—and you will—remember that you are part of a team and don’t beat yourself up. Learn what you can and move on.
In thinking about how best to advise you, I thought I would share some words of wisdom from some members of Weil’s female executive leadership. Here is what these inspiring women had to say, in their own words.
Courtney Marcus, Co-Managing Partner of Weil’s Dallas Office and Management Committee Member
“First, spend your time wisely. The most important thing is to have a recognized level of expertise in your area of practice, which takes hard work. There is no substitute. Second, find a professional or community activity within our outside the firm that you enjoy and can commit to. It will provide perspective and connectivity to others outside your area of practice. Third, don’t be afraid to be feminine or be yourself. Fourth, create a network. Keeping up with your peers in the beginning of business development. Lastly, take time to refresh. Downtime is important, whether it’s a 48-hour staycation or something more fun.”
Elizabeth Weiswasser, Co-Head of Weil’s Patent Litigation practice and Co-Head of Weil’s Life Sciences practice, and Management Committee Member
“From the beginning of your career, associate your personal brand with excellence. It doesn’t matter what project you are given, you should strive to do it brilliantly. I stress the importance of the three A’s: Affable, Available, and Able. Say yes to new opportunities and be willing and able to step in to help when asked. Remember that law is a team sport, and those who thrive in this profession will put the needs of the team ahead of the individual.”
Mindy Spector, Weil’s General Counsel
“I would advise aspiring female attorneys not to just focus on finding women to serve as mentors and role models. When I began my career, there weren’t many women partners, so my role models and mentors were men, and I have learned a great deal from them. It is important to cast a wide net when seeking role models and mentors, as it is valuable to have guidance from a diverse array of people.”