Connect the Dots
Where will your career path take you? Click on the dots to meet four of our partners and learn from their experiences.
My priority as a junior associate was to learn employment law and the procedural aspects of employment litigation. In particular, I worked on discovery-related work and other types of evidence development. I researched and drafted memoranda, prepared communications and worked directly with opposing counsel. I assisted with counseling litigation avoidance and participated in court appearances. I also began taking depositions in smaller cases or cases with discreet issues. Because my partners understood the importance of fostering business relationships, they encouraged me to do so, and I began developing business at an early stage.
By midlevel, I ran single-plaintiff cases, handled depositions and oral arguments, and began handling the day-to-day responsibilities in class actions. I was responsible for developing legal strategies in cases, with the input of the partner. I became more involved in client pitches and complex motions such as class action certification oppositions, and I became more independent in giving legal advice to clients. I represented clients in both judicial and administrative agency proceedings as well as in labor arbitrations, and I second-chaired two trials. I also mentored junior associates.
By the time I was a senior associate, I managed class actions and single-plaintiff cases, worked with clients independently, managed junior and midlevel associates and became a trusted advisor to my clients and partners. At this stage, I had developed a small book of business, was transitioning from day–to-day case tasks to more of a management role. Although I still drafted complex motions, I typically made most court appearances in cases and looked toward partnership.
I manage a diverse portfolio of clients and their legal needs, including labor and employment work, as well as other types of legal work, for which I turn to my colleagues with knowledge in those areas. I serve as first chair for trials and am the responsible partner for all of my cases. I also mentor a team of associates and help them develop their legal skills. Business development is top priority, and I am responsible for cultivating and nurturing client relationships and maintaining a pipeline of work for the members on my team.
I spent my first three years as a litigator. I focused my efforts on learning the procedural and substantive aspects of the law. By my third year, I second chaired my first trial in a civil proceeding (I previously second chaired a trial while a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps for the US Marine Corps). My early mentors echoed the lesson my father taught me, which is that the Rolodex I would build in my 20s and 30s would carry me through the later years of my career.
After spending 3.5 years as a litigator, I decided to change course by becoming a transactional lawyer focused on intellectual property and technology matters. My introduction to transactional work was a trial by fire. I was responsible for drafting changes agreed by the parties at the table. At times, this meant drafting real-time at the table. While not at the negotiation table, I spent time reviewing old deals to better understand alternative provisions and how the partners in the group would handle a particular issue in a deal.
I started to focus on the business of law and the path to partnership. With the support of the firm, I pursued speaking and writing opportunities, and focused on building my internal and external client opportunities. I oversaw younger associates and increasingly supported partners and associates in other practice groups. While that first year of practice is a tough transition, being a senior associate is the most challenging period – you have to balance developing your own way while continuing to serve the needs of those who helped you get this far.
Now my focus has shifted from doing the day-to-day work to generating business. I am supported in most of this work by junior attorneys. I also have responsibility for the performance of the entire practice group in my role as a practice group leader. I, of course, do not do this alone and have a great group of partners with whom to collaborate, but I am responsible for ensuring they have the resources and support necessary to advance their individual practices as well as the overall performance and market visibility of the group.
I began my legal career as a litigation associate in a large New York law firm. After gaining some exposure to transactional work, I realized my interest really was in corporate law, so I transitioned to becoming a corporate attorney. My primary role as a junior corporate associate was to support more senior lawyers by organizing and conducting due diligence review, controlling the document checklists, preparing ancillary documents and coordinating signing and closing logistics. I also participated on client calls and attended client meetings to get a more full picture of the deals.
After 5 years in New York, I decided to return to the Bay Area. It was important to me to join a firm with a strong corporate practice, which is why I chose Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich (now DLA Piper) in Palo Alto. I took a leading role managing all aspects of the transaction or project at hand, including participation in negotiations and supervision of junior associates. My interaction with clients increased, and I began to attend board meetings more frequently.
By the time I was a senior associate, I served as the lead lawyer on deals and managed key aspects of client accounts. I supervised junior and midlevel associates in the preparation of documents and led negotiations on transactions. Most of my work had limited oversight from partners.
I still serve as the lead lawyer on many transactions and supervise a number of corporate matters, but I primarily focus on key portions of the transactions and spend more time on strategic counseling. I also focus on client development and firm administrative matters. It was important to me to invest in the future of the firm, so I looked for ways I could contribute. To that end, I co-chair the Northern California Corporate Group, the Palo Alto Diversity Committee and serve on the Palo Alto Hiring Committee and on the National Policy Committee.