In this episode, guest host Stephanie Sanders, Global Patent Operations Chief at Kilpatrick Townsend, speaks with two professional development experts about how to become the CEO of your legal career.
Katie White is the Director of Employer Outreach at the George Washington University Law School and the principal at KT White Law Careers, a career coaching firm specializing in working with attorneys embarking on new careers. Before joining GW Law, Katie was Chief Attorney Recruiting Officer at Akin Gump, and prior to that role, she worked in attorney recruiting and professional development at a number of firms, including Dickstein Shapiro, Morgan Lewis, and Cleary Gottlieb.
Colleen Bear is the Senior Professional Development Manager at Kilpatrick Townsend. She has more than 20 years of experience in professional development, including organizational development and change talent assessment, leadership development, performance improvement, sales effectiveness, strategic planning, program management, and facilitation. She is an expert facilitator, and a highly impactful executive coach, and strategic consultant.
In short, our two guests are the ideal people to speak with when you need career advice.
In this episode, we’re going to discuss the challenges and opportunities that all lawyers face, regardless of whether they are just starting out or are more advanced in their careers. From upleveling yourself as a lawyer to effective networking strategies to making good career choices in the moment to speaking up and creating the right work environment for yourself, this episode is all about how – and why – you should take charge of your career in 2022.
Meet the Hosts:
**The opinions expressed are those of the attorneys and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or its clients. This podcast is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.**
Welcome to Sidebars. Kilpatrick Townsend's limited podcast series focused on women in patent law. I'm April Isaacson , a patent litigator and partner in the San Francisco office.Kimberlynn Davis:
And I'm Kimberlynn Davis, a patent prosecutor and partner in the Atlanta office.April Abele Isaacson:
We're here to discuss the gender gap in the patent bar and have candid conversations with female patent practitioners on their career paths.Stephanie Sanders:
Welcome to the January 2022 episode of Sidebars. I'm Stephanie Sanders [and] I'm the Global Patent Operations Chief at Kilpatrick Townsend. And I am honored to have been asked by Kim and April to be the guest host for today's episode. January is a time to think about the future. People make new year's resolutions, they set goals, and one of those areas is in your career. And so today on sidebars, we're going to talk about how do you become the CEO of your career this year? We have two great guests with us. Both of them are in the business of professional development, Katie White and Colleen Bear. And they're going to teach you how to become the CEO of your own career . Katie White is the Director of Employer Uutreach at the George Washington University Law School. In addition to heading the recruiting and networking programs for the law school, Katie counsels IP students, intellectual property, and works closely with the Associate Dean for Intellectual Property [Law], [and] former USPTO solicitor, John Whealan. She has relationships with GW law, alumni and boutique IP law firms and general practice firms with IP hiring needs. And frankly, pretty much everybody in the DC law community. Katie is also the principal at KT White Law careers, which is a career coaching firm specializing in working with attorneys embarking on new careers. Katie also works with executives and people who are not lawyers. She's just fantastic all around the board before joining GW law, Katie was chief attorney recruiting officer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Prior to joining Akin, she worked as Attorney Recruiting and Professional Development at Dickstein Shapiro, Morgan Lewis, Swidler Berlin, Cleary Gottlieb, and Covington & Burling. As I said, she knows everybody who's anybody in the legal field. Next, we have Colleen Bear. Colleen is the Senior Professional Development Manager at Kilpatrick Townsend. She has more than 20 years of experience in professional development, including organizational development and change talent assessment, leadership development, performance improvement, strategic planning, program management and facilitation. She also does sales effectiveness, instructional design and career counseling. I can speak from experience. She is an expert facilitator, executive coach and strategic consultant. If you are not sure how to do something, chances are pretty good that Colleen can coach you through it. So two wonderful guests, Katie comes to us from the law firm and law school world. And Colleen joined the law firm world after being in the corporate world, which lawyers like to pretend is a totally different thing. But of course, Colleen knows that's not the case . What ? Welcome . Welcome Katie. And Colleen.Katie White:
Thank you, Stephanie.Colleen Bear:
Thank you. It's so good to be here.Stephanie Sanders:
Awesome. All right . We are going to start off with Katie. And before we look forward, we're going to look a little bit back. So Katie, can you talk to us a little bit about the changes in the industry that you've seen throughout your career?Katie White:
Absolutely. And as we know, you know, we're in a very strange time right now, but let's just talk about some things that have changed over the years. And I would say number one, law firms have become much more corporate, much more like businesses. And that's why you see all this movement in this growth and everything. They're really taking a page from the business model. And they also have moved more towards much more sophisticated approach toward billing and, you know, alternative billing structures and things like that. And they have actual staff now who really manage that rather than in the past, it was individual partners trying to make deals with their clients. So anyway, that actually has a big impact on the entire firm. So those will be two things. Also professional development has really grown when I was at Cleary Gottlieb , in the 90s, we called it training and there were some firms that were proactive and did a lot of that. And I would say Skadden Arps was one of the very first, they did a great job, but now it is really, really important at every to have, you know, show your investment in your associates and professional development is super important. And attorneys, when you get to the firms, associates, when you first start do not miss these programs, I know it's so hard. There's so many demands on a young lawyer's time, but these professional development programs are really important. It's a way to meet your colleagues and also to learn the topics that the firms are providing. And then I would just also say that, and we are gonna touch on this a lot. It's right now a super busy time for many, many firms. And so I know that the hours are up and people are working really hard, but please don't lose sight of your own career. And again , we'll be for focusing on that , but that's what I would say about changes.Stephanie Sanders:
Thanks, Katie . It really , uh, I've only been in this legal world for a little over 15 years and even in my time it really thinks have changed so dramatically. So let's fast forward a little bit. Colleen, you have been in the law firm world for a little bit less time than Katie and me, if I understand correctly. And can you tell us a little bit about how you've seen things change and maybe how law firms are different from your experience in companies before that?Colleen Bear:
I sheepishly have to say that in terms of law firm experience it pales in comparison to Katie's. I have been in the legal industry for 11 years. What I would say is that the change over the last 11 years has been very significant. In fact, I remember distinctly when I joined Kilpatrick Townsend, I heard somebody say that I , unless you're Dale Carnegie attorneys won't want to hear from you about things that are in the professional development space. So I, I kind of chuckled at that. For those of you that are lawyers, you may not know who Dale Carnegie is. He's a guru in the professional development space in the corporate world in business. So a lot of what I brought to the law firm was new and innovative, even though it was common practice for people that would be your clients in the Big Law space. So I felt that it was really important that the lawyers in our firm be exposed to that because there is so much good content and good methodologies and good best practices that the lawyers had never been trained on. So it actually allowed me to kind of shine if you will, because the things that I was bringing to the law firm were new and innovative in their mind, even though they had been practiced for decades. I was joking earlier with Stephanie about the fact that back in 2010, when I joined Kilpatrick Townsend , I asked about feedback and what kind of feedback is offered to the associates? And I remember reading an article where a partner at a various law firm commented. Nobody held my hand when I was coming up through the ranks. Why should I h old theirs? And I just find that to be so contradictory to the way that we're trying to help our associates develop a nd grow. And I'm really pleased to report that many, many, many partners are o n b oard with this, of course, as our youngest associates become senior associates and the career patterns transition and people evolve in their career. It's great to train associates at the younger age because they bring those truisms with t hem as they progress in their career.Stephanie Sanders:
Yeah, absolutely. It's very interesting to see that change over time as well. And I certainly, if you listen to my episode, you know, that I had some challenging times with supervisors , when I was practicing attorney. So Katie, I'm gonna jump off from there and say, so one of the things listeners you should know is that Katie is a master networker (Collen is too). And so Katie, I'm gonna ask you, so what should you do if you are a law student, a young lawyer, a senior lawyer to win friends and influence people.Katie White:
I'm so glad you asked. Yes, because that's super important in one's career. I wanted to start by saying, you know, there's been a lot written about this, but to quote one study successful women attorneys report their interpersonal relationship, as well as their professional relationships and networking are the keys to their success. So overall you want to seek out mentors. And I think a lot of you also know the term sponsors. So a mentor is someone, right, who could be a senior associate, or sometimes it's a partner who's trying to help you navigate the firm and figure out what the politics are and what you should do. A sponsor is more someone who could be very senior, maybe the head of a practice group or something like that who can open doors for you. And these relationships will take time to develop. So your first day at a law firm, as a new associate, you wanna meet as many people. And certainly if you meet somebody senior, that's great. But I really think it's important for a new person starting out to have goals and think about your own career. And you absolutely are going to take on the assignments and whatever's handed to you and work on those matters, but you need to watch and look and learn and figure out, oh, there's a partner over there. I maybe never met that partner before, during my summer program, whatever, but I really like the work that person is doing. Then get to know that person proactive. And there are ways to do this. And so that eventually, maybe there will be something you can work on with that partner. So I think that's just really key. The other thing is there's different kinds of networking. And again, you have to balance all this with your billable hours and what you can do, but at any stage in your career, as an associate, you should look at the committees, like what are the committees of the firm and what might you be able to get involved in? Because getting involved in the committee, you're gonna meet lawyers from other practice groups. And I think especially for the IP space, you know, it's a very, a specific practice area. It's very important to meet people across the firm, not only in your specific group . So committee work go to networking events. Even if for right now, they still have to be online. You know, whatever you can do to meet other people and other groups at the firm. Then another thing is look outside. And again, all of this I know has to be balanced with your time, but many, many people benefit from involvement, in an external mentoring situation. So I know AIPLA has some meetings and , uh , there are other IP organizations where you can join or the DC Bar get involved in an outside organization. One, I particularly know pretty well is the Women's Bar Association. And it is a terrific way to get leadership experience. You get advice from people who are at other firms, but your peers to make relationships with people who are at are perhaps at a corporation, and this can really be to your benefit for future business development. So that's why, and you may have heard. And if you haven't, it's super important if you're in law school connect with your fellow law student so important, you never know who's gonna end up being the CEO of Coca-Cola. So all of this is super important. I think it's so important not to get overwhelmed. So you need to like have a plan and think, okay, what is doable in my situation and for my career . But I think so, so important to not lose sight and not just keep your head down and do the work, but you know, how can I meet people and grow in my career? So I think networking is super, super important. And then I will just say one more thing, which is that , you know, never fear, many, many attorneys I've forgotten the percentage are introverts. So it might not be your thing to go to a big networking event and meet people in all the glad handing, but there are other ways that you can grow and do that. You couldn't get involved in a committee and then that way you'll all be working on a common goal. I think at that is super key.Stephanie Sanders:
Absolutely. I completely agree with you 100%. I'm pretty sure that of the attorneys in the office where I sit in DC, I might be the only extrovert. So I completely uh , understand that. Uh , I'm pretty sure I broke the Myers-Briggs scale with the E just went way too far. Absolutely. That's fantastic. So Colleen, let's imagine that when I went to law school, I had Katie White as my advisor and she taught me all of these lessons and I've incorporated everything into my brain, but now I'm at work. What do I do once I get there? And I know this is one of your specialty areas, coaching people through, "oh my God can told me to do all this stuff. How do I get it all done?" So what advice do you have for making it happen?Colleen Bear:
What I would say is that attorneys sometimes think that the technical expertise is the end all be all . And as much as I 100% agree that that is the cost of entry into the job in order to be successful, I think a more well rounded approach to your career development is necessary. And what I mean by that is if you're gonna join, for example, a law firm that is considered Big Law , an AmLaw 100 firm, let's say my number one recommendation is to capitalize on that. So young lawyers who join smaller practices or boutique law firms or join an individual practitioner, probably don't get the benefit of the resources available to you in Big Law. At Kilpatrick Townsend, we have many, many resources beyond the traditional CLE experience. Those things are necessary. So absolutely do them. I , you know, I was listening to Katie speak and three things came to mind, which I would think would be a recipe for success for a young lawyer. And I have heard this time and time again from partners who are looking for this in their young associates, they want associates who are visible. If you are hiding out in your office, whether it's in the actual office or in your home office, if you are MIA and those partners can't find you, you are doing yourself a great disservice. If you get the benefit and the, the wonderful work-life balance of working remotely, it does not mean that it's going to be easier. If anything, it's gonna be more difficult in other areas. Yes, you don't have the commute. Yes, you have the convenience of being comfortable at home, but then you have to work harder in other areas. And one of those areas is to be visible. I counsel every single associate that I talk to be on camera , do not hide. This is a job you need to be visible. And if you have to do that through technology, then so be it . Everything is a choice in this world. And if you are choosing to take advantage of the opportunity to work from home three days a week, those three days are not days off. Those three days are not pajama days. Those days are working from home, physically present, just not physically able to touch the other person. You might be remote, but you're still there. Number two is engagement. And I heard Katie say participate in these things. Yes, it goes without saying, and the disclaimer would be, you are very busy people with a lot of things on your to-do list. And there are only 24 hours in a day. I get that, but you have to become the master at prioritization. You need to look at every single day and decide what is the most important thing that you do that day. And then everything after that trickles downward. And you know, sometimes things just don't rise to the top of the urgent list and that's okay. And if you can't go to every single professional development opportunity, I totally get that. Obviously I'm skewed because I think they're all valuable. And we do spend a lot of really important thoughtful time making sure that what we bring to the associates at Kilpatrick Townsend is valuable and worth the time. These are billable people. So we don't offer fluff. We offer credible, high-quality programming. Um, the partners are looking to see, are you engaged? And it comes up. Inevitably, I just had a circumstance literally the other day where one of our department operating officers got a inquiry from a partner because a particular associate was not doing well with time entry. And they wanted to know, did they attend the time entry training? And unfortunately they did not. So whether things are called required or not, whether they're mandatory or not, these are things that are gonna follow you in your career. And so while we, maybe don't run back to the partners to say so, and so didn't, you're a professional, these are professional responsibilities. And so the onus is on you to participate, but people do pay attention and they may not ask for six months, but they eventually will ask. And then thirdly is communication. I always laughingly say that what I do for my career is not rocket science. However, because I work in a firm that's over 50% intellectual property. There's a lot of rocket scientists that I work with. And so I love to be able to say, I teach rocket science to rocket scientists because to them, this is new news. This is not inherently just a part of their natural DNA. It's also not necessarily taught in law school. And if they truly are of the classic lawyer, brain makeup, like Stephanie and Katie were talking about more of the introverted side, maybe the emotional intelligence isn't as high as people in other fields. And that's okay. And mind you, every different lawyer has , different skills. And I don't know, thinking preferences and personality styles, and all of that is fine, but your definition of what is acceptable communication could very easily be on a different planet than those that supervise you. So obviously I think the easy thing would be, how often do you want me to communicate? I mean, maybe you should just ask. So it's funny because I work with enough associates to know that I think the assumption is that the partners just wanna hire me so I can be quiet and mind my business in the corner and grind out my work and not ruffle any feathers. I don't agree with that. I just don't. I do think that you have a lot of deliverables. I think you have high billable hour requirement. I think that this is a phenomenal career with great benefits and lots of satisfying return on your investment of time and self and education and so forth. But it's not an easy job. You get a lot of fringe benefits, but you are wonderfully compensated and rewarded for your hard work. Therefore don't you want your bosses, the seven different partners, perhaps that you're doing work for, lucky, you, you have seven bosses. Um , they all need to know you're out there. They need to know that you're actively engaged. They need to know you're participating. They need to know that you want to be here. It's really , quite surprising how often that doesn't happen.Stephanie Sanders:
Absolutely. All of that. Colleen are things that I have learned over my career. And sometimes those lessons are very hard one. So how wonderful that the folks here at at KTS have you to maybe help it , help the, you know, the sugar helps the medicine go down, right? One of the things you said is that what got you here? Won't get you there. Right? And so let's assume that you're a lawyer and you had Katie White in school, and then you had Colleen coaching you at your firm, and you did all of the things you baked the whole cake using Colleen's recipe. But the problem is that you didn't actually bake a cake. You baked cinnamon roll and your cinnamon roll is stuck to someone else's cinnamon role . So there's a partner or a senior associate or a client that you are 100% associated with, right? Stephanie Sanders. Oh yeah. She's on the blank team. She works with blank and that's it. Whenever anyone says , Stephanie, those are the things that they say. So Katie let's imagine that one of your alumni, one of your alums calls you and says, okay, I've done all the things you told me, but now I have this problem. I wanna be the CEO of my own career, but I'm stuck to this person. And the person's fine, but I wanna do other things. I wanna branch out. I wanna learn more. I wanna, I wanna be my career. I don't wanna necessarily be tied to this other person or client. What advice do you have?Katie White:
Yeah, that's really a good one because, and I could just think of several examples in one actually, actually actually two our partners and one was at his firm for forever and worked really closely with one partner. And eventually this person became an income partner and the other was an equity partner anyway. And then guess what? The equity partner left and where they were going. They didn't have room for the income partner. And now what does person do because, oh , and also work dried up. So the guy who's left behind, doesn't have a client, doesn't know what to do, doesn't know what to do next with the career. So we tried to triage and help him. The second one, I think is a better example because it can show what you can do. So actually, a senior associate, when he first came to me, we worked together over a number of years, but you know, just a couple times each year, just checking in. And anyway, he's like, I am at a new firm. I came over with this insurance law department. We have a huge case and I'm so busy. I have no time for anything else. I'm only billing, billing, billing on this case. And it's great. So sure enough as time goes on, he can see the writing on the wall and this case is drying up and how much more insurance work do they have? Meanwhile, he has not developed any business development skills or anything because he was always working on that case. So he decides, "Hey, I want to become a privacy lawyer." And so he starts reading all about it, everything he can. And this was a , you know, maybe five years ago or six years ago, cause everyone knows that's kind of a new, newer practice really. Anyway , the firm is very supportive of, and he goes out and he speaks, you know, to clients and potential clients and everything about this area. And little by little he's building this expertise. Eventually he leaves the firm and he goes in-house at a big corporation. Now he's doing that work. So the point is, what did he do right? He did a lot of things, right. He was proactive. He felt this on own. He was able to convince the partners who we worked with, who really liked him and knew he was a hard worker and wanted to help him. So he was able to get his firm to stand by him and help him develop this other field, this other area. So I think that is just a fabulous example of what you can do and he has, [his] careers taken off and now he's in another big corporation and in it's, it's really great news. One of my prior firms, someone came to me as a private client later and she had been at that firm for years and years and years. And she was a reduced schedule person. And her work must have been really excellent because she was there all through the recession and everything, and they never laid her off. She comes to me and says, you know, the firm's been really good to me, but guess what? I don't wanna do this work anymore. Now, I want to move into antitrust. And she said, if I'm very nervous about it, because I don't wanna talk to any partners because I don't wanna get back to the people I'm working with. And maybe they won't support me anymore and blah, blah , blah . And I could assure her without doing anything on my end, really to talk to one of the partners in that group, confidentially and say, I'd like to make a move. And lo and behold, she was able to move. So , um, the point is there are many, many people within the firm. If you're at a firm and you know, you, you get to know people and you do good work and you have a reputation for good work. There are people who will look out for you and listen and help you move. They'd much rather do that many times than lose the expertise and lose that lawyer because they couldn't help them.Colleen Bear:
So if I could, I'd love to jump in on that just for a minute. Over the last decade as we've been talking, I have definitely seen a change in that perspective. I remember a decade ago there would be almost like a, how dare they have disloyalty and leave us. Where actually I see such a paradigm shift there where the firm is much more supportive of movement inside the firm and outside the firm. Now, is that to say that every single partner loves that? No, of course not. If a senior partner has a senior associate and they are a fine-oiled machine and they work so beautifully together. Well, I think at that point, probably the associate loves that too. But what you need to do is you need to always be laying the groundwork so that you are irreplaceable. Everybody is replaceable, but some of us are a little bit easier to replace. So just like Katie was saying, here is this individual who is , you know, for anybody on the outside, looking in would say, wow, they they're in a precarious position. They are at a reduced schedule and so forth and here comes a recession. And, and so who's gonna be the easiest to keep and that person succeeded. So I think it takes confidence. And at a certain point, I think we'll get to, how do you speak up on your behalf and that assertiveness and feeling confident about the value you bring to the table. So does that mean that we get to rest on our laurels and you know, do one good thing and then it continues. No. If we work hard every day, we show and improve our value. And then I promise you that that will help, that absolutely will help. And you have to feel confident in what you bring to the table.Stephanie Sanders:
Absolutely. Colleen and I think one of the things that I think about in that sort of scenario is what are your transferrable skills, right? Like, let's say you don't wanna start a different practice. You don't wanna change, but you just would rather work with more than one person. Right? Do you have skills that can be, you know, is , have you built your network so that you can ask someone else for work? Right. Do people think, not just think you're associated with this partner, but think you're associated with that partner and you do good work and you've shown up to all of Colleen's programs and you've gone to the Women's Bar association events, right? Like what else can you sort of build into your own brand there?Colleen Bear:
Well , and Stephanie, before you move on, I was just gonna simply say, I keep reading article after article after article. And it just makes me so happy because this is my middle name. The legal industry is a relationship business. You have got to get over, no matter, look, introverts are wonderful people to have relationships with. They just maybe don't wanna do it over a microphone in front of 50 people. They might prefer to do it one on one. But if you're a self-proclaimed or a you've been assessed as a introvert, that's no excuse for not having relationships. You just might have to do it one by one , but it's still a professional responsibility for all of our lawyers. You need to have relationships internally and externally. And I can tell you that the people that continue to be successful at Kilpatrick Townsend are those that have relationships bar none, hard stop. It is absolutely critical that you do that. And the sooner, the better, I remember talking to one of our partners out on the west coast and there was a young associate. This is such a fabulously on point story. There was a young associate on her team doing work for her that associate wanted to try something different. And, instead of, being irritated, that basically the partner was being left in the lurch because now they had to do the work themselves and, and quickly find backfill. The partner supported that associate, that associate went to a different firm, not a , a different law firm, perhaps a client. And then that person moved the , that young associate moved to a second company and went in-house at a third company and became the GC and guess who she called as soon as she could. And it was a 15-year process. And that , in-house GC is now one of the biggest clients of the partner on the west coast and continues to this day and all because of the relationship.Katie White:
Yeah. And, and may I also , uh, that is just a great story. And may I also just add a quick note, which is the other day, you know, in my job , at GW , I meet with recruiting folks from various law firms. And so the other day a firm had just changed their hiring partner. And so the hiring partner and their recruiting team were on the zoom call with me and towards the middle of the call or whatever. I said, well, I , I don't know if you know, so and so , and I said the name, and this is an IP attorney who had been at their firm for two years. And it's, I said a brand new hiring partner, okay. And a big firm. And I say that name. And they all said , yes, yes. We know him. We know him. And I'm like, yeah, two years he's been there, but he is very proactive out there meeting people often in the big firms, you don't get to do recruiting or interview people until you're a little more senior. So whatever he's doing, he's starting off right on the right foot, you know, building those relationships now. And it was just gratifying to on his behalf to see their reaction.:
Those are both awesome stories, not to talk about me, but why not? So I , I think that sometimes people forget that you could bake friends with anybody and that those relationships will follow you, particularly in the IP space. It's a very small community around the country, around the world, and you will run into paralegals at different firms. You will run into if you're working in patents and you're working with inventors. I've I had an inventor tell their, you know, tell their in-house counsel that they should hire me because they liked working with me. And when they were at another company, you know, and so you just never know. Right. You never know. And I just think that it's so important to be a nice , open, friendly, non, you know what, because one, then your life is better. And two, that becomes part of your brand, right? It , I would like to think that if someone said, Katie , do you know Stephanie Sanders? She would say, oh my God, Stephanie, she's great. Because I like to think that part of the brand that I've developed over my career is that I'm friendly. I'm fun. I like to be around people. You know, all of the things that I consider the Stephanie brand and only a tiny part of that Stephanie brand is patent attorney. There's a lot around it. And so I'm interested in hearing from, from both of you, and maybe we'll start with Katie about if someone is saying, okay, I got the job , I've connect , I've made some connections. I'm going to the events. How do I create the Stephanie brand? What sorts of things should I think about that I wanna be known for? And how do I develop that?Katie White:
Yeah. I think that one of the first things that you'll see and hear about networking relationships is what can I do for you? Okay. So this is a stumbling block for law students, because they're like, oh my gosh, you know, I'll reach out, but I can't do anything for this associate, whoever, you know, I'm just , uh , starting out. And so I'm asking them for career advice. I'm like, that's fine. Nobody expects you to give anything back. But what if in the course of the conversation you found out that this associate you're talking to has just relocated from New York to DC. You can make recommendations. Another reason that people and I will pick on you, Stephanie think you're so great is you follow up . Okay. So if, and that's what's key. Okay. So you have a conversation with someone you find out that they have a need or, or you're an attorney and they're trying to look into something new and you've seen an article. So then you send them the link, something like that, giving back in some way and you don't have to d o it every time, but that's really key. That keeps things going, because then I know if I really need something from you, you're gonna help me out. And it's v ice v ersa. So, and I will say, e xcept f or back again and do s ome, say something personal. But when I, eft Akin Gump, which is my last firm, it was big recession, e t c etera. I could not believe how fortunate I was because I h ad always been a big networker and people came to me and helped me out and offered me, you know, work or whatever. And I was just like, wow, it came back like a hundred f old. Obviously. I always appreciate people, but something as drastic as leaving a law firm during the recession and what's gonna be next was just such an aha moment that, you don't network, the purpose of networking is not g reed or whatever that you want something from someone, but it's, y ou're building a relationship so that you can give to each other, you know, and help each other out in their career. And yes, I think that's how people have to think of it. It's like a beginning of a connection that can pay off.Stephanie Sanders:
Yeah. And I wanna hear what Colleen has to say, but I will also tell you that works the other way. I was once in a position where it , it may have been you, Katie , it may have been somebody else who said, I have this person who's interested in patent law. Will you talk to them? Sure. I'll talk to anybody. That's part of my brand. And I spoke to this person and we had a very nice chat and I never heard from her again. No thank you note. No, nothing. She ended up getting a summer position at the firm I was at at the time. And I will tell you when she started there, I was ticked because I felt like the least she could have done was send me a thank you note, you know, not a good way to start, right? And I didn't expect anything from her other than a thanks so much. And so it really is sometimes these little tiny things. Right . All right , Colleen, I'd love to hear about building your own brand.Colleen Bear:
So that's interesting your , the story you just shared because that's the perfect segue into what I was gonna recommend. And that is a fun little equation that I teach all of the associates here at the firm. And I use it on a daily basis, myself, probably 25 times a day. And the equation goes like this. We make hundreds of choices a day. If you are, self-aware enough to analyze. And for those of you who are good lawyers that are analytical thinkers, that I would assume is a very high percentage. This might be an exercise that you enjoy. It takes out of the equation, the vagueness of emotional intelligence. And it really becomes an analytical exercise. You analyze the choice. You look at the results, you determine if they were effective or not. It's so simple, it's ridiculous. And yet so powerful. So the young lady, I think you mentioned it was a female in your story, Stephanie, she made the choice to meet with you. And by the way, she made all, all kinds of choices leading up to that interaction during that interaction and following up with that interaction. And one of the things that she did not choose to do was to professionally follow-up with the person who took the time. Right? Well , the result is that it left a sour taste in the mouth of somebody who was gonna now be a colleague, if not a decision maker in the firm where she was gonna be coming in as I believe an entry-level associate, I would say that that falls into the category of not effective. I mean, you're making choices in your career. So when , when we say , be the CEO of your career, we have to take ownership of what happens to us. We are not passive doormats that things are done to us. Is there a whole other conversation that has to be done in terms of equitable opportunity? Sure. And people who have a bigger, you know, hill to climb , of course, but regardless of the starting point, you still have control over the choices that you are making and making sure that you're focusing on those that you absolutely can control or influence. We don't wanna spend a whole lot of time focusing our energy on things that are beyond that scope because that's a lesson in futility. So you can make choices about, are you gonna have a , an , a positive outlook or a negative outlook? Are you gonna stay open-minded? Are you going to be open to new ideas? Are you going to be engaged? Are you going to be invisible? Are you going to communicate? These are things that you absolutely can impact yourself. Can you control who it is that once you get that glorious new job, and you're so excited to start, and you realize that you are working on the team for a crotchety, mean curmudgeon of a partner. And I, I'm sorry to break it to you, but some people like that do exist in every field, in every walk of life, in every area of life. Yes. And I'm really sorry. I would love to say that everybody is gonna work for Atticus fit , but we don't . Okay . So there's regular people out there and you have to decide, well, that curmudgeon of a partner is really putting a cramp in your everyday mojo. You have to decide, you have a choice on how you're going to react to that. I bet you don't have too much of a control over getting reassigned, but you can start putting into place and making choices about expanding your horizon, creating relationships with other partners, doing really good solid work that you're above reproach. And at the same time influencing what might happen a year from now. I always used to like to say within six months, everything seems to change. You know, dynamics are always in flux, a new associate joins. Another associate might leave, this partner retires. This young partner comes in and all of a sudden is the team leader and the entire dynamic shifts. So change is inevitable. And I personally kind of find change to be something that's a, a fresh opportunity. So again, the equation is very simple. You're looking at the choices. Choices could be your actions, behaviors, things that you say , and the results are really what is the perception by others? We all know perception is reality; and then, is it effective or not.Stephanie Sanders:
Yeah, of course.Katie White:
Can I just add on to that just for a minute, which is I recently was talking to a junior associate maybe , uh , second year, the associate's on a case, a team and it's really busy and it's litigation. One Partner's great. And another partner is so difficult to work for. And the associate not only working many, many hours was just so unhappy day after day. And so what I recommended is go to the legal personnel office, talk to one of those, you know, the people in that , in their shoes, at the , at the recruiting office or whatever, and just because they are there for you. And I think that's, what's so overlooked. All I'm trying to speak to is basically there's such a fear. And especially the junior associates of ever raising anything where somebody is gonna judge them, oh , maybe I'll be fired. If I say this, I said to the person, this is not news to the firm that this partner is difficult to work for, but you need to have some help, some internal help about how to navigate this. And I was so happy to hear that the person did talk to the legal personnel and got some assistance and et cetera . And they're working on the issue, obviously it's, they're middle of a big litigation, so they can't make a change. Like you said, Colleen, you can't always fix it right away. But the point is, should that person just stay there? Should that associate and let that fester, fester, fester , and possibly leave again. The firm does not wanna lose that associate. And if someone's aware of it, you know, they can talk to others on the team. There are things that can be done to help the associate figure out how to navigate. And then maybe and eventually they'll be able to move on and work with other people. But I think that's, this is such, this is an issue I remember from all my years in the firms, you know, that people are just so afraid to speak up.Stephanie Sanders:
Well, that is an awesome segue, Katie . First, I would like to say that at up top, Katie said, do not miss your professional development programs. And one of the first programs I attended when I started at KT, even though I was not an associate, I wiggled my way in to one of Colleen's programs on making effective choices. And so much of that burrowed into my brain. And I think about it all the time and it has nothing to do with work. I'm like lay in , in bed, looking at Facebook. I'm like, Colleen would say, this is not a very effective choice. So I think that it's, it's easy to think about, well, think this is my work universe and this is my, my home universe . You're a whole person. Right. And these are life lessons, I think. Okay. But anyway, I wanna segue off of what Katie was saying , to talk a little bit more specifically about women in the law and women in IP. I think that in particular it has been my experience, and I know it has been similar for some of the women who have been interviewed by Kim and April on this podcast, that women are even less likely to speak up and ask for what they need and advocate for themselves. And this happens when you wanna move away from a particular case or a particular partner. This happens, you're asked to write your self-evaluation at the end of the year. This happens when origination credit is being given out, right? This happens during the partner compensation process, when you have to sing your own praises. And unfortunately it has been my experience that what happens is that these choices to advocate for yourself or not build up over time . And so it compounds like interest, right? And so if you are someone who is good at doing that and you start it right away, that is gonna grow. But if you don't, every time you short change yourself, you lose something. So I I'd love to hear from two of you, what advice you have specifically for women in this career, and Colleen is making a bunch of notes. So maybe we'll start with her.Colleen Bear:
You know, an exercise that I love to do with associates on this very topic is to, again, put the scenario through the following lens. When you are talking to other people, there's all different types of communication styles. But if we make it simple and we say to ourselves, I need to talk to somebody about, let's say billable credit. And you feel like you have been shortchanged, or you're not getting the origination credit that you deserve or whatever the topic is. You really have three ways to address this. You could address it passively, which kind of falls into the category. Like if you really stop and you think about the word "passive" and what that means, I think the perception of passive people, and I've heard all kinds of answers, but I've heard things from , um , mousey, quiet. That's not bad reserved. That's not bad. But then you get down the, the line of people's perception of passive professionals. And you start hearing words like doormat , you hear words like you can even hear words like lazy. If somebody is passively attending a team meeting, talking about a matter and never talks and never leans in and engages the perception could even whether it's wrong or not, could be that person is checked out or , and lazy. Okay. So as many positive words as maybe that you could come up for passive, if you really tried hard and you want it to be like extra gracious, there are multiple more negative words associated with that. Okay. So what's another choice. Well, you could be aggressive. Okay. But if you take the time to define aggressive, you might come up with words like obnoxious, mean yelling, pushy, dominant. These are not words that I would want associated with my personal brand. Now, does that person get their way by walking into a restaurant and pounding on the table and saying, "I don't like the way that this fish was cooked, redo it." Okay. Yeah. I mean, I guess the , the poor waitstaff to off would probably be like, "okay, yes, sir. Let me run back and go get you some new fish." But I don't want that reputation either. And it's certainly not gonna help you win friends and influence people like Dale Carnegie would tell us to do our friend, but you have a third choice. And this one I think might just fit the bill. And it's what I call assertive communication. So assertive communication, think about some of the words you might use to describe that logical truthful, confident, calm, strong, and honest. So, if somebody comes and wants to have a professional conversation, a reasonable conversation whereby they set boundaries or stand up for themselves, but they do it in a way that's mutually respectful. And that's the key. So it's not emotional. It's based on facts. It's honest and truthful. You know, you can't fight facts . You know, assertive communication, I think is probably one of my top tips for being able to communicate in a professional space when you perhaps are younger, or you're not, you're at a more junior level. I can tell you, I had this one conversation with a partner one time where I said, "you know, I'm teaching associates in your office to be more assertive. How do you feel about that?" And he said, "oh, it's about time. Somebody taught them how to do that. I need these people to speak up. I'm paying them for their professional opinions and I need to hear from them." So I think if you just look at it through the lens of, if you keep it super simple and you say, Hmm , do I want that partner to think that I'm passive slash pushover and not engaged? Do I want them to think that I'm overly emotional, aggressive, loud and obnoxious? Oh no. You inevitably wind up with your third choice. Assertive.Katie White:
Yeah , I think that's really great. One of the things that happens when a woman or two women are in a meeting, I'm thinking, sitting around a conference table, the rest are men, is men just naturally, it's the way they talk. I think, interrupt themselves [and] each other. And you just keep going and one interrupts and another interrupts. And so if you're kind of a , you know, you were , we were taught to be polite and you know, respectful. So if you sit back and wait, you're never gonna get a chance. So, women have to learn how to navigate that. And what I do is I don't forget my personality, but the minute one of the men is taking a breath, I'll just say, "may I add?" Or "I'd like to say." You know, there's a way to do it. You're still your own personality and your style, but you just can't sit back because that will get noticed. Absolutely. On the positive side, I wanna mention something that happened to a , a great woman, female IP student at GW. And I think this is great and she's gonna do great. And she has where she's gone. So in the recruiting process, she was, you know, applying for a 2L position at a firm, the woman partner in the group where she was applying really latched onto her. And she kept inviting her out, you know, come out for coffee or, you know, lots and lots of attention was paid during the recruiting process. And I remember counseling the student cuz the student was trying to decide between that firm and another firm. I said, I gotta tell you, this woman partner is not gonna stop. If you accept and you go to that firm, she's gonna become a mentor to you and you shouldn't miss this opportunity and don't just discount this. This is not made up. She's not just doing this because it's the recruiting season. And sure enough, the young lady went to that firm going like gang busters. And that woman partner has not forgotten her. So there are people that will stick their necks out and look out and try to, you know, mentor the younger generation. So I know that this is still a problem, but if you are lucky enough to find someone who will help you in that way, I think that's great. But yeah, it's tough. And another area where women traditionally do have issues is salary negotiation. I know at a law firm there , the salaries are set. So for associates, it might not be such a big deal, but you get to go in-house or wherever else again, just don't let yourself get sold short. There are ways to figure out what the range is, even if it's not totally public and you've gotta go for it because you'll never catch up otherwise.Stephanie Sanders:
Absolutely. And I think sometimes we forget that as women in IP, I will speak for myself that , I don't have a problem speaking up and I certainly don't have a problem sponsoring others , women, men, anybody. But I do think that we all come to the table with our own stuff, right? The good stuff, the bad stuff. And I know I was taught very early on exactly what Colleen said that women generally speaking, might fall into the trap of being passive. And how do we get you to that happy medium . And I've worked with some men who generally speaking, I have found fell into the aggressive bucket and how do we get them down to the proper level . So, absolutely ladies, this has been such an amazing conversation. You are both just huge resources and I am just so honored that I have not only have had the pleasure of talking to you here, but I've also had the pleasure of knowing and working with both of you. And so before we wrap up, I wanna get your one nugget that if nothing else, you'd like our listeners to take away. And let's go with you first, Colleen.Colleen Bear:
So I guess I would focus on maybe associates in a law firm at the entry level stage and at the mid-level stage. For the entry levels here at the firm, I would say the sooner that you recognize that you personally can influence your own professional success, the better. On day one , you need to be thinking about the impression that you are making to your colleagues within the firm. And by the way, you've gone through the recruiting process. So your personal branding started before that, but now you're onsite. I could entertain you with boatloads of stories about negative impressions that have been made by entry level associates that haunt them for years. And I want you, our listeners to know that right out of the gate, you don't have to wait and ask. You don't have to ask for permission. You don't have to wait for an invitation to immediately impact that. For the mid-levels, I would say at this point, and by the way, the personal brand, you can either define it for others or they will define it for you. So that's why I say that is a day one responsibility. By the time you get to mid-level, let's say you're at the firm for, you know, four years at this point in time, my recommendation to you would to be always looking at a 12- to 24-month increment in terms of where do you want to go next? Because nowadays in the legal industry, what I've noticed, I do a lot of business development coaching for partners. What happens is, you know, I'll just pick on litigation for a moment. Through the associate years, they may have been a general litigator, but our clients don't wanna pay top dollar for a generalist. They wanna pay top dollar for somebody who has a specialty or is known as something. So by the time you're a young partner now you've got a really hard uphill battle and it's almost an emergency at that point. So, why not at your four- or five-year mark really start exploring? Where do you wanna focus your career? Where do you wanna specialize? It doesn't mean that you can't change it kind of like you could change a degree in college. It gets a little harder once you're in your career track, but be thinking about it , start exposing yourself to things, attend industry group meetings within your firm . So that way you can kind of see where you might fit best and start planting seeds and planting seeds now, while you can, in order to start going down the path towards a specialization. And so for those two particular groups, those are, would be my two takeaways.Stephanie Sanders:
Great. Thanks, Colleen. Katie?Katie White:
I just add one thing really to the mid-level associates. I would also say, observe what's going on around you? How are you getting work? How do different partners delegate? One of the biggest things that is a problem for junior partners and sometimes senior partners, is learning management skills and how to delegate. It's super important and you wanna develop people and the more senior you get, you wanna keep good people working for you. And so you need to know how to delegate and check their work and how that will go down to your benefit. That's just super, super important. And then I wanted to add one thing, Stephanie, for also the law students. If there are any law students listening in, and I would say a lot of these same things apply, be proactive. And I always kind of chuckle at the, you know, during the first semester of the first year, some students come to me and say, I hear you , the IP counselor, and what should I be doing? And I always kind of tell 'em , oh, you know it early on, blah, blah. But these are people that get it. They're like, look, I want to make the most of my time here at law school, I wanna understand the big picture. When is 1L hiring gonna start? What is this OCI stuff? Okay. So I just think, make it your business to figure out how to make the most of law school and the most of your resources. And just a final quick note is if your law school does not have a really active IP counselor or area, look online, there are more than one IP job fairs out there and all IP students can go. And I hear this from time to time when we have a transfer student, they had no idea about Loyola. They had no idea about this. So again, you know, take ownership above your career, even as early as in law shool.Stephanie Sanders:
Fantastic. I cannot thank the two of you enough for joining me here today. It was such a great conversation. It has reinvigorate me to continue to work on the Stephanie brand. Perhaps I've had my head down a little bit, too much doing my work. I took some notes and I'm gonna maybe up my game, you know? So even if people take just a fraction of what Colleen and Katie have said, you can very easily be the CEO of your own career. And I have decided after listening to you to, to that CEO stands for Continuously Expanding your Opportunities.Katie White:
Oh, beautiful, fantastic.Colleen Bear:
I'm gonna steal that.Stephanie Sanders:
It is all yours. You may have it not , not trademarked. Alright, great. Well, thank you again and listeners, we'll see you next month.April Abele Isaacson:
Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed Sidebars, we invite you to check out the Kilpatrick Townsend's Medicine and Molecules Blog (MEMO) at kilpatricktownsend .com to read, watch, and listen to other related insight on patent law. We'll also put that information in the show notes. The opinions expressed on this podcast are our own and are not those of Kilpatrick Townsend.Kimberlynn Davis:
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