In the spring, four women attorneys from DWT attended a daylong Career Strategies Conference put on by Corporate Counsel Women of Color.
Brian Edge, an in-house counsel at longtime firm client Discovery Communications, contacted DWT partners he works with to offer the firm four complimentary registrations, which came as part of Discovery’s sponsorship of the conference, held April 25 in New York. Edge said the registrations were offered to DWT “in appreciation for the firm’s service to us and as part of our efforts to support the continued development of female attorneys of color at DWT.”
Four DWT attorneys—Margaret Claybour (DC), Deirdre Davis (NY), Karen Henry (LA), and Karen Ross (DC)—took advantage of the opportunity, and found the experience to be highly valuable.
“I found the panelists to be very strong and inspirational,” says Davis, whose practice focuses on intellectual property.“This was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.”
“There were many things I could connect with,” says Claybour, who is in the energy practice group. “One of the things that made this event a success for me was the concrete, practical advice coming from attorneys at firms and in-house folks who used to be at firms.”
Claybour says she found many good suggestions in the panel on “branding yourself,” which encouraged lawyers to see themselves as a brand internally and externally. One of the keys, says Claybour, is staying in control of your professional development. “There are a lot of resources at DWT,” she notes, “but the onus is on us to take a proactive role. It’s a constant challenge to keep yourself top-of-mind for your internal clients—partners, and senior associates to the degree they’re managing work for a client. You want to make yourself visible. If the firm holds an event, go to it. Write articles or blog posts. Don’t just sit in your office. Yes, billing is critical to our existence, but in terms of looking long-term, and insuring the opportunity to bill continues to exist, we have to do these other things.”
Karen Henry, who is in media litigation and has done a fair amount of work for Discovery over the last two years, says one of the best takeaways for her came from a presentation on what in-house counsel are seeking from their law firm attorneys. “You should think at every juncture whether what you’re doing adds value to the client,” says Henry. “You have to keep in mind their overall goal and be sure that what you’re doing is helping to further that.”
Henry notes that sometimes the most important work in this regard can be non-billable— such as “making sure your in-house counsel is aware of cases that have come down that are relevant to his or her practice area, or helping them polish an upcoming presentation. You want to be helping their development and making sure they look good to their bosses—everybody has one! That strengthens the relationship, builds rapport and trust.”
Claybour recalls one of the panelists observing that, most of the time, conference attendees fail to take advantage of the fact that the panelists are putting themselves out as potential contacts.
“I made it a point to connect later with at least one of the women on a panel,” she says.