When planning a legal career, some want to work as an associate for their career while others desire to be a partner, shareholder or principal with a stake in the business.
Anna A. Mahaney doesn’t know if she ever set a goal of becoming a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP.
“I think my goal was just always to do the best job I could do at every stage in my career and, in doing so, my efforts were recognized by the law firm and I think it paved my way to making partner at a younger age.”
A rising number of young women are making the jump to firm ownership while also having a growing family at home along with commitments to volunteer boards and groups.
Mahaney has spent her entire career at Ballard Spahr joining the firm through a summer associate position and then formally after graduating from the University of Maryland Francis King Cary School of Law. Her practice is real estate law with a focus on representing commercial mortgage lenders in financing transactions.
While many aim for partner, Mahaney believes it is critical to have someone that believes in you.
“At a law firm, it’s very important to have a person who is motivated, when you are not in the room, to recommend you and to push for you to make partner,” she said. “I think having a champion is imperative to make partner at a big law firm.”
Mahaney notes she had important mentors to guide her in professional growth and learn from for development. She advocates for women to have both a mentor and a champion.
“I think the difference is you have to earn your champion and you do so by working as an associate very hard for the partners for whom you work and by identifying opportunities to expand such partner’s existing client base and to bring new opportunities into your practice group.”
Catherine Manofsky has spent her entire career at Kramon & Graham P.A with a broad civil litigation practice.
“It’s important to find a firm that has the right type of environment that is a good fit for you,” said Manofsky, a principal at the firm. “I am fortunate to have a firm environment here that is highly collaborative and collegial. I think that is important when you are looking to become a partner at a law firm and I think it is also important to find a place where you are doing work that you have a passion for because it requires a lot of time and effort to reach that stage in your career and the path to doing that is easier if you are doing the type of work that you are passionate about.”
She also believes in the importance of having mentors.
“I think that can help lawyers achieve success in their professional careers and I think it is important to have a mentor as you are moving up in your career,” she said. “I think I’ve been fortunate that my firm values the importance of mentors and has a strong mentor program for young associates.”
Those who want to rise to partner also need to be able to make a business case for themselves in today’s law firm environment by demonstrating that they have developed a solid client base and/or have the ability to do so and continue and forge ahead to grow their practice.
“You have to understand the economics of the law firm and have to be able to demonstrate you are capable of building a profitable practice,” Mahaney said.
Mahaney notes it is important for women to communicate with firm leadership regarding their aspirations and priorities so officials may assist them in achieving personal goals.
Jennifer L. Curry, a shareholder at Baker Donelson, said she learned how to best market herself to clients but also internally to other attorneys in her office especially in her field of employment law.
“I often times end up getting referred matters by clients who are already existing in the firm so my internal marketing itself really made a huge difference in my getting to where I am at this point,” she said. “With law nowadays, really there are so many lawyers out there and trying to differentiate yourself is becoming more and more difficult especially in the employment field.”
Curry focuses her cases on health care and financial institutions. Two keys to success, according to Curry, are responsiveness and simply just showing up.
“It’s not necessarily that you know the answer right away or without looking into it — it’s the fact that if somebody emails you with a question, you get back to them,” she said. “If you have the answer, obviously, you give the answer but if you don’t, you get back to them in a reasonably short period of time and you say ‘I got your email. I’m looking into this’ and you give them a deadline that you give yourself to get back to them. If you are giving yourself a deadline, you meet that deadline so I think it’s being responsible and responsive that make you a person that everybody can come to see as being reliable and they don’t have to worry about whether or not you are going respond or not respond. They have confidence in you and I think that is a huge factor in working with your colleagues.”
Mahaney is able to balance her partner duties along with a young family and volunteer commitments thanks to technology.
“With a smartphone and a laptop, I can constantly stay connected,” she said. “While this can make life busy at times, it certainly affords me the opportunity to be there with my children while managing the needs of my clients. … That’s certainly an advantage that didn’t exist 15 years ago. I have a home office that allows me to do everything at home that I could do here.”
Manofsky volunteers her time as a Girl Scout Troop leader and sits on her children’s elementary school executive board Parent Teacher Organization. These commitments allow her to give her time but also spend time with her children.
“I think it is important to find community service activities that are personally rewarding to you because I think if there are activities that you are passionate about you will make the time to do those,” she said.
Curry is able to balance her professional duties along with volunteer commitments and family life by being present in what she is doing.
“I am not trying to multi-task doing work while spending time with my family while volunteering because if you do that you are not really committing to any of those things so when I am at work, I am at work,” she said. “It is important to me that when I am home with (my daughter), I am home with her. Same thing when I am doing any outside activities as far as volunteering or on boards. When I am doing those things, I am doing those things. I think if you are present when you are doing those things, you are better at doing those things.”
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.|