I made the right decision to attend at a panel last month hosted by my local Latina bar association. The topic was on Latinas as General Counsels and it was so great! First, the panelists consisted of four talented, committed, intelligent, and successful Latina lawyers so I knew it was going to be a win already, but the advice and stories they shared were fantastic.
I want to share some of the gems I picked up from them. Basically, a General Counsel is HB(oss)IC of a group of attorneys. They not only have to keep the best interests of the firm/company in mind, but also have to manage a team of other attorneys. I’m not sure if there are current stats on the amount of Latinas as Gen Cs, but I can’t imagine it’s very high; I mean, we make less than 1% of the Partners in Big Law as it is, so…
The reason I mention the stats isn’t to disheartened, but to emphasize that the advice from these ladies is legit. They overcame whatever barriers were placed in front of them and got to work. Here is what they suggested:
One. Be a leader. I know that may seem nebulous, but being able to lead a group, manage problems, delegate, provide advice and counsel is a key component to this position. When you’re new to your career, a good thing to keep in mind is to work on your leadership skills. Don’t shy away from big projects or doing work that’s outside your normal duties if it will help you gain those leadership skills. As a new attorney you may not have so many options in-house, but you should make it a point to volunteer outside of your firm for new opportunities and get involved in your community to hone those skills.
Two. Develop your talent. Most firms provide some forms of training for new attorneys and we all seek out CLEs, but we have to go beyond that. We need to make sure we’re developing our own talent and not just becoming dependent on what our firms offer. Seek out trainings for skills you want to hone and for skills that you know are your weak sets. Like, if you hate public speaking–push yourself to do it because you should aim to make yourself as well-rounded as possible. At the same time, you should keep updated on issues in your practice area by being on list-servs, seeking out news, and reading new case law (even when that’s not always the most thrilling thing to do).
Three. Be grace under pressure. One of the common themes was the ability to stay calm and remain objective even when things are tense. I think this is such a great piece of advice all-around, but it was especially important for me as I work in poverty law where lots of things can seem like emergencies and it was a great reminder that sometimes we need to pause and re-align before moving forward. Being able to showcase a calmness during times of stress was something the panelists emphasized as an important quality of a leader. You want your CEO or Board Director or Exec Director or whoever is your leader to know you are a team member they can depend on to give quality advice not colored by negative emotions.
Again, the panel was so great. The advice was really open and honest–I don’t foresee a Gen C position in my future, but I definitely am going to push myself to take their advice!