our younger women [to] make sure you
develop your expertise in the profession first,
before taking on the additional burden of
leadership. Because otherwise, you’ll become
the leader but not the rainmaker, and you
want to be able to kind of get to both.
Q: When in your career did you feel like
you were ready to add on a leadership
A: That’s a good question and it depends on
what kind of leadership we’re talking about. I
think I was a partner for a year, so that means
I was an associate for five years here and then
was a partner for six years. I had been at the
attorney general’s office for about 18 months
before I came over here, so I had a little bit of
prep work there, too. When I was just a first-year partner, I was the head of the recruiting
committee here. That was an appropriate
level for the experience I thought I probably
had and it taught me some leadership, and
I did some pro bono work and was involved
in some pro bono boards. So I got some
leadership at a young age, and it was a great
opportunity, but it was appropriate for the
seniority or the experience I would have. And
then I was active in bar associations, both
locally and at the national level. That gives
you a lot of experience and you watch others
in board meetings, and you watch others in
CLEs or professional speaking engagements
and [you] take some tips from all that and
you grow into other responsibilities. So again,
you always want to reach a little, but you
don’t want to be stretched so thin that you
either fail at the leadership or fall back at
developing your own professional track. So,
you wouldn’t want to be a managing partner
maybe ever [laughs], but you sure wouldn’t
want to when you’re young in your career. Put
yourselves in those situations to stretch.
Q: How do you have a career and a family
at the same time?
A: There are lots of people who have both.
Nobody just has one thing. They’re always
balancing everything—I think “balance”
is the wrong word. I think when we think
of the word “balance,” we think in a given
day, 50-50, or whatever the split might be,
should be what’s happening. I try to remind
everyone, including myself on a daily basis,
that life is a motion picture; it’s not a still
frame. So at any particular time, you can
look at me and I can look hysterical and
things can be going wrong in all aspects of
life, but you just hope at the end of your life,
you will have looked like you have achieved
a lot because you have accomplished
things and that’s the best you can hope
for. I think back to my original advice about
working as hard as you can and trying to
be as organized as you can: That’s to keep
you organized for chaos because chaos
happens, and you can’t stop it.
Q: I imagine there are challenges to
managing such a powerhouse firm with
such … strong personalities?
A: You meant to say big egos?
Q: Well, yes.
A: I think the real issue, and I was talking
about this recently, is a partnership
compared to a corporation. I mean, you’re
correct that managing any group is difficult
and is probably most difficult if you really
think you’re leading it in some way instead
of just marshaling a consensus and moving
it like an amoeba. But I think the difference,
when I look at my clients who are mostly
corporations, compared to a partnership,
is the true herding of cats. In other words,
the corporation sets their vision and sets
their mission and their leaders know what
they’re pulling their group along on. And
they frankly have part of their compensation
built up in bonuses or some other piece that
goes against quotas or whatever else the
measurement might be. But if you take a
partnership: You have to get everyone to buy
into what you’re doing or what the rules of
the organization are going to be—and the
same thing with a partner. I say not that I’m
the managing partner—it might sound great
to all of you on the outside—but the truth is,
I work now for my partners. It’s an interesting
challenge, but it’s not all much different
than a family dynamic. You know, when
the children are little, the parents might be
in charge, arguably, I would say. And after
that, it’s really the consensus of the family.
Because if you just dictate, you’re not going to
have a very cohesive group.
Q: What’s the secret to finding and
A: If you hire talent that really match the
needs of your clients and match your
strategic focus and your core values, then, at
the end of the day, you should have clients
that are happy. Because, of course, they’re
getting good, bright talent that’s focused on
what their challenges are—and you’ll have
a colleague who has a common bond with
where you’re going and wanting to be and
you’ll be stronger because of the addition.
So I think a lot of firms have strategic plans
that call for growth; Dorsey’s no different.
That’s one of the things that can be tough to
do. You have to be very disciplined about it.
That is, looking for a focus and making sure
you have someone that fits it.
Q: How long have you been with the
A: Hm mm.
Q: And former Vice President Mondale
A: Right. He does so much for the community
and continues to do, but he also does so
much for the firm. And it’s not so much
bringing him in on tough legal matters—and
by the way he is the best on strategizing
there could ever be—you know, he gives me
some guidance on growth and direction of
the firm. But he really loves to sit with our
summer associates, the second-year law
students that come in or the brand-new (we
call them “baby lawyers”) and spend time
talking about the law as a profession.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?
A: The strategic stuff; that’s the good part of
being a managing partner. The personnel?
The meetings? Not so much. [Laughs]
Q: What’s advice you give to young lawyers?
A: You are better than everything because of
your past. You can never look back and say
that was wrong. There are many paths to
success in life; there is not just one. So you
can’t be frozen, unable to make that same
next decision because you’re looking for the
right one. I learned long ago in the practice
of law from Henry Halladay, a senior trial
lawyer, which you really learn from those
cases that you lose. You think about, of
course, the ones you win. But it’s from your
losses that you learn the most because you
rehearse in your mind the questions you
asked, what went wrong, what could have
been different. And that’s true about life.
I think that no matter what path we take
in life, we’ll get to a place that I hope we’ll
all be happy. But we’ll look back and say
we were a better person or a better lawyer
because of a relationship or an experience
or something that even at the time seemed
little. So don’t be afraid of those experiences
that look less than successful. They will
make you stronger in the end.