16 Lessons Learned In 2016

Olga V. Mack
Dec 29, 2016 · 4 min read
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This year, we’ve been lucky enough to interview incredible people, have plenty of thoughtful discussions, and expand our horizons — opportunities we are incredibly grateful for. Gathering the collective wisdom has been one of our favorite parts, so here are the 16 valuable lessons we learned in 2016.

Passion & Community

  1. Embrace who you are and follow your passions. Alexa King proudly talked to us about being an advocate for what she believes in and using her advocacy to help her companies grow. Likewise, Mary Rotunno told us how she turned her passion for service into a career in healthcare law.
  2. Always pay it forward! Whenever you start an organization, make sure you pay special attention that salaries and bonuses are actually equal on your team. Or support an up-and-coming attorney by being available as a mentor! Jan Kang, Michelle Banks, and Salle Yoo all embody the “pay it forward” spirit.
  3. With the right co-conspirators, a small idea can flourish and grow into something impactful, even quicker than you think possible. We experienced this personally when we launched SunLaw in May of this year. With the help of our brilliant co-founders Fatima Khan, Debbie Rosenbaum, and Rebecca Savage, it has grown into a diverse community of over 100 women in-house attorneys who are passionate about their careers and supporting each other to become the legal leaders of tomorrow.
  4. We learned that as long as you don’t let fear hold you back, you can make an impact using technology and social media. At the beginning of 2016, 24 Fortune 500 companies had no women on their boards. In 2016, we started a petition and social media movement, educating and encouraging these companies to take initial steps toward gender equality on boards. We are happy to announce that six months later, at least five of the 24 companies have added a woman to their board. Some even thanked us for our efforts!

Personal Development

  1. Build, foster, and cherish your relationships — they will be the key to your professional success and feeling of fulfillment. Katy Motiey and Kristin Sverchekstressed the value of relationships and shared insights on how to maintain them even when switching jobs or experiencing unparalleled growth at your company.
  2. Work through any symptoms of imposter syndrome you may have. Imposter syndrome is difficult, but you can overcome it. Eve Chaurand bravely and candidly shared her strategies and tips.
  3. Amidst the chaos and drive to succeed, don’t forget to slow down and take care of yourself. Jeena Cho, author of the Anxious Lawyer, taught us the incredible value of meditation.
  4. Being a lawyer doesn’t mean you should stop being who you are or having fun! We learned a lot from Alexandra Sepulveda, who embodies using a creative approach to drive important legal messages home to business teams.
  5. Take responsibility for your actions, but never let your mistakes guide you. This is a critical lesson to remember at every point in your career. Eleanor Lacey shared how she learned to master this intricate balance.

Career Growth

  1. Make sure you get out of your comfort zone and expand your viewpoint. This year, we were lucky to talk to many professionals about how lawyers can broaden their horizons. Caroline Krass, the GC of the CIA, taught us her perspective on working in the government sector. We also learned how to adopt the bold communication strategies commonly used by politicians. We were also reminded about the importance of reaching out and partnering with regulators — especially for startup attorneys.
  2. Hire your boss if the opportunity presents itself. Although it’s unconventional, actively hiring your own boss is an amazing opportunity to hand-pick your mentor, and make sure your boss will fit into your organization. Jesal Shah and Sarah Feingold hired their bosses this year with great success!
  3. While many of us become managers, becoming a true leader takes a focused approach, patience, and dedication to mastering the requisite skills. Karna Nisewaner taught us the three key approaches she used to grow from a manager to a leader.
  4. You should approach your career the way you would approach structuring a business. You can even borrow from standard business principles and create a personal business plan. Laura Lee Norris told us all about her successful approach!
  5. Stay on top of current market developments in your industry, and start thinking about how they will impact your company. We both work in the technology sector, and some highlights this year were learning about the world of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
  6. Join a startup to “become an all-purpose, swiss army knife lawyer” — that was incidentally one of our favorite quotes this year! An amazing group of women told us all about their experiences working at startups.
  7. Last, but definitely not least, prioritize spending time with people who inspire you, provide you with honest feedback, and truly support your success. We have been so fortunate to learn from so many incredible people this year. We have also learned how amazing it is to co-author with someone who makes the whole process fun, interesting, and inspiring — even during the stressful times!

Of course, there are so many more lessons we’ve learned this year, but the ATL editors probably wouldn’t appreciate a full list of 2016 lessons from 2016. Thank you for joining us on this ride — we couldn’t have done it without you! We would love to hear what your favorite lessons this year were. Feel free to share them with us using #16in2016!

We look forward to sharing more with you in 2017 and wish you a Happy New Year!

This article is co-authored with Katia Bloom and originally published by Above the Law.

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