Which project, deal, or transaction was the “game-changer” in the advancement of your career? In the early days of my practice as a self-employed attorney I did what most new attorneys do: simple wills, setting up corporate entities and some residential real estate closings. A close friend referred me to a client that was purchasing a commercial building to set up his business. They both knew I was inexperienced, but because of a combination of my friend’s influence and plenty of luck the client trusted me to represent him during the purchase. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and haven’t looked back since. I spend a great deal of time helping with commercial real estate transactions of all sorts.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles? More than any other year in my memory, this past year has taught us all a great deal about conflicts and obstacles. If there is a positive side to what has happened, it’s that through it all we have learned more about ourselves and our teams as well. To me, it’s the fundamentals that matter. People respond to honesty even in the face of challenges. They also appreciate and value open communication where goals and objectives are concerned, and they value respect and empathy for each team member’s personal and professional situation.
What advice can you offer to someone who is interested in a career in your industry? You often hear a lot of negative things about lawyers, and of course everyone has their favorite joke or three about them. However, I strongly encourage anyone interested in the practice of law to pursue it. It is challenging and there is plenty of competition, but becoming an attorney affords endless flexibility to find a niche working in a practice area that you love and find rewarding. Even more importantly, the profession creates opportunities to help others in a lot of different ways.
Who was/is your mentor and how did s/he influence/help you in your career? Doug Cowie was a senior vice president at the bank where I worked for my first “real” job after college. I reported directly to him for a short time; he was far and away the best boss I’ve ever had. And after that he became a true mentor and friend. He was not an “assigned” mentor and there was no formal mentoring program in place – as was typical for him he just willingly volunteered his time and experience to help a younger employee succeed. He was quiet and modest, and he taught me a lot about professionalism, accountability and how to interact with others in the workplace.