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Caroline Meinertz is a London-based partner in Clifford Chance’s Banking and Finance practice. She shares her thoughts on the skills and support networks that have bolstered her career.

A D V I C E   T O   M Y   Y O U N G E R   S E L F

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photo of Caroline Meinertz

Self identity: a social construct

I wanted to be an adviser – I enjoyed talking to people and giving them advice – so it was no coincidence that I ended up as a lawyer who gives regulatory advice.

When I started in this career, I didn’t appreciate the importance of networking and spending not just time in the office, but social time with clients, industry representatives, journalists, and the whole ecosystem that comes with the profession.

That changed when I realized the importance of building a market profile. The area of law that I’m in is closely connected to political events, which made it even more important to be out there, and to be seen to be out there. When you are in the business of giving advice, people want to know the market view − not just your view.

You don’t have to meet everybody, but take the right opportunities such as speaking engagements or participation on panels. And if you make the effort to go along, make sure you say something.

A physical and mental workout

The primary skill that I’ve had to develop is resilience, and by that I mean both physical and mental resilience. You learn to operate when you’re feeling less than 100 percent well – things have to be done, and no one else is going to do them for you. It’s partly being a team player and not wanting to let others down.

In terms of mental resilience, you have to make tough decisions and deal with the consequences.

Know your “USPs”

Working on business and management skills as early as possible is really important; being a lawyer is not dissimilar to any other sales role. Ultimately, what we sell is legal advice. You can be the best technical lawyer in the world, but if you can’t sell your skills – your Unique Selling Points – you’re not going to attract clients. People find it hard to talk to clients about charges and ways to structure them so as to be cost-effective, but that’s a good skill to have.

Personal assistance

I was very lucky in that I had a great mentor. My advice to younger lawyers would be to identify somebody who can provide independent advice about your career. This is absolutely invaluable. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer, but someone prepared to give up a bit of time to chat through different challenges or issues when you’re at a turning point.

When building your career, your personal choices are as significant as the professional choices, because if your home life isn’t right, your work life is going to be challenging as well. Building a good and realistic support network is very important.

Believe in yourself

My overall advice is to have confidence in your own abilities, even when you go through stages – and we all do – when you have doubts about whether you’re able to meet a particular challenge. Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.