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Washington, DC-based Litigation partner Megan Gordon discusses the importance of business development skills and strong relationships in setting her on the path to early partnership.

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photo of Megan Gordon

I always wanted to be a lawyer. It crystallized for me in eighth grade, when Bill Clinton was running for his first term as President. I was a huge fan of politics, and knowing that he was a lawyer set me on a path toward a legal career. I went to law school in DC thinking I would become a lobbyist. But then everything changed.

9/11 happened during my first term at Georgetown. The fear that day inspired led to my interest in national security. The following summer, I worked at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, fighting money laundering and terrorist activities. My post-graduate career went from there.

I had no idea about business development until I became immersed in working with a commercially-focused litigation partner. I took my cues from him and actually found business development interesting. How do we sell? How do we sell bigger pieces? What constitutes a “win” in my practice? My grandfather, a scrap yard salesman, also inspired me. So I had two great role models for integrating business development into my practice.

There were pain points early on, such as finding the right balance in communications. I wanted people to know what I was up to, but I didn’t want to be a nuisance. I also had to learn how to respond when being peppered with questions in a partner’s office. You don’t always have to know the answer, but you do need to be prepared as far as knowing what steps are required to formulate the answer. Where the latter is concerned, collaboration is the key to delivering a better product.

It’s all about relationships. Everyone has the potential to give you work; junior colleagues will move on to senior positions, and staying in touch is critical. With clients, I want them to know that I am on their team. We’ve developed friendships and sometimes pick up the phone just to chat about our kids. So for me, the personal relationship is just as important as the business relationship.

My mentors and sponsors have been indispensible. Being homegrown at my firm, I’ve always had the benefit of their help, from building my practice to navigating the partnership process. Don’t sell yourself short; get a good support system and use it.

I chose not to wait to start a family. I had my first child at age 29 and transitioned to working part-time as a fourth-year associate. Flexibility has been essential to finding the right balance. It also helped that people were honest about my partnership track and helped me develop skills. Ultimately, being part-time mattered far less than the business I was bringing in. Flexibility allowed me to focus on business development, which then freed me from having to log so many billable hours.

My father had a phrase that I have lived by. As a young lawyer, you should keep this on your wall: If someone else can do it, so can I.