Advocate: Christina Profestas

New York native Christina Profestas arrived at Clifford Chance fresh from law school. She has a passion for exploration and the intellectual challenges that define her litigation practice, and a deep respect for the past and the future of her profession.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

I always wanted to be an attorney, but thought it was important to consider other options before deciding on a path that I would follow for a very long time. I sought out a variety of experiences, including internships in communications and hospitality, and even working at a talent agency. Finally, I interned for a judge and was just inspired. That’s when I was sure that I wanted to practice law.

I studied English literature in college and have always loved reading, writing, research and analysis, as well as oral advocacy. I wanted to use those practical skills in my work, and so decided to become a litigator.

Our clients come from a diverse range of industries, and they all do business differently. I learn something new with every case, often things I never imagined. It’s interesting and very rewarding. Along the way, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of developing a professional network, which is strongly reinforced at my firm and something that junior lawyers are being more proactive about these days.

I see the value of mentorship. It has always been important to work hard and do your best, but now there is also a direct emphasis on seeking out mentors and learning how to get help, especially when there’s a case or project that you want to work on. Then it’s about being an advocate for yourself.

As a first year, I worked with people who were very generous with their time. I always felt comfortable dropping by their offices with a question, and they took time to give me thoughtful answers. On one occasion, a senior associate and I were working on a large project. We sat and had lunch, and even though she was so busy, she still took the time to ask: “How are you? Are you enjoying the work? Is there anything else you’d like to be doing?”

This made a huge impression on me. It showed that she cared, not just about the work, but about my professional development – and not just in the context of a single case, but more broadly and long term. As a second year, I’m making a concerted effort to be there in the same way for our first years.

I think of the law as an institutionalized field in some ways, especially when you look at long-held aspects such as the standardized law school curriculum and bar process. In other ways, it is very dynamic. Law firms must evolve with the times. I love being part of a new generation in a well-established profession.

At this stage, it’s all about small victories – doing well on an assignment, being reliable and feeling useful.