Balance: Elie Margulies

Third-year associate Elie Margulies came to Clifford Chance as a lateral hire into the Real Estate practice. He lays out his strategies for managing a busy practice and making time for family.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

I was inspired to become a lawyer by my father, an attorney who instilled in me the value of mutual respect. This has taken many forms in my career so far – it ties in with the desire to work in an environment that encourages growth and the exchange of ideas.

My own work style is to learn by doing and not be afraid to ask questions. Working in a very busy practice means that I have a lot of opportunities to test my knowledge, and that really works well for me.

Asking questions has played a large role in my growth as an attorney, but I’ve learned that the way I ask questions is even more important to gaining an understanding of the issues. I try to show that I’ve already done some critical thinking by coming prepared with possible answers: “I’ve come across this issue, and I think we can do X, Y and Z – what are your thoughts?” Everyone appreciates that, and it’s a valuable learning experience for me.

Organization is critical. We work on complex deals with many facets and a lot of moving parts. I’m not disorganized by nature, but when first starting out, I wasn’t sure about simple things, even just how to manage my paper and email files. But over time I picked up tips from other associates and figured out what works best for me.

“My own work style is to learn by doing and not be afraid to ask questions.”

Being organized also helps in balancing work and family time. Sacrifice is part of the game in Big Law, and I was fully aware of what to expect in terms of long hours when I started out. To balance that, if something comes up at work during the weekend, I’ll try to handle it, if possible, when my kids are asleep or involved in an activity. I’ve also reprioritized certain of my own activities, at least temporarily, for the sake of getting face time with my wife and kids. It’s never easy, but we make sure that at some point during every weekend we have family time – just us.

Mentors are very important – having someone to lean on for substantive and career advice, or just to talk to about life. But it also comes down to respect. I think anyone can imagine what it feels like to be a first year working with a partner on a deal and having to admit what you don’t know – even though everyone is expecting that.

I’ve come to a great stage in my career, still a junior but with enough experience to also be a mentor. Apart from the reward of helping others, it builds my confidence to explain things, because I also realize just how much or how little I know. Now, associates who are more junior feel comfortable coming to me, and I welcome that. n