Check your baggage: Jacklyn Hoffman

Second-year transactional associate Jacklyn Hoffman explored a wide variety of interests before setting her sights on a career in Big Law. She talks about facing down challenges, embracing the process and keeping her goals front and center.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

Growing up, I didn’t plan to become a lawyer. I considered many paths, studying history and astrophysics in college. I briefly explored a political career after high school, working on a campaign and interning in a senator’s office. While it wasn’t the right path for me, I found politics interesting in many of the ways I now find the law interesting – particularly the shaping of laws and how this affects the way we think and live.

When I arrived at law school, I felt like everyone else already knew how the process worked and what was expected. In my second week, I was told that I had “missed the train,” and my odds of becoming a transactional lawyer in a big international firm were minimal. That energized me. If the train was already running, then I was going to run harder to catch up. I took a course on derivatives, led by two inspirational professors, and just followed my passion. Now, I’m glad that I didn’t have all that baggage going in.

On day one at your firm, you don’t know what your clients need, and you don’t understand the larger context. It’s intimidating, and the learning curve can be long and difficult. But as you get some experience and grow more confident in what you’ve learned, you’ll find that you can pick up the phone when a client calls and answer questions without stopping to get help. That’s when you know that your time and effort are paying off.

My biggest accomplishment so far has been expanding a client relationship. I went from handling an occasional assignment to being a key point of contact. We have progressed to daily phone calls, and more work streams are coming from this relationship. I’ve also met more casually with my contacts, away from the office, which has allowed me to learn about their values. As my own knowledge and confidence have grown, so has our relationship as a firm with this client. It’s been very rewarding to be part of that process.

I like setting goals. Outside work, I am training to compete in my first half marathon. If I’m working on something difficult, then I’ll challenge myself to learn it by the end of the month, or I’ll sign up for a demanding race just to push myself. I find my balance by staying very organized: I write down my goals and try to stick to them.

I think it’s a good idea to keep your horizon broad and become a well-rounded person before narrowing down to a career path. My firm supports that, especially with the pool system, which allows me to follow my interests and be authentic. Rather than obsessing about the future, I tell myself: relax, you’ll get there.