Before law school, I lived in Mozambique for two years, working as a volunteer with the Peace Corps. Living abroad and being immersed in another culture – and, more importantly, learning from the people in my community – broadened my perspective. And I became proficient in Portuguese along the way. I also saw how business practices can vary widely from place to place. In Mozambique, for example, business dealings are primarily based on personal relationships – much more so, in that respect, than in the US. By the time I returned to the States, I knew that I wanted a career that was internationally focused.
When I think back on what drew me to my firm, several factors now stand out. Culture was important. I wanted to work at a place where people are open and willing to answer questions, and where there is a strong focus on social awareness and community. And I wanted to be part of a global organization that is truly interconnected, which is different from simply having offices all over the world.
In the beginning, we all take on work assignments with limited knowledge, whether about legal issues or more generally about the client’s business and history with your firm. But as you build professional relationships and ask the right questions, you progress to the point where you fully understand what you’re doing and can start expanding on that. Last year, when our São Paulo office needed help, it was a natural fit to go there on secondment. I already spoke Portuguese and, because we have a large footprint in Latin America, I have gotten a lot of exposure working on transactions in different countries in the region.
Social causes remain a priority in my life. Pro bono work has been extremely rewarding and is something I strongly believe every lawyer should do. That’s especially true for juniors because it enables you to polish your skills and work directly with clients. Outside of the office, I have continued to focus on helping people in Mozambique. During law school, with the help of my basic legal training, I started a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Friends of Mozambique. The organization raises funds to support small, but impactful and sustainable projects in Mozambique, such as teaching girls to write code, promoting food security for poor and vulnerable women living with HIV, and developing training for revenue-generating culinary classes.
Throughout law school, I was also involved with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), an organization that provides legal advocacy for refugees and displaced people, and after joining the firm, I asked about partnering with IRAP for pro bono work. When IRAP came to our office to give its initial presentation, I was thrilled to see dozens of motivated attorneys and staff in attendance. The benefits were clear – for the firm, the organization and, most importantly, the people who have since become our clients. But for me as a junior lawyer, it was amazing to approach our partners about something personally important to me and come away feeling supported.