My interest in corporate law was sparked midway through law school. In my second year, I took an M&A course taught by a professor who had spent most of her career working as a banker. Her unique legal perspective and obvious passion for deal work opened my mind to an area of law unfamiliar to me. Joining my firm’s Transactional Pool was a great fit, because, while I knew what I was generally interested in, the variety of transactional experiences helped me further discover what I was truly passionate about.
The process really began when I was a summer law clerk. I got to spend three weeks working overseas in our Frankfurt office, which was a great opportunity to learn more about the culture and processes of the firm, and see first-hand how international deals progress. This experience not only helped improve my work product and strengthen my transactional interests as I headed back to New York, but also taught me the value of building and maintaining strong, borderless professional relationships.
I was thrilled with the level of responsibility I was afforded at the start of my career. Early on, I worked directly with partners on sophisticated transactions and was given a high level of client contact. For example, I was fortunate enough to attend numerous client meetings, negotiations and closing dinners – all within my first year. The fact that I was trusted to help represent the firm at the highest levels was exceptionally rewarding and helped quash the doubts or fears that occasionally crossed my mind.
My growing confidence is also fuelled by the guidance of several mentors who push me to excel in everything I do – and that creates a cycle that feeds itself. By producing high-quality work and demonstrating an ability to take critical feedback, you earn the confidence of your seniors and partners. Then, they are more likely to provide a stream of challenging assignments that help you continue to grow your skills. Even more, my mentors provide the comfort to take risks, because I know that someone is there to offer advice and correct any missteps. That level of comfort gives you the freedom to ask questions, raise concerns or even challenge ideas.
Finding a mentor who fits your personality and work style may seem difficult, but it really comes down to being proactive, being assertive and casting a wide net. Engaging in the material, asking questions and taking every opportunity to discuss the broader transaction will show your willingness to learn and grow. And working with colleagues this way can lead to friendships as well as compelling mentorships, both of which are necessary to excel in a demanding work setting. Simply knocking on doors and doing the little things can go a long way in shaping your career.