At the beginning of November, the Associate Committee at Bilzin Sumberg organized an Associate and Of Counsel Day focused on networking, business development, and collaboration. The Committee, consisting of Erin Stafford, Hannah Lidicker, Ellina Berdichevsky, Brianna Sainte, and Alexandra Barshel, started the initiative to build camaraderie among new attorneys and to refine our soft skills.
We launched the afternoon with a networking lunch followed by a presentation from Heather McCullough, Partner and Co-Founder of Society 54. With career development top of mind, Heather honed in on the importance of controlling how you show up in all facets of life, communicating effectively with colleagues and clients, and engaging in consistent and authentic efforts when building your network.
We sped through lightning question rounds to learn fun facts about each other and later raced from room to room instructing our team to build a premade Lego structure. While fun and laughter filled the conference room, Heather also emphasized crucial lessons from the team activities centered on trusting each other, actively listening to colleagues, and depending on your team to accomplish a main objective.
When Heather discussed how to build your brand within the firm, I noted three key items: (1) ask for feedback regularly, (2) track everything, and (3) know how you are evaluated. She pointed out that important decisions are made when associates are not in the room, so it’s essential to receive constructive criticism and become aware of the annual evaluation metrics at your firm. Additionally, tracking your contributions on major cases, involvement in the community, and time spent on non-billable matters will make things easier when it’s time for your annual review.
Before the session ended, Heather addressed an elephant in the room when she asked a poignant question: What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? We reflected on the competing demands of an associate’s personal and professional life, and Mildred Gomez said it best during the panel discussion—“you can’t have everything.”
During the panel, The Things They Don’t Teach You in Law School, Mildred spoke honestly about juggling her caseload, tending to her family, and maintaining a life outside of the firm. Eric Singer discussed the role informal and formal mentors played in his professional and personal growth over the years. David Resnick rounded out the panel’s advice by encouraging associates to be comfortable with the idea that we will not know everything because our career will be a learning process.
We ended our evening with an outing at Fox in a Box Escape Room and Vero Italian Restaurant. With bragging rights for the remainder of the night, my team exited our escape room first after unscrambling codes, flashing lights, and combing through dictionaries to unlock the vault filled with cash and jewelry.
In addition to putting our newly highlighted team building skills to the test during the escape room, Bilzin Sumberg’s Associate and Of Counsel Day addressed a larger gap among first-generation associates who have yet to learn the unwritten rules of the legal field. With Heather’s insight on crafting a business development plan and the panel discussion of the firm’s structure, first-generation associates gained a better understanding of the ins and outs of a law firm.
Although there was only one winning team, we all walked away with a few gems in our back pocket: Relationships matter. Manage expectations. Tap into resources. And last, but not least, remember to relish in the journey as you learn and grow as an attorney.