What do you know now about practicing law that you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
com beth erklaw Elizabeth T Russell, Russell Law, Middleton.
I went from music school to law school. (I was going to be a high school band teacher. I got all the way up to student teaching when at last it occurred to me that my chosen career was going to require interacting with children.) I was a competent musician. But my real strength turned out to be the law.
What I wish I’d known, was that it’s just as important in law practice as it is in music to choose the path that genuinely interests and excites me. When I graduated law school I took jobs doing work in which I had zero to minimal interest, in environments I detested. I became disillusioned and, in fact, I left practice altogether for a period of years. Once I took stock and launched the practice that was true and right for me, though, everything took off.
Complete the sentence: I never leave home without ___, because ___.
My running shoes. I have been a runner since age 13 and have run eight marathons over the years, most recently the New York City Marathon in November. But with a full-time law practice and busy family, I have to be creative and opportunistic to find time to run. So, I always bring running shoes – either for a planned run or just in case. For me, running is time well spent; whether to finalize an argument, think through issues for a deposition, let a complex issue marinate, or catch up on podcasts or the Top 40. When traveling, it’s the best way to explore, and when traveling for work, it’s a great way to make sure that I know where the courthouse or meeting is the next day.
What legal memory will still bring a smile to your face 20 years from now?
For several years I shared responsibility for litigation associate training programs in our office. I once included a presentation titled, “Diversity Concerns for Litigators,” dealing with determining the citizenship of LLCs, national banks, trusts, and so on. The partner I’d recruited to give the presentation had to cancel, so I decided to give it myself, and in due course it was announced. Our partner in charge of promoting human diversity called the partner originally scheduled for the presentation to question my suitability for the assignment. That partner responded, “Diversity jurisdiction,” leading to a quick, “Never mind.” This was a delicious misunderstanding, but not an innocent one. I generated it deliberately, willfully, intentionally, and with mischief aforethought. It will go down in the history of the firm – at least the one I intend to write.