Submitted by Noha
Elena Kaspi is an Executive Career Coach who specializes in providing Business, Career and Leadership Coaching Programs and Workshops to lawyers and AmLaw 100 law firms throughout the United States and abroad. Elena has dedicated the last ten years of her professional life to coaching, mentoring and advising attorneys regarding leadership skills and their career development. Ms. Kaspi's full bio appears at the end of this post.
1. How has being a woman affected your career or legal education?
As a first generation Italian-American I grew up in a family of very strong, fiercely opinionated, resilient, hardworking, articulate, and funny women who saw being a woman as a strength, asset and advantage; and who always showed me the value of balancing family and hard work. Growing up, it never occurred to me that being a woman was going affect my career or career choice: the women around me taught me “work hard, love hard, laugh hard and when you are done with that…work some more”. Oh yes … and put on red lipstick and try to look good doing it all! I was the first in my family to go to college much less law school so it wasn’t until I got to college and law school that I realized that other women were culturally informed and educated to behave “lesser than” or expect "lesser than”.
My first real hurdle in my career came when I had my first child. That was when I realized that my career trajectory was going to have detours and bumps and crashes if I wanted to raise a family the way I wanted to. That was the first time that I saw the way my being a woman was “slowing my career down” from the path that I thought I wanted. It took several years, transitions, insight and dig-deep determination for me to carve out a dynamic career and still have the family I wanted.
2. What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started practicing law?
It would have been nice if someone had taught me the nitty-gritty of what it looks like to take “career ownership” of my legal career and professional development. There is a lot of talk about “career ownership” but there is nothing like having a mentor on hand, when there is an important career choice to be made, who can stand by you, process the decision with you and really show you in real time what it means to “own” your career, the price it sometimes costs and to take responsibility for it.
I think it would have also helped to have known at the outset that law firms do quietly expect you to know how to balance your workload, create flexible boundaries, navigate political minefields and make good professional and interpersonal judgment calls. That law firms are business enterprises and that they do not see it as their mission to pave the path to career satisfaction and success.