By Celine Aka • February 22, 2017•Ms. JD, Conference, Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
2017 Ms. JD Woman of Inspiration Award
The following questions were formulated based on Lisa's profile.
1. What is Talent Management ("TM")?
Talent Management involves a cross-section of activities typically broken down into two major categories: talent acquisition and talent development (e.g., training, career planning, mentoring, assignments and performance management). It includes activities aimed as enhancing diversity and inclusion. I have focused my post-law practice career on talent development and advancing diversity and inclusion.
2. How and why did you transition from practicing law to Talent Development?
I transitioned to a career in Talent Development after an almost 20 year career as a government contracts attorney. I was an associate, partner and counsel largely in AMLAW 100 firms. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to engage in both litigation and transactional work. It allowed me to see both sides of the coin so to speak. While I was practicing law, I became interested in mediation and became certified as a mediator. I enjoyed focusing on understanding the issues underlying a conflict and facilitating and fostering solutions that were win/win. In addition to mediating disputes between and among individuals, I became involved in facilitating organizational change initiatives and strategic planning and loved it.
I decided to obtain my Masters in Organizational Development from Johns Hopkins University to learn more about facilitating individual, group and organizational change. The program included both classroom work and experiential learning. I was the only lawyer in my cohort and developed a peer network from a cross-section of industries large and small, profit and non-profit. At the time, many of my colleagues worked in organizations that had sophisticated talent development systems and activities. The legal profession did not. My colleagues suggested that I combine my legal experience and knowledge of the legal profession with my new organizational development knowledge and experience. After initially rejecting this suggestion as completely out of hand, an opportunity to do just that in an AMLAW 100 law firm presented itself as I was graduating and my new career began. My work at my then law firm allowed me to build a state-of-the-art talent development system for the lawyers in the firm that included aligned competencies, training, career advising, mentoring and performance management. I was also integrally involved in developing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Being able to use my legal background and experience as well as my organizational development skills was very rewarding.
3. What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about your work?
As a consultant, I currently work largely with law firms, legal departments and individual lawyers. For law firms and legal departments, I am often asked to design and deliver career development, leadership and diversity programs and to provide related coaching. For individual lawyers, I am most often asked for help advancing their legal careers or figuring out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Among the most challenging aspects of my work—both when I was inside a law firm and currently as a consultant—relates to lawyer time and leadership commitment. Lawyers are very busy getting their work done and preserving time for their personal lives. If something has to go—it is time reflecting upon and being intentional and strategic about assessing and growing their careers. That is until something happens, e.g., a disappointing evaluation or even a glowing evaluation coupled with burnout. Career planning and leadership development take time and commitment. It must be taken seriously, encouraged and valued both by the individual lawyer and their firm/legal department. It cannot be simply window-dressing or a one-shot siloed effort. Getting here can be a challenge.
The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing lawyers with whom I have worked take charge of their careers with courage and confidence and succeed. Watching them grow by taking on roles and responsibilities outside their comfort zone and achieving their goals is truly gratifying.
4. What are the most important aspects of career planning?
The most important aspects of career planning are self-reflection and creating a time frame to hold yourself accountable. More specifically, to create what I like to call your “individual strategic plan,” you need to reflect upon (i) where you are now in your career e.g., your values, strengths, areas for growth and (ii) where you want to be (i.e., your vision). Then you can set goals and action steps and identify resources to help you close the gap. To make sure you stay on track—to hold yourself accountable—you need to have a time-line against which to assess and measure your progress. Having someone you trust inside your organization and/or outside with whom you can brainstorm and who can support and encourage you is also very important.
5. What advice would you give to those thinking about entering the TM field?
If someone is thinking about entering the TM field, the first thing I would suggest they do is to make sure that they are really finished practicing law. You spend a lot of time and money to go to law school and to move on without having explored all the ways and venues in which you can practice in a fulfilling manner would be a disservice to yourself.
Simultaneously, I would suggest talking with people who are in the field as a first career as well as those who have made the transition from law. Learn about their experience to see if it aligns with your expectations.
After having done this, and assuming you are still feeling passionate about your decision to make the transition, explore ways to learn how to develop the additional skills you will need as a TM professional. Read and enroll in seminars or programs at local colleges, universities and trade associations (e.g., SHRM, NALP ASTD) that will give you a comprehensive understanding of what TM includes, where you want to focus (e.g. talent acquisition or talent development) and how you can gain the skills needed.
Among the skills you will need to be successful both in your transition process and as a TM professional are the EQ skills of perseverance and GRIT. You are likely to face skepticism from many. If after you have done your homework you remain passionate about the TM field, I would highly encourage you to go for it. I have never looked back with any regret.
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