A Team Effort: Carly Alameda on Competition and Collaboration in In-House/Law Firm Alliance

The next generation of leaders in the legal world must master companies’ evolving expectations of in-house counsel and maximize the use of outside counsel.  Carly Alameda, a business litigation partner at Farella Braun + Martel in San Francisco, wants to make sure women are positioned to, at the very least, share equally in that leadership.  “The numbers of women attorneys currently in leadership positions and positions of influence should be much better, especially in law firms,”  Alameda explains.  “And the current evolution in the legal marketplace presents an opening for new leaders to emerge.  This is a perfect opportunity for women in-house and women law firm partners to join forces to focus on how we can work together to shape the client service models of the future, and in the process ensure more women reap the rewards of those client relationships.”  To further these goals, Alameda co-founded WISE: Women In-House Support Equality.

Alameda is fiercely competitive. She is also the quintessential team player. Carrying herself with a poise and confidence resulting from years of leading teams through the demands that come with being an NCAA Division I student athlete, both on and off the volleyball court, Alameda now uses her ability to strike the balance of competition and collaboration with ease in the courtroom as well. “I am driven to personally perform at the highest level, but I also believe success is usually best attained working well with the team around you. The preparation, the work, the strategy – it’s more productive with a team that trusts and supports each other.” 

Alameda believes the practice of law needs both, competition and teamwork.  “As a litigator, these are not mutually exclusive traits. I need to be competitive on my client’s behalf, while ensuring my client’s internal team is highly effective. I am of course a competitor in the market for work, but I’m committed to supporting and helping my network as well.”

This balance is also at the heart of WISE - an alliance of women law firm partners in their first few years of partnership and women (and some men) in-house counsel who have joined together with the express purpose of building relationships and establishing a platform to help increase the number of women lawyers in positions of leadership and influence across the profession.

Alameda explains, “For WISE, my co-founders and I sought out members who are driven for their own success and for that of others. We want our members to look for ways to lift each other up, help others pursue opportunities and tackle challenges, and advance in all of our paths. I know we are all busy and driven people, so we sometimes have a tendency to put our heads down and just work on our own, but I’ve found it always yields better and more enjoyable results when I’m also collaborating with others.”

Alameda adds, “WISE brings together a highly accomplished group of in-house women and law firm partners from the great companies and firms in the Bay Area. I know we are all competitive.  And that’s okay. I know we can each be out there competing and at the same time find ways to support each other, push each other, learn from each other, and inspire each other. I am very excited to help lead this team.”

Founding WISE was also a natural step stemming from Alameda’s background before joining Farella. After law school, Alameda accepted a clerkship with Justice Mark Simons of the California Court of Appeal, First District. The California appellate system does not typically have annual clerkships like the federal court system does, but Justice Simons made it a point to create a position.

“My clerkship with Justice Simons was transformative. I recognized that he went out of his way to create this opportunity, and I was a beneficiary. I formed lasting relationships with him and several other judges and staff attorneys that set the direction for the start of my career and continue to help shape it. I regularly appreciate the value of the network Justice Simons helped me start, and for the substantive knowledge I gained working with him that year. For example, although I spend a lot of time litigating in federal court or ICC, AAA, or JAMS arbitration, I can also say I truly love my cases that are heard in California state court because I have a relatively unique perspective on the system having seen it up close for a year. I know not every litigator shares my love of the California state court system.  Justice Simons provided the foundation for many aspects of my career.”

Similar to how Justice Simons created an opportunity for Alameda, she hopes that in co-founding WISE she can help create opportunities for others, many of whom are her peers. “The creation and organization of WISE has taken a lot of time, effort, and thought by my co-founders and me. But it is worth every bit of work. I want to see this group of women on the cutting edge of the evolving legal marketplace, coming up with new ideas and models for how law firms deliver better value to in-house counsel. I want to see the key voices and positions of power within law firms and companies more balanced between men and women lawyers. That all starts with the opportunity to form closer relationships and have more regular and direct communications between in-house counsel and women partners, and that is what we are going to do in WISE.”

Both in-house and law firm lawyers are keenly focused on how to best serve the client, whether that is the end business client or the in-house client.  Those who successfully navigate evolving client needs will propel legal service models into the future.  Alameda and her fellow WISE members are providing a platform to help more women find a place on those front lines. 

This article is co-authored with Katia Bloom.

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