SuperWomen JDs and What You Can Learn From Them: Featuring Kelly Hoey of New York City

Bio for this week's Superwoman JD: Kelly Hoey is currently the manager of alumni programs at White & Case.  In that position, Ms. Hoey works closely with the Firm's leadership (as well as alumni) in the development of alumni relations strategy, social networking initiatives and programming for the benefit of alumni.  Her primary areas of focus include enhancing the firm's web-based alumni community, increasing alumni community activities, developing and implementing internal and external alumni network communications, and enhancing the alumni transition process.  Prior to taking on this role, Ms. Hoey was the Firm's Manager of Professional Development, Americas where, in addition to her responsibilities for associate career development and advancement, she managed the Firm's Women's Initiative.  Ms. Hoey is a corporate attorney, having practiced with Sidley Austin in New York and Osler Hoskin in Toronto.  She holds a B.A. from the University of Victoria, and a L.L.B. from the University of British of Columbia.

1. How has being a woman affected your career or legal education?

It’s an advantage – when you’re in a room with equally smart, motivated people, you’re the one who stands out because you look different.

2. What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started practicing law? 

I received great advice and guidance from a mentor (senior male partner) when I was a junior attorney, so I feel very fortunate in how my legal career started.  What I do wish I had earlier in my career was awareness of my internal motivators and personal strengths (what responsibilities, professional challenges and relationships matter to me) as I would have made an earlier start on building my career around those traits.

3. What do you think the legal profession can do to increase the number of senior level females?

The profession needs to understand the ebb and flow of professional lives (let’s be honest, the linear career path to partnership is the exception) and to support attorneys during all transition points in their careers.  The obvious transition points in one’s career are from law student to junior attorney, from junior to managing mid-level and then from senior associate to new partner.  For women, there is also the challenging transition to/from maternity leave. 
Women also need to stay in the profession.  It is tough but it is a rewarding and deeply satisfying career.  I have had many opportunities in my professional life – challenging work, introductions to interesting people, invitations to sit on two extraordinary not-for-profit boards – which came about because of being a lawyer.  

4. Being a first year attorney anywhere is tough.  How do you think young attorneys can really hone their skills in their first few years? 

Acknowledge that you have entered a profession where it takes time to learn, understand and grow your skills.  Maybe this is why it is called “practicing law”!  Don’t resent the time you spend working – approach the time as an opportunity to learn – take on, don’t turn down assignments, accept that the routine/mundane tasks are part of the learning experience for a new attorney and seek out work from as many different attorneys as you can.

5. Our profession is male dominated.  How can young women balance being feminine and professional at the same time?  I meet many women that simply act like one of the boys; I do not think that is the solution.  Do you have any advice for handling social situations, outings with clients, etc.?

Be yourself.  Understand where you “play well” – are you comfortable being with the “boys” or hanging with the “girls” or both.   Also understand that there are times you need to be in the “room” and part of the closed conversation – so if invited, go!  I’ve been one of 2 women in a courtroom of 100 male attorneys, one of a handful at a closing dinner for 60 – what I realized in those situations was that it was more important to be at the event than to give in to any discomfort of being the only woman.  These situations occurred very early in my career, and now I look back and laugh.

6. There is a perception that senior female attorneys think that they had it tough and so should you.  Do you think that this sentiment is true?  If so, do you think there is value in figuring things out on your own like women before you had to?

My strong view is that the profession – all of it – needs to take greater responsibility for training/guiding/mentoring new attorneys and bringing them into the legal profession.  My first bar admission was in Ontario, Canada – a 16 month process from graduation to admission to the bar.  The process acknowledges that a new attorney needs to learn and be mentored – AND it places responsibility on the experienced professionals to provide guidance, knowledge and mentoring.  I think we may finally be seeing the profession turn towards this way of thinking. 

7. What advice do you have for young female attorneys looking for a mentor?  Do you feel that there is added value in finding a female mentor?  What should they be looking for in a mentor, and what can they do to make themselves someone you would want to mentor? 

First, build a board of directors – you’re not likely to find everything you need in one person.  Recognize you need different people (skills, experiences, personalities) to provide you with advice at various points in your career.  Second, you will always be attracted to and make a connection with people like you (education, hobbies, background) so seek out “other folks” to learn from and match them with particular advice or guidance you are seeking.  Third, understand that to get a good mentor, you need to be a good mentee.  Be curious about the other person, listen, acknowledge the time they spend with you.

8. We all have to make sacrifices for our careers, what sacrifices have you made and which would you make again? 

Any sacrifices I made early on in my career were likely made because I didn’t believe fully in my capabilities as a lawyer.  With time, you gain knowledge and professional confidence, and you make wiser choices.  And yes, I’ve sacrificed time with family as well as a marriage.   Luckily my nephews are forgiving and my second husband understands completely how important my career is to me.

9. What is your favorite thing about being a lawyer?  I am sure you have a moment of achievement that made the sacrifices seem worth it. Can you tell us about a highlight in your career?

The relationships I was successful in building with co-workers and clients.  Many of my closest friendships are with people I worked with – all-nighters drafting prospectuses are intense bonding moments!  I stopped practicing in 2002 (moving into law firm management), however, I’m still close with many of my clients.  To still be considered a trusted advisor by a former client after all these years is deeply satisfying.

10. Men still get paid more and get promoted faster.  What advice do you have for young women to help them accelerate their careers?

Own your career – the head down, do the work given to me approach will not get you where you want to be.  Take on the tough assignments.  Seek out and demand feedback.  Don’t shy away from the challenges and possible stumbles/failures that come with challenges.  As a colleague and friend said to the male partners (when she was being overlooked for the “good” work): “Bring it on.  You don’t think I’m up to the challenge, bring it on”.
You also need to build, grow and maintain a network.  The earlier you start this in your career, the better.  Don’t wait till you need your network to start building it (i.e. when you’re looking to change jobs or careers or when you grab the brass ring and make partner).  Online social networking tools like Facebook and Linkedin or designated networking groups like 85 Broads make staying in touch with friends/classmates/former colleagues and expanding your network with new contacts so much easier.  You have built in reminders for birthdays and other important life events – and a profile update is a great excuse to contact someone.  You need to be out there so people can find you!  Networking is a topic I’m rather passionate about!!!

11. What are your interests/hobbies outside of the legal practice?  How important do you think those interests/hobbies have been in maintaining some work life balance?

I love my career, I find great meaning and personal satisfaction in work and work related activities and I don’t apologize for it.  As for balance, I take a long term view.  Do I take all my vacations?  Can I escape on a slow day and meet friends?  I don’t look at balance on a daily or even on a weekly basis – and this perspective, together with a sense of humor, works for me.  

12. What has changed the most and the least since you started practicing law?  How have these changes affected you?

Technology – I graduated from law school in 1991…no internet, no Blackberry….. and now, what can I say, I love email, can’t live without my Blackberry and am addicted to social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin).  However, I regret that because of technology younger professionals miss out on many personal interactions and the learning that comes from those experiences.  You need to by-pass the technology sometimes – put down the phone, shut-off the email, get out of your office and speak with someone the “old fashioned way” – face to face.

13. If you could go back, what would you have done differently in how you approached your legal education and career?

Oh, I’m a forward looking person, so I hesitate to reflect back to say what I would change…however, since you’ve asked….I would have approached selecting a firm more thoroughly -  I would have taken more time to understand the dynamics, culture, workstyle – so I could have made more informed choices based on matching the firm’s character with my career goals.

14. What is one change you would like to see in the legal profession in the next 20 years?

I believe in the apprentice-model for those entering the legal profession, so I’d like to see the profession truly take responsibility for training, guiding and developing the careers of new attorneys.

15. If you could give one piece of advice to new female lawyers, what would it be?

Stay in the game – being an insider is the only way to change the profession.  And I think it’s a great profession.

A Message from the Author:   This column is a Q&A with senior level female attorneys offering advice and mentorship to young female lawyers.  The questions below were sent to the interviewees and responses have not been edited for content.  The advice, experiences, personalities, and approaches of these women are extremely diverse and more importantly very useful to future generations of female attorneys.  I hope this column will offer helpful advice, and inspire healthy discussions.  I have an exciting lineup of female leaders in the profession, but if you have someone you would like to nominate, or you yourself would like to be interviewed, feel free to email me at   I also just went on twitter and will be launching a superwomenjds blog soon. So stay tuned and please please please share your thoughts, problems, and solutions.

Bio for the author of the column:   Noha Sidhom is a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Before attending law school, Noha interned on Capitol Hill for the Honorable Charles Timothy Hagel and went on to campaign for Senate candidate Peter Ricketts.  During law school, she clerked at Husch Blackwell Sanders, formerly Blackwell Sanders.  She also did an internship at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Enforcement and an internship at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where she is now an attorney in the Office of General Counsel.  Noha is licensed in New York and New Jersey, and currently resides with her husband in Washington, D.C.

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