Tips from the Top: Carrie E. Cope

Carrie E. Cope is a shareholder in the law firm of Schuyler, Roche & Crisham, P.C.  She is head of the firm’s regulatory and specialty lines’ claims monitoring and coverage consulting practice areas.  She serves on LexisNexis’ Insurance Law Advisory Board and writes a monthly column on law firm life for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. She is the author of numerous publications. Selected publications include On the Cusp of Change: the Intersection of Social Media and Insurance — New Appleman on Insurance Law, Current Critical Issues in Insurance Law (LexisNexis 2011), chapters on the Regulation of Policy Forms - New Appleman on Insurance Law, Library Edition (LexisNexis 2009) and Understanding Directors' and Officers' Liability Insurance, Chapter 37 - Appleman Insurance Law Practice Guide (LexisNexis 2008), as well as other Appleman’s publications, including the Update to Essentials of Insurance Law – New Appleman on Insurance Law, Library Edition, Vol. 2 (LexisNexis 2010), pertaining to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. She is also the co-author of Directors' and Officers' Liability: Exposures, Risk Management and Insurance Coverage - National Underwriter (December 2008).

You write a monthly column addressing “law firm life” in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.  What motivated you to write the column? 

Like anyone else who has been practicing law for a number of years, I’ve had some interesting experiences. I wanted to share them in what I hoped would be an entertaining manner. I am grateful that the feedback has been good so far and no one has asked me to stop!

How do you balance your professional life and personal life?

I don’t strive for balance in my life. I simply have a few priorities and I focus on those. (Cooking isn’t one of them.)

How did you overcome your fear/uncertainty in navigating in uncharted water?

One of the aspects I love best about practicing law is navigating uncharted water. I feel lucky to practice in an area that has experienced quite a bit of change and I look forward to opportunities for growth that come my way as a result of the need to respond to changes in my practice. I fear stagnation much more than navigating uncharted water.

How do you measure that you are continuing to grow?

Growth results naturally from addressing challenges. If I started questioning whether I am continuing to grow, that would likely be a sign that I need some new challenges.

How do you cultivate positive relationships at work?

I value honesty, integrity and transparency in my close work relationships. As a result, I have tried to create an environment that fosters those qualities in my practice group.

How do you build these strategic relationships when you are very busy at work?

I understand what you mean by “strategic relationships,” but we quite often cannot tell which relationships we will end up valuing the most. I believe I have become more effective at work, and happier, by developing work relationships with people with whom I have similar values, rather than focusing on relationships that from some vantage points may seem to be more strategic for achieving a successful career.

How do you create opportunities for yourself?

Opportunities come from many sources. Hard work definitely helps. At some point, though, you need to think strategically about what your current situation is and what you hope to accomplish. Then it is simply a matter of identifying the possible steps you might take to get there and taking actions that are likely to help you advance toward your goal, even if it is just a step or two.

Catalyst posted an article on-line regarding the disparity in the advancement of men versus women in high level positions. How do women obtain parity with men in terms of advancement?

That is a great question, especially given recent events at the Masters Golf Tournament. Although a private club has the right to restrict its membership, it is staggering to me that the Augusta National Golf Club didn’t extend a membership invitation to IBM’s CEO, Virginia Rometty. That situation clearly shows that while women have made progress in terms of parity, there is still much work to be done. On an individual basis, we can actively pursue leadership positions that we are qualified for, even when that pursuit means we need to step out of our comfort zone. On a collective basis, we can support the qualified women that do pursue leadership positions.

What are your thoughts in terms of how to recognize an organization’s true commitment to diversity?

An organization’s commitment to diversity may begin with its effort to establish diversity in the workplace, but it is ultimately reflected by its success in accomplishing that goal. To truly have diversity, and to reap its many benefits, everyone on the team needs to believe that their voice will be heard.

What are five tips you can provide for women who are aspiring to succeed in the profession or in a non-legal career?

1.      Evaluate your own strengths and then develop them. Don’t focus on the talents or advantages other people seem to have. Success is personal.

2.      Embrace challenges and change. 

3.      Don’t let the misconceptions of others define who you are or limit your growth.

4.      Put forth your best effort at work--every single time. The successful practice of law does not tolerate half-measures.

5.      Life is full of roadblocks—or opportunities. Choose.

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