Exceptional Firm Culture Starts at the Top

Claud Mccoid

Deborah Festa, associate with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, discusses the traits that contribute to a wonderful culture at a agency, including the very important position of leadership. Also: Tips on what gals can do to excel in typically male-dominated fields such as finance regulation.

CCBJ: You joined Akin Gump again in Might, and you direct the firm’s structured finance and securitization observe. What introduced you to Akin Gump, and how does the tradition evaluate to other firms that you’ve labored for?

Deborah Festa: Joining Akin Gump was a great transfer for me, both skillfully and personally. The firm’s platform is ideally suited to lots of features of my investment manager clients’ companies, but it was basically the firm’s supportive and inclusive tradition that was the selecting issue for me. So a lot of companies throw all over buzzwords and devote a great deal of their time marketing their brands, but at Akin we are actually strolling the wander and retaining with the tone set by our chairperson, Kim Koopersmith. Our lawyers and team treat every other with the utmost respect and professionalism. Communication is genuinely a two-way avenue in almost all interactions, rather than a messaging monologue like you could possibly locate at other companies. Tactic is the products of dialogue and consensus.

Range is celebrated the two in our populace and our perspectives. There are so numerous women of all ages here primary significant apply places, which was a substantial draw for me, and it is very distinctive than what you may well see at quite a few other regulation corporations. That is a purely natural final result of the society listed here. I’ve often said that if you want to know no matter if a firm actually values diversity and supports women of all ages, glimpse at its leadership – and not just in terms of titles, but rather who has meaningful impact and enter into the firm’s allocation of resources. Seem at how a lot of ladies and assorted associates you come across in those people roles. I believe you are going to locate that there’s a direct correlation.

What, if any, troubles have you faced as a woman performing in finance, and what advice do you have for other women wanting to be profitable and influential in this or other historically male-dominated places?

I have often experienced fantastic functioning interactions with each men and ladies throughout my profession, and I have discovered a great deal from both of those. It’s simple, nevertheless, that there are and generally have been far much less gals than adult males in the places I’ve labored, both equally in terms of the customer foundation and in the apply of finance law alone. The dearth of feminine function versions was a obstacle previously in my profession. That explained, I was usually delighted to study from productive male companions with substantial practices, as nicely as from successful male shoppers who had constructed companies from scratch.

What I would counsel to the young generation of women is that junior attorneys resource wisdom from anywhere they can discover it, from the persons in their orbit who are taking an desire in them personally and in their profession. In performing so, aim on becoming an qualified in your subject, establish believability among your goal clients, and create a specialist manufacturer that is in sync with your broader business. At the similar time, construct associations in the broader community of the market in which you are working towards, mainly because all of these abilities are common paths to success. And in my experience, it is effective even in places where you at present locate fewer girls in management positions.

What characteristics does a wonderful leader have, in your watch? What is your tips to lawyers who seek out to guide in their profession, irrespective of whether at their follow corporation or law business or in a broader neighborhood?

It is essential to observe below that a excellent leader may not be the a single with the title or the microphone, but instead a quieter presence who has a faithful pursuing. But with all those guiding-the-scenes leaders as effectively as all those with formal titles, I have found some widespread characteristics over the decades. Just to name a couple of them: 1st, productive leaders are consensus builders. That doesn’t signify you ought to stack your leadership ranks with yes-individuals who only notify you what you want to hear and create a non-public echo chamber – it usually means people today who truly consider to recognize the sights and desires of the broader business and factor that data into a approach in a meaningful way.

In order to garner a collective obtain-in, you genuinely will need men and women to come to feel protected in sharing their views. That means developing a society that encourages honesty. A different issue I would level out right here is that good leaders genuinely embrace alter, when it is crystal clear that modify will reward the group. We all know following dealing with COVID-19 for so prolonged now that improve can be extremely challenging, but it also really should be noticed as an prospect to rethink and exam aged products and see what’s working and what could be enhanced. Here at Akin Gump, for instance, we are actively adapting to new techniques of doing the job alongside one another remotely and looking at the effects on our legal professionals and staff members of returning to the office environment in a additional frequent way. I’m pleased to say that in all facets of this transition, our chairperson, Kim Koopersmith, has built it apparent that the basic safety and very well-staying of our staff is paramount. These facets are guiding the firm’s approach, as opposed to a more rigid just one that would dictate some sort of predetermined end result. And that’s an illustration of fantastic management.

What suggestions would you give to your younger self?

I really do not have much too quite a few regrets on a qualified amount, but 1 point I will endorse to more youthful individuals out there who may possibly be in a career that is not the appropriate fit: Really do not hesitate way too long to make a go that will be extra satisfying for you individually and professionally. I’m not advocating for rash changes, but if you have attempted your finest to make the constructive changes you consider would boost the tradition and the organization where you are, and you’ve hit a brick wall, look at regardless of whether your power could possibly be better invested elsewhere. In my working experience, all much too normally, notably gals attorneys – which include these in relatively senior positions – do not act on profession advancement possibilities that would need a lateral shift mainly because of emotions of obligation or guilt. I would say that if you don’t really feel you have the guidance to get to your complete probable exactly where you are, there is likely a greater spot for you – and it is really worth the leap.

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