In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day yesterday here in the U.S., this week I want to express my gratitude for a few of the mentors, colleagues, friends and family who have guided my career in various ways. It’s not an exhaustive list – there are so many candidates I could probably make this an annual honor roll. But with that lawyerly caveat in mind, here are some of the people who have influenced me the most.
- Mr. P, from whom I learned that even if you’re working from “forms” that your predecessor junior associates have used many times, you still have to pay close attention to all the details of the project in order to do the job right.
- Mr. G, who showed me the value of paying attention to how things look – presentation value, one might say – when it will help accomplish your client’s goals faster and more completely.
- The GC at my first in-house gig, who taught me that you should win or lose the point, not simply push it down the road – although I’ll admit that I’ve added my own gloss of “if you absolutely have to punt on an issue to get the deal done, be sure that all involved understand the consequences of punting….”
- Mr. T, who works harder than anyone on his staff, but never forgets the big picture and the importance of being a gentleman.
- Dr. Oz, where I learned that although it’s more work to figure out how to make the least possible changes to a document while still getting what you need, it pays off in getting better deals done faster.
- Mr. Y., for letting me watch him negotiate for items both hugely consequential and decidedly mundane – with exquisite politeness and bulldog persistence.
- Mr. B, who showed me that you’re never too senior and well-paid to crack open the law books and learn something new. A great guy all-around – I regularly ask myself “what would he do” when trying to figure out how to deal with tough situations.
- J is whip-smart and a deep thinker – and still has fun even in the toughest negotiations. He heard me use the word “penultimate” in a conversation one time, and was determined to find a way to use it in our deal documents. Sure enough, on the last evening of hard-fought negotiations on a major transaction, it was exactly the word we needed in a complicated contract provision.
That’s this year’s installment. And it goes without saying that I owe my mother and father so much for everything I learned and all the opportunities to learn new things – even the summers and school holidays mowing yards and working in the box factory – that I had before I ever showed up at a law job.