Kimberly C. Lau Profiled on Law.com in "How I Made It" Q&A Series08/11/2022 | Law.com
Kimberly C. Lau was recently selected for Law.com’s "How I Made It" Q&A series, the American Lawyer family of publications website.
Interviewed on "How (She) Made Practice Chair," Lau discussed her nonlinear road to success, how she chose Warshaw Burstein, the qualities that she believes set young attorneys apart as they grow their law practice, the importance of mentors and mentoring, and many other issues.
Here are a few of the questions and answers in the article:
I was looking for a firm that would support me in building my niche practice and invest in my success. This included meeting my associate hiring needs, supporting my marketing efforts and trusting my vision on how best to build my practice. Warshaw Burstein met all of these criteria.
What criteria did you use when deciding to join your current firm?
Business development is more essential than merely demonstrating exemplary legal skills.
What’s the biggest surprise you experienced in becoming a partner?
My book of business was the deciding factor in making me a partner. But my ability to connect with others while demonstrating high-quality legal know-how made me a good fit for Warshaw Burstein.
What do you think was the deciding point for the firm in making you a partner?
Focus on cultivating professional relationships with others, including other lawyers. Don’t assume you know where the next client will come from. Everyone is a potential referral source in the future, even if it doesn’t occur until years later. Put in the time now, and your efforts will pay off dividends in the future.
What’s the key to successful business development in your opinion and how do you grow professionally while everyone is navigating a hybrid work system?
I was first mentored by a senior partner who advised me to focus on business development as my path to the top. My second mentor convinced me to “take a chance on myself” with a contract partner position with my current law firm. Six years later, my practice has grown, I chair a five-person department and was elevated as the firm’s first female equity partner. My mentors provided the wisdom and courage to create my own success, which inspires me to do the same for other law students and lawyers.
Who had the greatest influence in your career that helped propel you to partner?
The most common mistake I see from attorneys who hope to build a successful legal career and upward mobility within the firm is failing to break out of their comfort zones to get to know everyone at the firm, including staff. You can learn so much by talking to others about what could be done better or different. A firm’s success is dependent on the sum of its parts; not just one superstar.
Regarding career planning and navigating inside a law firm, in your opinion, what’s the most common mistake you see other attorneys making?
My road to success has not been linear and was not without its challenges as a young, female, Asian partner practicing law in the most metropolitan city in the country in a white, male-dominated field. I did not come from a family of lawyers, nor was I raised with an upper-class pedigree. I have overcome many “isms” to get to where I am today. I hope to set an example for other young Asian and minority lawyers who come from humble beginnings and show them that, yes, success is still possible with perseverance, dedication, and humility.
What challenges did you face in your career path and what was the lesson learned? How did it affect or influence your career?
Network, network, network!
Knowing what you know now about your career path, what advice would you give to your younger self.
The pandemic has taught me (and many others) the importance of increasing my technological savvy, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, having compassion for others’ unique personal/home situations, and how to adjust to hybrid-work schedules.
What lessons, if any, did you learn in 2020/2021 (the COVID years)?
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