Everyday leadership as a practicing lawyer.

Author:Kapoor, Kirtee
Position:2017 Stanford Law Review Symposium; Raising the Bar: Lawyers and Leadership

I have practiced law for the last seventeen years as a lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell. During this time, I have had the opportunity to live in New York, Germany, Hong Kong, and California and have had the privilege of leading projects and practices and serving many clients in hundreds of transactions. As I reflect on my own journey and what I have seen across many organizations, I have come to believe that leadership is an everyday job accessible to young lawyers from the start of their legal careers. I believe that every one of us can and must show up daily as both a leader and a follower, be an agent for positive change, and do our part to nurture and support a culture of inclusion and excellence in our profession and in the organizations to which we belong. For law students who might read this brief Reflection, here are some of my thoughts on the subject of leadership as a practicing lawyer and how I personally orient to them.

Leadership is persuasion. I believe that whenever we persuade others to adopt our viewpoint, we are leading. As practicing lawyers, we have opportunities to do this every day. We advocate positions when we represent clients. We lead and coordinate teams that help persuade counterparties, regulators, and judges to accept the positions we advocate. As our persuasion skills grow, our leadership skills grow because leadership and persuasion go hand in hand. The majority of my days involve working on transactions for clients, and each transaction presents a leadership opportunity to advance the client's interests and persuade others to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Persuasion requires simplicity and clarity in communications. Our success as leaders depends on the quality of our communications--with others and with ourselves. I have a rule of thumb here: if I cannot explain it simply, I do not yet understand it myself. As practicing lawyers, we should endeavor to reduce complex ideas to their basic fundamentals. Arriving at simplicity and clarity in our communications requires hard work and a lot of thinking, but it is worth it. When we see complex ideas reduced to their fundamental aspects, we are able to see the big picture and connect the dots that we might otherwise miss. I see this all the time in my work. As young lawyers in the weeds, it is hard to see what matters most and how issues need to be prioritized and resolved. A transition occurs when lawyers spend the time to understand the big picture and talk...

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