In March, a group of Katten attorneys attended the ABA Health Law Section’s Emerging Issues in Health Care conference in San Diego. During the conference, the Section honored Lisa Atlas Genecov, a partner and chair of Katten’s Health Care Department, with its Champion of Diversity and Inclusion Award.
A recognition like this doesn’t happen overnight, and Lisa has quite a story to share about her journey to become a health care attorney and her mission to promote diversity, inclusion and fairness.
What follows is a Q&A picking up on themes Lisa mentioned in her speech at the conference, which covered DEI and several things lawyers can do to expand their practices and improve their organizations.
KY: You have mentioned how important it is to have mentors, not just at the beginning of your career but as you grow your practice. Could you explain why?
LG: No matter what phase you are in with your career, you can’t have too many mentors. They can give you advice on how to search for jobs, introduce you to others in subject areas you want to practice in, help you define and pursue certain goals, and generally offer good advice. Really, it doesn’t matter how old you are; you can always benefit from having good mentors!
KY: Networking is such a hyped term. Yet you’ve mentioned the value of building networks. What does “networking” mean to you?
LG: Building your internal and external networks will help lead to career success. The more people you know, the more you’ll learn about and be ready for opportunities presented to you. Internal networks include your colleagues at work. These colleagues may even leave and go to other companies and, ultimately, become clients or your future employers. Create or join external networks involving issues you are interested in. This includes things that you are passionate about – art, your kids’ schools, church, sports and community activities. Join bar groups like the ABA Health Law Section. You will make many friends who may very likely help you in various capacities down the road.
KY: What would you tell a young lawyer who is looking to get noticed at their firm?
LG: Volunteer within your organization. Volunteering to work on a project, committee or another opportunity at work will help you meet all sorts of other people, help you develop leadership skills and get you noticed by others when it’s time to advance. Also, develop your “brand.” While your brand is just a marketing word for your reputation, it’s really one of the most important assets you have. Think about what you want to be known for. Hone your skills and protect your reputation.
KY: Some of the DEI issues in our society that our organizations are grappling with can seem enormous. What can lawyers do to make a difference?
LG: You can help make your organization or place of work a place committed to diversity and inclusion. Help create a “culture of diversity and inclusion,” including taking steps to ensure that women and people of color are on key committees and ensure that hiring of women and people of color occurs at all levels of the organization. Also, reward people for their efforts in diversity and celebrate that! Recognize them as “champions of diversity.”
As you advance in your career, transition from being a mentor to being a sponsor. Invest in the success of your mentees, include them in business development pitches and meetings, and help them develop their business. Be a role model for them. Mentorship isn’t an occasional lunch. It’s really long-term sponsorship. DEI doesn’t just happen. It comes through the intentional extension of opportunities. It needs to be top of mind. Greater diversity in our organizations benefits everyone.
KY: When you’re stuck or facing a difficult challenge, what do you do?
LG: For me, I think about my father, Morris Atlas, who was my mentor, advisor and hero. Dad was a first-generation American who instilled in me many of my core values and my mission-driven approach to the practice of law. So, when I am in a tough situation, I ask myself, “What would Morris do?”
Think about who those heroes are for you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or to offer help to others. We can always learn from those who need our help.