Sometimes, a single moment can change your life without your realizing it at the time. For me, it happened in 2013, when my phone rang. It was February, and I was an associate at Littler
Mendelson, based in the firm’s Kansas City office. I was told
that I had been selected for Littler’s Career Advocacy Program (CAP)—which pairs diverse associates (Protégés) with
influential leaders and rainmakers at Littler (Advocates) and
with general counsel of major corporations (Champions). The
program is designed to provide diverse attorneys with ( 1)
guidance from Littler shareholders who have achieved a great
deal of success in their careers and ( 2) insights from general
counsel on how outside counsel can best partner with them.
Advocates also help ensure that Protégés are exposed to the
right mix of work and clients to develop the skills and visibil-
ity needed to progress in their careers, while also providing
advice on business development and relationship-building.
Being selected for the program is a big deal, but I didn’t
realize at the time how important CAP would be in my life
and in my career. Not long after that phone call, my life
changed dramatically: my husband got a new job in Seattle
(meaning we had to move nearly 2,000 miles from the young
practice I’d been building in Kansas City) and I gave birth to
my first child.
If there was ever a time that I needed guidance, this was it.
I transferred to Littler’s Seattle office, but I knew nearly
no one locally, having spent my entire life in the Midwest. It
was a nerve-wracking time, but the Advocate with whom I
had been paired through CAP—Kate Mrkonich Wilson of the
firm’s Minneapolis office—proved invaluable as I worked to
get to know Seattle and adjust to being a working mom.
Kate, who co-chairs Litter’s Retail Industry Group, has
been with Littler for many years and climbed the ladder
while raising her family. In those nervous months before
and immediately after our move to Seattle, and before my
daughter was born, I regularly wondered whether I could
become a shareholder and still spend time with my family.
Kate never hesitated to instill confidence in me. Her “we
can have it all” mentality was contagious—but she did more
than just boost my spirits. She provided specific guidance
on how to develop business and position myself to become a
shareholder at Littler.
It’s no secret that working parents sometimes struggle to
balance family responsibilities and work effectively. I worried
about competing with aspiring shareholders who could spend
less time at daycare pick-ups and swimming lessons and more
time with prospective clients.
But Kate helped me see things differently. Networking, she
said, could be done in multiple ways, including with other
working parents who are also attending to their kids. In-house
by Kellie Tabor