Jimmy Alaniz, 2014 Fellow and Chief Legal Officer, Packers Sanitation Services, Inc.,
Crystal Barnes, 2017 Fellow and Associate General Counsel, Lockheed Martin Corporation
Cyndie Chang, 2011 Fellow and Los Angeles Office Managing Partner, Duane Morris LLP
Dinesh Melwani, 2015 Fellow and Partner, Bookoff McAndrews PLLC
When moderator Robert Grey asked four Fellows Alumni who comprised a panel at the 2019 LCLD annual meeting for "stories," he got some good ones.
The first was from Cyndie Chang, who recalled almost dropping out of the law because she was told by a senior attorney that she was too "meek and quiet." But she found a different firm—and different, more informed, feedback—and she thrived, eventually advancing to be managing partner of the firm's Los Angeles office.
She recalled a supportive comment from an attorney in authority in that firm when she was pregnant. "'Cyndie, being pregnant is short term. We're talking about the long term.'
"They took a chance on me."
A second story came from Dinesh Melwani, who recalled a pitch where he and five others from his firm were to go to New York to meet a prospective client. He asked, "What if I go and do it by myself?" He got the green light, showed up in a hotel ballroom facing five lawyers from four different countries, with one of them asking: "Where's everyone else?" He fielded that question and won the pitch. He later asked the satisfied client why they had bet on him. The response: "Your firm demonstrated they had confidence in you, and we knew that if a problem arose, we'd know who to go to."
Melwani added: "I try to mentor that way now, taking younger attorneys out of their comfort zone, but not disappearing totally, in case they need backup."
One subject that came up during the panel discussion was the need to understand better the experiences that diverse attorneys have in a firm.
"Know your data," said Crystal Barnes. "There's no reason a firm or legal department should not know when an attorney is leaving or why."
Added Cyndie Chang: "Stay interviews and 360 reviews are good opportunities to address challenges before talent is out the door."
Another hot-button topic was origination credit.
"Pretty much every conversation I have with a diverse attorney," said Jimmy Alaniz, starts with the question: 'Are you getting credit for this matter? And if the answer is 'no', the follow-up is, 'Who's your boss?'"
About this and diversity issues generally, Dinesh Melwani said: "There's a gap between impact and intention. I don't think anyone disagrees with the intention, but something gets lost when we measure the impact."
Each of the panelists credited the LCLD Fellows program with helping them advance in their organizations.
"There is a warmth and support in the Fellows community," said Barnes. "The spirit is 'how can I help you.' The programming is dynamic, and the network gives me a benchmark and a place where I can brainstorm."
"These are some of the best mentors I've ever had," said Alaniz. "Talk about a safe space. I can call anyone any year and talk about anything. It's my go-to group."
Said moderator Robert Grey: "These are alumni who have achieved leadership roles within their organizations since going through the Fellows program."
At one point in the day, LCLD Chair Laura Stein said: "The Fellows, Pathfinders, and Scholars are making us better and we need to be willing to listen and learn."