Civil litigator Raquel Fernandez joined Bilzin Sumberg for a second time five years ago. In addition to her work as a litigation partner, she has become head of the firm’s “Matters of the Heart” pro bono initiative.
Name a secret ingredient or two for effective mentoring.
Listening to your mentee’s concerns, rather than discussing the issues you want to talk about. Once you understand the mentee’s concerns, it is important to provide very specific, practical advice rather than just generalities.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and why is it so valuable?
Treating people with care and respect breeds loyalty. Unless you understand that, you will be a “leader” without a team.
Which leadership skills were the most difficult for you to develop?
As a leader, you sometimes have to be out in the spotlight. It was hard for me to become comfortable with that.
How do you teach negotiating skills?
Everyone has his or her own negotiating style. I think being honest and reasonable gets you further in the long run.
When trying to obtain buy-in for something new or sustaining, what tactics work for you?
Admit that you yourself are not totally comfortable with the new thing yet, but explain why it’s important. Creating a “we are in this thing together” atmosphere is important to get buy- in.
Do you have any quick tips for re-energizing an overworked team?
I always try to give positive feedback and show my appreciation for hard work. For example, taking the team out for a celebratory lunch or drinks is important.
What are the best ways for people to stay connected to a key mentor over time and locations?
In addition to staying connected electronically, I think face-to-face interactions are really important. I meet one of my most important mentors, Rick Dunn—the now retired partner who hired me at Bilzin originally back in 1997 as a second-year associate—for breakfast once a week.
*This was republished with permission from The Daily Business Review. Click here to access the publication.