By: Orit Sinai, Recruitment Partner at ZSA
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
The GOAT, aka Michael Jordan
What is their Secret?
In an effort to spread some positivity, this week I decided that it would be wonderful to hear from some of the happiest lawyers in Toronto, as it relates to their career fulfillment. Though happiness, in essence, means different things to different lawyers, there are a few commonalities among them:
- Before landing their Job: Mentorship: they had incredible mentors along the way. Passion: they recognized what they were passionate about. Industry Focused: they knew what industry they wanted to be in. Tireless Effort: they worked incredibly hard. Built a Network: they leveraged their network and contacts. Recruitment Advice: in most cases, they used a recruiter (ZSA obviously)! Outshined their Competition: they were over prepared for their interview.
- Currently in their Role: People: they really like their peers, colleagues and leaders and receive consistent guidance and mentorship. Values: their values are aligned and they feel intrinsically connected to the organization. Organization/Firm: they are proud of where they work and feel that everyone is working towards the same goal. Job Itself: they enjoy the work they do and feel challenged by the tasks they are. Trajectory: they feel their is room for growth at their firm/organization. Mindset: they focus on what they can control and strive to keep a positive mindset. Learning: they are constantly learning and growing as legal professionals. Meaningful Impact: they take pride in the impact and contributions they are making to the organization, firm, its clients and the community as a whole.
Make it Happen
Whether you are a basketball fan or not (I certainly am), there is a great deal we can learn from a six-time NBA Champion, six-time MVP, five-time MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, and 10-time NBA scoring champ. For those who are watching ‘The Last Dance” Michael Jordan (“MJ”) documentary on Netflix (if you are not watching it, I highly recommend you do), it is clear that achieving your goals and loving your career doesn’t come without passion, hard work, ambition and unmatched dedication to your objective. While the documentary is a tribute to the greatest, it also exposes the adversities and chain of events that led to his record-breaking career, including the fact that he was cut from his high school basketball team. That is akin to not getting hired during OCI’s or post articling (it happens to the best of us)– but that didn’t stop him. When you want something bad enough, you make it happen.
Mentorship is Key
I started my career articling at Fogler Rubinoff LLP and had an excellent experience. I can’t say enough amazing things about the people at this firm – they are genuine, entrepreneurial, hard working and generously offered guidance to all of us at the outset. Mentorship was ingrained in their DNA and all those I articled with truly sought that benefit. One of my favourite Partners at the firm, Rick Moscone, shares the same sentiment on what we can learn from the MJ documentary and the importance of mentorship:
One of my lasting impressions of the first few episodes was the key role mentorship played in the career of Jordan (Doug Collins), Scottie Pippen (Michael Jordan) and Dennis Rodman (Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson), and many other players. Especially during these difficult times, I think it is extremely important for young lawyers or aspiring lawyers to seek out mentors (not just the ones appointed to them) to help them make advancements in their career.
Those I know who are truly happy with their careers, always had solid coaches who helped them move ahead.
Success Stories: Sports Edition
When you think about your dream job, you may very well long to be part of the legal team at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (“MLSE”). Matthew Lawless joined the MLSE over six years ago and has some great advice to offer about his career and his secret to happiness acting as Senior Legal Counsel for the organization:
I feel very fortunate to have ended up in my current role. Growing up, competitive sports was a huge part of my life. It was something I was passionate about, both in terms of playing them but also cheering for my favourite teams. As far back as I can remember, I hoped to be able to continue to have sports as an important part of my life. When I went to law school I had, as many people do, the desire to use law as a path to a job within the sports and entertainment industry. I have been fortunate, that through a combination of hard work and luck, to have been able to work within the industry directly for the last 6 years, and indirectly for the last 11 years. I have found, that mixing your vocation with a subject matter that you are passionate about leads to a happy and healthy career. I know that this is not easy to achieve, and that despite a concerted effort to find a job in an industry you’re passionate about, you may still not find that right role. But I truly believe that, doing great work, being kind to those you work with, and working hard to build your network of contracts, is what sets someone up to be in the best position to be lucky. It’s important to focus on what you can control. MLSE has been a great place to work and grow. I have been fortunate to work closely with some of the best minds in sports. MLSE truly is an organization that recruits the very best in all fields (team management, F&B, Ticking, Marketing, I’d like to think Legal, etc.) which makes it a fantastic place to learn. Finally, I love the ability to see how my work directly impacts and shapes the city I love, Toronto. There has been no better example of this than when the Raptors won the NBA championship last year. I truly am lucky to work with such great people, in such wonderful organization, in one of the best city’s in the World.
Amir Torabi, Director, Legal & Government Affairs and Legal Counsel at the Toronto Blue Jays is another great example of lawyer happiness. What sets Amir apart is his tenacity, ambition and incredibly infectious personality – he is someone you simply gravitate towards from the second you meet him. He landed his dream job this year and outlines that he loves the most about his role:
“What gives me the most joy is feeling intrinsically connected to our organization. While there will always be stressful and exhausting days (or weeks!), my passion for the organization serves as a grounding force and fuels my desire to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. That passion is also palpable in all of my day-to-day interactions, whether its in the hallway conversations I have with colleagues or during our collaborative business meetings (or now, video calls!). It was very clear to me from the start that everyone is unified by the same goal, which is to get better every day.”
The Ultimate Employee Satisfaction Test
In my second year of undergrad at York University, my Human Resources professor stood in the front of the class and stated the following: there is a very simple three-pronged test to determine happiness at work (“the Connection Test”) which are as follows:
1) The People: do you like those who you work for and who you work with. In essence, this refers to everyone you encounter, including your leaders and colleagues. Are your values aligned and do they make you feel appreciated?
2) The Job Itself and its Trajectory: do you enjoy the work, is it fulfilling, are you proud of your position, the company or firm? Do you see the growth potential?
3) Compensation: do you feel that you are well compensated for the work you do?
The Connection Test resonated with me for years and certainly comes up during my discussions with candidates who are evaluating a career move. It is highly subjective and comes down to how you perceive the people, the role and its growth, and whether you truly believe your total compensation package is fair. Aim to have all three checked off and you will certainly have something to smile about.
Taleen Balian, Corporate Lawyer at Nestlé , is another fantastic example of someone who is super thrilled with her job and has all the boxes ticked off. An avid raptors fan, Taleen is a charismatic young lawyer, who is incredibly hard-working, ambitious and talented. Her insight into her new role thus far is inspiring:
“I am thankful that my role at Nestlé affords me with the opportunities for growth in a variety of ways: as I take on day-to-day challenges, and as I look towards my future within the organization. I am constantly presented with opportunities to expand and sharpen my legal and business acumen. It is wonderful to be a part of such a great organization that truly does care about their employees. I am surrounded by incredible colleagues who lend guidance and mentorship, and encourage my personal and professional development. Although I have been a part of the organization for a few short months, I have felt like a part of the team right from the start.”
Arguably, one of the biggest advantages you can have over your competition is actually enjoying what you do. Not every Partner at every firm truly enjoys what they do, but for those what do, servicing their clients is easier, and their motivation to succeed is transparent. Suhuyini Abudulai, Partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP is well known in the world of financial services, and her success started when I met her in law school. From day one, Suhuyini led numerous impressive initiatives and excelled. It is no surprise that she was honoured with a Precedent Setter award, given annually by Precedent Magazine to lawyers who have shown excellence and leadership in their early years of practice. No one deserves it more than her and her success is coupled with the love for her work:
“I love the complexity and challenging issues that often arise in my practice and the interactions I have with businesses, regulators and other stakeholders. In private practice, I’ve had the opportunity to build an expertise (consumer finance) and still have the flexibility to work on a variety of matters. My practice is a mix of regulatory and transactional matters in financial services. I am exposed to clients in a wide-range of industries and I advise on different types of financial products and services. Private practice provides me with access to resources and support to address a client’s business needs and can be a “one-stop shop”. For example, the launch of a new product or service across Canada will concern different topics – in private practice, I have access to colleagues with their own expertise who can advise on the range of laws applicable to the launch such as tax, privacy, corporate structure and intellectual property matters.”
Success is often the result of perseverance and to be totally candid, all those that I know who are in a job they enjoy spent a great deal of time, energy and hard work getting there. Those who know me well, know that I am an eternal optimist, but I recognize that everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins. The secret is setting your goal, putting in the hard work and kicking ass once you achieve it.
So who has all the boxes ticked off under the aforementioned Connection test? Surprisingly, many lawyers do. If you don’t, call me. We can discuss how to get you there. 🙂
Orit Sinai | Recruitment Partner