It takes time for a new attorney to gain the experience necessary to be competent on specific areas of law. Once new attorneys gain that experience, often they are the least senior voice on a given topic and public speaking opportunities are afforded to more tenured attorneys with expertise.
A lack of expertise on a subject matter does not however, preclude newer attorneys from participating in public speaking events. Namely, newer or junior attorneys need not be experts to competently moderate a panel discussion or publicly interview an expert on a given subject area, and these opportunities can raise the profile of a newer attorney. These opportunities are of particular significance for minorities who are often underrepresented in the legal profession. Seasoned attorneys who are mentors or sponsors to junior attorneys should seek to “place” their mentees in these moderator or interviewer roles to increase a group’s recognition of the new attorney as these roles often are accompanied by promotional materials or articles summarizing the event and can be featured on the junior associate’s profile.
I have twice had the opportunity to moderate panel discussions; once as a member of the Temple Law Alumni Women’s Leadership Initiative, and a second time at the 2019 Philly SHRM Symposium. Both times, these opportunities were presented to me through my longtime sponsor and friend Sheryl Axelrod, Esquire who is a diversity expert.
The concept to “place” the individual in the opportunity is the first prong in Sheryl Axelrod’s copyrighted “PEP” tools to champion diversity. PEP stands for Place, Echo (echoing the great ideas of minorities in group settings) and Promote (speaking highly of a woman or minority’s capabilities to others). These tools are simple to use and can have an especially big impact in increasing visibility for minorities and women.
Placement as a moderator or an interviewer can also be a source of growth for a junior attorney and an accessible means of building their confidence and comfortability in performing in public spaces. Throughout my term as president of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, Inc. I have invited speakers to address the group and asked each to identify a person to interview them in a conversational manner in front of our membership. Most of our featured speakers ask a lawyer of comparable experience to join them, but a Partner in Charge of Diversity at an Am Law 200 firm asked a junior associate to interview him. This opportunity resulted in the junior associate being featured in the promotional materials for the meeting and allowed the attendees of the meeting become more familiar with her.
To place a junior attorney in a moderator role in a CLE does not come at a cost to a senior attorney, but can result in a big payoff in increasing the junior attorney’s visibility.
Tianna K. Kalogerakis is an associate at Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt LLC. She concentrates her practice on commercial litigation and business disputes such as breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and business torts. In addition, she is currently President of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, Inc. Tianna also serves on the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division as an appointed member.