Anusia Gillespie

In a third-grade crafts project, I declared that “I would like to be a lawyer when I grow up.” I also proclaimed that I could not wait to “go into court and solve the case.” I was a little confused on the details. While the job function of a lawyer later crystalized, a lack of clarity around what I wanted to do as a lawyer continued until I applied to law school.

Mapping the course. I applied to BC Law with a personal statement about my experience in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and how the resulting anarchy gave me a new appreciation for the law and those who create the structures and processes in which we operate daily, i.e. lawyers. While very true, I did not reveal the entire story for fear that BC Law would reject me as “not serious” about law. I similarly waited to apply for the JD/MBA program until 2L year, for fear that admissions would perceive my dual interest as a lack of commitment to the profession. But, I was serious and very committed–I wanted to improve the business of law.

The challenge with this career aspiration was that I did not have a model for success aside from: (1) go to law school, (2) work at a firm for 10 years, (3) become partner, and (4) begin to have some influence in the management of the firm. In a short time after joining my law firm, I knew this model wasn’t going to work for me. Why would I spend 10 years developing my career foundation on technical legal skills that, ultimately, I did not want to use? So, I jumped. I started a consulting practice working with firms and lawyers (mostly women) on growth initiatives. Like many of you, I had significant law school loans and did not have any type of family cushion or “investments” for the business. I bootstrapped, and it was terrifying.

The ride. I tapped into the Women’s Bar Association, Boston Bar Association, Boston Associates Networking Group, Legal Marketing Association, BNI, and USA500; learned what it felt like to have people look down their noses at me professionally because I was not affiliated with a name brand; partnered with a corporate leadership company as their legal liaison; curated a network of advisors including two former Big Law rainmakers; applied for MassChallenge and failed; hit the speaking circuit for PSFs like Prince Lobel, Fragomen Worldwide, Duff & Phelps, and Simpson Thacher as well as universities and legal associations; had a near panic attack during one of them; generated content weekly for my newsletter of 1400+ opt-in subscribers that was all republished in the ABA Legal Career Central or Law360; and ultimately found my niche at large firms with women’s initiatives, mid-sized firms with client development coaching, and small firms as an external CMO working with a graphics and web development team I had assembled. In December 2016, I had just received confirmation of a contract that would have kept me in business for another year at least, when one of my former Big Law rainmaker advisors recommended me to Harvard Law School Executive Education to help grow the business and develop business of law programs to fuel it. The HLS opportunity presented a larger platform for impact in the business of law, and so I took it.

The fascinating part of my time at HLS Executive Education was listening as 60+ managing and senior partners from around the world engaged in multi-day, intensive leadership and business training. I had tapped into global conversations at the highest levels on leading law firms–on the business of law. I was in heaven. That is until, from program to program, the conversations among participants repeated…and stayed the same…and didn’t change… I realized that there was no “man behind the curtain” or secret among law firm leadership as to how they were going to win in the changing market. Further, no firm was making strides significant enough to produce different conversations.

The destination. In June 2018, I moved to Atlanta to start a newly created position at Eversheds Sutherland focused on US growth and firm-wide integration and innovation. In this role, I’m hoping to make the strides necessary to change the dialogue. Advancing the profession as a whole will require our collaborative efforts, however. Please get in touch if you ever want to discuss the business of law or legal innovation, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A GIGANTIC, HEARTFELT shout-out to all of my BC Law family who supported me in the development of my consulting practice. In particular, Ingrid Hillinger, Jihan Hassan Merlin, Hannah Joseph, Elizabeth Olien, Nick Stabile, Lavinia Weizel and Jasmin Ali–I could not have done it without you. Thank you.

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