By Hillary Hitt, market coordinator at McDermott Will & Emery LLP
Tahisha Fugate is a business development manager in Paul Hastings’ Washington, D.C., office, where she leads strategic growth initiatives for the firm’s global Investigations & White Collar, Complex, and Securities Litigation practices. As a regional co-chair of Paul Hastings’ Black PHAN (Paul Hastings Affinity Network), she helps develop programming in support of the firm’s Black attorneys and professionals.
Her 15-years of experience advising global law firms includes managing all phases of the business development life cycle and effectively engaging clients through diversity and inclusion. A former member of Mintz’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Fugate played an instrumental role in the development of policy to incentivize attorneys devoting time to improving diversity at the firm. At Akin Gump, she managed a bi-annual retreat, which included professional development for African-American general counsel from Fortune 500 clients.
How did you get started in legal marketing?
I'm going to date myself a little (among friends I hope), but I landed into my first legal marketing role through a Craigslist ad. I'd just graduated from college and I thought I wanted to go to law school. Since I didn't know any lawyers personally, I had the idea to get a job working in a law firm to see what it was like to be a lawyer. I had no idea that law firms had marketing departments so when I saw the role for a marketing assistant it seemed perfect. I had a degree in marketing and an interest in law. I applied, interviewed, and before I finished my walk back to the metro station, I was offered the position. It had to be fate, right?
How has LMA positively impacted your career path?
LMA has created direction for an actual career path. I have been able to expand my network so much through LMA involvement. Not only that, LMA programming offers the best continuing education around. Anything you want to learn about, there's a LMA program that covers it – or you can create one. Very early, before the BoK (Book of Knowledge) materialized, I was fortunate enough to serve on the LMA Education Committee, where the conversations around the BoK started. Now I serve on the Mid-Atlantic Board with some very accomplished legal marketers. I'd like to think I keep great company. I also appreciate being able to offer my time, resources, and advice to those new to the industry.
What are a few things that you attribute to your career success?
I'd like to think that I'm still building my career, but a few things that have served me well include resilience, empathy, building internal and external relationships, and volunteering. Working with lawyers is not for the faint of heart for sure. Being able to make mistakes, which everyone does, but take ownership and course correct is something that I learned how to do very early on. I also understand the pressures from clients on the lawyers and how that trickles down. I do my best to keep in mind that we all carry so much with us to work that we can't necessarily put down or, B.C. (Before Covid), leave in the lobby, before we reach our desks.
What are you and your firm doing to build a path forward in regard to the major events of 2020?
I have done so much self-reflecting over the last few months, which has given me the courage to speak up and feel the various emotions that I've felt – some of those emotions really strongly. I have continued to educate myself and get to know organizations and activists on the frontlines doing amazing work. Personally, I have supported a number of organizations that are doing tremendous work in the fight against racial injustice, such as Know Your Rights Camp and Until Freedom. I believe there is a role for everyone to play and when you find your lane, join the fight. Additionally, I have been honored to join The Conscious Inclusion Company's board of advisors. The Conscious Inclusion Company works with organizations to create more inclusive environments. I'm excited about the work this organization is doing to change cultures and mindsets within organizations, which is really needed.
With regard to COVID-19, I’m doing my part to stay safe as well as keep my loved ones and community safe. It is an act of responsibility and love for self and others to wear a mask, keep your hands clean, and make better decisions when out in public to keep everyone safe. My family does a lot to support the homeless in the D.C.-metro area and we have continued that work. Our homeless are exposed to so much already and now with COVID-19, shelters aren't able to provide the resources that so many count on.
Paul Hastings created a fund available to employees who have experienced hardships due to COVID-19 and the PH Racial Equality Fundwhich will provide financial support to charitable organizations focused on ending racial injustice in America. Paul Hastings’ employees can contribute to these funds through payroll deduction, and the firm matches the contributions. I think that is wonderful.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for growth in law firms right now?
The biggest opportunity for growth I see is in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Law firms have so much work to do, as do so many other industries. This is a great time for collaboration and innovation when it comes to the hiring, retention, and professional development of diverse legal professionals – not just lawyers – but all professionals. There are so many challenges to meet and studies show that diverse talent helps firms view those challenges through a multitude of lenses and create solutions that benefit a wider population. This is what's needed moving forward. Diversity is the key driver of innovation.