As part of our ongoing Q&A series with leaders in the LMA Northeast Region, we asked Dawn Sheiker, the Director of Client Relations at Morris James LLP and longtime LMA volunteer in the Philadelphia area for her advice on her keys for success, what she loves most about her job, the best career advice she’s ever received (with a nice shout out to LMANE president-elect Trish Lilley) and how to achieve a work/life balance.
What do you love most about what you do?
No day is the same. Legal work can be really rigid. Many lawyers spend (at least the early days of) their careers doing the same things day in and day out. It’s different in the marketing department. Today, we could be responding to an RFP and tomorrow developing a content marketing strategy. I enjoy working in the legal industry but in a position that requires creativity. It almost feels rebellious in a way.
What is the best career advice that you ever received?
Never hide mistakes. I was told this by a lawyer in the very early days of my career. Days later, I paper filed a motion with the court and forgot to send the exhibits! I was so afraid that I had ruined the entire case for the firm. Naturally, the thought crossed my mind to hide the mistake. Instead, I immediately spoke with the lawyer who called the court and opposing counsel and had the situation rectified in a matter of moments. I’ve taken this advice with me throughout my career. No mistake is too big to rectify, and being transparent can earn you credibility and loyalty from your colleagues.
What do you think is the key for success as a legal marketer today?
Adaptability. The legal industry is not immune to disruptive innovation. It’s our job to keep pulse of the evolving needs of firm clients and remain nimble and adjust to the changing demands from clients on our lawyers.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I think it is important to define work/life balance for yourself before you can achieve it. I look at it with a macro lens and recognize that there will be times that work takes a controlling priority and other times where home life becomes center stage. If I can say at the end of the year that everything was balanced overall, then I feel successful. It’s not productive or helpful to put pressure on yourself to reach a daily work/life balance. Life isn’t structured that way and it adds too much stress to life. My good friend Trish Lilley once told me to pause and ask the question “will this matter in five years” whenever I feel stressed about work/life balance. It’s a useful exercise in pulling yourself out of the moment to focus on the big picture.
What woman most inspires you and why?
Michelle Obama. A lot of things can be said about Michelle Obama as a role model for women. Her advocacy as First Lady in projects such as “Let Girls Learn” resonated with me as she fought for civil and equal rights for disadvantaged groups. I admire her open adoration for her husband and children, and her dedication to the well-being of her family. She is poised, professional, intelligent and strong. More importantly, though, to me, Michelle is a woman who writes her own rule book, and does so with elegance and grace. She defines her own pathways for success and builds consensus along the way with authenticity. Michelle inspires me to work harder toward the advancement of myself, my goals and my community.