In this Women Who Wow profile, get to know Alexis Robertson, the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Foley & Lardner LLP.
A former lawyer and legal recruiter, Alexis became a D&I professional after realizing that practicing law and serving as a legal recruiter wasn’t her true passion. She was able to take valuable skills from those positions and pivot to a diversity and inclusion career first at Baker & McKenzie and now at Foley & Lardner.
As Alexis noted in one of her terrific LinkedIn posts (you should follow her on LinkedIn!), if not for the pandemic, she would not have launched what she often refers to as her “pandemic podcast.” She says it was the need to introduce herself and check-in on attorneys that led to her personally calling 100 attorneys within her first few months at Foley.
She says that need created the space for the most amazing one-on-one conversations, which inspired a podcast unique to Big Law focused on showcasing human stories, highlighting the unique professional paths of Foley attorneys. The podcast is called The Path and the Practice and you should check it out.
Learn more about Alexis and her career path in this Women Who Wow profile.
Why did you choose your profession?
In many ways, my profession chose me. I’m a lawyer by training and I spent nearly 8 years practicing. About 6 years ago, I left legal practice to become a legal recruiter. I enjoyed practicing, but I found myself drawn to a career that more directly worked with people and legal recruiting did just that. But, a few years in to recruiting, I was presented with the opportunity to join a law firm as a diversity & inclusion professional.
As a women of color in large law firms, and as a recruiter who focused on placing diverse attorneys, the role really appealed to me. It allowed me to do the work, create the organizational change, that I’d wish had been done for me when I was practicing. Thus, it’s deeply personal work that ultimately found me.
Any advice to women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Love yourself. That’s the bottom line. You have to figure out a way to love yourself and treat yourself with compassion. If you can do that, you won’t be looking for love and praise externally. And, that will be what sets you free. It will be what allows you to make it through the difficult times and it will be what allows you to listen to and trust yourself so that you can ultimately find a career that it’s alignment with who you are.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
When I was a summer associate a Kirkland & Ellis, as senior women partner took me and another summer associate to lunch. She told us that the biggest mistake junior associates made was to think that they could work exceptionally hard for 3-4 years and then “scale it back” later in order to “have a life.” She said this was a terrible approach and that it was key to maintain what was important to you. She gave the example of a cooking class she took one night a week as an associate.
She then went on to explain the perils of thinking you could later scale back. The problem with this approach is that when you did decide to scale back a few years in, it would not seem like you were merely becoming more balanced but that you were slipping—you’d already set the expectation that you are the associate who always responds to a 2am email. Years later, when you’re no longer available for those late night requests, it’s not necessarily going to be well-received.
Thus, her advice was to maintain at least some boundaries from the beginning. (Of course, this was within reason.) I never forget that advice. While I worked hard and was extremely responsive, I never endeavored to be the associate that was “always on.” I’m this same way today. I’m always responsive, but I do not strive to be constantly available.