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An Unforgettable Journey

By Donna Mallard | Sep. 2, 2015

Law Office Management

Sep. 2, 2015

An Unforgettable Journey

by Zachary M. Turke

I still remember getting the call. It was a Thursday night in June 2005, early in my 2L summer associate position with Sheppard Mullin in Los Angeles, and I was out with friends at a bar. My cell phone rang. I looked down at the screen and saw, with a slight twinge of panic, that the call was from Larry Braun, chairman of the firm's corporate practice group. I wondered, had I made a colossal mistake on one of my summer projects?

I answered, and Larry asked, "Do you have a passport?"

Just like that, within 24 hours Larry and I were on a plane from LAX to Taiwan to attend negotiations for an upcoming M&A transaction. During the 13-hour flight, Larry explained the transaction process-from the letter of intent to the closing dinner-as well as what our negotiation posture would be, and what I should pay attention to. I absorbed it all like a sponge.

The five-day trip itself was a whirlwind. I sat in on everything: the negotiations with the CEO of the public- company buyer, the private sidebars with the investment bankers, the social meetings in the evening. Larry, our client (the private-company seller), and I even spent some time touring Taipei and taking in the sights. It was an amazing experience for a young law student.

When we returned to Los Angeles, two ideas were firmly cemented in my mind. First, that I wanted to be a corporate attorney. And second, how important it is to have a mentor take an interest in your professional development.

Unless you grew up in a family of lawyers or religiously watched L.A. Law as a kid, no one comes to this profession fully understanding what it means to practice law. And whatever your opinion of the Socratic method as a tool to impart legal theory, law school does little to prepare students for navigating the politics of a law firm. Add to this the millions of other little questions that pop up throughout a young lawyer's day, and mentorship becomes crucial for our success.

Now, almost ten years later, I'm a partner at the firm. I still work with Larry, and we still meet monthly to discuss my career progression. And I am more convinced than ever that I would not have made partner without Larry, or someone like him, taking an interest in my career.

It can be easy to lose sight of the importance of mentoring as we progress through our careers-juggling multiple projects and client development-and still make time for our families. As the beneficiaries of mentoring, however, it is imperative that we return the favor and help develop the careers of the young people around us. As a young partner, I am doing what I can for the associates who work for me.

Mentoring can be as simple as taking time to explain the reasoning behind the particular document revisions we're making, so the young attorneys understand the logic behind the redline, or summarizing how their individual projects fit into the transaction as a whole.

Every few months, I take each of my associates out to lunch individually to make sure they are getting the type of work they want, and to give them the opportunity to ask questions they may have in a less-formal setting. And much like Larry did for me, I take them to as many client meetings as possible. Unfortunately, as I am still building my practice, these meetings are not yet in glamorous foreign locales (unless you consider the City of Industry glamorous, of course). But, as I can vouch from personal experience, there is still benefit in each opportunity to interact with clients.

I will always remember my trip to Taipei; it helped set me on my current career path. I'm thankful to my mentor for giving me that opportunity, and I hope that the people who work for me will one day feel the same way.

Zachary M. Turke is a partner in the corporate practice group in Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton's Los Angeles office.


Donna Mallard

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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