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Marie Ann Hoenings, Zeroing in on a Specialty [by Teresa Talerico] The time to experiment with different specialties and interests is early in one’s career, says Marie Ann Hoenings, a recruiting partner at the New York-based L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini. Those who do so should also realize that it takes time to establish oneself in a particular area.
“If you’re going to dabble, it’s better to do it
investigate my partner. I was so taken with
usually aren’t interested in unless there have
when you’re younger and you don’t have as
having my own law ﬁrm with my own name
been no cases on the issue.
many obligations,” she said. “It takes a very
that I didn’t give enough consideration to the
long time to establish a reputation in a par-
type of work and whether the work itself was
ticular area. There’s that painful period when
going to be fulﬁlling. That might be a mistake
you don’t have the reputation and you’re
that a lot of people make because they’re so
struggling—work wise and ﬁnancially—and
anxious to have a job or so enamored with
ing skills. When they ﬁrst start, that’s really
if you don’t have the luxury of time, it makes
either a title or a dollar value. They don’t re-
the bulk of what they’re going to do. One of
Q: What’s your advice for new associates? A: They need to have good research and writ-
ally understand the number of hours that are
the biggest stumbling blocks is not taking
going to have to be dedicated to it. If you’re
the job or deadlines seriously enough and
A 1985 graduate of Hofstra University School
miserable or you don’t like what you’re doing,
realizing the impact. There’s not really an ap-
of Law, Ms. Hoenings specializes in civil
it’s going to make things very difﬁcult for you.
things exceedingly difﬁcult.”
litigation, but also handles everything from
preciation for the impact upon the client if the deadline is not met.
real estate to employment issues. She has
Q: How easy is it to switch specialties once
also worked in the New York County District
you’re actually practicing?
Q: Who’s your favorite lawyer in books, movies, or TV?
A: Within the ﬁrst ﬁve years, you need to Q: What’s the biggest mistake new graduates
make a decision. At that point in time, you’re
A: I loved Ally McBeal. I thought that was
make while job hunting?
still very liquid; and if you have good core
the most realistic law ﬁrm atmosphere just
skills, then you’ll be able to switch. Litiga-
because it had the combination of personali-
A: I would say the lack of preparation and
tion is litigation, whether it’s litigation of
ties. They might have been magniﬁed, but
being untruthful during the course of an
a malpractice action or litigation of a real
it showed how there was this combination
interview. I’ll ask simple questions like “why
estate matter. If you’re a good litigator, you
of different personalities and quirks and
did you go to law school?” and I can tell
can learn the underlying laws. I don’t think
oddities, and they all seemed to function in a
whether or not it’s a made-up answer they
that it’s difﬁcult. If you spend seven years
successful law ﬁrm.
think I want to hear, as opposed to something
just doing transactional work, it’s going to
that’s truthful. My own answer is I couldn’t be
be difﬁcult to do litigation. But if you want to,
Q: How does your ﬁrm work to prevent new
a teacher, so I wanted to be a lawyer. Saying
you could probably do it with a cut in pay. But
associates from becoming disillusioned?
they grew up always wanting to do insurance
you’re not going to make a lateral move.
coverage work because that’s what we do—
A: We try to mix up the assignments so that
it’s a wonderful ﬁeld once you understand it,
Q: What’s something law schools should
a ﬁrst-year [associate] is not only doing
but you don’t go to law school because you
teach, but currently do not?
research. I try to show them from experience
always wanted to do insurance coverage.
that we have ebbs and ﬂows, we have good A: The practical aspects of the law and how to
days and bad days. Nobody likes the paper-
Q: If you could go back and do anything over
function in the workplace. We hire ﬁrst-years
work that we shufﬂe. You do get to do the
again, what would you do differently?
that come in, and their ﬁrst work product is
trials and depositions, which gets the adrena-
always very academic. They’ll be inclined to
line running and wipes out the bad parts.
A: For a brief period of time, I went out on my
do law review articles, citations, things that
own in a partnership and didn’t thoroughly
clients aren’t going to pay for and judges
Q: How can lawyers avoid burnout?
continued on back
hink what causes the greatest burnout is trying to compare yourself to other people and measuring where you should be based upon where somebody else is, whether it’s the types of cases they’re doing or the salary that they have or the clients that they have. My advice would be to sit back and see if you’re satisﬁed with yourself and what you’re doing and, if not, put into place things to change just that, as opposed to trying to keep up with the attorney, partner, or associate in the ofﬁce next to you.
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