Skip to main content
Advice to my younger self
Los Angeles partner Matt Lewis

April 2024: Matt Lewis is a litigation partner in our Los Angeles office, where he advises businesses and individuals on their commercial and intellectual property matters. He looks back on his long career at White & Case and tells us what he's learned along the way.

This is my 31st year at White & Case in Los Angeles

One reason I came here was because I was intrigued by the Firm's global presence. This was somewhat unusual among Big Law firms at the time, especially those with an office in Los Angeles. A lot has changed since I joined, but that international focus is still something that sets White & Case apart. "Pioneering" is one of our Firm values, and that often meant working seamlessly across borders or being first in a new market.

Working in Los Angeles means I get the best of both worlds

When I joined, we were about 60 lawyers in the LA office and we're close to 100 now. That's relatively small compared to some of our other offices. What it means is that you get the upside of working in an office where you get to really know people well on a day-to-day basis. But you also get the power of our international footprint, whether that's traveling to Paris for a hearing or picking up the phone to a colleague on another continent—that's a great combination.

Great people are what makes you stay

Ultimately, it's the people that you work with that have the biggest impact on your professional life. I have a really rich history with people here in LA. Not just other attorneys, but also our PAs, the people in our mailroom, and all the amazing support staff, for example. I've seen co-workers have kids, seen those kids grow up, go to college, start their careers and have families. That sense of belonging is important to me.

Working with global clients means acquiring global skills

You really need to know the culture that you're working with, whether that's the cultural expectations of that country or the norms of that industry. It also means that you have to explain the US legal system to clients from foreign jurisdictions and help them navigate the process.

One example is when a client is being sued and they must hand over their financial records to the other party. That often comes as an unwelcome shock to the client. Understanding what a deposition is, what discovery is, taking an oath—a lot of my work includes acclimatizing clients to how our system works.

Enjoy the journey

Making partner is a big milestone for any lawyer. But once you get there, your focus expands from just doing the work to also building client relationships and generating new work. You're also the main point of contact for the client. For the first year or two after making partner, I remember focusing so much on the results that I lost sight of the day-to-day journey and experience.

What helped me was to ground myself with the people around me; reminding myself to enjoy the people and the process. Just stopping to have a chat with someone in the office would help remind me of the little things that really matter.

You can make your mark in a smaller office

Early in my career, I definitely benefited from the level of interaction that I had with partners and senior associates. In a smaller office, you're working closely together. You get to go to the client meetings, to court and to social events together. It also means that the people who can champion you in your career know you well and help you get the work that will help you build your skills.

Spending time with people in person cements your connection

As a global Firm, we have long worked effectively together as virtual teams. Some days you'll speak more to a colleague thousands of miles away than to a co-worker down the hall. But it's the chance encounters that you have with someone in person, whether that's at the watercooler or a networking event or a social occasion, that make it easier to pick up the phone or ask for help or advice. Human connections matter—and I'm glad that "Human" is one of our Firm values.

You have to put yourself out there

When I started out, I had an interest in Intellectual Property work, but we didn't do much of that work in LA. So I reached out to the IP group in the New York office quite a bit, mostly by email and phone. And whenever I was in the New York office, I would stop by their offices to introduce myself and say that if you ever have a case in LA, please give me a call.

Find mentors from all parts of your life

I came to White & Case because I followed my mentor here from another firm, and he continued to be a real mentor and role model for me. I think it's important to have mentors from other parts of your life as well, and to have interests beyond the law. I get a lot of benefit from taking part in triathlons and other sports activities. I believe you're a better lawyer when you have a balanced life.