New York partner Arlene Arin Hahn works in our Technology Transactions group, part of our global M&A and global IP practices. Here are her reflections on what she wishes her younger self had known.
It is critically important to like the people that you work with
When I was thinking about moving from my previous firm five years ago, I met 20-25 White & Case partners. I knew the Firm had a strong international and entrepreneurial reputation, but I also needed to know that these would be people that I would enjoy interacting and working with every day.
Networking is personal as well as professional
I have made so many friends over the course of my career, but I used to consider my personal network as separate from my professional one. Now I see that the relationships that you have with co-workers or clients can be both.
Learning never stops
I feel that I am learning every single day and I think it's especially important to understand what motivates your team. Finding out what they care about is essential. For example, studies show that Millennials tend to value frequent feedback and positive reinforcement. Members of Generation X like me are much less comfortable with giving or getting regular feedback.
Technology is dramatically changing how we practice law
It's important to understand how technology is changing the nature and practice of our profession. When I was in law school, legal research was still done with books and "pocket parts" and diligence was performed in physical data rooms. As technology improves, more and more legal work will be handled by machines. That said, I believe that it will be incredibly difficult for machines to replace humans on international cross-border matters . This is one of the reasons why working for a truly global firm is important to me.
“You need to be able to raise your hand, make connections, and take active steps to advance your career”
I am a vocal advocate for diversity, inclusion and belonging
At White & Case, I am chair of the Global Diversity Committee and co chair of the New York Women's Alliance and a member of various affinity groups, including an ally member of the LGBTQ+ Spectrum affinity group. I was reluctant to get involved with diversity initiatives before joining White & Case because I often felt tokenized. But because White & Case is such a diverse Firm, I am now outspoken and passionate about fostering a workplace where our employees can bring their authentic selves to work and feel included and that they belong.
Playing a part in the success of others is very fulfilling
The highlight of my career has been seeing my associates and mentees achieve their professional ambitions. When I get the call saying that one of my prior associates has been promoted to partner, it is extremely gratifying. I have benefited from incredible allies, mentors, and sponsors in my own career, and now I want to pay that forward.
Don't be a "model in the mall" waiting to be spotted
Studies have shown that women tend to think that if you simply do good work, then you will be noticed and rewarded. And while delivering excellent work product is necessary, it's not sufficient. You need to be able to raise your hand, make connections, and take active steps to advance your career – all in ways that are comfortable and authentic for you.
It's about how you recover from mistakes, not the mistakes
A member of my team once missed a potentially major issue. When I realized that he did not understand why the issue was so important, I decided to overhaul our training so that we could dig deep as a team to prevent it from happening again. It was a tough experience to go through, but in the end, the results were better for everyone. It's not the mistakes that define you – it's how you recover and learn from them.
I wish I had benefited from recent social science around organizational psychology and workplace satisfaction
Today, we are much more aware of the factors that influence our productivity and performance in the workplace. It would have been great to have benefited from the research around topics like imposter syndrome and the confidence gap when I was younger. There is also established science now around wellness, such as the importance of social connection and getting enough sleep. Doing three all-nighters in a row is just not a good thing – long-term or short-term.
I'm still on a journey in terms of my own identity
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. My parents were first-generation Korean immigrants who were keen for my three older sisters and me to "fit in" and try to assimilate into American society. When I went to undergrad at MIT, it was eye-opening for me to be in such a vastly more diverse environment. Today I live in Brooklyn with my husband—who is from a tiny town in New Zealand—and my two kids. I love that they are growing up in such a diverse community and that I continue to learn more about myself through their lenses and experiences.