Coffee Break with Nada Litwin

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Hi ladies! We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and welcome you back to a freshly-brewed Coffee Break featuring University of Michigan Law School alum and partner at Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP, Nada Litwin. Nada and I (S) met through another Coffee Break guest, Leslee Cohen (it’s true what they say – successful people surround themselves with other successful people), and needless to say, these two #girlbosses have shaped my career in many, many ways.  I’m so excited to share Nada’s story with you!

Tell us a little about yourself.  I was born and raised in Michigan and went to undergrad (business major) and law school at the University of Michigan. I started my legal career in the Chicago office of a large New York firm in the Corporate and Securities group where I spent my first five years of practice. In 2011, I moved to Fox Swibel, a boutique business law firm, and in 2014, I became a partner. I have a two year old and a five month old who are my life. My husband is also an attorney. After practicing at firms for over ten years, he started his own firm about a year ago.

What is your morning routine? I usually wake up to one or both of my kids singing (or yelling depending on the day) through the monitor. I hang out with them for an hour or so before my nanny comes (at which point, I quickly get myself ready and run out the door). I remember the days of going for a long run in the morning before work. I hope to get back to that soon, but for now, I’m just trying to take care of basic needs!

What does your day look like? Favorite part of your day? My mornings with my kids are my favorite part of my day. It’s also the only part of my day that has any sort of predictability. Once I get to work, all bets are off. Even if I carefully prioritize a to-do list, it’s not uncommon for me to not touch the list because something unexpected and urgent comes up. Usually, half of my day is spent on calls and meetings with clients or prospective clients or opposing counsel while the other half of the day is spent drafting documents.

How do you combat the afternoon slump? I’ve never been an afternoon slump kind of person. I kind of just charge through my day taking very few breaks. My goal is to be as efficient as possible. If I need a break, I usually pop my head into one of my colleagues’ offices or read the newspaper.

Caffeine of choice? Americano with steamed soy milk

How do you create “balance” between your work life and your personal life? Balance for me isn’t a day-to-day thing. Because of unpredictability of being a corporate attorney, there are some weeks, often when I’m closing a deal, where I am not balancing being a working mom at all. During those times, I miss my family and am constantly worrying whether I’m doing the right thing by being a working mom. Other weeks, when I’m not as busy at work, I feel like I’m a great mom and totally connecting with my kids. But I then feel like I could be doing more at work. One of my close friends and fellow lawyer/working-mom taught me that, as a working mom, we are inevitably going to disappoint someone most days. The key is to make sure that you do not disappoint the same person every day.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of? How did you get there? I always wondered how having kids would change my career. I was worried that being a working mom would be too hard or too sad. But I am proud of myself that I stuck it through, even when it seemed impossible (e.g., going back to work after my first kid). I actually enjoy work more now and have a lot more confidence in what I’m doing. I want to set an example for my kids, especially my daughter, that anything is possible. I got to this point with age, a lot of help and support (my husband, my nanny and my colleagues) and being ok with not a lot of sleep.

Was there an aspect of your career that didn’t come easy? Client development for me has been the hardest part of my career, and I think a lot of lawyers would agree. As a junior lawyer, you’re taught to be a good technician and how to produce great work product. Those skills definitely do not naturally lead to being a great at business development. But I do love people, so that makes client development fun for me.

Best piece of advice for young lawyers / aspiring lawyers? (1) Meet as many people as possible and help those people if you can (whether through introductions or otherwise). Sometime between now and later in your career, it will all pay off, whether for client development, looking for a new job or just learning from others; (2) Stay as busy as possible at work (without killing yourself). This is the only way you will learn and improve as an attorney; (3) Ask for feedback; (4) Find people who support you and want to see you succeed, whether it be a networking group, a moms group, old colleagues, etc.; and (5) Ladies, marry someone who is a great cook! I’m serious.

Do you have a mantra that you live by? Best stress reliever? Everything is temporary! This helps me get through the tough times and really enjoy the wonderful times. My best stress reliever is a long run.

Favorite organizational tool / office essential? Outlook calendar. I can’t believe there was a time when people functioned without it!

Piece of clothing most worn to the office / professional wardrobe staple? Black tights.

If you could have coffee with anyone, who would it be? Noam Chomsky.

What are you most excited about right now? Is it too early to be excited for the summer?

Thanks, Nada! You can read more about Nada here.

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