The Life and Career of Cindy Brazell, Partner, Kilpatric Stockton, LLP

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Brazell, a partner and head of coaching and professional development at Kilpatrick Stockton in Atlanta, said successful attorneys must strive for that harmony in their lives.

"Probably the biggest message I preach to new associates is balance," said Brazell, a 1989 graduate of Mercer University's Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, GA. "Balance is very, very important. A well-rounded lawyer is very important. A billing machine is not necessarily going to be the most successful lawyer down the road and not necessarily going to make the most successful partner down the road."

Developing hobbies, nurturing relationships with friends and family, and even having pets are all just as important as burning the midnight oil at work.

"You're a much more effective lawyer," she said, "if you get outside the firm and get away from it for a while."

Q: What other advice do you give new associates?

A: I try to give them some advice about how different the practice of law is from law school. Their training is really just beginning when they take their first job. They should not expect to know much of anything, and that's okay. They should be comfortable asking lots of questions. No question is too stupid. They should, at a very early age, recognize that while the firm is very invested in their career and their development, no one should be more invested in their career than they are.

I preach to people that you have to draw boundaries early. If you are available and willing to work 24/7, then people will allow you to work 24/7, and you'll burn out and be no good to you or to us. I think community involvement is extremely important. I think pro bono is extremely important—bar activities, practice development, marketing, things like that. All of those are important and are things young lawyers should learn to do at an early age.

Q: What do you look for when hiring applicants?

A: I look for personality. When I'm interviewing a candidate, I usually try to engage them on the non-law part of their resume to try to get a sense of what's important to them, talk about community involvement or things like that. It gives you a sense of what kind of balance they currently have in their life and what things are interesting to them. If they take a summer off and go to Europe, that shows a lot of initiative in a different way than having a nifty summer job.

At the intelligence level that we're interviewing, everybody is going to have the ability to do the work. The difference is how they do it, how they deliver that, and those are more interpersonal skills than just pure intelligence.

Q: What are common stumbling blocks for young associates?

A: One is thinking they know more than they really do. Another is not recognizing that they are just part of a team and the importance of staff people— secretaries, paralegals, and other lawyers. We all play an important part of what ultimately is the end product. Sometimes you'll get a lawyer coming out of law school thinking, "Well, I have this law degree, so I know everything there is I need to know." It is sometimes quite entertaining to watch a longtime secretary or paralegal educate that young lawyer.

I think being reticent to raise your hand and ask questions or not being as willing to ask for help, assuming that you know more than you do—those are probably the biggest stumbling blocks

Q: What's one thing they don't teach in law school but should?

A: The business side of the practice of law. I don't think that's taught anywhere. It's the personal side of the practice—responsiveness, client service, practice development. Not only just the dollars and cents business side of it, but all of the factors that come into play.

Q: Who's your favorite lawyer in movies, books, or television?

A: For mindless entertainment, it probably is Andy Griffith as Matlock. I actually like Ben Matlock, seersucker suits and all.

Mercer University


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