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How do you successfully transition from a lawyer to a managing partner?
BRETT WINTER LEMON | Special to The Roanoke Times
Monica Monday: “This transition has been going on for several months already, and that has been enormously helpful.”
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore recently announced that Monica Monday has taken over as managing partner, only the third in the law firm's 90-year history in Roanoke. (The firm created the position several decades ago.)
Monday officially succeeded Michael Pace Jr. on Jan. 1 and became one of the few women to lead a major law firm in Virginia. She has added management duties to her work as an appellate lawyer.
Monday recently spoke about the change in her career, her goals to continue the firm's strong presence in the local legal community and the challenge she's facing: How do you successfully transition from a lawyer to a managing partner?
"This transition has been going on for several months already, and that has been enormously helpful. I've been learning from Mike Pace over the last several months, and although I've been involved in the management of the firm for a number of years now, there definitely is a different role in becoming the managing partner. ... It has been a very smooth transition and interesting, too. I think probably most people came in January 2nd and were just like, 'Oh yeah, I guess Monica is now the managing partner.'
"It's interesting how things happen. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have never in my wildest dreams have expected that this is what I would be doing in January 2013. I love the firm. This is my 20th year with the firm. I still remember when I interviewed here, and it was just this gut feeling that this is where I belong. That was a large part of what propelled me to move in this direction.
"I think the firm is in a really good condition right now. ... The process that Mike has gotten under way in the last year is a strategic process for us. I consider one of the first orders of business for me to carry out that strategic plan whatever that's going to be. I think a large part of the stability and success has been really good management over the years.
"I came out of law school, clerked for a judge locally and then came to the firm. I've never perceived a glass ceiling here. For me, to think that a woman could be a managing partner at this firm is not a big surprise. But I know the statistics, because we've looked at this and I've been involved at the firm level in recruiting and retaining women lawyers, and there's almost a national epidemic of women leaving private law firms.
"Women are graduating, and have been for some time, from law school at an equal rate as men. And yet law firms have had a difficult time in retaining women lawyers. So it's been an interest of mine at this firm, because I think that there are such great opportunities for all lawyers, but for women I think this is a great place to be. While it may be a unique statistic that I'm joining and a very small statistic, it's not really a surprise to me that a woman could become a leader of this firm based on my experience.
"[Working] is always a balance between personal life and professional life. I think that after 20 years I have a better sense of how to manage it, but it also requires support from my family. My husband, Eric, is enormously supportive of this. There's also a lot of excellent support in place at the firm. We have really excellent staff to help us with the day-to-day management of the firm. That leaves time to focus on a lot of the bigger picture issues and leadership issues.
"We have a really strong history of leadership in this firm. Bill Rakes was the managing partner for 20 years, Mike Pace for 14 years. In watching them I have learned a lot about their leadership, and I think they feel very strongly as I do about the firm's involvement in this community and in the state. And that I think my principal focus will be to maintain the work that they and all the attorneys in the firm have done to make Gentry Locke a part of this community and a contributing part of the community. That's very important to me.
"Both Bill Rakes and Mike Pace, while they were managing partners, were presidents of the two largest statewide bar associations. ... I'm not tackling that beast while I'm managing partner, but I think it speaks volumes to the commitment they have individually had and that the firm has had supporting them in that - to contribute to the bar and to really be good citizens. I went to William & Mary Law School, and there is a concept that is ingrained at that school about being a citizen lawyer. You're not just a lawyer, but you're a citizen of the community that you live in and the bar that you're a part of. They have truly exemplified that in their involvement in the community and the bar. I don't think I will be running any statewide bar association while I'm managing partner, but in a different way will be very involved in the bar groups that I'm involved in now, and keeping an eye on the firm's focus in the community."<
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