Katy Goshtasbi is the secretary of the ABA’s Law Practice Division. She talked with Peggy Liu, ABA Law Student Division delegate and liaison to the division, about her experience and role.
Q: How did you decide on pursuing law as a career?
A: I always wanted to be a securities lawyer because (1) I wanted to be of service and (2) I wrongly thought that if I were a lawyer perhaps I would be loved more as an immigrant! I realized that reason number 2 was a bad reason once I started law school!
Q: What is your area of practice and what has influenced your choice?
A: I practiced securities law for 14 years because I really understood the investment management industry and understood what makes people tick.
Q: How has your career path developed over the years?
A: I started off as an attorney in the enforcement arm of the Indiana Securities Division. I then moved to Washington, D.C., and became a federal lobbyist for state securities laws. I then went to the Securities & Exchange Commission. There, I drafted much of the Sarbanes-Oxley rulemaking in the post-Enron era and developed the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD), which is the registration system for investment advisers nationally. I then went to a major law firm and switched hats, having clients like Franklin Templeton. After that, I went in-house, relocating to California, where I was investment counsel to two large mutual funds.
I see the profession being even more about our brands and how likeable we are. Those who are willing to see things differently will be at the forefront.
Q: What is the most favorite part of the work that you do currently?
A: After 14 years of practicing law, I realized that I could be of better service to lawyers. So, two years before the recession, I changed careers because I realized that lawyers wanted me to collaborate with them on developing their brands and business. My gift is that I am well- balanced with my left and right brains. I am analytical and mitigate risks well (left-brained) and I am also very creative and drive innovation effectively (right-brained). I use these gifts to collaborate with the legal industry to help lawyers define their brands, attract business more readily, and have their natural talents and abilities come to the forefront. In short, I help them shine, be happier, and make more money. Everything I do is my favorite! I am so blessed to do what I do every day – it is not work; it is my purpose.
Q: What does it take to succeed in the legal profession?
A: In my opinion, to succeed in the legal profession, you must be flexible, creative, curious, open to change, and willing to acknowledge that your career is not just about your substantive work, but about the way you develop your brand and attract people to you. You must want to be of service to others or it just won’t work well. Finally, you can’t take your career and life so seriously. If you are not happy, nothing will work well. You have to keep your stress down and your happiness high.
Q: What are some of the changes you anticipate in the practice of law in the next three to five years?
A: As we move away from traditional models of practice and law firm structure, I see the profession being even more about our brands and how likeable we are. Those who are willing to see things differently will be at the forefront.
Q: Why should law students join the Law Practice Division?
A: I wish I had joined in law school. We are the division that teaches you how to create awareness of the fact that your legal practice is a business and that there are ways to do it well. If you learn these methods sooner, your career will likely be more successful.
Q: What advice would you give law students in terms of mindset that they need to start developing now?
A: Stress is not attractive. Learn methods to keep your stress low. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming competitive. Instead, find your uniqueness. Understand that no one is your competition, but see people as complementary to you. Find ways of exercising your creativity (such as painting, singing, and so on) so that you can learn to see creative solutions. Do not choose to see the problems your clients have, but look only towards collaborative solutions. Finally, ask yourself each day: Am I happy? How can I stay happy?