Deborah Staudinger, Partner, Hogan Lovells US LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Since December 1998
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I began my professional career as an engineer in the nuclear power area. As a highly regulated industry, I was in constant contact with legal counsel and I admired many of the lawyers with whom I worked. As a result and with their encouragement, I quit work and went back to law school full-time.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
It was a recently completed pro bono matter. After several generations of my firm’s representation of a birth center in an underserved community in Washington, DC, we assisted the center with a transfer of its assets and its dissolution. With the current cost of malpractice insurance, the center, as a stand-alone birth center, was no longer financially viable, notwithstanding its excellent service and stellar results. In structuring and closing the transfer, a team of associates found a way to maintain the overall mission as a part of a larger healthcare organization. It was a difficult transaction, but maintained a much needed service in my own community.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Growing demands on performance and delivering results in a very competitive market, which I try to overcome by building a core team of talented men and women that have excellent skills.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible, but I make time for my family and I rely on my fellow team members.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
Hogan Lovells partner Claudette Christian. While I’m yet to perfect it, she taught me the art of “presence.” I would call it grace under pressure, but it’s something more than that – presence is the right word.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I think that corporate diversity initiatives are only the beginning. Each person must make an effort to be inclusive and mentor the needs of diverse individuals for the overall initiative to be successful.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
At times, particularly early in my technical career. Almost never since I’ve been at a law firm.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
The accession of women into the senior ranks and management of law firms. Finally there are advocates, mentors and role models in the “board room” of law firms.