Diane H. Banks, Attorney, Fabian & Clendenin
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I am a transactional attorney with emphasis on real estate transactions of all kinds (including sales and acquisitions, development, complex financing and leasing). I have worked extensively in firm administration, serving on the board of directors for the firm on several occasions. I also started the Fabian women’s group and the Fabian real property practice group. I have taught real estate document drafting at the university of Utah, which helped me refine my own drafting style significantly. I am also active in Crew Utah, helping young women to expand their practices and business in the real estate arena, and serve on the CCIM Forms Committee.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Closing a refinancing transaction representing a borrower. Sounds simple and routine, right? This one was not. In today’s market, senior lenders resist junior financing, and in this case we had not only a junior lien from the local redevelopment agency but also tax credits. Meshing the three interests required much negotiation, particularly because the property includes air rights and leased rights, and the transaction included the purchase of both air rights and fee interests in previously leased property.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
I have spoiled my clients (though I would argue they deserve it), which makes it difficult to have other attorneys take over my matters when I’m not available. I’m trying to educate the younger generation that there is much more involved in the practice of law than just getting the work done right.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
I’m very fortunate that my children are now on their own, thus freeing me to devote time to my choice of endeavours. I am also able to telecommute easily, thus allowing me to work from outside the office on occasion.
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? I did not have a mentor. As a result, I try to mentor young women whenever possible.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I think they are helpful, but caution that they will only be successful if the “diverse” hires hold up their end of the bargain. It is a disservice to all women for someone to devote less than is expected of them, and after seeing this on more than one occasion have real concerns about it. I have found it effective to participate in firm management where I can have input into such selections and help to devise programs that are a win/win where the women who participate are set up to succeed.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
Rarely. I have always strived to be a great lawyer, not a great woman lawyer. Early on I found the greatest challenges with staff people, like the court clerks (mostly women) who made condescending remarks. I found most male lawyers to be respectful and only once felt threatened on account of my gender. The biggest disadvantage was not being part of the male network. Hence my interest in Crew Utah helping young women to create their own networks.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
I’m seeing more flex time arrangements. At Fabians, we presently have 2 part time women attorneys. When I started, such an arrangement was not available at Fabian and was rarely available at other firms, and when available, the women who participated in those arrangements seemed to work 75% of the time for 50% of the pay. The Fabian arrangement is much fairer and helps the women to stay involved in the law to build careers while also starting their families.