Audra Dial, Partner, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I started with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton as a litigation associate and began working on a variety of commercial litigation matters. Over time, I developed a speciality in handling complex trade secret disputes, after having represented several clients in high-profile disputes involving former employees and their attempts to misuse trade secrets and confidential information known to them. That experience led me to focus my current practice on intellectual property litigation involving trade secrets and patents.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
My proudest moment was winning a 2011 POW! Award. I received the award in recognition for my strategic thinking and creative approaches to problem solving on behalf of my clients and my non-profit boards. I was pleased to be recognized with this award because it was public recognition of my talents and legal acumen, in addition to my committed volunteer service.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Balancing my client service, non-profit work and life as both a wife and mother of a toddler son is my greatest challenge and opportunity. To overcome this challenge, I stay incredibly organized and focused; I use the support of others; and I take advantage of down time (when I get it) to relax and reenergize.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Balance is a constantly moving target for me, and my work and life are rarely (if ever) evenly balanced. Instead, I recognize that there will be times when work needs to have more of my time than I can devote to the rest of my life. But after those busy times at work, I take advantage of the downtime to spend time with my family and to regroup so that I can be reenergized for my next project.
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 have had several mentors during my career, including men and women. They are individuals who have succeeded in their personal lives and at work and who always have time to give me their thoughts on what I can do better in my work and life. I often find that their sage advice or reassurance is just what I need to keep my focus on my goals and help me to succeed.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
Corporate diversity initiatives are very important and essential to promoting a conversation about diversity. But, for these initiatives to truly succeed, there must be buy-in starting from the top levels of management and permeating throughout the rest of the company. A corporate culture that realizes that diversity is not just important but also that it will improve a company’s success is critical to the success of these initiatives.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
As a female litigator, I often find that I use my gender as a secret weapon. Many of my opponents do not expect me to be tough or to have a well-planned strategy, and I am able to disarm them because they are not expecting my strong advocacy skills. In addition, as a woman, I find that I see a different approach to solving problems than my male colleagues, which offers creative solutions for my clients. And, with the increasing number of women on the bench and women serving as jurors, I find that they appreciate seeing me in my role as trial counsel. However, women still need to make progress in the legal profession so that we are equally represented among all ranks within private law firms and on the bench.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Women have been entering the legal profession in the same numbers as men and women have started achieving significant positions of power in the Government, including in Presidential cabinets and in the Supreme Court. These changes have been enhanced by corporate initiatives and firm clients who emphasize the importance of having women in leadership roles. Through these efforts, all women have been able to make strides and increased achievements in the legal profession.