Leah M. Bishop, Partner, Loeb & Loeb LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I worked at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where I became a partner in 1987. In 2006, the entire Trusts & Estates Department of O’Melveny moved to Loeb & Loeb LLP.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
In 2001, I was hired to represent the charitable organizations formed by Margaret A. Cargill, granddaughter of William Cargill, co-founder of Cargill Inc. Upon Margaret’s death, a third foundation was created. Those organizations now collectively hold over $6 billion of assets due to the good work of my colleagues who handled her estate and the monetization of the Cargill stock. Those foundations will create meaningful change through philanthropy.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
The client service demands are enormous and we strive to meet them, while attempting to maintain some personal life balance for our staff. The result is that I personally take on too much rather than risk disappointing my clients.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
It is very difficult. I have not found that balance.
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?
My mentor was and remains my partner Stu Tobisman. He is the best lawyer I know. When I was a young associate, he taught me how to be a lawyer. Now, he is my best resource to brainstorm and reality check.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
People are fundamentally most comfortable around others who remind them of themselves. That does not mean they look alike or have the same religion, gender, or ethnic background. As noted above, my most important mentor was male. Nevertheless, official initiatives will never be as effective as attending a meeting with another lawyer, watching that lawyer practice law, and saying “that’s who I want to be.” Therefore, we need all shapes and sizes of lawyers so young lawyers have many role models.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
Many times. I have been in too many rooms where I was the only female. I have had to choose a persona. Men just get to be who they are. Women have to decide whether to be tough (and risk being called bitchy) or collegial (and risk being called weak) or funny (and risk being silly) – you get the idea. My best resource has been my sense of humor.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Greater acceptance of part-time arrangements, but that means others have to pick up the slack.