There are benchmarks in a lawyer’s life that will always be remembered. Your first day in law school. Your first day in court. Your first deal closing.
Jessie Lochmann will never forget her first week as a lawyer. Having risen to become a partner in Foley & Lardner’s transactional-practice group and co-chair of the firm’s Manufacturing Industry team, Lochmann’s time at Foley goes back to the same week in 2001 when terrorists attacked New York and Washington.
“I remember watching the towers come down on a small TV near my new office,” Lochmann said. “I remember the tears, the shared experience. And I think of those people on every anniversary.”
The new Harvard Law School graduate’s perspective started to change that day as she remembered lessons imparted by one of her professors, the current Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Being successful, Warren adamantly taught her students, didn’t necessarily mean you had to fit into a particular mold as a lawyer or in life.
“At first, I thought she was almost mean in her style of questioning our views,” Lochmann said. “But now I understand how lucky I was she was challenging me to be the best thinker I could.”
That lesson drove Lochmann to help other new lawyers, particularly women and minorities just embarking on legal practice. According to Lochmann, there are still cultural habits engrained in some firms that hold back women and minorities.
“Younger, white males have a tendency to assume it is their right to ask for opportunities, while women and minority associates are much less likely to speak up,” she said. “As partners, it’s our job to make sure all associates are exposed to the same opportunities early in their career.”
“When I started at Foley, Jay Rothman (Current Chairman and CEO of the firm) was more than a mentor to me. He opened doors, he introduced me to people, he told clients they could trust me and it changed my career path.”
“People are human,” Lochmann said, “often they are more comfortable dealing with people who look like them. Our responsibility is to break down the barriers for the next generation.”
Lochmann feels it’s important for all firms – large and small – to be aware of social realities and make sure new associates can receive help, just as she did when she came to Foley.
“Mentoring is terrific, but we need to do more,” Lochmann said. “Invest in your new lawyers by taking them to meetings. Help them get on the right boards to serve their communities. It will make us better lawyers and better citizens.”
One of her bigger concerns is still the role of women in many firms. “We are losing too many women attorneys because they don’t see a chance of success on their career tracks,” said Lochmann.
She says firms must be aware of that perception and work diligently to counter it.
In 2014, Lochmann was honored by the Wisconsin Law Journal as Woman of the Year. She was praised for using her position to help other women and singled out for reminding her own clients about the value of putting women on their boards and in their executive suites.
Lochmann has traveled a long road from her hometown of Hubertus to Harvard, and her 15 years at Foley & Lardner have brought their own significant changes.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” said Lochmann, “but I will be happier when the existence of a successful female corporate law firm partner is not in itself a profile-worthy accomplishment.