Laurie Petersen is in many respects a leader, and does what she can to teach younger lawyers all the lessons she has learned in her successful career.
One big point she likes to make: Pursue the career path you will be happiest with, and not the one you might think is best because of what you’ve heard from outside influences.
Petersen is a shareholder at Lindner & Marsack, where she works on labor and employment matters.
Here, she goes beyond the call of duty to serve as a mentor and role model for young female lawyers, both those in the firm and the greater legal profession.
An example of her work as a mentor is on display at Marquette University, where she teaches employment-discrimination law. In her classes, Petersen said it’s important that students hear from successful attorneys because they will be expected to soon become competent professionals themselves. This means the arguments they encounter in class will be very similar to what they will soon experience in their careers.
Of course, lecturers can also benefit from presiding over in-class discussions, Petersen added.
“You have to be on your toes with law students,” she noted, adding that, “Someday I am sure I will see them representing an opposing party, and it is rewarding to see the transition from student to peer.”
Beyond that, Petersen has also served as a mediator and a judge for Marquette’s Alternative Dispute Resolution and Moot Court events.
When Petersen started working in the labor and employment law field, there were few other women doing the same thing. She said that the vast majority of the people she dealt with at the time were male. Gaining their respect required her to exude confidence.
This is not to say that everything has since become easy for female attorneys. Still, Petersen said, she is now much more likely to encounter both women and men as she goes about her daily business.
One cause of consternation for younger female attorneys remains the need to strike a work-life balance. She also said that it’s not uncommon that female attorneys feel a need to “prove” themselves in their careers before starting families.
Petersen wants those lawyers to know they shouldn’t make decisions like that because of what others have done.
“What I emphasize is you can have what you want and be happy,” she said. “You just might have to choose the right place to do it.”