Word for Word

What was the best advice you ever received?

Published in 2011 Texas Rising Stars magazine

By Betsy Graca on March 11, 2011


I clerked for two judges, Judge Barbara Lynn and Chief Judge Carolyn King. They were both these really strong advocates and strong women. They really stressed to me to be yourself and capitalize on your natural strengths as a working mother. And I tried to emulate the model that they created. I have to say that’s probably what has worked best for me—to not try to, as a working mother, bring in business on the golf course, which does not fit me [laughs]. But use natural relationships and my connections with the community that my kids are involved in to develop business, and also use those natural strengths in care for client service.

To care for client service is something you can do in a lot of different ways. And really getting to know your client on a personal level helps you understand what a win is for them. That’s something that I think we as women are good at: asking the questions and really getting to know people on a personal level.

—Michelle Hartmann, partner in the Complex Commercial Litigation Group at Weil, Gotshal & Manges



We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, first off; and secondly, no one can take away what you know. Those both came from my father [whom I practice with]. In terms of “no one can take away what you know,” obviously with that comes experience. You’re going to make mistakes, but the most important thing is, you need to learn from those mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us” is especially meaningful to me because my father has practiced law since 1973. His father didn’t get past the third grade but he always stressed the importance of education to my dad, and in turn, he passed that on to me. I’m involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I have a little brother and I have two daughters, and I’m going to pass that on to them. Again, it’s all about experience and seeing how hard people have worked for me to get here.

—Ben De Leon, partner, De Leon & Washburn



 I was a federal clerk after law school and clerked for a couple of judges. One was Judge Gray Miller in Houston. It was very important to him to find a good balance between work and nonwork. I think he felt that made you a better lawyer—if you found that good balance between your family and your work life. To be honest with you, I struggle with [that balance] even still. When you’re at your busiest, it’s advice that I always look back on and remind myself—“Hey you know what, work is important, but you’ve got to remember the other things as well.” I think whether you’re a father or a mother or just a best friend to somebody, you have to remember to devote time to the other roles that we play in life. With all that you bring to the table as an attorney, if you don’t play those other roles, I think it’s really hard to see things from different perspectives when you’re trying to provide legal advice.

—Daniel Johnson, member of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan’s Litigation Practice Group

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