Name: Mansi H. Shah
Job / Title: Partner
Company: Merchant & Gould LLP
Industry: Technology and Intellectual Property Law
Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Mansi: The legal industry is going to see a hard shift with both automation for certain tasks (where technology and law will mix) and consolidation into large service providers (as happened to the accounting industry). This will change how law is practiced, where value will move away from traditional legal tasks, such as discovery and legal research, to being business partners with clients, where lawyers will be sought out to provide risk assessments at each turn, and advice to minimize risk. This is already being asked of partners, but will move more strongly in a direction where the value add will really be in strategy and creative solutions for businesses.
On a micro-level as an IP lawyer, we’re seeing a downward trend in patent litigation – an area that was booming for a couple decades, and an upward trend in trade secret litigation. Over the last couple years, I’ve been less involved in traditional patent litigation, found myself representing several clients in trade secret litigation. I have to say, the stories in trade secret cases are definitely more juicy than the traditional patent case.
Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
Mansi: Take a good look at who you see ahead of you – a role model, or someone at work that’s just a bit senior – that you wouldn’t mind being 5 or 10 years down the line. Carefully look at their LinkedIn profiles or external/internal profiles, and see how their career progressed. Based on that pick a few goals over the next year that will get your resume closest to those women. That is what I did when I started, and it’s paid off in spades with respect to my career trajectory.
Q: How have you grown your professional network? Explain.
Mansi: I have found the best mentorship relationships and even client relationships are organic. Everyone says this, but it is rarely defined. Let me give it a shot – when I say organic, I mean be truly interested and curious about the people around you, and the people in your profession. That curiosity should not be limited to work – it can be personal, say motherhood or travel, it can be about clothes and shoes, or it could be about the shared interests, like a sports team or a charity. These commonalities open up a connection.
Next, you will have to nurture that connection by following up over email, snail mail, or telephone after you meet the first time. It usually helps to use something that you connected over (e.g. I thought of you because I saw a flight to Italy on sale). And your curiosity about the new connection shouldn’t end there. I can’t stress the importance of keeping up with these connections in different ways – as a mom of a pre-schooler, I tend to use social media or email, but optimally, it would be in person over lunch or coffee, or a hike with the Club.
Q: What are the leadership traits that have led to your successes?
Mansi: I was always surprised when others described my leadership traits – words like fierce or commanding or assertive. For someone who considered herself pretty self aware, I never realized that I had an ability to lead differently from others, nor would I have described myself that way. I learned this by asking for feedback from people I had worked with in the past as a part of a leadership program. If your organization does not have 360 degree reviews, it may be worth reaching out and asking those you work with or interact with for some feedback as it helps improve your leadership style.
As a woman (and as a human), I think humility probably led to more of my success than not. Men often get a pass, and don’t have to show humility in the same way. Another trait is giving ownership to those I lead and then credit for what they do. I’ve found that when your team knows who is accountable for what, and feels ownership, they are going to do more to succeed. When you give credit, you signal to all of those on your team that their good work is noticed, appreciated, and respected. One last trait is to protect your team – when things go wrong, as the leader, you have to be the one to apologize and stand up on behalf of the whole team. I have never seen leaders benefit from pointing to someone else, and when they do, it shows they really aren’t a leader.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
Mansi: I used to be a coder for missile and satellite systems before I went to law school, and in a life before becoming a software engineer, I was a classical Indian dancer.