In addition to hard work and integrity, Leslie Anne Miller, a Philadelphia attorney, says that equality, flexibility—and a sense of humor—play an important part in your career. Scroll down to listen to our brief interview in its entirety.
Q: How did your career begin, and how did your first job prepare you for the work you do today?
A: My career began as the daughter of a lawyer. My father practiced until the age of 89 so I was fortunate to have a mentor in him. Although I didn’t pattern my work life after him, certainly he was an influence on my decision to go on to law school after graduate school and begin my career path as a practicing lawyer in Philadelphia with a law firm. I was one of the first two women and became the first woman partner. I endured, I think it’s also fair to say, a number of obstacles, that I think unfortunately still exist for women in the workforce. So those first 10 years with that law firm (which I subsequently left and went on to a more enlightened environment) I think trained me very well in dealing with the realities of professional life.
Q: What was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome?
A: I think it was just an inherent bias against a woman and her ability to do the same work as a man. And the necessity of working twice as hard many times to prove that that was just an unwarranted view, and to demonstrate that I was as desirable if not more desirable when it came to choosing a member of a team and ultimately giving solo responsibility.
Q: What are the characteristics you think define a great firm today?
A: First and foremost, as it will come as no surprise, a great firm is one that treats all of its employees equally. Pays them equally, provides equal work across the board. Secondly, one that does its best to provide a flexible working environment, for all employees. Certainly for women who bear the childbearing responsibility and many times the child caring responsibility, but, as we are seeing more and more often, also for men who participate in that. So, flexibility to have children, help in the care of children and to not have it counted against one’s ascent up the ladder. Finally, a willingness to guide and to teach.
Q: What is the top piece of professional advice you’ve received from a mentor, and do you think that advice still applies?
A: I didn’t really have a mentor per se; I had my father. We worked in different cities, so clearly he was the strongest professional influence on me. I had the opportunity to watch many very fine lawyers at work and also the opportunity to watch a lot of people make a lot of mistakes. What I discerned and distilled from that is that first, you’ve got to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. I think it’s very important to never lose your integrity and to remember at all times that your professional reputation is your most important asset. And certainly, whatever you do, always make sure that you have your sense of humor with you. It is great leveler and it gets you out of a very difficult situation from time to time.
Q: What is the thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keep you refreshed and positive?
A: Well, I think that that presumes that I am either one on any given day! I try to exercise every day. I have a dog, so I walk about three miles a day and do some other exercise. And I am a great reader. It is my favorite pastime. And I spend a lot of time in my garden. It truly nourishes my soul.
Interview by Karen Breslau