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They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Jocelyn Cuttino of Morgan Lewis

July 14, 2021, 8:46 AM

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
One of my biggest “wins” was not a win at all. I recently defended a client in the second round of a gender and race-based harassment case after the first trial resulted in a hung jury. The second trial also resulted in a hung jury. Although I did not win (or lose), the client provided very positive feedback about my work and told me that I had a bright future as a trial lawyer. In my mind, that turned my non-victory into a win. Recently, my “win” has been having an increasing number of opportunities to help both small and large nonprofits focus on equity and inclusion in their workplaces.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
The most important lesson that I learned as a first-year attorney was about the importance of being self-sufficient. At the time, I worked with a partner who was an expert on the rules of civil procedure. I often asked him questions to save time because I knew he would know the answers. One day he said to me, “Before asking me a question, tell me what you have already done to find the answer.” His lesson was that I would be far more effective as an attorney if I learned to not rely on others for information that I could find myself. This lesson stayed with me and informs my relationships with my clients today. I have learned that the clients I serve feel more supported and invested in when it is clear that I have done my research and taken the time to learn about their companies and industries in order to provide the best advice that I can.

How do you define success in your practice?
I define success in my practice by my impact on a client’s relationship with its employees. Rather than define success by the number of cases I have helped win, I feel that I provide the most value when I help clients avoid litigation to begin with by creating workplaces that are safe and respectful for their employees. I feel far more successful when I help a client avoid a lawsuit than I do when winning it.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
The thing I am most proud of as a lawyer is being able to set an example for young diverse lawyers. There is no question that large law firms have a long way to go in recruiting and retaining diverse talent. It is also true that diverse professionals feel less likely to be successful when they do not see other diverse professionals advancing within a company. As I have progressed through my career, a primary motivating factor for me has been my desire to show young diverse lawyers that attaining partnership is not only a possibility but also an achievable reality.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?
So many people have impacted my career that it is impossible to name a single greatest mentor. But I can speak to the greatest thing that my mentors have collectively taught me in both words and practice, and that is the importance of authenticity. Too often diverse attorneys feel that we must “code switch” to avoid negative stereotyping. Simply expressing an alternate viewpoint can quickly get us labeled as difficult to work with or angry. A mentor of mine taught me early in my career that the best way to establish meaningful relationships is to be authentic, learn who appreciates you for being you, seek out opportunities to work with those people, and move on from the others. I have watched several of my mentors achieve success in their careers by doing exactly that, and it is one of the most important lessons I have learned from my mentors.

Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino

“Solar Power” by Lorde

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com

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