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Leading Questions: Kirkland’s Nicole Washington Finds Balance

May 1, 2020, 9:41 AM

Lawyers are great at asking questions, but how are they at answering them? Bloomberg Law is talking with lawyers and other legal industry players to find out what their lives look like in the age of work from home.

Nicole Washington has been a partner in the Investment Funds Group in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis for five years. Washington has represented some of the largest and most diversified asset managers, as well as many small and middle-market managers on the formation of private investment funds ranging from $100 million to multi-billions.

Bloomberg Law spoke with Washington about her busy practice, the importance of maintaining attorney and staff well-being, and how she stays connected to colleagues and clients.

(Editor’s note: Remarks have been edited for clarity and length)

Bloomberg Law: Describe your day to day routine.

Nicole Washington: My routine usually involves waking up around 7 a.m. I check my emails and respond to anything that’s time sensitive. I make the first of many espressos, watch the news, and catch up with my family over the phone as I eat breakfast. I’ve been incredibly busy over the last six weeks, and much of my day is spent helping clients navigate unprecedented issues in connection with their existing investments and portfolio companies, as well as assisting with the development of new fund products focused on market dislocation, debt buybacks, and other opportunistic strategies.

BL: What is the hardest thing about working from home?

NW: The most challenging aspect of working from home is not having regular in-person interaction with my partners and teams. I’m used to informally dropping by people’s offices to collaborate and problem solve. Thankfully, I am part of a tight group, we have weekly global calls to make sure we are all connected and can share important information. I also host two associate check-in Zoom “happy hours” a week. And I’ve also had several closing celebrations with clients over Zoom.

Nicole Washington
Courtesy of Kirkland & Ellis

BL: What is something your firm is doing that has been really helpful?

NW: Beyond the regular communication and encouragement from firm leadership, the firm was early to double down on its technology support, allowing our thousands of employees to connect without skipping a beat when we implemented WFH orders. The firm has also reengaged our attorneys and staff about health benefits that we offer for well-being — including stress relief and resilience-building solutions. Now more than ever it’s important that everyone feels like they’re not alone, that there are always people and resources available to them.

BL: What kinds of technology are you using? Any challenges while working remotely?

NW: It’s been surprisingly seamless. My at-home setup is the same as what I have in the office — minus the high-speed printer. I have set up two monitors so that I can work on documents easily, and I have a phone that rings at home when someone dials my office number. That said, throughout the day I like the flexibility to move around the apartment for a change of scenery, so I’m constantly on the move with my laptop and iPhone. In terms of challenges, the only issues have been the need to constantly charge everything!

BL: What is your number one piece of advice about working from home?

NW: It is probably something that has been repeated, but setting up a schedule — detailed or not — is important. Otherwise, it’s easy to burn out from being “on” for too long. And remember to eat. That sounds silly, but at the beginning I had days where I would wake up and work for hours before having breakfast or not take a break for dinner until very late because I hadn’t scheduled for it. Also, reserve time to connect with your family and friends.

My friends and I have weekly Zoom happy hours, and it’s been important for me to make the time to catch up with the people I care about.

BL: What’s your favorite working from home story that made you laugh, shake your head, or just throw up your hands?

NW: All of the videos online of pets or children interrupting video chats are hilarious, and maybe too relatable.

BL: What do you do to de-stress or take your mind off work when you’re trapped inside (or limited in where you can go)?

NW: I purchased a Peloton in early March and I’ve found that to be a great way to de-stress and challenge myself. In the evenings I try to take a break by attempting new recipes, some attempts are notably more successful than others! I have also been planting flowers in my outdoor space each weekend. It’s great having an outdoor activity, provides me with some downtime, and gives me something to look forward to at the end of the week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Ellen Egan in New York at maryellenegan1@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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