For Pippa Balestrieri, there is no substitute for being kind and polite. This philosophy guided her through law school and to her current practice as an associate attorney in Holland & Knight, LLP’s San Francisco office, where she enjoys lasting connections with colleagues and no shortage of projects. Balestrieri maintains a positive outlook and stays true to her advice for effectively engaging in the field of law: “know thyself.”
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a "typical" work day look like?
I am a corporate, securities, and mergers & acquisitions associate in the San Francisco office of Holland & Knight, LLP. A typical day usually start with calls with East Coast colleagues and clients in the early morning, followed by jumping on any immediate “fires” or assignments that need to be rushed. After that, I will recalibrate my day as needed and try to focus on the larger projects on my desk, such as drafting proxy statements or preparing client memoranda on new regulatory issues in the financial space. Usually, however, I am interrupted by new, short-fuse assignments from senior colleagues or clients. This will usually continue until the early evening at which point I will turn back to the larger projects and plan my next day. All that said, "the best laid plans…" A lot of my job is juggling, owning my stress, remembering to breathe, and thinking positively.
How did you find your job?
OCI (On-Campus Interviews). Although the story gets more interesting from there. Through the OCI process, I was offered and accepted a summer associate position with the Denver office of a competing firm, where I summered and then started as an associate immediately following graduation. After about a month of working as an attorney, my group left the competitor to start the Denver office of Holland & Knight, an international law firm whose largest office is in Washington, D.C. Following that, family commitments led to a move to the Bay Area and Holland & Knight’s San Francisco office, where I have been for the last two years. Since most of my deals are multi-office, however, I routinely work with Holland & Knight’s Denver office and CU alumni throughout the country.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Despite following the traditional path (OCI, summer associate, associate), the Career Development Office was invaluable, even after I had my initial offer. There is a lot of solicited (and unsolicited) advice on how to approach the OCI process and hopefully come out with an offer on the other end. But there is much less advice on where to focus one’s job-related energy after that. I remember a conversation I had with Todd Rogers after I had accepted my summer offer about how to professionally succeed during the summer and afterward. It was the most valuable conversation about securing a job in legal practice I had while in law school.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis, and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
The skills I use most are people skills, organizational skills, and analytical skills, in that order. I found all the courses I took at Colorado Law to be intellectually rewarding and valuable. I came to law from a philosophy background and took the “love of knowledge” approach to choosing my curriculum. In other words, I chose courses I was intellectually interested in rather than “practical” courses. Of the academic activities I participated in at Colorado Law, the time I spent on the Colorado Law Review likely had the most direct practical impact on my practice today.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
In law as in life, there is no substitute for being kind and polite. While there are often process thresholds for "getting a foot in the door" (grades, contacts, luck), almost all opportunities that follow thereafter are because someone cares about your success and gives you an opportunity. The best relationships—including professional relationships—are those you build honestly and naturally. I have benefited from too many academic mentors, professors, and teachers throughout the years to list, including many at Colorado Law (Professors Pierre Schlag, Justin Desautels-Stein, Robert Nagel, Charles Wilkinson, Marianne Wesson, Carolyn Ramsey, Ming Hsu Chen, and Lakshman Guruswamy spring immediately to mind). Further, relationships established at all stages of my life have benefitted me professionally: a friend from childhood is now one of my California law student mentees, some of my undergraduate friends are now clients, and Jamie Hansen (’13), my Colorado Law Review notes and comment editor, is now my colleague, peer mentor, and friend. The legal world is small. Be someone for whom that is a benefit, not a burden.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Be honest with yourself about your strengths and be thoughtful about what you want to do and why. You are allowed to change your mind. But, employers and future colleagues like to see that, whatever your focus is, it is your focus for good reason, and, most importantly, for good reasons that are yours. Not because your parent/brother/friend/bartender/roommate/cat thinks that you will be good at "drafting." What are you good at, what do you enjoy, and what do you want to do? It is ancient wisdom but, bears repeating: “know thyself.”
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Being successful at Colorado Law can open doors in "Big Law," public service, boutique private practice, in-house companies, government, academia, and many other legal worlds. Whether you have a commitment to the Colorado area or may be looking for a more national (or international) reach after graduation, Colorado Law offers this along with world-class professors, a comradely law school environment, gorgeous surroundings, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
Family commitments brought me to Colorado and, happily, to Colorado Law. Of importance to me, Colorado Law offered excellent academics, a beautiful environment, and the potential for growth in many fields.