Everybody knows that leverage is important — vital, in fact. There is much more that can be leveraged than you might think. Some people, for example, leverage their good handwriting by offering to write things neatly for people on freelancing platforms. Nowadays, almost anything can become a form of leverage if you think creatively enough. On Fiverr, someone writes out words in noodles on toast! That might be a bit far out for our purposes here, but we will still be investigating some lesser-known forms of leverage available to those interested in law.
This one seems pretty generic, but I want to make a specific example of being an immigrant (or the child of one). You can take any insecurity and turn it into a superpower by recognizing the unique skills that this status forced you to develop. Having immigrated to the States (from Siberia) in my early teens, I was very much an outsider. There was no group of Olgas with whom I could eat lunch, forcing me to learn to connect with people who weren’t like me — it taught me to network. Similarly, Managing Counsel Meyling Ortiz found — through study and experience — that children of immigrants have a higher EQ because they have to learn to read situations more carefully. They have to learn to assimilate with different cultures and find bridges between them, which is a critical skill when it comes to being in law, business, or just about any field in which the rest of the world participates. You develop grit and learn to appreciate community.
If you think a knowledge gap is always a bad thing, then it may be time to think again. Yes, you should not be a lawyer if you know nothing about the law (nor could you be if you wanted to). You should learn to be comfortable with acknowledging your knowledge gaps, however; then, you can be intentional about filling those that need filling.
Arguably, the best way to do this is to approach people within your organization who have the relevant expertise. You can either bring them on board or have them teach you. In the former, you fit them into your gap, collaborating more and getting a greater diversity of thought for the situation at hand. After all, problems are just opportunities that got up on the wrong side of the bed! In the latter, you fill your own knowledge gap, thereby increasing the value you can add going forward. In both situations, you build better relationships, as well. For example, Felipe Jaramilo was able to utilize his fluencies in both English and Spanish to advance his career and broaden his experience.
Desire can be a very powerful form of leverage. Athletes who desire Olympic gold medals will train for hours each day to put themselves in a position where they could achieve that. At the end of the day, the question you should keep asking yourself is simply: What do I want? Subsequent to that, you can ask the inverse: What do I not want? Or, more specifically, What is my biggest source of pain. Then work at removing that source of pain in a way that empowers you to work towards what you want. Those are the two questions lifestyle coach and law graduate Angela Han asks people whenever they come to her for help. She prioritizes finding what drains you and seeking to eliminate that. From there, she recommends uses for the newfound free time and energy to help you to accomplish what you desire.
It is absolutely worth taking the time for introspection and self-assessment, as this will help you see what you can leverage and how you can optimize what you already have or do. In the Wonka factory, even the levers are lollipops — it matters not what you have, it matters how creatively you use it.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.