Though she didn’t have any attorneys in her family, Allyson O’Keefe always knew she wanted to pursue a career in law. Her father, an owner of an employment agency, strongly advised her to seek a degree in something that had a positive job outlook. While her father’s intentions were merely meant as a means of something to fall back on should she change her mind about law, O’Keefe remains grateful for her father’s advice.
“He told me that I couldn’t major in history or political science unless I could point out a job posting in the Sunday paper for a historian or a political scientist,” O’Keefe laughed.
She eventually went with an undergraduate degree in accounting. From there, she knew she wanted something in law dealing with transactional work. Given her background in accounting and desire for transactional work, she fell into the field of real estate law and commercial finance.
JOINING THE PORTER WRIGHT FAMILY
O’Keefe began her career at Porter Wright as a summer associate before being hired on as a practicing attorney. However, before she was introduced to the firm, she had spent her first summer at a different firm in the Cleveland area. Her choice to pursue Porter Wright came during her second summer when she knew she wanted to divide it between two firms.
“I chose to spend the first half of my summer with the original firm. But I decided I needed to spend the second half of the summer with a different firm, so I could experience other settings. That second firm happened to be Porter Wright,” O’Keefe explained. “I wanted to try a smaller firm. Although Porter Wright has a main office in Columbus, I decided to work in their Cleveland satellite office.”
She ended up liking the satellite office as opposed to the larger firm better because it added a personal touch. One of the perks she enjoys at Porter Wright is knowing everyone on a personal level. Knowing the names of her colleagues, their families and children, and essentially developing close friendships with everyone alongside professional relationships made work feel calm and comfortable.
Two of O’Keefe’s mentors are both practicing attorneys at the top of their industries and partners at Porter Wright, Bill Weir and David Lewis. She credits Weir for creating the practice group at Porter Wright and teaching her the fundamentals of the business side of a legal practice including client development. Th e other is Lewis who taught her the foundations of practicing law. Under the wings of these two mentors, O’Keefe has found incredible success.
She was recently awarded Crain’s 40 Under 40, which she refers to as an incredible honor. Related to her work, one of her biggest achievements is the redevelopment of Th e Flats East Bank in downtown Cleveland. O’Keefe loves working with her clients and getting to know them on a personal basis. Watching the construction projects from start to finish is also amongst her favorite things her profession entails.
On the flipside, O’Keefe notes that time management is an inherent challenge of the profession.
“There are going to be ebbs and flows. It is important to know when you need to focus on one or the other. I think in the end, you just have to try your best to find that balance and understand your boundaries,” O’Keefe said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a good husband who understands and supports me.”
Like many practicing attorneys, O’Keefe echoes that the field of law is extremely broad and consists of many different ways to practice.
“I would tell young attorneys or those pursuing a legal career to talk to lawyers who practice in the area of law in which they are interested,” O’Keefe advised. It also offers them the insight to the pros and cons of what exactly the specific field demands, which could ultimately, make or break someone.