Carrie Lambert: Embracing Pause & the Path to a Fulfilling Career

Carrie Lambert

“For the first 12 years of my career, I traveled all over the country and the world, leading large case teams from discovery to trial and appeal,” Lambert says. “I loved being an all-in litigator who could immerse myself in so many different technologies, industries and case strategies, and it was incredibly rewarding to obtain so many amazing results for our clients at trial and in settlement.”

Her impressive track record included securing substantial settlements, such as a series of cases related to digital camera technology, which yielded over $240 million for her client. “I got to see every aspect of litigation on those cases alone – from deposing corporate representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, to arguing and winning a case-ending motion for sanctions for discovery misconduct against opposing counsel, to conducting juror interviews post-trial. I was so grateful for all of the opportunities.”

However, as her career soared, Lambert and her husband faced challenges in building their family. After enduring several pregnancy losses, they welcomed twins via a gestational carrier. After Lambert took time off for maternity leave, she returned to work and jumped back into leading large patent litigation cases, while her husband, Louis Lambert, also an attorney, was working on mergers and acquisitions for General Mills all over the world.

“Things seemed to be running smoothly at work,” Lambert says with a smile, “but even with me working at 80 percent, we were really stretched at home because of my husband’s travel schedule and what felt like constant interruptions with childcare.”

Pumping Professional Brakes

Balancing demanding careers with childcare responsibilities became a considerable challenge. When she noticed her children adopting their nanny’s accent, Lambert decided it was time to take a break and be more present for her kids.

“The firm was great and offered me a more reduced schedule or really whatever I wanted to do to make it easier to stay. But I needed to take a pause.”

Lambert initially planned to return to work when her twins started kindergarten in 2016. However, her son’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes three weeks into kindergarten changed their plans. Managing his condition required constant attention even while her son was at school, making it difficult for her to resume her legal career.

Throughout her break, Lambert maintained contact with her Robins Kaplan colleagues and Ron Schutz, Lambert’s longtime mentor and now Chair of the firm’s Executive Board. They discussed her eventual return to the firm, and in early 2022, with her children settled and the pandemic behind them, Lambert rejoined Robins Kaplan as a part-time partner in the intellectual property and technology department. In addition to her legal role, she assumed the position of Chair of Professional Development, overseeing training, mentoring and career development for associates through the Robins Kaplan Academy.

Shifting Gears

Lambert recognized the need for hands-on training, especially after the challenges posed by remote work during the pandemic. She and the professional development team launched the Robins Kaplan Academy, providing comprehensive training in oral argument, motion practice, deposition and trial advocacy skills. The firm’s First Chair program, a cornerstone of the academy, empha    sizes practical experience.

“Like the rest of the world, because of COVID, our attorneys spent a couple of years working remotely and receiving their training from a distance, which is not the best way to learn and hone your litigation skills, especially as a junior associate. As I was coming up the ladder, the most effective training for me was always on my feet, and in real life – our First Chair trial advocacy program, for example, was a fundamental part of training for me. So, when I came back to the firm in early 2022 and people were starting to transition back to the office, there was a real opportunity to bring the focus back to giving our attorneys hands-on training on their core litigation skills.”

Lambert also dedicates time to individual development, particularly for female associates. As a successful woman in the male-dominated field of patent litigation, she understands the unique challenges women face and strives to support and mentor them.

“One of the things Ron and I discussed when I first came back was my working with our associates on their personal career development and so I try to meet with our associates individually a few times a year to see how they’re doing and how we can help them get where they want to be. But also, we want to make sure they are on track and getting the training they want, too.”

Because Lambert credits her success in part to having “lifelong, incredible mentors like Ron, Jake Holdreith and Judge Becky Thorson, who have supported me through all iterations of my career,” she tries to do the same for the associates in her own department, especially the women associates.

“Patent litigation in general is still a very male-dominated area of the law and that poses some unique challenges for women inside and outside of the courtroom” she adds, “so I do try to connect with our female associates on a regular basis to make sure they are advancing and getting the opportunities they want.”

In addition to her role in professional development, Lambert continues to assist clients in patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret litigation. Remarkably, she manages to balance her career and family life with community involvement as well.

Helpers and Heroes

Lambert and her husband have been actively involved with the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) since their son’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Lambert serves on the board of directors and, with help from their friends and family, their Team Super Lou has raised over $250,000 to support JDRF’s mission of finding a cure for the disease. Lambert and her husband also co-hosted the JDRF Hope Gala in 2021 and 2022 and helped the organization raise a combined total of almost $3 million at the events. Their involvement has been deeply rewarding, both personally and philanthropically.

“It’s such a wonderful organization,” says Lambert. “They do so many great things to help families manage the daily siege of T1D, but more importantly, they have hundreds of active trials geared toward finding a cure for the disease. And they are SO close to a cure.”

Lambert’s story demonstrates that with flexibility and support from forward-thinking firms, professional women can forge careers that accommodate their family lives, even when faced with unexpected challenges. “My piece of advice for young associates is to of course do great work and get great results as a lawyer, but really spend time nurturing and maintaining your relationships with your mentors and colleagues – I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

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