In the latest installation of Attorney at Law Magazine Dallas Tips From the Top, Regina Montoya, a candidate for Dallas Mayor, to discuss her experience in the law and the legal community as well as her advice for attorneys.
AALM: What is the best advice you received from a mentor figure?
Montoya: The legendary Judge Sarah T. Hughes, the first female district judge in Texas and a staunch advocate for women’s and human rights, I clerked for. Judge Hughes had a mantra that she often invoked, that was particularly inspiring: “If you don’t do it, someone else will.” Judge Hughes had such a passion for standing up for what is right. She really was a catalyst for my career path, and my life. Her advice I still share with young people as they embark on their own paths.
AALM: What qualities do you believe separate a good attorney from an excellent attorney?
Montoya: An excellent attorney is one that goes the extra mile. It is one thing to be competent and precise, but truly engaging with a client and ensuring that they understand legal developments, is crucial.
AALM: In terms of retaining clients, what single act do you believe is most effective?
Montoya: Understand where a client is coming from. Each client is unique with their own background and experience. Make an effort to know who they are. In addition to their business, take the time listen to their needs and goals. They have placed an extraordinary amount of confidence in your ability, and you should honor that privilege.
Keep a good perspective. Remember what is truly important in life, and how they can impact their community, even in the smallest of ways.
AALM: What advice would you offer a newly licensed attorney?
Montoya: Keep a good perspective. Remember what is truly important in life, and how they can impact their community, even in the smallest of ways. The most meaningful work is giving back to others by volunteering, which helps to create opportunities for others to achieve. I am proud to work with organizations like Girls Inc., MALDEF, and the Texas Book Festival. I would advise a newly licensed attorney to remember a career is more like a marathon than a sprint (I’m not a runner but I do like that metaphor!)
AALM: How do you work to maintain balance between your home life and work life?
Montoya: Family has always been central to my foundation, and fortunately, I still have my parents in my life. Spending time with my family, has been essential to balancing my work life – whether with the law, government, education, and nonprofits. Catching a movie, going out to dinner, or attending a Dallas Mavericks game. Recognize work is important, but family is forever.
AALM: How important is culture when selecting the law firm you work with?
Montoya: It is tremendously important to work in a setting that is educational, affirming, and inspiring. Dallas has a wonderful legal community, with an abundance of lawyers from all backgrounds and fields. When I first joined Akin Gump as an associate, I looked around the firm, and realized I was surrounded by people I was proud to call colleagues.
AALM: What flaws do you see in the legal community? How would you recommend that they be improved or eradicated?
Montoya: I do think the legal community places a tremendous amount of pressure on young attorneys. And for those like me (the first in their family to graduate law school), they can feel isolated, worried, and fearful. I think there are opportunities for firms to promote internal programs to alleviate some of that stress.
AALM: What is one experience you believe is essential for every attorney to experience?
Montoya: Mentoring a student and experiencing the power of mentorship. There is a need all around us, within our field, community, or neighborhood – students who might have been the first member in their family to attend college, or law school. Sharing with them experiences, supporting and helping them navigate through this legal terrain, can impact and shape their perspective and experience as a future lawyer.
Sharing with them experiences, supporting and helping them navigate through this legal terrain, can impact and shape their perspective and experience as a future lawyer.
AALM: Would you encourage attorneys to become involved in legal associations? Where or how do you believe their involvement would be most beneficial?
Montoya: Yes, all attorneys benefit being involved in legal associations. Being a co-founder of the Attorneys Serving the Community annual luncheon, and the funds raised for so many deserving nonprofits has been humbling. Additionally, being involved with the Dallas Bar Association and Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, has resulted in connections and lifetime friendships, which has been fundamental to developing personally and shaping my career professionally. A lot of these organizations have had such an impact on our city, that, as an attorney, I feel indebted I was able to work so closely with these bar associations.
AALM: How do you stay in touch with past and current clients?
Montoya: In the past, I have always tried staying in touch with past and current clients through calls and letters. Now with new technology, keeping in contact with both, I have more options to do so. Especially digital technology, websites like LinkedIn and Facebook, offers a plethora of opportunities to open new channels of communication, more than ever before, while feeling a part of clients’ professional and life milestones, and making new connections.