Carla Levinson, Esq.

Carla Levinson, Esq.

Director, Coaching & Transition Services

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You’ve had a successful career in law firms, first as an attorney with a top AmLaw firm, and later as a Chief of Legal Talent at a highly regarded mid-sized firm for well over a decade, what inspired the move into consulting?

As for so many, the pandemic was a point of both inflection and reflection for me. During that period, I realized that while I truly enjoyed my role, and was deeply connected to the firm and its people, the aspect of my position that I loved most was working with people on their career development, particularly coaching and my other one-on-one interactions with attorneys. It was the occasion to gain clarity about what I wanted next – which I determined was an opportunity to focus on coaching, while still leveraging my varied experience in law firm management, BD, legal recruiting, and DE&I, among other dimensions. In the same way that my career evolved from practicing as an attorney to developing and leading the talent function at my former firm, moving into a full-time coaching role was the next evolution of what I do best and what I enjoy most.

As someone who is steeped in the legal industry from a talent development perspective, what drew you to Greiner Consulting Group?

I have worked with a lot of consultants and coaches over the course of my career in legal talent, and Greiner Consulting Group’s reputation really stood out. And, having focused on talent development, I like to think I have a good eye for talented people – those who bring something unique to the table – and I kept coming back to that as I considered joining the group. I love the mix of people, experience, perspectives, and skills on the team. For instance, the fact that the company has a coach focused on communications and executive presence who is a licensed speech pathologist aligns with the deep commitment to the highest standards of practice in what we offer and positions us to support our clients across an even wider range of professional development interests.

Is there a "secret sauce" as a coach that allows you to work successfully with such a wide range of attorneys?

I love to cook and come from a “food family.” I think, as with cooking, high-quality coaching starts with high quality ingredients, including focus, compassion, listening skills, humor, and relevant advice, but in different combinations, and, of course, with additional ingredients each time. Just as a great cook should cater to the preferences of the people they are feeding, a great coach needs to apply a different combination and measure of ingredients for each client, and that mix changes and evolves over the course of the coaching engagement. I’m a good cook but a terrible baker because following a recipe that requires the same exact measurements each time just isn’t my thing.

What have you learned about the ingredients of a happy and successful career within, or even outside of, the legal profession?

Again, I think both “happiness” and “success” are different for each person. Some people, for instance, find that the substance of what they’re doing is most important, while for others the environment and structure in which they operate is primary, whereas some are most focused most on the quality of collegial relationships, and still others hold purpose as their highest career anchor. We’ve seen that what is important to us changes over time. We need to be aware when those shifts occur and be open to making changes in response, which can sometimes mean a change in careers or the prompt to explore new opportunities within a current career or position. Lawyers are trained to be results driven. We tend to lose sight of the importance of the path to whatever results we’re trying to achieve, and whether we’re focused on the right results in the first place. It’s also important to distinguish between happiness and success and to not get too focused on one to the detriment of the other.

Was there anyone in your career who changed your perspective on yourself? How did that new perspective inform your trajectory thereafter?

I’d have to say that my father had a big impact on my ultimate perspective as a professional. When helping in his small business he would regularly remark: “don’t keep your hands in your pockets.” Since working for him was my first job, I’d say that advice really shaped who I am as a professional. I am not satisfied with just doing the task at hand. I’m going to do more. That approach certainly helped me succeed as an attorney, and it informs a lot of my advice to my clients. It’s not enough to do a good job on your matters if you want to succeed in your current position or be sought after for another. You need to be a strong “firm citizen” and spend time on non-billables like mentoring, recruiting, and business development, even if it’s not “your own.” Success in a law firm, like all businesses, requires that professionals do more than just their jobs as narrowly defined. Contributing across the wider organization also provides a critical opportunity for greater visibility and relationship building.

What animates your time away from work?

Almost anything related to water: kayaking, swimming, snorkeling. And I love turtles, so especially snorkeling with sea turtles. And, of course, family and friends and my Siberian Forest Cat, who, unfortunately has not gotten the memo that his breed is supposed to actually like water!