By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“When I was in law school I fully intended to become a litigator,” began Lois Herzeca, Partner at Gibson Dunn.
After graduating cum laude from Boston University School of Law, Herzeca joined the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. through its Honors Program. Based on her experience working in the Antitrust Division, she decided to move into the private sector as a litigator, and took a position at Fried Frank in New York in antitrust litigation.
“Then I realized I was much more interested in corporate practice,” she explained. “I enjoyed the creativity in structuring deals and the strategic thinking involved in executing deals. I felt I could become a real advisor to clients.”
Eventually, Herzeca became a partner at Fried Frank, spending over twenty years with the firm. Then, three years ago, she moved to Gibson Dunn. “I felt a larger global practice created a better platform for my client base,” she explained. She is now a member of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions and Capital Markets Practice Groups, and she is co-chair of its Fashion, Retail, and Consumer Products Practice Group.
She says one of her proudest recent achievements was being named a Dealmaker of the Year for 2012 by The American Lawyer. “I’m honored to be among that group. There are relatively few women partners in law firms who work on contested M&A transactions,” she explained. Additionally, she continued, she is extremely proud to have been honored with her alma mater’s Alumni Pro Bono award in 2009 for her many pro bono activities.
Specializing in Fashion
Herzeca, who has trained her focus on, among other areas, the fashion and retail sector, encourages younger lawyers to specialize in a specific area. “In today’s environment, it’s important for lawyers to become specialists,” she said. “It enhances the value of a lawyer to a client if they have specialized skills and industry knowledge to address their clients’ needs.”
Currently she is working on a number of deals in the fashion and apparel industry. “Each deal reflects important industry trends,” she said. She added that many technological changes in the business world are transforming the fashion and retail industry in new and interesting ways. “Social media, e-commerce, mobile currency – these are all dramatically reshaping these industries. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
She also serves as a mentor to young female fashion designers and entrepreneurs. Herzeca explained that part of her interest in the industry comes from her desire to support new businesses and the larger economy.
“The fashion and apparel industry makes an important contribution to the economy of New York. These businesses provide jobs. I’m hopefully helping the economy in my own way.”
Advice for Women in Law
“Women are sometimes reluctant to self promote,” Herzeca explained. “I say ‘you have to be the ambassador of you.’ Be proud of your accomplishments and recognize the value of your accomplishments. Think of yourself as a brand you need to market and promote.”
She also described how work-life balance is something to consider over the span of a career – not every day. “It’s not something measured on a daily basis, but over a lifetime.”
Getting a feel for business development is also important for young lawyers, she said. Gibson Dunn organizes many client events around its global offices in order to expose senior associates to business development and “demystify the business development process,” Herzeca explained.
“We also have women’s lunches that allow female partners and associates to get together and talk about substantive issues and paths to success.” The firm sponsors formal mentoring programs and encourages informal mentoring as well.
In Her Personal Time
“My husband and two children are the great joys in my life,” said Herzeca. She is also active in philanthropy. “I’m on the board of Women in Need, which provides housing and comprehensive service programs to women and families who are homeless and disadvantaged in New York City. I’m proud to be part of that,” she added.