Marie Picard, Counsel at ING U.S. Investment Management, believes strongly in the value of mentoring.
“I really think it’s important to find people who can mentor and advise you – formally or informally. Find people you know and respect and look up to, who you are able to learn from. Foster those relationships. People have a lot to teach you – sometimes you just have to ask,” she said.
She also advised women to be mentors themselves – the confidence boost, she says, can help propel you forward. “Help younger women and men at the firm who may be more junior and put effort into sharing knowledge. It’s really validating and empowering to share the knowledge you’ve accumulated over time.”
“It makes you realize how much you know, and it helps create that network of relationships that’s so important,” she added.
Career Path in Law
Picard studied Political Science and Classics at New York University. “Pretty much everyone I knew in Political Science was going to law school and I said, ‘I’m definitely not going to do that!’” she said with a laugh. After graduating, she took a job as a paralegal and, to her surprise, she liked working in the profession. She started at Fordham Law the next fall. While in law school, Picard took an internship at ING. “I really enjoyed it,” she recalled.
When she graduated and passed the bar, she began working at the law firm where she had been a paralegal, but found it wasn’t the right fit for her and left. “Then I had a gap for two years,” she continued, “deciding what I really wanted to do.”
“It was a tough time in the market and a lot of that fell on recent graduates who were struggling to find jobs. I thought I had made the wrong decision.”
But eventually, in 2004, Picard’s situation got brighter. “I got a call from ING – the place I had interned in law school – and they said they needed an intern again.” The internship grew into a permanent position, and Picard has thrived. “I’ve taken on more responsibility and I have an attorney and other professionals reporting to me. I oversee a lot of legal work here in New York and for the firm at large.”
“Generally in the financial industry and especially for lawyers right now, there are a lot of changes in the regulatory landscape. There’s so much more to learn and so much more to catch up on. It’s an opportunity to get a little expertise and to seek your own niche. Hone your skills in the area you are interested in,” she said. “Working in house, you’re a generalist, but it’s nice to be known as an expert in a specific area. I’ve focused on hedge funds a lot, and it’s very exciting to be on the cusp of those changes.”
Advice for New Lawyers
Picard encouraged young lawyers to stay optimistic about their careers.
“Having that gap – to me, at the time it seemed like it was going to define me, and follow me forever. There were times when I felt really discouraged, and I thought it would be a blight on my resume. But, I’m glad I had that time to reflect on what I wanted to do. Looking back, it was a blip on the radar. Careers are long, and you have time to define yourself.”
She also emphasized the importance of relationships. “Looking back over the last ten years or so, I think what I’m most proud of are the relationships I’ve built with colleagues,” Picard said. “I look at my job as helping to solve problems and having a productive relationship with my colleagues helps facilitate coming to solutions. It helps with communication.”
She continued, “If everyone is coming with a sense of respect and collegiality, it helps – and I try to promote that.”
Challenges for Women in Law
Picard says she believes some of the challenges women face at work are self-imposed. “I don’t know that I have experienced barriers to success – a lot of times, the barriers that I feel are brought on internally. This is a particular struggle for me,” she explained. “You have to have the confidence and skills to ask for what you want. This is a message that women I’ve looked up to and bosses have conveyed to me.”
She continued, “It can definitely be difficult for some – and for me it’s always been a challenge.”
The dearth of women in leadership can make it difficult for women to see themselves at the top. “There are fewer women in senior roles – that’s something I hope changes over time.”
Picard is a strong proponent of ING mentoring programs. “They have been really helpful for me. I’ve participated as a mentor and a mentee – it’s important to have both of those roles.”
In Her Personal Time
Outside her work at ING, Picard is involved in a group called iMentor. “Professionals are paired with high school students from low income neighborhoods. Their goal is to help students navigate college applications and other issues. It’s a great organization.”