Emily Hunter Plotkin
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I have launched my own law firm focused on resolving various civil disputes. I am a trained mediator, and have experience getting disputes successfully resolved. Additionally, I am an experienced employment lawyer, with a business acumen honed through supporting clients in a variety of industries while in private practice at a law firm, and then in-house at a Fortune 500 multinational corporation. Through this experience, I have recognized the value of developing proactive solutions to prevent workplace conflict in the first place, but then the skill set to come up with resolutions that bring successful closure for all affected parties when conflict inevitably arises.
In my own practice, I hope to continue to develop the proactive solutions that help both businesses and their employees work as a team to reduce workplace conflict, increase employee morale, and ultimately increase productivity and profitability.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
So far, my favorite Ellevate Network memory has been my involvement in my Squad. We all came from different industries, different positions, and different milestones within our careers, and yet we all faced many of the same common issues. It was wonderful to know that I am not alone, and that there is a support network out there where we can all lean on each other.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
You have to be authentic. And you have to listen. It's not a matter of telling someone else what you know, but listening to what they need. And calm. You must remain calm, even when a client calls you with the most off-the-wall set of facts you have ever heard. So to that end, you need a little humor, too.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
Today I have two jobs: First, I teach first year law students how to think, write, and communicate like lawyers. Second, I am a lawyer with my own firm, focused on employment law and mediation. I think I got here based on my own basic passions and values, which is to help people, but to do so in a non-adversarial way. I fell into both employment law and the teaching component based on a job I had between college and law school. In that job, I trained call center supervisors to use a workforce management software that forecast how to staff to answer the calls. That role gave me my first taste of employment relations, as well as a taste in how to communicate complicated, technical information in layman's terms, often to people who were calling me upset in the first place because their software was not working. These are the soft skills necessary to provide objective advice and counsel to clients seeking legal advice, and I used them immediately upon entering the workforce as a new lawyer. In private practice, I supported employers from a variety of industries, and worked hard to develop creative solutions for them to ensure compliance with the law and successful employment relations. When I went in-house, a significant amount of my time was spent engaging in alternative dispute resolution (mediation and arbitration) to resolve claims brought against the company. This is where I found my passion for mediation. I found that in so many situations, litigation does not resolve anything. It's costly, and no one wins. But listening to people's stories, hearing their side, explaining to them the company's position, and working to find common ground is extremely rewarding.
That brings me to where I am today. First, I want a part in shaping tomorrow's lawyers. They don't need to start out as subject matter experts in a particular aspect of the law. They need to be good communicators. They need to have the passion. From there, they'll develop expertise in a particular area. But I want to give them that basic grounding. As for my own practice, I also want my clients to know that fighting isn't necessary (though of course I will be a zealous advocate for them in the right situation). What is necessary is thinking about the big picture - and what that looks like for both the business and the employee.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?
I want people to recognize that we are all in this thing called life together. We may have different backgrounds, we may have different ideas of how best to do business, but in the end, we're all cheering for each other. If I can do my small part to help people resolve their differences, then I will feel like I have made an impact.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
Some areas of the law are more economically lucrative, and others can seem more exciting because they involve bet-the-company type litigation. But my area of the law affects everyone. If you rely on your job for your livelihood, then you are relying on your employer following the laws. You want to get paid right and you want to get treated right. That's my role - to make sure that employers pay their employees right and treat them right. My role also touches significantly on changing cultural norms and the necessity of ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace, not only from a legal standpoint but also from an innovation standpoint -- the most successful and innovative companies are those that have embraced diversity of thought and sought ideas from across the entire globe.
Who are your role models?
Oprah Winfrey: She is caring, compassionate, and truly "gets" by giving. Michelle Obama: Her grace, humility, and individual strength as the first lady was beautiful to watch. But let us not forget she has her own star to shine separate and apart from her husband. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Notorious RBG deserves every bit of celebrity she currently enjoys. She is obviously smart and passionate about her career and righting wrongs, but she is also passionate about her family. P!nk: I have liked her since before she even had kids. She has a gorgeous voice, but doesn't take herself so seriously that she can't have fun once in a while. She puts it all out there in her performances. But since having kids, she is one bad*** momma. Her speech to her daughter about being kind to herself, no matter what, brought tears to my eyes. But she also has no problem laughing about the day-to-day absurdity that comes with having small kids.
The common threads with each of these role models are love, authenticity, compassion, and that right amount of humor.
What is your morning ritual?
My morning ritual is to get up and do some form of exercise. I rotate between running, swimming, and weight training. Then it's shower, COFFEE, wake the kids, and get them to school and my husband to work. On days that I teach, I then prep for class. On days that I don't teach, I usually read my emails (including my Ellevate emails), respond to the most pressing, and try to read an article or two. Then I look at my to-do list (either in my Outlook or the one I sent myself last night to remind myself of what needed to be addressed) and try to get started on the day.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
It's okay to ask for help. You don't have to take on a project alone.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?
You do you. It's hard, it's messy, and if any of us has figured it all out there wouldn't be so many books and advice on the subject! You have to figure out what works for you. It's not going to look just like your neighbor's, or just like your best friend's. But as long as you take a little time each day to love on your kids (even if it's right after you've yelled at them because you've already told them TEN TIMES THIS MORNING TO PUT ON YOUR SOCKS) then you're doing just fine. They think you're supermom, and that's what matters. So in a nutshell: Be kind to yourself. You've got this.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Instructor in Law
Vanderbilt University Law School
Experienced Labor & Employment lawyer with a pragmatic business acumen developed through strategic partnership with clients, both as an outside counsel and in-house counsel at a Fortune 500 company. Skilled in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Litigation, Legal Writing, Training and Development, Employee Relations, and Multi-State Employment Compliance. Continue Reading
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