How I Made Partner: ‘Know the Details, Be Polished and Perform Consistently,’ Says Kyle Kolb of Herrick, Feinstein
Kyle J. Kolb, 35, Herrick, Feinstein, New York City
Practice area: Restructuring and finance litigation.
Law school and year of graduation: Columbia Law School, 2011.
How long have you been at the firm? I have been with Herrick for over 2 1/2 years. I joined Herrick in January 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic.
How long were you an associate at the firm? I joined Herrick as counsel in the Restructuring and Finance Litigation group, which was a fast-growing department at the firm, in order to support its increasing workload. I served as a counsel for two years before being promoted to partner. Since 2018, the practice group has added more than 10 new lawyers to the team.
Were you an associate at another firm before joining your present firm? Yes, I began my career as a litigation associate with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher's New York office and was there for 41/2 years. I then joined the mid-sized firm Olshan Frome Wolosky as a litigation associate until I joined Herrick as counsel.
What year did you make partner at your current firm? I was elevated to partner at Herrick in January 2022.
What criteria did you use when deciding to join your current firm? Herrick is a mid-sized firm with high-profile clients and a team of sophisticated lawyers that all expect—and deliver—top-tier legal and business counsel. The firm also has a broad client base and varied practice areas, but the prospect of joining the Restructuring and Finance Litigation group is what sealed the deal for me. It's a hardworking and collegial group dedicated to supporting each other and our clients. As a further part of deciding to join Herrick, I was impressed by the firm's focus on attorneys' professional growth, both as skillset experts and in business development. The camaraderie amongst the firm's lawyers was also clear during my interview process, as there was a vibrant impression that the firm wanted to support its lawyers on a variety of fronts and across practice groups. The fact that I met with nearly two-dozen attorneys gave me a strong sense that Herrick was invested in its people, and would be invested in me. That has proven to be the case time and time again.
What's the biggest surprise you experienced in becoming partner? Becoming a partner truly does add a whole new layer to your day-to-day as you become more ingrained in the organization and management of a firm and department. That has changed how I go about my work as a litigator, a client servicer, and colleague. It adds a demanding, but rewarding and exciting, new aspect to the work.
What advice you could give an associate who wants to make partner? Focus on becoming an indispensable part of any matter you are on, both to the firm and to the client. This requires diving in and putting in the work to know the details, be polished and perform consistently. I've found the most rewarding cases have always been the ones where l could answer the granular factual and legal questions from partners and clients on the fly, and could forecast where the case was headed and how to best navigate that path.
When it comes to career planning and navigating inside a law firm, in your opinion, what's the most common mistake you see other attorneys making? Being an attorney is not a task-by-task endeavor. Playing "whack-a-mole" does not serve the client, your colleagues or yourself. In that regard, associates should also focus on the bigger picture—playing an active role in your firm, which goes beyond just doing great legal work. Build relationships with your colleagues across practices. Invest time in and support the management of your departments and help progress the business of your firm. Participate in firm initiatives, committees, etc. This type of behavior demonstrates dedication to the firm in a way that often speaks loudly as the firm considers your advancement.
What challenges did you overcome in your career path, and how did it influence your career? It took time to find my own style of litigating, especially when interfacing with opposing counsel and courts in a way that was true to my nature. That came through making an effort to work with a variety of lawyers, which helped me gain exposure to different approaches to lawyering and realize that many styles existed and could generate success. As a result, I was able to trust and embrace my own intuitions and learned that they could also lead to wins for clients.
What lessons, if any, did you learn in 2020/2021 (the COVID-19 years)? The pandemic posed unique challenges for litigators. Prior to COVID, our cases revolved around in-person depositions, court hearings and trials. Holding these important meetings remote brought on an entirely different dynamic. This not only meant employing new technologies but also adapting the way that we lawyer. For example, it can be more challenging to read body language and other human cues on video conference versus sitting in the same room as your adversary, a judge, and/or a client. The legal industry (including courts, who rose admirably to the challenge) has learned a lot about embracing technology to improve efficiencies where appropriate in the context of litigation.
What three key elements you would like to focus on for 2022? Expertise, focus, and networking.