Ann Hopkins Avery, Manager of Professional Development at Vedder Price
Q: What did you want to do when you were 10? 18?
A: In third grade, my plan was to become a law professor and then a United States Supreme Court Justice. When I was 18, I aspired to be an English professor. I ultimately majored in English, worked for awhile after I graduated, and then went to law school. I litigated for several years before melding these ideas together, and I became an adjunct legal writing instructor and transitioned into legal professional development.
Q: What is your (role or) interest in WomenToKnow?
A: I am a connector. I love introducing people to one another when I see common interests among friends and colleagues. Women to Know embodies this concept within the context of the legal/technology community, and I want to be a part of it. I want to help bring talented women together to share ideas, innovate together, and to build strong professional communities. We are stronger together than alone.
Q. What is your current role?
A: I develop training programs for attorneys to help them serve their clients better. Some training sessions focus on the substantive nuts and bolts of the legal profession and other sessions teach skills like time management, communication, interview techniques, networking/relationship building, and business development. Last month, I collaborated with a team to develop an Interview Training program using attorney role plays to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of interviewing attorneys and summer associates. I’m currently developing a panel to lead a discussion of Dr. Arin Reeves’ book, “One Size Never Fits All: Business Development Strategies Tailored for Women (and Most Men).” I’m really excited that we have almost an equal number of women and men registered for this interactive book club discussion. Any ideas for our next book?
Q: What do you like most about what you are doing?
A: I like bringing attorneys together toward a common goal and collaborating to develop new programs. I like providing attorneys with solutions to their problems. As a former litigator, I understand the stress and time constraints of the practice of law so my goal is to create programs that add value to attorneys’ practice and provide attorneys with knowledge and skills they can apply today (and they walk away with some CLE credit, as well). Interactive sessions are the most useful and fun!
Q: What path did you take to get to NOW
A: I researched and networked. As I was learning more about professional development teams in law firms, I met Kathy Morris, who was at that time, the head of Director of Professional Development at Sidley Austin. She was aware of an open position at my current Firm, and she forwarded my resume and recommended that my firm hire me. I’ve since collaborated with Kathy at the Chicago Bar Association on the Legal Profession PREP Class project.
Q: What is your current biggest career challenge?
A: Time. Finding the time to juggle the various projects that I am currently working on and figuring out how to carve out minutes in the day to tackle the new ones.
Q: What path are you taking to get to NEXT?
A: I’m taking every opportunity I have to nourish and develop relationships both inside and outside my organization. I continue to believe in the power of those around you. Internally, I’ve been able to forge some great relationships with attorneys and firm management to collaborate on various projects, including most recently working with the Diversity and Pro Bono Committees on new programming initiatives.
Since 2013,I’ve been on the Girls on the Run-Chicago Board of Directors, where I’ve been honored to work with some amazing women. Girls on the Run is an after-school program that inspires girls to be healthy and confident using an experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. This organization is such an incredible addition to young girls’ lives. Running has been a big part of my life so it’s really a perfect fit for me.
Q: What's NEXT?
A: I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” concept so I constantly question why we are continuing certain behaviors/actions in our professional lives. If the answers is simply because that’s the way it has always been done, then it’s probably time for a change.
Q: Who was your first advisor/supporter/sponsor/mentor?
A: My parents have always been incredibly supportive, and I suppose by default, they were my first advisors. My husband is still amazed at how much my mother can communicate by simply saying, “hhmmmmm.”
My older sister Jane has served as a mentor since I was a kid. Jane is a very strong woman, and I’ve always looked up to her. She is very accomplished, and she is always giving back to those around her. She is incredibly generous, and she offers sound and sage advice.She taught me that if you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it. She has been a role model to me for how to take risks and be proactive in your career.
Q: How did you identify your advisors/supporters/sponsors/mentors?
A: I was not as proactive in identifying advisors and sponsors as I should have been early in my career. I performed my job to the best of my ability and asked questions along the way. As I have gotten older, I have made it a genuine priority to reach out to and surround myself with women who inspire and motivate me. These women have become my advisors, supporter, and mentors, and I'm incredibly grateful for their support and encouragement.