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Voice of Experience: Clarine Nardi Riddle, Counsel, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, & Friedman

Riddle.Nardi.Clarine_8423By Michelle Hendelman, Editor-in-Chief

For Clarine Nardi Riddle, Counsel, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, & Friedman, it is difficult to pick one moment in her professional career of which she is most proud. This is because since graduating from Indiana University School of Law in 1971, Riddle has accumulated numerous achievements while working in local, state, and federal governments and in the private legal sector as well.

Although Riddle has several impressive milestones in her career to talk about, like becoming the first female Attorney General of Connecticut, being the first woman Attorney General to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court and win, and assisting in the drafting of the first Title IX plan during her third year of law school at Indiana University, she feels especially proud of the progress that has been made by women in law over the last few decades.

“At Indiana University, my class in law school probably had the largest number of women ever, and that was only a little more than twelve,” said Riddle. She continued, “It was a critical mass at that point, and we were just at the beginning of having more and more women apply to law school. It was a different world back then, and I am so happy to see where we have come since then. I am so proud of it all.”

Career in Law

For Riddle, her time served as Attorney General of Connecticut for two years was certainly challenging and rewarding, but it was in no way the culmination of her legal career. In fact, she was practically just getting started. Riddle was sworn in as a Connecticut Superior Court Judge after stepping down from her role as Attorney General. As a member of the judiciary, Riddle sat on the bench for many important rulings for the juvenile and housing divisions.

When Riddle’s husband was offered a position as the head of Child Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, she moved with her family to the Washington D.C. area, where she became involved in the private legal sector. “I had the good fortune of moving from government to working with the National Multi Housing Council, which is a policy trade association representing CEOs of larger companies in the private apartment industry,” recalled Riddle. She continued, “This allowed me to learn how the private sector looks to government policy and gave me a greater appreciation for the interaction between policy makers and the regulated community.”

Although Riddle prides herself on having so many experiences and opportunities in her career, she is perhaps most proud of the impact she made while working for former Senator of Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman. Early in her career, Riddle served as Counsel for state Senator Lieberman, and then as Counsel when he became Attorney General of Connecticut. Many years later, Riddle received a call from Lieberman once again, asking her to serve as his Senate Chief of Staff when he was running for the Democratic nomination for President after having been the party’s nominee for Vice President. Riddle said, “Senator Lieberman is focused on getting the job done, which makes working with him a wonderful and rewarding experience because you know that you are working to solve problems for the country.”

Regarding her career in law so far, Riddle said,” I feel lucky to have been able to use my law degree in so many different settings, and now to be able to apply my knowledge in private practice. And I am fortunate because my experiences have provided me with the opportunity to see the world from so many different vantage points.”

Currently, she has been tasked with the exciting job of establishing her firm’s Government Affairs practice in Washington, D.C. Given her history of experience working in all levels of government, Riddle feels right at home. She explained, “It feels like my past, with respect to working on policy, law, and business on all levels of government, has allowed me to combine all these experiences in my current role.”

Advice for Young Lawyers

“The first thing I always tell young lawyers is to follow their passion and focus on the aspects of law they are most interested. The next thing I tell young people is to always work very hard and produce high quality work along the way,” said Riddle.

Riddle places a lot of emphasis on a strong work ethic and feels like success in law really comes down to three very important factors. She explained, “You have to listen to your peers and colleagues to learn all you can about your new work environment. Next, you have to share what you know. Your information and your knowledge can be very helpful to other people and the task at hand. The third factor, and the most fundamentally important, is to care about the projects you are working on. You need to be invested in the project and the people involved if you want to create the best possible result.”

Developing relationships is also something that Riddle believes is critical to the success of young women and men just starting out in law. “Seek out mentors and cultivate relationships with people who can help you think about your career.” She continued, “I know how much of a mentor Senator Lieberman was to me. Every young lawyer should find someone who can guide them on their career path by providing good advice.”

Women in Law

Riddle is actively getting involved in a new women’s initiative at her firm, and even though it is in the very early stages of development, she thinks it will have a big impact on women in law. She said, “We want to work with female general counsels and women in the firm on issues like business development skills so that we can all be better at what we do.”

“I am very proud to be a part of this firm,” she said. “They are very supportive of women taking leadership roles. There is no question that there is an effort made to ensure women are as engaged as possible.”

In Her Spare Time

Although Riddle is focusing so much of her time and effort on opening the Government Affairs practice in D.C., she does enjoy cooking, reading, gardening, and spending time with her family. She also devotes much of her spare time to No Labels, an organization she co-founded in late 2010. Riddle said, “This is a group of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents that is dedicated to trying to remove the gridlock and hyper partisanship in government.” She continued, “We know we are not going to be able to move the whole mountain, but we are chipping away at it.”