There’s no set path to success, says Amanda Segal, head of Katten’s Distressed Debt and Claims Trading practice.
“Everyone’s professional journey is different, and for a planner—as many attorneys are—it can feel unsettling when the road starts to twist and turn. But one of the best things you can do is be flexible, patient, and let your trajectory develop organically.”
When Segal started her career, she thought she would progress up the ladder as a bankruptcy litigator, but her career path took a different course as dynamics in the financial market helped steer her towards attractive new opportunities. “You will be better equipped as a professional if you are open-minded and able to adapt to the evolving needs and priorities of your clients and employers.”
Building a Career Unique to Her
For Segal, that approach has led her to a successful career. After law school, she joined Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP as a bankruptcy associate. Three years later, with the financial crisis looming, she saw an opportunity to parlay her experience into a more transactional practice in the area of distressed debt at Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP. She spent ten years at the firm, where she secured the requisite expertise and experience to make the move a little over a year ago to head Katten’s Distressed Debt and Claims Trading practice.
At Katten, she leads a team of attorneys advising clients through the acquisition and sale of distressed assets, including trade claims against bankruptcy estates, litigation claims, bank loans, and a variety of other investments. Her team—well versed and deeply immersed in financial services—works with related practice areas, including bankruptcy, commercial finance, tax, private equity and more, to provide the firm’s clients with tailored legal advice and transactional support in a wide range of circumstances. Segal believes this will be increasingly important as volatility in the financial market continues to rise.
“Because our practice integrates the talents of so many dedicated attorneys and professionals across the firm, we have the unique ability to look at large bankruptcy cases across multiple sectors. This will enable us to offer ‘big picture’ guidance as our clients navigate the next distressed cycle.”
For attorneys just starting their career, Segal highlights the importance of being empathetic to clients and colleagues. “When you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and view an issue from multiple perspectives, it helps make you a more relatable professional and leader and, ultimately, a more effective advocate.”
She also advises young attorneys to “play the long game.” “Surround yourself with trusted advisors and mentors; use every occasion to network, and work hard to maintain and build upon relationships. Over time, those relationships will provide the backbone for a more productive and fulfilling career.”
Finding Balance in the Workplace
Segal points out that even though law firms have become far more open and accepting of work/life balance, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. “Every woman’s professional and personal needs are different, so there’s no formula. Each woman must determine what works best for her and her family—sometimes simply through trial and error. The end result won’t look the same for everyone.”
Katten hosts a Women’s Leadership Forum that she has found valuable for building relationships across the firm, and also provides skill building, internal and external networking, mentorship and professional development. “Katten has consistently been recognized as a top firm for women, which I have been fortunate to experience first-hand,” she says.
With five-year-old twin daughters, Segal prioritizes a balance between work and family time, running marathons and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and cheering on the basketball team of her alma mater, Duke University.