As a practicing lawyer since 1985, Connie Fratianni has seen a wide variety of cycles and changes.
But one thing that has not changed is the need for women to do more to mentor the women who are coming up. “We can’t forget where we came from; there are still too many women who are of the view that ‘no one helped me so I’m not going to help them,’ but that is the wrong attitude for all of us.”
As a member of Katten’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), Fratianni herself tries to inspire young women attorneys. She believes that part of what has made her career so fulfilling is the bond she has developed with others in her firm, whether they worked together on the same deal or if they practiced in an area of law other than commercial finance. “That’s one of the great things about WLF; the opportunity to socialize with women outside of your own practice area. I encourage young women to take part in it.”
Juggling Responsibilities and Achieving Success
After graduating from University of Michigan School of Law, Fratianni had planned to work at a law firm in its real estate group for a couple years and then figured she would move on to a real estate company. But life didn’t quite go according to plan. She joined a law firm and found that she was doing interesting work with people whom she enjoyed. She was given the opportunity to use her broad legal knowledge to handle various transactions from bankruptcy and restructurings, to investment grade credit agreements to film financings among other interesting pursuits.
Along the way Fratianni had four children and subsequently became one of the first part-time partners at a previous firm, which is an achievement she is particularly proud of.
“I learned that it was about managing expectations; you can control the hours to a degree, but the only way you will develop your practice is by being there to serve. In that way, practicing law prepared me for motherhood, and motherhood helped me practice law better,” Fratianni says.
“The combination was both professionally and personally fulfilling. One of the things I find most gratifying was a former colleague who came up to me at an event and mentioned what an impact I had on her career many years ago. There’s nothing like seeing people I’ve mentored succeed.” Fratianni pivoted to various roles, including the global compliance attorney of a law firm, before deciding to join Katten in 2018 in its New York office.
Forging Your Own Path
Fratianni notes that success can be defined in many ways, and everyone needs to determine what that means for him or herself. “If you define success as making partner after eight years, well then, by that definition, I am a failure. In part because of my four maternity leaves, it took me longer to make partner but I eventually made it. I have four amazing kids and work I am proud of and have fun doing. To me, that is the definition of success.”
Even so, she adds that law school teaches the fundamentals but real world experience is invaluable. “It’s a harder road than it looks, and there’s always so much to learn,” she says.
Success comes from remaining true to yourself and not being afraid to speak up if your instincts tell you something is right or wrong, she says.
A Philanthropic Heart
In addition to her professional success, Fratianni finds fulfillment with philanthropic endeavors. In fact, one of her proudest achievements was working on a pro bono project to incorporate Operation Dreamseed as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization with a mission to provide school supplies to children in Afghanistan. Operation Dreamseed, founded by an Army captain, also rebuilt a school there in partnership with another philanthropic organization.
That heart for others extends to her children — two sons and two daughters who are in various life stages. Her oldest son is in his second year of a medical residency; a daughter is a special effects editor; her youngest son is a management consultant; and her youngest daughter is pursuing a nursing degree.
Deeply involved in her children’s education and activities, Fratianni helped organize hands on activities at her firm’s “take your child to work day.” She also created the role of “Working Parent Liaison” in her local PTA. In that role, she encouraged more parent friendly events at the school that were convenient for all parents working outside the home. As a Girl Scout leader, she was instrumental in starting “Operation Cookie” in her local Girl Scout council, which annually ships tens of thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies to service men and women overseas. “I was lucky to have healthy, self-starting kids and a supportive staff and family,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and realize that both personal and professional fulfillment is possible.”