Sheri Palomaki, MBA, Director of Operations - Business Immigration Group, Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Tell us about how you got into your field.
Like most business folks in legal, many of us started in administrative roles with the hope of gaining experience and then going to law school -- I was no different. But after a year in an AmLaw 100 firm, I ixnayed law school and went the MBA route. So glad I did!
What do you love most about what you do?
Easy - the people. The chairs of the practice I work in are forward-thinking, fearless and driven by the pursuit of ‘doing it better.’ And the Ops/Data team I have the privilege of working with every day are second to none. Working with smart, driven and energetic people is enough to make anyone love their job. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people. And I think secondarily, we don’t ‘rest on our laurels’. The constant pursuit of BETTER is so fun. When I joined the Immigration Group back in 2014, the chairs said “Hold on, there’s no turning back now.” Sometimes it’s a white-knuckle scenario, but I wouldn’t trade it.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing law firms today in terms of their relationship with outside counsel and the major changes and threats in the legal industry?
I think alignment on expectations is where I see the biggest gap between outside counsel and their law firms. I think it’s the responsibility of both sides to ensure we are all speaking the same language. The pace with which we work often threatens that, but when you can pick up on the nuance where things may not be aligned, it’s better to jump on it and clarify, than close your eyes and hope. In terms of threats to the legal industry, I think it’s the work that can be done by alternative legal service providers and accounting firms. Lawyers should practice law, and the law firms who can embrace the other roles needed to service clients, and give them a seat at the table, will help them survive.
Also, I think talent will continue to be a major challenge. This isn’t specific to law firms, but wow, what a challenge to recruit and retain talent to help us service clients. From administrative roles, to paralegal roles to staff attorneys and associates.
How has your role changed as a result of the pandemic?
I think connecting dots across the practice has never been more important, and the effort required in building relationships has increased. These were all important parts of my role before the pandemic, but helping our group leadership develop new strategies for communicating and connecting with their teams has definitely been a larger focus than ever before.
Tell us a fun or surprising fact about yourself. I was my high school and college mascot! My dream job is to be hired as ‘Slapshot’ -- the Washington Capitals mascot.