Splish, splash…there’s a new rainmaker in town
Starting an employment practice from scratch might not sound like a lot of fun, but it’s a challenge Rebecca Torrey is relishing.
As the newest partner at full-service law firm Elkins, Kalt, Weintraub, Reuben and Gartside in Los Angeles, Rebecca has had just three months so far to develop their employment law offering, but already states the goal of turning it into the youngest Chambers-ranked practice in the USA.
The move had been bubbling under for a few years, ever since she was contacted by a group of old friends who wanted her to join their new firm. As a partner at large law firm Manatt, she didn’t feel ready, but this year she has decided to make the move, saying her new partnership has the right combination of factors to become highly successful.
“The firm is financially well run with a progressive culture. We have taken everything we’ve learned about law firm culture over the years and created a place with a great culture. The firm is nimble and full of large firm veterans attracted by the entrepreneurial challenge.”
“I left a thriving employment practice of more than 20 lawyers at Manatt, but I now work with a whole bunch of people who are bright and accomplished. Everybody loves to come to work, which I can’t say is true of all US law firms. I am a connoisseur of workplace culture by expertise, and I, more than anybody else, appreciate it.”
As a successful lawyer and mother to two teenage children, Rebecca already had a busy life, but she says the opportunity to build a client-oriented advice and litigation practice according to her valued principles was too good to pass up.
She says: “In this practice, the most important thing is responsiveness. As things come at you, you need to retain an understanding of the client’s immediate concerns in light of their business strategy. What I like about good lawyers in employment practice is their ability to connect easily with people and adeptly manage their concerns and questions.”
Employment law is complex in California with different laws at Federal, State and Municipal level.
As a result, Rebecca’s advice business is flourishing as employers struggle to stay on top of all the regulations that affect their businesses. There are varied issues, including discrimination, fair pay, benefits and sick leave.
She says: “In my previous role it became clear that most litigation could be avoided or reduced with the appropriate advice provided at the right time. There are always transitional moments in the context of an employment dispute that decide whether it goes towards an active dispute or is resolved. I started developing an advice practice after five years of litigation and the two work well together. I get a lot of satisfaction from giving practical, strategic advice to employers that allows them to avoid liability, but also maximise the contribution of employees.”
Rebecca has two pieces of general advice for employers derived from her experiences so far.
“Firstly, it is really important to address conflict as early as possible, before it festers and becomes a major problem. It’s human nature to avoid conflict, but it must be dealt with. Secondly, the golden rule is to treat people with respect. Most employees respond better if they are treated with respect, even if there is criticism or termination involved.”
Besides employment law, Rebecca also has a passion for entrepreneurialism and enjoys helping small business owners to navigate legal hurdles in pursuit of their business goals. Her passion extends to a business venture of her own, which she runs as a side project with two other female lawyers. She is a director of a technology start-up, Citadel Media, which has just released a dating app called Splish in the Apple Store.
Rebecca’s ability to pack new challenges into an already hectic schedule is a legacy of the example set by an early mentor and female role-model Chief Judge Deanell Reece Tacha. She worked for Federal Judge Tacha as a young legal clerk in Kansas on the Tenth Circuit US Court of Appeals, and they remain close friends.
She says: “Deanell is one of those amazing people that you are lucky to brush up against in life. She also had an amazing approach to working with people, which has really influenced my management style. At the time she had four children between the ages of five and twelve, but managed her job, duties and life exceptionally well. I had first-hand experience of watching her balance professional life and family, while enjoying a rewarding relationship with her husband that lasts to this day.”
This importance lesson of finding time for family was not lost on Rebecca, who has two children aged 14 and 16. Both attend top international school, Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, and ski race competitively when not studying. The network of international friends they have developed has inspired a love of travel which Rebecca does her best to indulge.
“We have friends from countries all over the world and we travel a lot. I have some influence, but they mostly pick where we go. Recently we have been to Cuba and we are planning a trip to Europe this summer, taking in Berlin, London and Paris among other European cities.”
“The kids are a great language resource since they are fluent in French, while my daughter is also learning German and my son Spanish.”
It seems impossible that there might be time for anything else in such a hectic schedule, but when Rebecca does manage to squeeze a little time out for herself, she enjoys writing fiction. She is currently in the middle of a teen novel and also writes short stories. She hasn’t been published yet but, as a truly goal-oriented person, believes it is only a matter of time.
Watch this space, we wouldn’t bet against her!