Voice Note Interviews: The Lawyer, Charles Watkins
My first-ever guest of VNI is Charles Watkins. I met Mr. Watkins through his son, Dean Watkins when we played freshman travel basketball. I chose to interview Charles first because he was one of my first role models as a child. And throughout my life as a black male, I have looked to his example for guidance on what I might be able to accomplish for myself one day.
Charles Watkins is a practicing lawyer with over three decades of experience. He is currently an Equity Partner at the Law firm "Kubicki Draper." To learn more about "Kuibick Draper" visit their website. An equity partner is one of the highest titles you can have as a lawyer. And As an equity partner, Charles runs an entire division at the law firm.
This title makes Charles a leader at Kubicki Draper. One day, his status was made noticeable when I visited the law office with Charles and witnessed how excited everyone was to see him. The level of admiration I saw could only come from years of hard work and experience. And, with that experience comes a trove of wisdom that I would like to share.
Charles is also the head of Diversity at Kubicki Draper, and we spoke about what that responsibility entails. It is important to note that Kubicki Draper is well known for being a diverse company and has won several recognitions for its accomplishments in being a diverse company. These recognitions represent Charles's successful decision-making capabilities over his career.
Early Adult life
Before Charles became a lawyer, he was a young immigrant from Jamaica. Charles earned a bachelor's degree in Marketing from Barry University, a Master's in Business from Florida International University, as well as a Law degree from the University of Miami where he made Deans list. As a part of the discussion, I wanted to understand what else he did early in his life that contributed to his success. I also asked him for advice he would give young professionals starting out in school or as adults.
Importance of discipline
"if you want to be successful, you have to EXERCISE discipline!" was one of the first pieces of advice I got from Charles as a part of this interview. He followed that advice with, "You don't have to be the brightest person, you don't have to be brilliant, you really just have to work hard, and don't quit."
Challenges of being an immigrant
In my career, I have worked with people from every continent. As well as, many of my peers have told me about their experiences working on international teams. Because of this, I wanted to understand what being an immigrant was like for him. I also asked him if he could give any advice about migrating to a new country as a professional.
I also wanted to ask Charles about what he did in college to prepare for his career. Charles gave some advice on what he feels are the essential things to do for life as a new grad. He focused on two key things: "establish a decipline" and "establish connections.
life after graduation begins before graduation. It is important to make contacts in the industry and also get internships. Stick with it, and do not quit.
Charles becomes a lawyer
Next I wanted to hear the story of how Charles came here then became a lawyer. Charles mentioned that although his father was a lawyer, it was not until he had worked in insurance for a few years that he would pursue a career in law. Charles also spoke about how he got hired at Kubicki draper. He mentioned how he appreciated the company's plan for him and his growth. Because of that, Charles took $10,000 less in annual salary.
Life as an associate lawyer
As the conversation continued, we began to talk about what life is like as an associate lawyer. Charles mentioned how early in his career, he was fortunate to have worked under Dan Draper, one of the company's founders. As a result, he made sure he did extra things like going to court and observing. Also, he ensured he was well prepared for all the cases he was assigned to by knowing all the case details.
One thing that stood out to me in this part of the conversation was how Charles described he would comb through files in search of anything the team had missed. But, more importantly, Charles didn't go out on his own to fix the problem. Instead, he raised issues found in the files to his superiors. Then he asked permission to take care of what he discovered.
The steps he took to go above and beyond what was asked of him stuck with me the most. While listening to this part of our conversation, I remember thinking that if I ever found any issue on a project I was working on, I would resolve it and not think to ask anyone about it. But I have been reflecting most on how Charles explained he gained trust by making the team aware of those issues.
Becoming a Lawer
Being a lawyer
I spoke to Charles about what life is like as a lawyer. What are the kinds of challenges you can expect to face? I also wanted to understand from him how to succeed as a lawyer. He gave me a ton of advice to share with you.
Working on a team
We first spoke about how today's attorneys work as a team. Then, he started diving into some of the challenges of working on a team. For example, we discussed what to do if someone is not pulling their weight or is underperforming. We then talked about the roles individuals can play on a team. For example, he explained what you could expect if you were the lead attorney on a case vs. a contributor.
The importance of communication
Effective communication was a recurring theme in most of Charles's advice. No matter the situation, the first step always seemed to be communicating with the other stakeholders. More importantly, the more complex the problem, the more it calls for conversations to happen. From there, he described how he could handle any issue.
The other aspect we touched on was how to negotiate as a lawyer. In this part of the conversation, best practices like preparing or "knowing the details of the issues" was essential to his success.
Being multi facited
The conversation continued. We began to talk about how Charles possesses more than one set of skills. I wondered if Charles found it more beneficial to focus on one vital skill or strive to be multifaceted.
Charles mentioned early in this conversation that he was a part of other organizations that are not a part of his professional day job. So I asked him how beneficial it is to be involved in multiple organizations.
When the going gets rough
Towards the end of our conversation I wondered where Charles looks to for answers when he is unsure of his next move.
His role models
The last thing I wanted to learn from Charles was who were his role models. What was the best piece of advice he ever received?
In conclusion, I gained a wealth of wisdom from Charles's many successful years as a professional lawyer. I asked Charles about any other important things to mention.
I hope to interview him again.
If you have any follow-up questions for Charles, feel free to reach out to me, and I will be sure to add those answers to this article.
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Thank you for reading.