Q&A: Meet Katy von Mehren, Class of 2015
Katy von Mehren, owner of von Mehren Legal Search, is one of the leading experts in talent recruiting and management in the legal space. Through her work at five law firms over the past 30 years, Katy has established recruiting departments, designed summer programs, and led efforts responsible for lateral associate and partner recruiting.
A fixture at the National Association for Law Placement, where she co-authored NALP’s “Open Letter to Law Students,” she also served as president and vice president of the Massachusetts Legal Recruitment Association. Katy is a frequent speaker on such topics as behavioral interviewing, reference checking, on-campus interviewing, and lateral partner recruiting and integration. She also serves as a generous resource to more junior recruitment professionals. In 2013, Katy opened her own legal search firm in Boston and since has placed numerous lawyers in both private practice and in-house positions.
Katy von Mehren
von Mehren Legal Search
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. I was a summer baby and my parents (with two children already) decided not to leave the island for child number three. The Vineyard was a small, quiet backwater then — very different from the place it is now — we left car keys in the ignition when parking “in town” in case someone needed to move the car. My dad worked in New York City so we spent the school year in The Big Apple and summers on the Vineyard until I was 8 and my Dad’s job moved us to Paris, France. We lived in Paris for five years before moving back to the U.S.
What’s your favorite thing to do away from work?
I love to travel and cook and garden. For many years I managed to take vacation in a chunk and I used that time to travel — mostly in Europe (France, Italy, the Netherlands and England). Over the millennium, I spent a month in New Zealand where I backpacked the Routeburn trail (this is the area where Lord of the Rings was filmed), climbed on a glacier and swam with a pod of wild dolphins. I did not bungie jump.
What achievement outside of work makes you most proud?
I have always loved cooking and eating ethnic food. In our town there are not many good Chinese restaurants and I was experiencing dumpling withdrawal. I researched and experimented and am now a dumping maker — fancy pleats and all. Scallion pancakes are my next challenge!
Did you choose your career or did it choose you?
It was dumb luck: I went to art school and spent a number of years at Doubleday and Company where I was a book designer, photo research editor and manager of the art department. As art department manager I was responsible for coordinating schedules with production and printing plants. This organizational foundation came in handy when I was looking to make a career change having realized that a graphic design career would never pay me enough to be able to travel. A friend suggested that I look into the new field of law firm recruiting and I was fortunate to interview with a firm looking for a young, eager, organized new hire. From there I moved up in the law firm world in both New York and Boston. I worked at five different firms and loved every minute of it. Eventually, my feet got itchy and I jumped into opening my own business.
Who was your mentor and what made him or her so influential?
Alex Gotfried was my Art Director at Doubleday. He was an amazing photographer and an extraordinarily well balanced human being. He brought precision, expertise and humanity to the job and inspired me to try for a well-balanced life.
What is the most vivid moment or experience in your career?
When I made the transition from recruiting on the law firm side to being a headhunter I did not know what to expect. I was thrilled at the positive response I got from my alumni (thirty years of hiring lawyers on the firm side gives me a very large alumni pool!). One day I got a call from a partner who I hired as a summer baby. He wanted me to help him find a new job. He talked about how I had always been able to look beyond the paper and see the right fit/build a great team. I was flattered beyond belief and will always remember the thrill I felt.
Of the law-related projects or initiatives you’ve worked on in the past year or so, what has you the most excited or shows the most promise?
I developed a series of “Practical Tips” webinars to help lawyers think about how to make a lateral move. The webinars have been well received and I am now working on a series of podcasts which will be companion pieces.
What is the most engaging law-related thing you’re doing right now?
I am working on a series of podcasts for practicing lawyers. Right now I am gathering information on what needs are out there and will, hopefully, have the first recording available by the end of the summer.
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