Kate Reder Sheikh

Cues and Views

Legal recruiting leader Kate Reder Sheikh, in brief.

Kate Reder Sheikh

Home: San Francisco, CA.  Birthplace: San Francisco, CA.  Profession: Legal recruiting. Organization: Major, Lindsey & Africa.  Title: Partner.  Significant other: My husband, Nadeem. Alma mater: Wesleyan University (BA); University of North Carolina School of Law (JD).

Current project: I’ve recently joined Chief, which has been a revelation.  It’s wonderful to be around so many ambitious women.  Recent recognition: Making partner at MLA, the industry-leading legaI recruiting firm.  Among the fastest in our company history to do so.  Latest contribution to others: Mentoring a more junior recruiter at MLA.  It’s so satisfying to be able to give her concrete solutions from my lived experience in the job.  Hobbies: Photography and whatever my kids are into!  Last book read: High conflict, by Amanda Ripley.

What one word would your closest friend use to describe you? Present.  How do you define a perfect friendship? A safety net.  What occupation, other than your own, do you most admire? Journalists.  What is your greatest joy? My kids.  They test me more than any teacher ever did, and bring me more joy than any other humans on earth.  What is your guilty pleasure? The Bachelor franchise.  What is your favorite place (or way) to spend money? London!  We lived there for many years and I miss the shopping, from books to art to clothes.  London is heaven.

What do you love about what you do? When done well, legal recruiting is really matchmaking.  I genuinely love helping people improve their lives meaningfully by finding jobs that suit them.  It’s truly pretty magical when it all comes together.  How do you balance family and work? There isn’t really balance, that’s a fallacy.  There are days that you feel like you’re doing both parenting and your job poorly, which makes it even more important to celebrate the small wins in either arena. How do you relieve stress? I am a complete exercise addict. My Peloton is my therapist.

What was your favorite college course? I was a queer studies major, which seemed like an odd choice from the outside for a straight woman.  But I deeply felt that heteronormativity was a bully, and I wanted to be armed to stand up against it.  I went to law school to work with LGBT families, and that’s what I did for almost a decade.  What was your favorite childhood toy or game? Baseball.  Our dad wanted boys, and raised too very sporty girls.  What’s prominently featured on your home or office wall? My kids’ art.  What’s the best advice you received growing up? Do what you need to do before you do what you want to do.

Who has had the greatest influence on your life?  My parents.  My dad hustled so hard for us when I was growing up.  He is a first generation American and professional, and he instilled in me a ton of drive.  My mom truly saved my life when I was a very unhappy middle schooler.  She was always the soft place to land.  What personal circumstance has had the greatest influence on your life? When my husband and I moved abroad to Singapore, and then London, I couldn’t practice law.  I fell into recruiting assuming it would be a stopgap.  I have never looked back.

What is your big idea?

I am extremely focused on diversifying law firms. I am pushing back on the concept that grades should be the gating factor for lawyers, given that first generation and associates of color often find the transition to law school more challenging than students like me, who grew up with lawyer parents.

What change are you seeking to effect in your profession or field? I am dedicating my professional life to helping law firms become more diverse and more reflective of society as a whole, helping female lawyers climb to the top of the law firm pyramid, and contributing thought leadership that moves the needle.  What change would you like to see in the world? I am pretty aghast at climate change, and how many people have their heads buried in the sand about it.  What message do you want to send out into the world? There is real power in being gracious at work. I’m not always perfect at it, but I’m always aiming for it.  What widely held belief do you reject? I reject the concept of “having it all.”  As a working parent, it feels more like you can have some things some of the time, and other things some of the time.  “All” is impossible, and we should stop aiming for it.  What mega-trend most excites you? Gender-neutral parental leave.  When only moms take leave, a terrible precedent is set.  Normalize dads taking leave!

What actor would you choose to play you in the movie about your life? Kristen Bell.  Who would you like to spend an evening with, in heaven? My dad’s dad, whom I never met and who never got to meet any of his grandkids.  As a kid, what did you first want to be when you grew up? An architect/comedian.  I’m not sure how I thought that was going to work.  After your loved ones, what object would you first save from your burning home? Photo albums.  I grew up with my childhood laid out in photos, and I’m doing the same for my kids.  What advice would you give your younger self? It’s all going to work out.

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