That first step

Earlier this week, we held our annual intern "meet and greet" at Sun's campus in Menlo Park. It was a chance for local law students to connect with attorneys in our organization to learn about internship opportunities and, more generally, what it's like to work here. We had a great turnout with more than fifty students from a number of regional law schools. All of them were bright, energetic, interesting - and interested.

At the beginning of the event, I spoke for a few minutes about my career and the value of internships. I pointed out that few people are fortunate enough to identify early in life what their "perfect job" will be. Instead, for most of us, career paths are really nothing more than a process of elimination. You explore, try new opportunities and leave others until (hopefully) you find the right role. For me that journey has been a meandering path through several law firms, two companies (one of them, Sun - twice) and multiple areas of legal practice.

I arrived home last evening and with a glass of wine in hand, sat down and read our town's local newspaper. On the second page, I found an article noting that Pat O'Laughlin, our former mayor, had passed away as the result of a rare disease called spinal arachnoiditis. Besides serving as mayor, Pat was also a very well known civil litigator in the San Jose area. Just about every local judge and attorney knew Pat and admired him for his intellect and tenacity in the courtroom. But it was Pat's wit and frequently displayed humor that were his hallmark.

In 1984, it was Pat who gave me my start as an attorney. At that time, I had just graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. I had little concept of what it meant to be a litigator, but Pat took a chance and hired me. Over the following three years, he trained me and gave me increasingly more complex cases to handle. He clearly had far more confidence in my abilities than I did at that early stage.

It has been more than fifteen years since I last saw him. Ultimately, I realized that litigation was not what I wanted for my professional career and I left to a position with another firm. And from there... like I said, a meandering path to where I am today.

Lao-tzu famously said, "A journey begins with a single step." In many careers that first step is the most important. But, equally important is having a person who helps you take it.

Thank you, Pat. You will be missed by many.


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