Foley & Lardner LLP Partner Michael Okaty was the featured guest on the October 14, 2022, episode of The X Factor: The Human Performance & Leadership Podcast with Dr. Stephen Long. Okaty, who is co-chair of the firm’s Transactions Practice and a member of the Management Committee, described for listeners the various types of leadership opportunities in a large law firm and what he has enjoyed most about serving in a number of these roles.
As a leader, he said it is extremely rewarding to be able to influence the direction of an organization and to see people reach their full potential. While you have a seat at the table, “your primary responsibility is to be a good steward and leave the firm better than you found it,” he said. Another responsibility is to empower people and “create an environment where they can apply their talents and have success.”
Using the analogy of a sports team, Dr. Stephen Long, The X Factor’s host, noted the importance of human capital as a law firm’s primary asset and the need to invest in top talent to deliver a quality product. “One of our core values is our people.” Okaty told Long that the firm has invested in a talent structure and programs to help ensure Foley has long-term relationships with the people we recruit and train. He also noted the firm’s recently launched Happy at Foley campaign on social media, which provides a framework for our people to share how being at the firm has helped them thrive in their careers.
“In many ways leaders in law firms are like professional coaches,” Okaty said. The best coaches share their own personal experiences, point out things you can improve on to help you get better, and give you tools and opportunities to help you succeed, he said. “Our people are used to getting all As.” When Okaty is delivering feedback, he said he sets the stage for what the intentions are up front, and on the receiving end tries to be open and view improvements as investments in his own business.
With regard to his own role models, Okaty points to mentors who invested in and took chances on him by giving him opportunities to do things inside and outside of the firm. “I try to return that favor and hopefully be a role model for others” he said. “An opportunity you provide could be an inflection point in someone’s career.”
The X Factor: The Human Performance & Leadership Podcast with Dr. Stephen Long is a podcast for leaders by leaders from business, military, athletics and academia with topics including human performance, leadership effectiveness, talent optimization and strategic execution. Listen to the full episode with Michael Okaty here