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Women, Influence & Power in Law 2020: Nicole Washington

Kirkland partner Nicole Washington was profiled in Corporate Counsel's 2020 "Women, Influence & Power in Law" report, which honors women who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the empowerment of women in law.

Honoree: Nicole Washington

Category: Law Firm Awards: Collaborative Leadership

Firm: Kirkland & Ellis

Title: Partner

Nicole Washington is a partner in the Investment Funds Practice Group in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis. Washington has represented domestic and international sponsors on forming, marketing and operating private investment funds, including buyout funds, secondary funds, direct lending funds, special situations funds, mezzanine funds, opportunistic funds, infrastructure funds and other private investment vehicles, as well as on structuring, regulatory and compliance issues. She has represented some of the largest and most diversified asset managers, as well as numerous small and middle-market managers on the formation of private investment funds ranging from several million to multi-billion dollars.

What was your route to the top?

From an early stage in my career, I realized that there was a huge growth opportunity in the private equity industry where I could utilize my skillset. I continuously raised my hand for assignments of all sizes and strategies and pushed myself to take on more challenging projects. In 2015, I saw an opportunity to build out my practice by joining Kirkland’s growing platform. I am fortunate to be working at a law firm that has helped propel the transformational changes we have seen in the market over the last 15 years. I have had incredible sponsors and clients who have provided me with opportunities to develop and shine, and colleagues who have given me the tools and support to successfully execute on those opportunities.

Looking back, what do you wish you had known when you started out in the legal profession?

As a law student, you study hard and earn good grades — it’s a very simple formula. But once you enter the practice of law, so many other factors beyond your work as a lawyer impact success. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and distracted, and I wish I had known earlier in my career that even when you give your best effort, there will inevitably be mistakes and even some failures. Learning from mistakes is part of the overall process of success and it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. People will respect you as long as you continue to grind, and you will respect yourself even more if you are able to remain focused, humble and hardworking even after stumbling.

What is the best leadership advice you’ve given or received, and why do you think it was effective?

I think that the best leadership advice is to say “yes” to others and not to be the one to tell yourself “no”—be bold and continue to raise your hand and don’t underestimate yourself. Being a corporate attorney offers the potential for success to those who are willing to commit. You will have the right skills to take advantage of a good opportunity if you dedicate enough time and practice to develop those skills. If you have put in the time, trust that you have the tools to tackle the tough stuff. Don’t give up an opportunity to stretch yourself and develop new skills because you are afraid of failure.