2009 Women to Watch: Jane BoisseauPosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Dewey & LeBoeuf L.L.P.
New Orleans native Jane Boisseau started out as a history and English teacher before switching careers and going to New York University School of Law. She first worked at Dewey & LeBoeuf's predecessor firm, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae, as a summer intern in 1984 before joining it the next year, after her graduation. She has been there since, and is now co-chair of the firm's insurance regulatory department and a member of its executive committee.
Your professional role model: It's kind of fortunate…because there really were great leaders in the insurance practice when I arrived. Donald Greene who, for a while, was a named partner before we merged (with Dewey & Ballentine in 2007), was the head of the insurance practice and subsequently became chairman of the firm for a while. He was probably a giant in the practice…He inspired people around him to follow his example, so it was a wonderful place for somebody like me, who was looking for not just a legal career, but a career where you could really spread your wings and feel like you were contributing to the business.
Advice for women entering the field: I would say stick with it, never give up. Keep at it, be persistent. I think all junior lawyers sometimes feel overwhelmed, perhaps, and discouraged and feel, “Maybe I should move on.” You just have to keep at it and keep trying.
Best professional advice you've received: There's a motto that I like. It is not so much advice, maybe, but it's what my mentors taught me to live up to, and that is, “If it were easy, anybody could do it.” Clients, typically, they come to us because they have difficult challenges, and they have confidence that we'll help them think creatively to find solutions to help them stay within the compliance requirements that they have to live with, while at the same time meeting their business goals, and that's not easy stuff, so I pride myself, the practice I work in prides itself, on trying to find solutions to problems. If it were easy, they probably wouldn't come to us to help solve them.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: Certainly, nobody grows up wanting to be an insurance lawyer, I can tell you that. We used to joke about that. It's not your dream when you're a child, although it's turned out to be a wonderful path for a lot of us. I didn't particularly want to be lawyer. I grew up in the '50s and '60s, graduated in '67. There were not a lot of role models with women as lawyers, and it was easier to imagine yourself as a teacher, because you'd see women teachers. There were very few lawyers in my family…and no women (lawyers), that was something. When you have role models you can aspire to things, but it took me awhile to find my path to this profession, partly because of that. When I was a kid, it never would have occurred to me that I could be a lawyer.
The best book you've read recently: I just finished reading a book called "Nine Lives" by Dan Baum, and it's about nine people in New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina, and that was a really good book. I recommend it, being a native and having a lot of family and friends down there. I found it very moving.
Phone or e-mail and why: I hate to say it, because it probably says something about your personality, but I prefer e-mail. You can take a little time to think what you're going to say and you don't have to worry about getting through.