June 3, 2013 | Law and Justice

Learn golf. Stay flexible. Help the new kid.

5 get-ahead lessons from uber-lawyer Heidi Levine, who is passionate about bringing women into business' highest ranks.

Learn golf. Stay flexible. Help the new kid.

Women couldn't ask for a better friend than Heidi Levine. For her dedication to helping women get ahead, she recently received the Highest Leaf Award from the Women’s Venture Fund, a nonprofit that aids women who want to start and grow their own businesses. Co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s New York office and a member of the law firm's executive committee, Levine co-founded DLA Piper's Leadership Alliance for Women. LAW brings women lawyers together to network and to increase women's representation in leadership positions; it's been such a great success, plans are to expand it globally. Here, Levine shares her advice for fellow go-getters.

1. Women are different.
Women in business primarily are motivated by different factors than men. We have a real desire to make a personal connection with other people, collaborate and feel that we are part of a larger organization that values us as individuals. These are qualities that make women great at developing client relationships and serving in leadership positions.

2. Having a mentor is a two-way street.
A person is not entitled to have a mentor; you have to earn it. A mentee should show interest, commitment, loyalty, be proactive and appreciate the effort it takes to develop and maintain that relationship over time. A mentor needs to be generous, thoughtful, and have a natural desire to pay it forward, to help the next generation. You are never too senior or too junior to have a mentor or be a mentor.

3. Sometimes you're the only woman in the room.
I've had that experience but I'm happy to say it's more rare today; now there are usually one or two other women in the room. I always try to extend a warm hello to the other women to let them know I'm happy to see them, whether they are junior or senior to me, and whether they are a colleague or my opposing counsel. It is important to make that connection.

4. Want to get ahead? Learn to play golf.
Golf is really important to me in both my personal and professional life; something I love to do with my husband, my parents, my partners in my law firm and with my clients. Women can be at a disadvantage if they are left out of opportunities to spend four hours outside on a golf course with their colleagues and clients. They say you really get to see a person’s true qualities on a golf course—and it’s very true.

5. Don't stick too rigidly to your life plan.
Be proactive. Don't give up. Follow your passion, but work hard. Stay flexible, meaning go where the opportunities happen. You never know where you’re going to meet the next person to offer you a big break, which changes the course of your career. Walk straight through any open doors and let people help you, but remember that you always have to earn that support.