Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone

A Conversation On Lessons Learned & Life In The Law With Attorney Elise O’Brien

Elise O’Brien is a director and Office Managing Partner of our new Orange County office who works in our Agribusiness and Employment Law practice groups.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Elise about joining Fennemore, as well as reflecting on her life on the legal profession.

Hello Orange County! Fennemore recently continued our California expansion by adding a new office in the “OC,” so in this week’s leadership profile, we turn the spotlight on the Office Managing Partner of our new location, attorney Elise O’Brien. How are things going during this transition period? And what is your vision for the future as Fennemore continues to grow?

So far, so good!  The team at Fennemore has gone above and beyond my expectations and has really made this transition as seamless as possible. In the future I see incredible potential to grow our Agribusiness practice group and become one of the strongest agribusinesses practices in the nation.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in the agribusiness and employment & labor sectors?

One of the best aspects of practicing employment law is that nearly all of my matters are intriguing. Employment matters typically involve complex relationships between individuals in the workplace, and no two workplaces are the same, so I’m fortunate to deal with interesting issues nearly every day.   

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the Chapman University School of Law (especially women) now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

Ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone. And relax!

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

Aside from my family, my late mentor, Lew Janowsky, had the greatest impact on my life and career. I was still in law school when I joined Rynn & Janowsky, LLP as a law clerk, and he took me under his wing and taught me how to practice law. Lew always had time to talk through complex legal issues with me or brainstorm potential solutions to problems. 

When I’m faced with a challenging issue these days, I often ask myself “How would Lew approach this?”

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Best career advice:  It’s okay to tell a client “I don’t know that answer, but I’ll find out for you.”   

Worst career advice: You always need to be adversarial to be a good advocate for your client.  

What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

With two young children at home, I mostly listen to kids music these days. Thankfully, there are some really great artists putting out non-traditional music for kids. The clear favorite in our house is Caspar Babypants.  And just last month I took my 4-year-old daughter to her first concert – we saw Jackson Browne at a great outdoor venue and had a blast! 

I recently finished a reread of Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer is such a compelling writer, and I especially love this collection of articles and essays about mountaineering.   

As for TV, I’m hooked on House of the Dragon.

Last, but not least, you’re hosting a lavish dinner at your home. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you’d invite.

I think Charles Barkley, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jon Stewart would make for some lively conversation around the dinner table!

Lively conversation, indeed – and many thanks to Elise for her compelling insights!

For more information about our firm’s Agribusiness team that helps clients thrive locally, nationally and internationally, please visit: .

And for help in guiding your organization in virtually all aspects of the employment relationship, please visit: .

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