Andre Owens

Andre Owens
Partner, WilmerHale


I try to keep an open mind on issues, whether professional or personal. It’s not always easy to do, but when I am successful, I find that doing so allows me to think through whatever the matter may be more fully. Professionally, this approach helps me see all sides of a regulatory issue, which is important in coming up with solutions for clients. Closely related, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. This, too, is not always easy, but when I can do it, it helps me hear and assess the arguments and concerns of others most productively. This typically leads to better outcomes in terms of my advice, regardless of the other person’s ultimate motivations. I’ve found that these characteristics also impact how people communicate with me.


Many people inspire me, from my mother to mentors at my first job, my former colleagues at the SEC, and my current colleagues at WilmerHale. These individuals all have had different impacts in my life. Some have encouraged me to reach for things that I thought were beyond me, others have chastised me for not thinking or working hard enough on particular parts of my practice as a younger attorney, and some are just great examples to me in terms of how they approach the practice and interact with adversaries.


I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and that includes evaluating their abilities. With junior associates in particular, I often assign them a project that I recognize will be a stretch for them, but one where they know that I am available for questions and guidance. Showing confidence in these associates goes a long way toward helping them own the project. The result is usually great for the client and boosts the associate’s confidence. It’s important for young lawyers to know that they can do the work, and that the main difference between us is not smarts, but experience.


Education. We’ve made progress over the past few decades, and I’ve certainly benefitted from the hard work of others who played a role in improving conditions for minorities. But there is still a lot to be done for African Americans and other minorities, including addressing early education issues, racial achievement gaps, and high school drop-out rates. Whether we are talking about preparing kids for college or a trade, we need to be constantly thinking about how to improve the education system. This includes addressing the costs of higher education.


Position yourself to be as helpful as possible, whether to your boss, your colleagues, or your clients. Professions and industries are more competitive than ever, and adopting a service-oriented and outward-focused approach to your job will not only help you succeed, it also will likely set you apart from others that are just focused on the next steps for advancement. Most important, don’t sell yourself short in terms of your ability. You may lack experience at the outset of your career, but whatever you’ve done to secure a job likely will serve you well in the future.