In many ways, Lauren Fuiman Cell’s story proves the value of the Kline School of Law for any bright student who comes to law school without a specific game plan but who is motivated, strategic and able to adjust to changing circumstances.
Like many law students Cell, ’09, arrived at law school without a fixed career goal, undecided about the area of law or type of practice she would pursue.
As a 2L, Cell was still torn about pursuing a career in the courtroom versus the negotiating table. Taking full advantage of experiences like her co-op placement at the Wilmington-based Young Conaway and guidance from faculty like Karl Okamoto and Natalie Pedersen, Cell began moving toward a career in litigation and employment law.
Fast forward to 2017, and Cell has been named a Rising Star in employment law by Super Lawyers for the second straight year, and she practices at Fisher and Phillips, among the largest U.S. law firms that represent management in employment matters.
The move to Fisher Phillips, like much of the path Cell followed since arriving at law school, reflects a strategy that has evolved in response to changing circumstances.
A founding member of the Drexel Law Review and the Women’s Law Society, as well as a summa cum laude graduate, Cell received her JD when law firms were hiring very few summer associates.
“I came out of law school at a bad time for the economy. I positioned myself to have somewhat of a cushion when things were a little bit rocky,” Cell said, explaining her decision to take clerkships with the Superior Court in New Jersey and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The clerkships positioned Cell to find work with Rubin Fortunato & Harbison, a mid-sized boutique firm where Cell focused primarily on Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitrations related to disputes over breaches of contract and non-compete clauses involving financial advisors who sought to move to other firms.
Rubin Fortunato’s primary client, the wealth-management powerhouse Merrill Lynch, “aggressively pursued – and rightfully so, the balance of promissory notes” its financial advisors had signed when joining the firm, Cell said.
Merrill’s needs gave Cell plenty of experience, since, she said, “many of these brokers were firm shopping.”
But in 2015, Cell herself jumped from the 30-person law firm based in Paoli to Fisher Phillips, a behemoth with more than 350 attorneys in 33 offices and plenty of opportunities to build a client base of her own.
Fisher and Phillips’ name recognition helps, as does the firm’s willingness to budget time for Cell to spend on business development and to support her efforts.
“There’s a business development manager that can help you,” she said.
Cell also enjoys working on employment matters from age discrimination to Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act) that take her to federal court frequently.
Moving to a big firm has not thrown Cell’s work-life balance into disarray. To the contrary, Cell has greater control over her schedule than before.
At the smaller firm, Cell frequently traveled to locales from Massachusetts to Texas and California. “I worked like a dog,” she said. “I worked as many hours as I possibly could.”
The mother of one child with a second soon to arrive, Cell is less able to take on extra assignments and grateful to cut back on business travel.
Cell has learned to use her time more efficiently, knowing which tasks can be delegated to an assistant and developing new habits.
“Overall, after you have kids, you become a little more efficient at your job,” Cell said. “I make it a point every day to leave at 5 and do ‘mom stuff,’ then I’m back on my computer for an hour or an hour and a half to get it done. There’s no more going out to lunch for two hours. I hit the ground running from the moment I walk in. I’ve perfected it.”