ONE Connection | Building a Winning Team

Building A Winning Team
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There is a rich tradition of athletes-turned-attorneys. For many, it's a logical career transition. They already know about teamwork, intense focus, long hours, and a dedication to winning. Whatever drove them to excel in sports has also served them well in the legal profession.

The demands and sacrifices of athletic competition also create a solid foundation for leadership roles. A prime example is the Firm's namesake, former Managing Partner Tom Jones, who played quarterback and was captain of his Ohio State Buckeyes team in the early 20th century. We have spotlighted several of our colleagues previously, including former NFL player Jack Williams (Business & Tort Litigation, Atlanta), former major league pitcher Mike Gosling (Business & Tort Litigation, San Diego), and Olympic medal-winning hockey star Caitlin Cahow (Business Restructuring & Reorganization, Atlanta/Chicago), just to name a few.

Today, we hear from lawyers in our Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and Boston offices about their past experiences as athletes, why they chose Jones Day, and how they apply lessons learned from the world of sports to client service.

Tell us about your experiences as an athlete.

Amanda Parker, partner in the Issues & Appeals Practice in the Cleveland Office, earned All-American honors in gymnastics and was a national champion in the all-around and the vault while at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

I started gymnastics at eight and competed throughout high school and college. I had a terrific experience training and competing when I was young. I had knowledgeable, kind, and encouraging coaches. And I enjoyed the goal-setting and hard work of training as much as the thrill of competing. While I didn't always plan on competing in college, choosing college gymnastics ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I learned what it meant to be a good teammate and, eventually, a good leader. I am so grateful for my experience.

Katie Meili, associate in the Business & Tort Litigation Practice in the Dallas Office, won two medals at the 2016 Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. National Swim Team.
I started swimming on a local summer league team at age eight. I continued through high school and college at Columbia University, and I had the privilege of representing the U.S. National Team and swimming professionally for six years after that. My swimming career culminated in representing the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio where I won two medals, a bronze in the 100m breaststroke, and a gold as a member of the 4x100m medley relay. Characterizing my experience as an athlete as a dream come true is an understatement. Swimming afforded me incredible opportunities, taught me invaluable lessons, and brought wonderful people into my life. I am eternally grateful for it.

Greyson Lambert, associate in the Corporate Practice in the Atlanta Office, set passing records as a quarterback at the University of Georgia.

Ever since I was a young boy sleeping with a football rather than a teddy bear, my dream was to become a college football quarterback. That dream came true several years later when I was blessed with the opportunity to play quarterback for both the University of Virginia and University of Georgia. My collegiate career had its fair share of ups and downs, but I'm thankful for the wealth of experience I gained both on and off the field. I began my college football journey at UVA, where I was named a Team Captain as a sophomore by my teammates, an honor that is typically reserved for upperclassmen. Once I graduated from UVA after my third season, I transferred to UGA to finish out my college football career in my home state. While playing for the Georgia Bulldogs, I set NCAA, SEC, and various school passing records in 2015, all of which are still standing.

Once my college football career ended and I chose not to pursue playing in the NFL, an opportunity came out of "left field"—the Texas Rangers recruited me to try out as a pitcher for their organization. (I had not played baseball since my freshman year of high school.) The next thing I knew, I was on a flight to Surprise, Arizona, to the Rangers' spring training facilities to join their rookie league team. While the original plan was for the Rangers' pitching staff to spend the next few minor league seasons molding me into a major league pitcher, I knew after one season that my heart was not in it, and that it was time for me to start my life post-sports.

Jose Moncada, associate in the Business & Tort Litigation Practice in the Boston Office, competed as a member of the U.S. National Track & Field Team.
As a member of the U.S. National Track & Field Team, I competed in the 20km and 50km Race Walk, ultimately qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. I joined club track and field when I was seven. I had success in the race walking events and race walked competitively for more than 13 years. As a youth, I was a four-time California State Champion and a U.S. National Junior Champion. As an adult, I competed in national and international competitions, both for PowerBar® and my club team based out of Philadelphia, and for Team U.S.A. 


What motivated you to go to law school and what led you to choose Jones Day?

Amanda Parker: I ended up in law school because, honestly, I wasn't sure what to do after college. Soon after starting, though, I knew that I had made the right decision—I loved law school and wanted to be a part of the legal profession.

As for Jones Day, I knew I wanted to be in Cleveland, so I was initially attracted to Jones Day because it is (by far) the best firm here. It has been such a terrific fit. Lawyers here truly work as a team with the ultimate goal of doing what is best for the client—client service is the focus, rather than any individual lawyer's personal ambitions. I've also found that people here genuinely respect and care about each other, something that makes all the difference when you're spending hundreds of hours together (often in high-pressure situations) year after year. Click here to watch a video about Amanda Parker's gymnastics career.

Katie Meili: I always knew I wanted to go to law school after college, but I put law school on hold after graduation to pursue my swimming goals. After the Olympics, I was excited to put my law school plan back in motion. I genuinely loved law school and learning about the law. (I still do!) Jones Day's culture and people led me here.

I love that the Firm values and leverages teamwork to best serve our clients. To me, Jones Day operates a lot like a great swim team—we all succeed when each individual does their job to the best of their abilities with the goal of helping the team serve the client. Click here to watch a video of Katie Meili from 2016.

Greyson Lambert: I was motivated to become a lawyer because it was one of the few careers that would actually allow me to lean on my athletic experiences in a substantial way. It is commonly understood that traits developed in team sports—teamwork, dedication, hard work, problem-solving—translate well to most professions. But I also believe there are certain skills unique to the quarterback position that directly translate to the legal profession. When taking a snap, often in front of more than 100,000 people, I was required—in a matter of seconds—to lead my teammates, process multiple variables, and make game-altering decisions.

From what I was told when evaluating various career paths, being a corporate lawyer at a large firm was often similar—there would be stressful and pressure-filled aspects of cases and deals that would require quick and accurate information-processing and decision-making. I was up for that challenge, and at least as a corporate lawyer, I wouldn't have 300-pound men trying to pummel me in the process. 

Before and during the law firm interview process, I could tell that every lawyer I met from Jones Day would be a wonderful teammate, and that's primarily what led me to choose the Firm. They were all very impressive, grounded, kind, and genuine. While most large law firms do sophisticated work for notable clients, I truly believe that the lawyers that comprise Jones Day are what make it such a special place, and I'm fortunate to be their teammate. Click here to see Greyson's interview with ESPN after his record-setting game in 2015.

Jose Moncada: After I stopped competing, I commissioned in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer. After my tour in Iraq in 2016, I knew I wanted to separate from the service to pursue a career that would afford my family more stability and opportunity.

I also wanted to join a profession where I could use the skills I developed as an athlete and as a military leader.

A close friend of mine had separated from service and went to law school, and he encouraged me to do the same. In law school and while clerking, I became familiar with Jones Day as a litigation powerhouse. I sought to join Jones Day because of its reputation, its genuine commitment to client service, and its values.

What are some of the lessons you learned from your years as an athlete, and how have you applied them to your work for the Firm and your relationships with clients?

Amanda Parker: Gymnastics provided me with countless lessons, including the value of preparation, hard work, and time management. But I think two lessons are particularly applicable to practicing law at Jones Day. The first is that the details matter. In gymnastics, the tiniest details have such outsized impact. Releasing the bar a fraction of a second too early can mean crashing to your knees rather than sticking a dismount. A slight change in arm position can help you execute a skill perfectly on the balance beam rather than falling off of it. And in competition—especially in college gymnastics—the team that has perfected the details in their form and landings is often the team that prevails. There are so many parallels in our work. Leaving out a comma can change the meaning of a contract. Recognizing nuances in fact patterns can distinguish unhelpful case law. And understanding the details of a client's business can be what wins a pitch. Appreciating the importance of these details is critical to our success.

The second is that there's no end to improvement. After each gymnastics meet, we'd watch our performance and identify at least one thing to do better in the next meet—even something as small as a better landing position or more precise choreography. And after the season ended, we'd work on learning and then perfecting new skills for the following year. Gymnasts do this at every level. Even Simone Biles, after dominating the Olympics in 2016, added skills on every event when she returned in 2020—she did not just rest on her earlier successes. Practicing law involves the same continuous improvement. No matter where you are in your career, there is always an opportunity to learn something and progress. These opportunities are what keep things interesting and ensure that you do not become complacent.

Katie Meili: Countless lessons I learned as an athlete have helped me professionally. Three stand out. First, the small things often matter the most. Swimming is a very technical sport, and the best swimmers are masters of the smallest technical details. I've come to learn that excellent lawyers have the same attention to and mastery of detail. Second, you must learn to love and find value in the process as much as the outcome. I basically trained my entire life for a race that lasted only 65 seconds. Loving and appreciating the journey (and the corresponding hard work) as much as the destination is essential. And, third, pressure is a privilege, which I think speaks for itself!

Greyson Lambert: Two lessons currently stick out to me as a still somewhat new lawyer: take everything one play at a time and control the controllables. Taking everything one play at a time means to focus on the current task at hand. To put it in football terms, it doesn't matter if the last play resulted in a touchdown or an interception, the current play is the most important, and it deserves my full attention. Similarly, it doesn't matter whether I've received positive feedback or constructive criticism on a prior matter, or if my plate is beginning to fill up with future tasks, my goal is to prioritize the tasks currently in front of me and tackle each one a "play" at a time. Also, as a newer lawyer, there are several parts of a transaction that are out of my control—I'm not always privy to every aspect of a deal or every conversation had with the client. But with respect to those parts of the transaction under my purview, my focus is on taking ownership of the tasks at hand, doing the best work that I can and assisting my Jones Day teammates in any way possible. By controlling those controllables, I can feel confident that I'm doing all I can to best help my Jones Day teammates and the client.

Jose Moncada: I'll share two. The first is that being disciplined is hard but extremely important. As an athlete, I had the ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics. I learned from a young age that I would need to be disciplined to achieve that goal. And not just for a few days or months. But for years. I learned that even the little things that often seem insignificant matter. It was up to me to do those things. The hard part: no one can force you to; you have to find the self-discipline to do so to achieve the goal. I strived to apply this lesson to my work in the Army, and I strive to apply it to my work as an associate at Jones Day.

The second lesson is that failure is part of life. I did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics. For every race I won, I lost five. However, one should not let failure control them. There are always lessons that come from a "failure." I learned to reflect on those lessons and come back stronger. This lesson is applicable to my work as an associate. I may lose an argument or have a motion denied, but what's important is that I continue to improve to be the best lawyer I can be for our clients. Luckily for me, while race walking is mostly an individual sport, on my matters, I am on strong teams at Jones Day!