bSMART Guide

Real estate attorney Nina Roket has been named one of the most influential women in law and real estate by numerous publications including New York Real Estate Journal, Real Estate Weekly, and was most recently named to the 2014 New York Super Lawyers List.  Having made partner at 30 and the only woman elected to her firm's Executive Committee, Nina founded the Women's Committee at Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP to help promote and mentor the next generation of female attorneys.  As head of the firm's Hiring Committee, Nina believes strongly in networking as the key to success for all professional women, but especially millennials.  Nina shares what it takes to rise to the top of any industry while balancing the roles of wife, mother, and law partner.  Learn how she became one of the leading female deal makers in New York real estate and you can too!


Women leaders pave the way and show younger and talented women that if you want something enough - it can be achieved.


Women in Real Estate

Why is it important to have female decision makers in commercial real estate transactions?  

One important reason is that we set an example.  Women leaders pave the way and show younger and talented women that if you want something enough - it can be achieved.  Being able to set that example is very important to me because I have a daughter who is a millennial and I have nieces who are millennials.  I want to show them that if you want a career and a family - it can be done.  It can be very hard at times and it takes someone who is committed and driven, but it’s also very rewarding.  

Starting a family very early, although it came with its challenges, made me who I am today and gave me the perspective that I need to focus to achieve my goals.  If you’re focused, you’re able to set goals for yourself and go after what you want.  It’s important we have women leaders as role models because it shows the younger women how it can be done, how it can be rewarding, and that it’s completely achievable.

What are the keys to success and longevity at a leading law firm?

It comes down to working as hard (and as smart) as you can and sometimes making sacrifices.  If you do those things, the rewards will come.  That holds true not just in real estate but in any profession.  Another key to success is setting goals for yourself and knowing that those goals are achievable.  For me, the key to my success was knowing very early on that this was the career I wanted.  It was also very important to me to make partner, which I was very happy to make early in my career.  

Taking on a leadership role is another goal I was able to achieve at my firm.  Being the only woman on the Executive Committee at Olshan has given me an opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas, as well as be an example for other women who are coming up in the ranks in the firm.  It gives them opportunity to see what you can achieve through a lot of hard work and dedication.  If you give your job 110%, you will get back multiples in success.


Watch Nina's bSMART interview here!

It’s important to have women in leadership roles because we understand the challenges that are unique to women.


What are the top challenges a new lawyer faces and how do you help them overcome and thrive as an attorney?

One of the most important things a new lawyer can do is find a good mentor (I sometimes refer to it as finding a good Rabbi.)  By that I mean finding someone who’s not just willing to mentor you, but someone who’s also willing to go to bat for you.  In order for you to find that person - you need to be willing to do the same.  You need to show up every day without a sense of entitlement and with the idea that you have to roll up your sleeves and start at some point.  At first, that point is at the bottom, but if you’re able and willing to communicate with the people you’re working with – whether it’s with partners at a law firm or clients you’re working with – you can communicate the issues you’re dealing with.  If your mentor or client sees that those are valid issues and concerns and that you’re willing to work through them, a true mentor will help you get through it.  

When I started the Women’s Committee at Olshan, one of the things I was trying to accomplish was helping younger women realize sooner rather than later in their careers the importance of networking and being surrounded by smart, like-minded people.  It’s that connection with people that you want to grow and develop into terrific relationships.  If you spend a significant amount of time doing that, it furthers your career and overcomes the initial hurdles of being a 'newbie' in any company or community you join.  There are a lot of things you can accomplish, a lot of challenges you can overcome, and with commitment and the right support team, it is certainly achievable.

What are the attributes you look for when hiring new attorneys? 

As the hiring partner of our Hiring Committee at Olshan, there are a number of things I look for when hiring new attorneys.  First and foremost, you have to do really well in school, that’s a given.  But, I’m also looking for a resume that tells a story and shows you’ve done something different with your life or perhaps you've had a previous career.  I look for a resume that answers the question, 'Are you going to be the type of person I feel I'll be able to develop a relationship with, someone who I feel adds value to our core business?'  

We also look for someone who has excellent communication and writing skills, someone who I’d be happy and willing to put in front of a client because one of the things we do as a firm is put our associates in front of clients very early on.  I'm looking for the type of person I know can show respect to our clients, but is at the same time very down-to-earth and can make the client feel comfortable.  And lastly, I look for someone who is hard working.  The most important thing you can show to me is that you'll work as hard as you can and that you're committed to making this job as successful as possible.

How has networking impacted your success?

I cannot stress enough the value of networking and developing a professional network.  For many people, especially young women who are just starting out, they hear the word 'networking,' but don’t fully appreciate and understand what it means.  For me, it means trying to associate with people you can learn and grow from and also become part of a supportive community.  Initially my mentors were men, and although they were fantastic, it would have been nice to have someone who had similar experiences or issues for me to talk to, someone who could understand where I was coming from.  I ended up attending a few networking events related to senior-level women in real estate and that was a very meaningful experience for me. 

Whether you go online to become part of a professional networking site like bSmart or LinkedIn or connect with alumni associations - make an effort to do a little research and pick one or two organizations you think might be useful to you and just get involved.  Start attending events.  Start getting online.  Start talking to people whether you’re here in New York or any other part of the country.  There are so many ways, especially with technology today, you can connect with people.  Start making those connections and planting seeds.  Those seeds take time, but I promise if you nurture and water those seeds by getting to know the people you meet and figure out ways you can help them and perhaps how they can help you, it will manifest itself into something so rewarding, both on a professional level and personal level.

What are the steps to creating a valuable professional network?

I’ve always been pretty disciplined about networking and, I’ll be honest, it was very hard in the beginning.  It was hard being the first person to walk into a room alone, not knowing anyone, but I understood the importance of it and forced myself.  And I hated it in the beginning - I really did!  I can appreciate, if you’re in your 20s and you walk into room without knowing anyone, how difficult it is to be able to walk over to someone, introduce yourself and start having a dialogue.  There are some people where it comes naturally to them - I’m not one of those people.  It took a lot of time and effort and work on my part, but I feel I’m at a point now, after many years, where I’m comfortable with networking.  It’s still not second nature to me, but I’m certainly comfortable now where I can walk into a room and know a lot of people who are attending these events.  That’s only because of the network I’ve built, the relationships I’ve built and nurtured over the years.  

It’s also very important to me to bring the women attorneys at Olshan together as a group to network.  It’s great for me to be on my own networking and trying to meet people, but I thought, why not bring together the really talented attorneys that we have here who happen to be women?  As a group, we could develop a platform for us to get our names out there with other very successful women, whether that's in real estate, finance, fashion, or design.  It’s created amazing opportunities for women in Olshan to get our names out there, meet terrific people, and get in front of decision-makers who also happen to be women.

Nina Thumb.3

Women graduate law school and start at law firms at a higher rate than men, but I still haven’t seen women getting to the top at the same rate as men.  


Bsmart like Nina

What is your advice for having a long-lasting career in law and family at the same time?

Balance is an issue that women especially deal with every day and most of the days are out of balance.   The key is trying to figure out how you get through the day while being able to express yourself, able to talk to both your partner at home as well as your partner at the office.  If you have a partner at home and in the office who supports you, respects you and values you enough to know there are going to be days where they're not going to be number one - they're going to be second in line with priorities at that specific moment - but if they can respect you and support you, then you’re good.  

Part of the key is finding those partners, finding those places and opportunities where you have the support at home and in the office that allows you to be nurtured and gives you the opportunity to grow and reach your goals.  I’ve always been a driven person.  When I first met my husband, he knew from day one that this is what I wanted, and he knew from day one that nothing was going to stop me from getting what I wanted.  He got that, understood it, and probably didn’t fully appreciate it as much then as he does now, but he was always supportive.  Having a daughter at a young age and having an incredible support system at home was key. Without my parents who helped raise my daughter, without my husband who was supportive of the long hours I had to work and really understanding that that’s what I needed to do to be really happy, my career wouldn’t have happened.  

Likewise, I needed a support system at the office.  My partners, even when I was just a first-year associate, understood that I had a young daughter at home and they would try to schedule meetings after my child was on the bus as opposed to beforehand.  Being part of a firm who appreciated that I'm a wife and mom and supported me was key.  The best advice I can give is to communicate with whoever you’re dealing with, whether it’s at home or in the office.  Tell them what your goals are and that you’re committed to what you’re doing.  Then stick to it.  It’s okay to say at the end of the day, 'This was a crazy day and I haven’t been able to do half of what I wanted to do.'  It’s okay, because tomorrow is another day.

What are the keys to effective management in a partnership environment?

About five years ago, I was asked to become a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and be one of the co-administrative partners at the firm.  Being a successful lawyer to my clients was very near and dear to my heart and having the opportunity to take on a leadership role at my firm was equally rewarding to me.  Being in a leadership role in a partnership has its ups and downs, but the most important thing is communication.  In order for my voice to be heard, I also made a very concerted effort to make sure I was hearing everybody else and all of their concerns.  I felt like I had an opportunity to, in a smart way, start making a difference — and start making a difference for the younger generation coming behind me.  With that came issues that revolved around partnership but also issues that revolved specifically around women in a law firm setting.  More than ever you have more women entering the law force than before; you have women graduating law school at a higher rate than men; you have women starting out at law firms at a higher rate than men.  But what I still haven’t seen is women getting to the top at the same rate as men are getting there.  

I found the leadership role as an opportunity where I could start to pay attention to the issues and concerns that are unique to women.  Now I have a voice and I have an opportunity to pay more attention to flex time and maternity - or paternity - leave, and the issues that are important to women.  That’s why it’s important to have women in leadership roles, because we understand the challenges that are unique to women.  It’s not that men don’t care; it’s just that they don’t relate because perhaps they don’t know.  Coming from a place where I understand and I relate is something I take so much pride and joy in, to make that change for someone who is perhaps a first-year woman starting out at my firm.

The key is finding those partners so you have the support at home and in the office that allows you the opportunity to reach your goals.


What are the elements of a good deal for your clients?

A good deal is when my client is happy - meaning we achieved their goals as quickly or slowly as they needed.  A couple of characteristics my clients like about the way I do my job is that they know I go the long haul, I’m committed and I will do whatever I can to make sure the deal closes as it should.  I’ll be the first to tell them when I think a deal shouldn’t close.  For many of my clients, I don’t just represent them on a transaction, but I act as their general council in their business outside of transactions.  I appreciate that they look to me as a team player, as someone who is an important part of their team.  My clients see how hard I work for them and how hard I work to make sure they achieve their economic goals and close their deals as successfully as they can. That, to me, signals that I’m on the right track.

I’ve had a few of my clients since I was a second-year associate.  When my partner saw that not only was I doing a really good job but I was also really successful in the way I was handling myself with the clients, they let me run with that relationship.   Being given that opportunity so early on in my career, I took advantage of it.  I knew this was a one-time opportunity.  Over time, this client started giving me more and more business and appreciated that I had their best interest at heart.  You have to be a smart attorney.  You have to be a great negotiator.  You have to have excellent writing skills.  But what distinguishes me from the rest is that I’m willing to go the long haul for my clients.

How can a millennial woman bSmart in real estate law and transactions like you?

As a young woman in your 20s, there’s a lot of uncertainty.  Looking back and seeing what I’ve been able to accomplish over this period of time in my life, the most important characteristic I can refer back to is my dedication and hard work.  I never let ego get in the way.  I never let a sense of entitlement be an issue for me.  I realized that in order for me to be successful, I had to achieve it.  I had to achieve it on my own.  You do need a great support system along the way, but unless you're willing to give it 110%, you’re going to fall short.  For me, it’s always been about working extremely hard and believing in myself.

Know that as long as you work hard, as long as you commit, as long as you're surrounded by the right people, as long as you know that you’re doing as much as you possibly can at that given moment - there will be rewards.  Sometimes you’ll feel like giving up, and I’ve had those times myself.  There have been many times where I went home after days of work knowing that I felt like I was falling short in everything that I was doing.  But I knew enough not to make a decision when I was very emotional. I knew enough that if I gave it some more thought and really looked deep into why I was where I was, I wanted to and would want to push forward - and I did.  Believe in yourself.  Work really hard.  Be surrounded by excellent people, people who will elevate and support you and you’ll get there.

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For me, it’s always been about working extremely hard and believing in myself.


Spotlight on Nina Roket

Occupation: Attorney

Women I Admire: Diane von Furstenberg, JK Rowling, my daughter.

Look of the Season: A cape

Ultimate Accessory: Confidence

Go-to Outfit: White shirt, Black Pants

Must-have Shoes: Manolo Blahnik

Can't Live Without Product: YSL Touché Eclat

Salon Recommendation: Joey Healy Eye Brow Studio

Signature Scent: Bond No 9, Saks Fifth Avenue For Her

Beauty Essential: Sunblock for the face every day

Cocktail of Choice: Grey goose soda with lime

Travel Destination: Capri

Best Advice: Never be afraid to ask, what’s the worst a person can say, no?

Favorite Quote: "I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” Marissa Mayer.

De-Stress Technique: Soul Cycle

On My Playlist: Sade, Kygo, Calvin Harris, John Legend




Comments (1)

  1. Lisa Nang'ayo

Loved this!

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