Mary Cranston on training the next generation of attorneys 

Mary Cranston, a senior partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman will be honored with the Commonwealth Club’s Distinguished Citizen Award at the group’s 23rd annual dinner at the Palace Hotel on Tuesday.


What sacrifices did you make along the way to achieve such professional success?


I have been blessed with clarity about what is meaningful to me and how I want to prioritize in my life. I made choices which precluded some activities — but I never saw those choices as sacrifices. Both my work and my family were very important to me. I took only assignments that enhanced my training, networks, breadth of experience, and I was careful about taking on any responsibility that might take me from my family.


Where and from whom do you derive your primary source of inspiration?


I would say that my primary sources of inspiration are 1) God, however you define it, and 2) my loved ones, including my amazing twin sister, Susan Harnden, who has been with me every step of my life; my children, Susie and John; my parents; my siblings and so many others.  


Do you feel like you’ve established a work-life balance?


The answer is yes, but I think the notion of balance is misleading because it sounds passive. The key is making choices about what you do with your time that prioritizes what is meaningful. One myth is that home life is balanced and work is a disrupter. For me, and for many, doing both, but with a clear eye on what’s important, led to a life of greater energy, meaning and joy.


Do you feel an obligation to mentor young women attorneys?


I do. But I don’t see it as an obligation. It is a complete joy. In my life the women mentors I had made all the difference, and I want to pay it forward.


Do you believe that the legal profession has made significant strides over the past three decades relative to women in the workplace?


We have without a doubt made significant strides. When I started 35 years ago, there were very few women in law firms. Today, more than 50 percent of law school graduates are women, and most firms have between 30 percent and 40 percent women attorneys.  


What is your greatest motivator?


That has changed with time. When I was younger it was to make a difference, and to make a mark in the world.  Today, my motivation is simpler — I like to help in any way I can with whatever is in front of me, whether it is to help one of my children, mentor a young lawyer or contribute in the board room.


Is there a book or work of writing that has had a significant influence on you?


All my life, I have been fascinated with the human psyche and the awakening of spiritual consciousness. I have read many profound works in this arena. One that stands out in the last few years is Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.”  

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Lauren Gallagher

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