Massachusetts Senator John C. Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” I am fortunate to have wonderful mentors. I am proud that many of these mentors are men. My dad, who is discussed later in this article, instilled in me a love of sports. So, for this article, I have compiled a starting lineup of men who have mentored me. All of these men embody the definition of mentoring that Senator Crosby set forth. This list is in no particular order.
John Kronstadt. My dad. Federal judge. Wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Brilliant legal mind (not as brilliant as my mom’s legal mind, as he will admit), marathon runner, amazing photographer, Adirondack 46-er and phenomenal supporter of women. I love sports and have been a dedicated athlete throughout my life because of my dad (sorry, mom!). Jim Valvano said, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me.” My dad has guided me up and down hundreds of mountains. He has always encouraged me and my siblings to go after and work hard for what we want. He secured the perfect spot for picture taking when I earned my Deputy District Attorney badge. He has traveled throughout the country to watch me play volleyball. He has been at the finish line at three of the four marathons in which I have run. He comes to SoulCycle with me to support an athletic activity I enjoy doing. He is the type of judge before whom everyone wants to appear. He is prepared. He is fair. And tough, but mostly fair. He treats everyone with respect. He and my mom embody the type of lawyer I aspire to be. The only thing better about having my dad as my dad is that my daughters have him as their grandpa.
Will Turner. My husband, not Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean. I had always hoped that I would find a guy as great as my dad. I did when I met Will. Will is one of the most impressive, intelligent, kind and humble people I know. He stood out in his hometown of Sweetwater, Texas when at age six, he told his mom that he wanted to be the president of IBM. He is now a director at a hedge fund. He is also a fabulous singer and an opera enthusiast. One would never know how impressive Will is because he is so humble. The humility with which he treats his own accomplishments is matched only by the pride in which he takes in those of his family members. Will knew how much I always wanted to be, and always supported my desire to be a prosecutor. Nobody was more excited than he when Jackie Lacey called me to offer me a job as a Deputy District Attorney. His face lights up when he talks about what I am doing at work, what our daughter Caroline is doing at school, music or swim class and what new skill our daughter Catherine is developing. He is truly a partner in the parenting department. He works incredibly hard and long hours but is, with rare exception, home for dinner and is at every music class and every swim lesson. Much like my dad encouraged me and my siblings, Will encourages our daughters to go after and work hard for everything they want. Will makes me and our daughters feel like we are his moon, his sun and all of his stars. He is all of those things and more to us.
Mark Flagel. Mark is a retired partner from Latham & Watkins. He was instrumental to the creation and establishment of Latham’s Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Group. I never told Mark often enough how important he has been to my career and in my life. I started working with Mark when I was a first year associate at Latham. Despite my lack of experience with anything having to do with intellectual property law, Mark took a chance on me in a case involving the Malibu Pilates chair. I never looked back. For the next three years, I spent as much time as I could working with Mark on all sorts of cases. He looked out for me and gave me opportunities to hone my litigation and writing skills. He gave me trial and deposition experience very early in my career. He asked for, and valued my opinion in all of the matters on which we worked together. Symantec Corporation was one of Mark’s clients. When Symantec asked him to travel to Washington the day after we finished a grueling jury trial, I told Mark it was because he puts the “man” in Symantec. He did. He still does. Mark made me a better lawyer. He also has made me a better wife and mother. One of my favorite memories of Mark has nothing to do with the law. Will and I visited Mark and his family at their home in Big Bear when I was a little more than four months pregnant with my older daughter. He took us on a beautiful hike that ended with a climb over some rocks. After everyone in our hiking party made it to the top, we saw a dad and his two sons sitting at the base of the rock summit. The older boy looked eager to climb up, but the younger boy could not make it and the dad could not leave the younger boy alone to help the older one. After checking with the dad, Mark walked over to the older boy and asked if he wanted to get to the top. The boy was reluctant at first, but eventually accepted the help. Mark helped him over the rocks and to the top of the mountain. The boy was overjoyed. I will never forget the look of excitement and pride on his face as he looked out over the lake, and then down at his dad. Just like he did for that boy on the mountain, Mark always gave me, and everyone else around him, that push in the right direction.
The Late Gene Selznick. Gene was one of the two or three best American volleyball players ever. He was the first ever King of Beach Volleyball. He coached Olympic teams to gold medals. Gene was my club volleyball coach when I was in high school and continued to train me as I played volleyball in college. Gene was the best ever at what he did. He knew how to maximize everyone’s talents. He taught us how to play every position on the court. We had a lot of fun off the court, but trained harder than anyone else when we were on the court. My team’s name was “Gene’s Team.” We were shorter than our competitors, we had an unorthodox warm-up routine and during breaks between matches, we usually sat with Gene and ate Frito Pie or ice cream and danced to Shania Twain songs. And we won. A lot. Almost all of the women who played for Gene in high school had successful college volleyball careers. My Gene’s Team teammates are still some of my closest friends. Gene did more than just make me a great volleyball player; he taught me how to be a leader and a team player. He instilled in me a competitive spirit that I will never lose. Learning how to play every position on the volleyball court prepared me for being able to tackle and to excel in practicing new and varied areas of the law. I hope that my daughters have a Gene to coach and mentor them like Gene Selznick coached and mentored me.
Jessica Kronstadt is a Deputy District Attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. She is the Co-Chair of WLALA's Membership Committee. The men featured in this article are her superheroes.