Michelle Schulz
Partner at Polsinelli and
Chair of the International Trade and Customs Group,

It is my pleasure to support Adrienne Braumiller’s nomination to the 2020-21 Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law of the ABA International Law Section.

As an international trade lawyer, I honestly consider Adrienne Braumiller the driving force in my career in international law.  When Adrienne first hired me as a law clerk in 1998, there were very few women in international trade law.  It was difficult to break into this important area of law, which was largely unknown at the time.  My law school had no classes in this area, and international law was hardly recognized – let alone encouraged.  The few attorneys who explored international trade law were comprised mostly of men.  However, perceiving the significance of the implementation of NAFTA in the 1990s, Adrienne had already founded her own international trade law firm.  Eventually Adrienne and I started a new international boutique together, and for 10 years we used team work to accomplish great success.  Eventually I transitioned to the big law environment, but I consider my years with Adrienne among the most productive and motivating in my career.

Many attorneys can master an area of law, but to become a true leader in the field is extraordinary.  From the outset, Adrienne taught me not only how to navigate trade laws and regulations, but also how to lead in the field.  She taught me how to market, develop business, run a law firm, speak at large conferences, network, land clients, and mentor young people.  Throughout my career I have never had as strong a leader and example to follow.  In fact, just yesterday I was telling a younger trade lawyer that I would not know how to market if not for Adrienne’s (and the marketing guy Bob’s) guidance in the beginning.

Now that I am a partner at Polsinelli and Chair of the International Trade and Customs Group, I attribute my growth and success over the years in very large part to Adrienne’s leadership.   Even 20 years after we met, she is the person I call when I have a question, or a referral for trusted trade counsel. 

Current Employee

Advice to law firm management: I would stay focused on the bigger picture, and the growth that the firm has achieved through the years, and not take it personally when someone leaves. Everybody has their own career path and plan on how to achieve their goals. Look instead at where those who have left are at this time, and take credit where it is due regarding their level of success. It’s just business, be proud of the education that has been provided.

Pros: I have been an outside contractor for this law firm since 2002, so I have seen first hand how they have evolved into a very well respected boutique firm. The Partners (2) who have left over the years have gone on to be very successful on their own. Some junior attorneys who have left have gone on to see what it’s like to work for a large D.C. firm (a few have actually returned within a year or two), while others are now overseeing in-house counsel for Fortune 500 companies. Note: The Attorneys at the firm are constantly being approached by large D.C. firms. It’s a great place for an attorney to be involved on a variety of cases, which keeps things interesting to say the least. In addition to grooming the firms attorneys for success, I have also witnessed the Founder of the firm being instrumental in assisting others outside the firm (Trade Advisor’s and Attorneys) in career advancement. In conclusion, I guess I’d have to say the atmosphere there is vibrant, and ever evolving with their expertise in international trade. The pay at this firm is very competitive, and the turnover very low.

Cons: When weighing the cons of the firm, I think it’s fair to point out that this is a boutique firm, (no 100+ attorneys) so the opportunity for advancement to Partner is much more challenging, and takes more time, which may not sit well with the overly ambitious newer Attorneys after a few years of service. One has to learn quickly here how to dig in and produce sometimes with less supervision than they are used to. It’s fast paced, so it’s not the right fit for those who need a lot of supervision. You have to be able to think, and problem solve independently here, because often the overall team is busy.

Partners to Avoid and Why: There is only one Partner/Founder at this firm, who is instrumental in delegating the flow of work to the attorneys and network of trade advisors.

Favorite Things About this Firm: I would have to say that the one thing I have observed about this firm that stands out to me is the favorable work/life balance I have seen. It’s more like family than a firm, and the boss actually does care about the staff. Some attorneys have been with this firm for over 20 years, which is not the norm for a boutique. I have witnessed the turnover with the larger firms, and that just appears to be the typical nose to the grind stone 12-14 hour days, for as long as one can tolerate just working for the firm. Burnout is the usual conclusion.