Amy Eldridge – Cadence Bank
Amy Eldridge knows how difficult it can be for young lawyers to forge a career path. Many go into private practice after law school and spend years tackling whichever assignments the firm deems necessary. And the experience they gain often dictates their career options going forward.
For Eldridge, helping her younger colleagues shape their careers isn’t just a way to give back; it’s an enriching professional pursuit. As senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Cadence Bank, a regional bank with nearly 400 branches across the southeast and Texas, she’s determined to give her co-workers the benefit of her experience.
“I think if I didn’t find mentoring rewarding, I wouldn’t do as much of it,” she says. “In some ways it is also an obligation; you have to be able to help the next generation develop. Everybody can’t just figure it out by themselves.”
Eldridge has benefited from mentoring in her own career. While in private practice, she worked closely with several senior colleagues who taught her about putting in the extra time to fine-tune details and about conveying information without getting lost in the weeds (whether arguing in court or writing briefs). She says some days she’ll be working on something that recalls that training, and she’ll hear a mentor’s voice in her head instead of her own.
Now, Eldridge aims to be that reassuring voice for others.
“You have to develop your human capital, you have to be open to other people, you have to meet people where they are, and I think that’s true no matter what level they’re at,” she says. “That’s how you get to having a diverse workplace that’s full of different ideas and a variety of perspectives.”
Soon after joining Cadence in 2022, Eldridge began coaching two junior in-house counsels, tailoring her approach to each one’s experience and goals.
Like many people, these lawyers lost years of professional training and networking opportunities to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eldridge is trying to compensate for that now by helping them identify their long-term goals and potential practice areas and gauging the work-life balance they’re looking for.
She also reassures the lawyers that it’s ok if their goals change and they want to pursue a different career. She then encourages them to get the experience they need to make those types of career changes.
“That’s the kind of training I always found effective, even in private practice,” she says. “I always tried to have really open relationships with the associates that worked with me.”
Fighting fires and managing risk
As important as mentoring is to Eldridge, she’s also busy handling the bank’s litigation efforts and other legal matters. For example, she serves on the company’s technological incident response group, which decides whether and how to notify examiners, regulators and customers if a breach occurs. As a large bank, Cadence works closely with state and federal examiners on a continuous basis.
And if Cadence wants to install a new system or replace old technology, Eldridge and her legal colleagues help get the systems up and running. They also play a role in reviewing contracts and expanding existing relationships to new areas.
Eldridge advises on public reporting requirements, as well—such as to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And she answers questions about what the bank’s representatives legally can and cannot do. For Eldridge, it all falls under the risk-management umbrella.
“The job of a lawyer with my background is to learn to see around the proverbial corner,” she says. “Managing actual or potential risks to make sure the relevant decisionmakers have what they need to make the best choices for the company.”
The right opportunity
Eldridge traces her interest in the legal profession back to high school, when she wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. She says she was inspired by the belief that the system only works if there’s a check on government power.
Instead, she earned a bachelor’s degree in history from San Diego State University before starting a master’s program with the goal of one day earning her Ph.D. But when she realized that completing her Ph.D. would require another seven or eight years of language studies (in Arabic and Farsi specifically), she decided to take another path.
“I tried to see if there was something I’d be happy doing where I might work less,” Eldridge says. “I’m a bit of a workaholic anyway—because I worked full-time through undergrad and grad school—so it’s like, I’m working the same amount anyway. It’s time to go to law school.”
After receiving her J.D. in 2008 from Case Western Reserve University, she worked as an associate at K&L Gates, rising to counsel there before moving to Cadence in 2022. At K&L Gates, she was in a government enforcement group, working on government and internal investigations, securities and fiduciary duties, defense matters and white-collar cases. She handled some prominent civil cases and has practiced all over the country. She’s admitted and has defended cases in about half the U.S. Courts of Appeals, including successfully defending wins at the Supreme Court.
Eventually, Eldridge got to the point where she’d done most of the things she was going to do in private practice and realized she wanted a new challenge.
“This is a really great opportunity for me,” she says. “I’m happy to be involved in this particular institution, and to be involved in helping it grow. I also enjoy collaborating with the businesspeople and helping my co-workers find the kind of careers they’re looking for.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter IV 2023 Edition here.
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