We sat down to talk with Stroock Alum, Rudhir Krishtel to learn about his professional journey. Rudhir’s transformational story highlights his shift from Big Law partner and in-house counsel to coaching high-performing individuals - at law firms and companies around the world. His inspirational work includes business development and executive coaching, leadership training and DEI and wellbeing workshops to lead individuals and groups towards growth and fulfillment.
Q: Tell me about your time at Stroock.
RK: I had a short, and yet very positive experience working as a first-year summer associate at Stroock while in law school. I was lucky to split my summer across two law firms, with Stroock as one of those firms. I’ll never forget it. I spent an amazing six weeks researching legal issues and drafting memos while sleeping on the floor of a law school friend’s tiny New York City apartment. I am so grateful for this time at Stroock—it was brief, but meaningful. When I reflect, it set me up for an outstanding 10 years as a litigator, ultimately as a partner, in the Washington, D.C. office of Fish & Richardson. I couldn’t stay in New York for family reasons, but the opportunity Stroock gave me helped me get noticed and helped kick-start my career and a full-time position in the D.C. area.
Q: What led to founding your current company?
RK: I practiced law for 15 years, including time as a busy law firm partner. I was part of a heavy district court and ITC litigation practice, also active in law firm recruitment, pro bono, and bar association work.
In year 10 of my practice, I burned out. I didn’t say it out loud at the time, and I didn’t feel comfortable telling the firm. I am not sure I really recognized it as burnout until I endured a scary health event at the close of discovery on an international case. I thought I was having a stroke and went to the E.R.. When a cardiologist told me I was fine, I learned high stress caused the episode. I didn’t even know what stress felt like, yet my body knew. So, I quietly looked for a way to go in house. That is when I started working at Apple in California. I spent the next five years as senior patent counsel handling IP transactions, handling prelitigation matters, negotiating partnership deals with other companies, and addressing company intellectual property challenges. It was an incredible experience.
Fifteen years into my law practice, I noticed that despite being trained to be a counselor with skills to advocate on behalf of others, I could see that the legal workplace made it hard to hold difficult conversations with colleagues about critical topics such as well-being, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), and leadership development. It is interesting because as a lawyer, there are many uncomfortable topics you handle for clients, but you are trained to just not touch these topics in your own work environment. I realized I wanted to change this culture and show there is value in talking about DEI and burnout, among others.
We need to improve awareness of personal well-being and support healthier ways to optimize success. So, I took a huge leap—I left! I took a sabbatical -- a year off to help figure out my next step. I first trained as a yoga and mindfulness instructor because I felt like these were interests of mine. I learned in these trainings that there are principles in these teachings that could support high-performing individuals such as lawyers. My next step was training as a DEI specialist, a business development & executive coach, and a facilitator. These incredible experiences led me to realize I want to do more in this space to support high-performing individuals to engage in meaningful conversations. To ultimately show them that they can maintain top level careers while practicing in a healthy, authentic, and more conscious way.
Q: Tell me about what you do now?
RK: We support high-performing individuals at law firms and companies around the world in a range of ways. We facilitate dialogue to support people in having difficult conversations, surrounding well-being, DEI, leadership and business growth. We provide business development coaching, leadership training, workshops, courses and cohorts for companies and organizations who want to help their leaders be at their very best. We also coach people to take their careers, personal fulfillment, and overall awareness to the next level. And over the course of four short years, we gathered a talented team of 10 people who have coached and supported tens of thousands of high-performing individuals all over the country, impacting lives daily through our work. And that is an incredible feeling.
Q: How did the pandemic change this? Are people more open to accepting your services?
RK: It was challenging, but we found that connecting various virtual meeting platforms allows us a way to work with and support a lot of people every day. For example, I recently posted on social media about World Mental Health Day that resulted in many direct messages from lawyers and other high-performing individuals asking for recommendations to wellness resources. Ultimately, there are many people who don’t feel comfortable with their existing set of resources. Everyone has bad days, and I serve as a resource for people across a spectrum of challenges related to their professional experiences. It’s interesting, I see how service professionals are so focused on meeting the needs of others that they lose sight of what they need. They are so good at caring for others that we need to help them identify and meet their own needs. We often talk about “going big with ease” to help them create room for the possibilities.
Q: As a lawyer, you worked in both private practice and as an in-house lawyer. How did those experiences shape your current career?
RK: I have walked in their shoes. I was a highly successful lawyer, negotiating billion-dollar deals, growing a company, and managing a lot on my desk. I was also the high-performing individual who experienced burn out that resulted in a stress attack. I faced DEI challenges, and leadership challenges in my journey. My empathy for others facing these complexities and challenges is strong and I deeply care about these individuals and their impact on the world. I understand how these people drive growth, but also know life is challenging. I can speak with authority through my experiences, in a way that engenders trust in our work and services. I leaned on tools that worked for me, and I know that these tools can be valuable to others.
Q: How do you get attorneys to open up and get the most out of your time with them?
RK: This is our expertise—creating comfortable spaces to talk about what is difficult. I think the key is creating psychological safety in a way that allows people to be more vulnerable, something that is often missing in highly charged environments. I build trust, confidentiality and support that energizes people to connect and care for themselves and each other, and to just achieve at a higher level while being healthy and fulfilled.
Q: If you could give any piece of advice to young attorneys as they develop their practices and careers, what would it be?
RK: Pay attention to yourself. Build self-awareness. In a service industry like the legal practice, individuals can get deeply caught up in the need for others. In fact, we become experts at it. What happens, then, over time, is that we forget to meet our own needs in service of others. Pay attention in your career to what gives you energy. Pay attention to what drains your energy. Pay attention to how your style of work aligns with, but also differs from those around you. Build self-awareness so that you are constantly attuning your practice to meet both your clients’ and your own needs. It will help move you towards a practice of greater fulfillment, and ensure client success.