Meet Cynthia Bast who is a true trailblazer. She has built her own law practice in the area of affordable housing, helping many -- while still making time to teach her family to "be excellent to each other."

Fairygodboss of the Week: Cynthia Bast
Partner, Head of Affordable Housing and Community Development Section
Locke Lord LLP
Austin, TX

FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
CB: I began my career as a corporate securities lawyer. Just a few months in, I was assigned to work on a private placement transaction for the creation of an investment fund that would acquire interests in affordable housing properties. This particular method of financing affordable housing was relatively new, and I recognized an opportunity to meet a need and fill a niche, while serving a greater good. Over the course of a few years, I shifted my practice to that of a full-time affordable housing lawyer. I was fortunate to have the support of my firm in building this specialized area. Today, we have multiple attorneys, across various states, who work on affordable housing finance and regulatory matters.  

FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
CB: Every time I get to visit one of the developments that our team has worked on; every time I meet a resident being helped by the availability of affordable housing, I am both proud and humbled that we are helping to make a difference.  

FGB: What is a challenge that you’ve faced and overcome?
CB: Every day presents some sort of challenge, big or little. I think the biggest challenge in my professional career has been building a practice from scratch. Most young lawyers in large law firms such as mine come in to be part of an existing practice. They learn both the substance of serving the clients and the business of running a practice from the senior lawyers who mentor them. When I decided to pursue an affordable housing practice, I did not have all the benefits of watching those who had walked the path before. So I got as much help as I could from senior attorneys in other practice areas and forged ahead.

Lightning Round:

FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
CB: My most important jobs are wife, mother, and daughter. So I am often attending performances and athletic contests for my two teen-aged daughters. As a family, we enjoy watching almost anything with a score, particularly baseball. We also enjoy the arts.

FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
CB: I would likely choose a musician who would be a delightful dinner companion and then play/sing for us after dinner. Maybe Stevie Wonder.  Or Yo-Yo Ma.  Eva Cassidy.  The playlist goes on . . . .

FGB: What is your karaoke song?
CB: I have sung in choir but have never done karaoke. Not even late at night at our Firm partner retreats!  

FGB: What is your favorite movie?
CB: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: The Bast family tries to live by the mantra "be excellent to each other." Also, A League of Their Own: Can't beat Jimmy Dugan's line:  "The hard is what makes it great."

FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
CB: Perhaps an old-fashioned set of encyclopedias or an Oxford English Dictionary, so that there could always be something new to learn.

FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
CB: I do love Kate Spade purses when they are on sale. If we won the lottery, I would buy some land and build my husband a championship croquet court.

FGB: Who is your Fairygodboss?
CB: My very first boss, Nancy Sies, was the executive director of the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra. This was in the mid-80s. She was tough and smart and professional and was able to relate to such a wide variety of constituents, from musicians to high-wealth donors. During my years at TPO, I worked with secretarial duties, accounts payable, and ticket management.  Nancy was willing to give a teen-aged girl an opportunity to learn and try different things, which I greatly appreciated.

When I arrived at Locke Lord, Harriet Miers was part of our executive team and served as our managing partner.  Harriet was a trailblazer for women in law, serving as the "first woman" in many different roles. As a young lawyer, Harriet treated me with the same kindness as she did the senior partners, making me feel welcome and valued. She supported me in my desire to build the affordable housing practice. Harriet is a wonderful role model for a servant leader with lasting influence.

FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share?
CB: One of my favorite women of all time once said this about her job as the head of a private school:  "I don't work here. I serve here. Because I serve here, I do everything differently." By approaching my career with a servant's heart, I feel I give the best I can possibly offer to my law firm, my co-workers, and my clients.  


Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? 
Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.