What is your story? Or in other words, what made you your awesome self you are today?
I was a pre-law major in my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly got sidetracked by my interest in advertising and marketing. Following graduation, I worked for more than 20 years as a media planner and buyer at several advertising agencies in Chicago, then as a marketing director at retail and consumer services companies in Arizona. While I loved negotiating deals and managing the execution of national marketing programs, I felt there was more for me to accomplish. I wanted to make a true impact in my community and to do that, I needed to totally change my focus.
When I was 46, I entered law school and graduated two years later, as valedictorian. From my corporate experience, I knew I wanted to focus on business and corporate law. I had seen first-hand how important a solid business contract was, and I understood the potential ramifications of not having that contract when a dispute arose. Business is all about relationships – with business partners, with customers, with employees – and it’s my goal to help clients protect their business when they begin new relationships.
I think what makes me different is that I understand the business challenges my clients face because I spent so many years in their shoes, in the corporate world. I understand the financial and cash-flow issues, the employment and personnel challenges, and the stress of managing multiple aspects of a business simultaneously. That allows me to look at my clients’ issues from a unique perspective and to help them understand both the legal and business implications of their decisions.
What message do you like to promote?
I believe that all business owners have a zone of genius – the one, two, or three things they do better than anyone else that will lead to the success of their company. But we can’t do everything by ourselves. By allowing others, who have different zones of genius, to help, we can put our energy into building or transforming our business into exactly what we want.
Every business owner deserves to feel confident that her company’s foundation is solid. This includes ensuring that the company’s business entity type is appropriate, that there are comprehensive understandings between partners, and that she has legal, financial, accounting, and insurance protections in place. Only then can she focus on her zone of genius, rather than using her time and energy inefficiently in areas that are not naturally comfortable.
When I meet with potential clients, I encourage them to believe in their talents and to not feel, as women so often do, that they have to be competent in every aspect of their business. I encourage them to ask for help when it’s needed, and to accept help that’s offered.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
Understanding the laws that affect us personally and in our business is so important. But laws change frequently, either by the passage of a new or amended statute or by virtue of a judicial decision – either at the federal, state, county, or municipal level. What we all took for granted at one point may no longer be applicable or enforceable.
Women are empowered as individuals and as business owners when they know their legal rights. I feel privileged to have the knowledge and education to help with this. My first meeting with a client is to discuss the specifics of their business and to determine what unique legal risks they face. Then can I advise on the best course of action to either resolve an existing dispute or to put protections into place to minimize their risk of future disputes.
I believe that the best contracts are the ones that everyone understands, so in the documents I draft and in the conversations I have, I speak in plain English, not legalese. I also believe that contracts and agreements should be no longer than necessary to accomplish the goal. How can a business owner feel empowered if she is scared of her contracts and doesn’t understand what her attorney says? I hope my approach convinces some women to seek legal counsel before a situation becomes critical. I don’t want to be a necessary evil – I want to be a valued partner.
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to?
I was a working mom from the time each of my daughters was 4 months old. I struggled with the decision to put them in daycare, even as I knew it was the right thing for our family and for me personally. At the same time, I also made the decision that I would limit my non-family activities so I could be as involved with their lives as possible when I was not at work. For many years, my social life revolved around their play dates, then around their sports and school activities. I got lucky to find so many other amazing moms doing the same thing!
The girls were teenagers when I was in law school, so they were able to understand that there were times I just could not put them first. I’ve been blessed with children (and a husband) who would frequently let me know how proud they were of me, even as I was telling them they would have to wait.
Clearly there’s no one-size-fits-all answer about being a working mom or not. But I truly believe that my girls flourished as toddlers from the pre-school education they received and the daily interaction they had with other children and adults. I second-guessed myself often but took my cues from the girls who seemed oblivious to this dilemma and only knew that their mom worked.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I feel tremendous satisfaction when a client tells me that the work I’ve done or the counsel I’ve given them has lifted a weight off their shoulders. I know that many people have never spoken with an attorney before and they may be well-aware of the many negative stereotypes about us. It creates a stressful situation from the start. I want my clients to know, and to truly feel that I have their back and will attempt to resolve their situation as quickly and inexpensively as I can. Having a client tell me that working with me was a pleasure is what makes me know I’ve made the right decisions.
If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?
Don’t feel guilty for following your own dreams. Working hard to make your dreams a reality is the best example you can set, and your family will be proud of you.