Communication and my leadership crush on Kat Cole


I have a leadership crush an Kat Cole and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Sure, I’m old enough to be her much older sister, or aunt, but I love following her on Facebook (we’re friends … not that she’s ever commented on any of my witty posts) and first connections on LinkedIn. I use her as an example when I am mentoring young men and women, especially when it comes to just saying yes.  And I love reading anything she writes, and most things that are written about her.

I was first introduced to Kat when she was the keynote speaker at the 2014 LMA annual conference. I wish there was a link to her presentation, needless to say, Catherine and Gina were mesmerized.

Catherine MacDonagh (L) and Gina Rubel (R)
(I have leadership crushes on them too)

I need to find out who Kat’s presentation coach is because this woman can communicate, and communicate well.

Which brings me to the 12 Communication Habits Made This Former Hooters Hostess a Billion Dollar Brand President at 32. Read the article for the full list, examples, and details, but here are the ones I wanted to highlight:

Focus on trust first, then results.

If there is no trust, there is no foundation. NOTHING will ever take place, there will be no movement, there will be no change. Every leadership book I have read emphasizes this fact: There is no leadership without trust.

Go to the front lines!

Leaders cannot hide. They need to walk the halls. They need to meet with all members of the team. They need to know names. They need to build relationships. They need to ask questions, and get honest responses … which they cannot do if there is no trust.

Assume positive intent.

Written on the glass partition between me and my team is written “Assume Right Motives.” If we are coming from a position of trust, then we have to assume positive intents and right motives. That doesn’t mean we live in a Pollyanna state of mind, or we don’t question, but we cannot begin and live our days questioning and peering over our shoulders. Comes back to … you got it. Trust.

Speak the truth.

This is about giving honest performance feedback. Ugh. It’s really tough. I don’t want to criticize anyone, but if we need to talk about something, we need to talk about it. I publicly praise and privately criticize, which is hard sometimes when my office has a HUGE glass window. So those talks take place when someone’s at lunch, or hasn’t arrived yet, or has left for the day. I also found DeborahTannen’s Talking from 9 to 5 Women and Men at Work  a must read communication book for women in the workforce.

I could provide feedback of each of the 12 communication habits Kat talks about in this piece, but then you wouldn’t read it and come to your own conclusions.

So share your thoughts below in the comments. Which communication point’s truth spoke to you and why?

Photo Credit: FOCUS Brands

Leadership Revisited

I have written several times about my participation in the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute last year. The class of 2014 will have a reunion later this week, and yes, I have homework.

One of our assignments is to reflect on our last year’s final homework assignment — how are we going to pay forward what we had learned — and to provide an update on how we’re doing with that. No generalities are allowed. We need to dig deep, and provide details.

As I flipped open to last year’s homework, I realized that I was in a different place. As in jobs. At the time of our last session, my firm had announced, yet had not closed, a merger with an AmLaw 200 firm, and my answers were all based on that scenario.

The three learning elements that I was committed to pay forward were: Continue reading

Glad to see sexism is alive and well in law firms. Not.


Charlotte Proudman, you are my new hero. Good for you for calling out the Big Law partner who thought “complimenting” you on your photo was a great way to begin a conversation:

Baby Boomers take note. Millennial women will not put up with comments like this. They have been raised to believe that they are equal in every way to the “adults” in their lives. And they have no problems speaking up and out.

If the partner in question had just bothered to look at Ms. Proudman’s Twitter profile, he would have been well warned to keep his comments to himself:

Charlotte Proudman

When I was coming up in the working world, pre-Anita Hill, GenX and Boomer women did not have the terminology (sexual harassment), the tools (HR departments), and the laws (thank you, very much) to aid us when faced with a man 20+ years our age making rude comments, suggestions, and threats.

When we spoke up we were fired. And that was that.

Having a trailing edge Millennial daughter, I can honestly say, “Wow” and “Look out.”

Well educated gentlemen, the rules have changed. Just talk to any teen-aged girl about “rape culture” and you will be schooled in ways that will make your BS, MBA, JD, PhD certificates not worthy of the frames that hang them on the walls of your offices.

And if you think women like me are blowing this out of proportion, and are just too sensitive or serious, just take a look at the anonymous comments (here and here) from LAWYERS attacking Ms. Proudman for being a “feminist” and for her speaking out about the incident and “shaming” the partner in question.

This is nothing more than a “blame — or shame — the victim” mentality (she shouldn’t post a picture if she doesn’t want comments) that is beyond disturbing. My personal favorite from “Bobby”:


We have come so far, yet really, we haven’t. For any male lawyer who is wondering why Ms. Proudman is so offended by having her photo praised as “stunning,” please walk down the hall and ask any woman over 40 about the first time she was sexually harassed in the work place.

For me, I was 23-years old working at a restaurant to help pay my way through college. Players from the local professional football team would come in and hang out at our bar after training practice.

One Friday night, with a full station of tables working, my manager told me that “Mr. NFL player” at the bar would like me to join him. I was confused, as I was “working.” My manager told me not to worry about my tables, that he thought it was a very good idea for me to go join the player. I told him no. I wasn’t raised that way and went about my work.

I was fired that week.

That was my first story, but not my last.

And if you’re thinking, “But that was in 1988; that doesn’t happen any more.” Um, yes it does.

I was just recanting a story of the senior partner, after a major client meeting, leaning over in the limousine and kissing the associate. She did not return to the firm. He did. That did occur in this millennium.

While I am sure the big law partner does not need any more shaming (the British tabloids have picked up the story), the lessons obviously still need to be learned.

If we truly want diversity, and women in leadership roles in law firms, then we need to be seen and treated, in public and private, as the equal professionals we are.

Before going to law school, read this.

I would hope that before you decide to take on an average of $88,000 – $127,000 in debt you would do your due diligence. You are, after all, about to enroll yourself or your child in law school.

According to Steven J. Harper, in a recent New York Times Op Ed, Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs:

Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones. Since 2006 alone, law student debt has surged at inflation-adjusted rates of 25 percent for private schools and 34 percent for public schools.

There are so many dirty little secrets that need to be exposed before anyone can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to gamble with law school. And, yes, I am very deliberate to use the word gamble. And informed.  Continue reading

We’re in the BUSINESS of law, dammit. #BizOfLaw


My post from the weekend, Rambling thoughts from 30,000 feet in the air, is about the BUSINESS of law (moving law firms from good to great; the metrics we’re measuring for success).

Tim Corcoran‘s latest post, Working Smarter, Not Harder, is about the BUSINESS of law (h/t for the Dilbert).

Kevin O’Keefe, Nancy Myrland, Gina Rubel (and colleagues), Ed PollSteven Harper, Greg Lambert (and colleagues), Cheryl Bame, Cordell Parvin, Patrick Lamb, Jonathan Fitzgarrald, Adrian Lurssen, Adrian Dayton, and one of my absolute favs Ed Reeser — and the list can go on and on and on — are ALL talking, writing and/or blogging about the BUSINESS of law. My apologies for not listing everyone. Check out my Twitter lists for more names to follow, and please suggest more in the comments below. 

As we continue to elevate the conversation of the business of law, I would suggest that we all create a “Business of Law” tag or category on our blogs, if we haven’t done so already; and that we use the same hashtag (#bizoflaw) on Twitter.

LinkedIn, unfortunately, does not recognize the “Business of Law” as a tag for our posts, but if we all create an “skill endorsement” of “Business of Law” and add it to our headlines, then perhaps we can create a movement. And, please, endorse me for “Business of Law” and “Leadership” on LinkedIn. I just added both to my skills list.

What it comes down to is that we are all talking to one another on a weekly or daily basis about the BUSINESS of law, and we all basically agree with our messages. We need to strategically broaden this conversation to more and more people (attorneys in key leadership positions, other c-level legal professionals, influencers — conference organizers and the legal media) who SHOULD be recognizing, listening, participating, and joining us in this conversation.

So who is with me? #bizoflaw #leadership #lawyers #lmamkt

Rambling thoughts from 30,000 feet in the air

So here I sit, on the aisle seat in row 8, headed off to a warm, tropical destination, and I’m wondering, “How do I move my firm from good to great?”

There are so many different places in Jim CollinsGood to Great where I can pause and write a blog post. Yes, the book is dated (Circuit City is one of the “great” companies), but the message is evergreen.

I’m in the Hedgehog Concept chapter and I’m looking at the notes I am taking:

  • What can we be #1 in?
  • What are we passionate about?
  • How are we measuring success?

The answers to one and two are proprietary for any of us. But when it comes to measuring success, most law firms are still measuring year-end success by PPEP and driving that point value up, which, don’t get me wrong, is incredibly important. Let’s face it. We all want to make good money, better money, and more money. But are we measuring it by the right metric? Continue reading

Advice to a friend: It’s time to let go and break up

I have been listening to two friends for a while now with relationships ending. It’s sad. The attempts to keep a dying relationship alive. The things they are doing to deny that it’s really over. The last attempts they make to try and recapture what was there in the beginning. The knowing it’s time to let go and move on, but then they don’t. How they both bounced back into the relationship with a shallow promise or self-imposed idea that things would be different, only to be disappointed when that didn’t last long.

One friend is breaking up with a girlfriend. The other with their law firm.

So here’s my advice to them both: Continue reading

What do Martindale-Hubbell, Debbie Harry and Legal Marketing have in common?


Yesterday was Debbie Harry’s 70th birthday. I’m not sure if this made me feel really old (I had Parallel Lines on 8-track, you can now listen to the whole album on YouTube), or feeling young, as I am still 20 years younger than her. Either way, I was sitting at lunch yesterday chatting about Ms. Harry’s birthday, and I noticed that an associate (and a senior associate at that) had a blank look on his face and then he said: “I have no idea who Debbie Harry is.”


Debbie Harry. Lead singer for Blondie. Former Playboy Playmate. Queen of CBGB and Studio 54. Debbie Harry, come on! What next? The Sex Pistols selling out to Visa??

To answer my question, “What do Debbie Harry and Martindale-Hubbell have in common?” easy peasy: People under a certain age have no idea who or what they are. And, if they do have a slight impression of who or what they are, they don’t understand or appreciate the relevance. Continue reading

Levels of Hell for This ENTJ

test patternIt’s me. You do not need adjust your settings. My posts haven’t fallen through the cracks. You have not inadvertently unsubscribed yourself from this blog and all my wit and insights. I’ve been busy. The kind of busy where my laundry doesn’t get done, and quality time with the Sports Dude is listening to the radio show he produces.

I am starting to come out of it … perhaps it’s the summer lull that comes with everyone else taking a vacation. It could be that I’m just burning out waiting for my vacation and have returned to my old and faithful keyboard for comfort and inspiration. Either way, hi there. It’s been too long.

I was inspired this morning to write a brilliant post after reading Tim Corcoran’s What’s your RSTLNE? I was starting to research different ways legal marketers can help lawyers think about differentiating themselves, and …


However, in my case it was the The Definition Of Hell For Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type. I’m an ENTJ and this fits me perfectly:

ENTJ – Somebody is wrong, and they’re directing a large group of people! You can’t do anything about it and will have to obey whatever inefficient policies they decide to implement.

Continue reading

What’s it like to fill Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s shoes? Lessons from my first 90 days.


Jonathan Fitzgarrald and me headed to Phoenix LMA

I get asked this question a lot these days, “What’s it like to fill Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s shoes?”

I just reply back honestly, “I don’t know. I brought my own.”

“Filling the shoes,” so to speak, of another person is challenging. Filling the shoes of half your dog & pony show can be daunting.

Like myself prior to joining this firm, Jonathan was in his position for nearly eight years. He had seen through a culture change and shift. He saw through the passing of the baton from one generation of law firm leaders to the next. He was witness as the old guard of rainmakers retired, and the new guard took root. The firm Jonathan left is much different than the firm he joined.

And I am now having my own unique experience. I will get to witness the firm I joined on February 23, 2015, evolve into something different. I will hopefully have the ability to influence and help shape things where I can. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

So what is this post about? I suppose my first 90 days (yes, it’s been 90 days), the things that I have noticed, and things that I would share with anyone walking into a new position. Continue reading