Wonder Woman in Business — and Politics — Joni Wickham

Joni Wickham.png

Chief of Staff, Kansas City

Joni Wickham

Joni is all about grit, grace, and getting things done. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Joni and her indisputable southern accent arrived in Kansas City almost 10 years ago after leading initiatives within state and federal government as well as advocacy organizations. In her eight years with the mayor’s office—the majority of them spent as Chief of Staff—Joni has proven herself as an accomplished political strategist, communications expert, and organizational leader. She directed public policy initiatives, communications tactics, and administrative decision-making during her tenure, all while promoting women’s leadership and empowerment issues. An artful negotiator, Joni helped steer Sly’s major development projects in Kansas City while raising the city’s profile at the national and international levels. Her front-row seat at City Hall shed light on how local government is still very much a man’s world, and this motivated her to create a first-of-its-kind women’s empowerment initiative, which has been implemented in several major cities.

Prior to her time at city hall, Joni worked with the American Federation of Teachers, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and in the office of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. While a student at Meredith College, where Joni received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies, she studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. An accomplished alumnus of University of Missouri where she earned her Masters of Arts in Political Science, Joni was the recipient of the 2019 University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs Mel Carnahan Public Service Award.  


“New study shows lack of women in local government.”

Connect with Joni Wickham:






Wonder Women in Business_June 23.png

Wonder Woman in Business -- and Wine -- Christine Clair of Willamette Valley Vineyards

Christine Collier Winery Director photo credit CWK Photography 2.jpg

Christine Clair, Winery Director

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Christine's love for Oregon wine began at an early age looking up at Willamette Valley Vineyards out the window of her room as the vineyard and winery took shape on the slope of the Salem hills. Christine has always been a familiar face at the winery; as a young girl she would sell her friendship bracelets in the tasting room and run through the vine rows as training for her school’s soccer team.

Christine worked at the winery as a college intern and started making wine while she was a senior to launch her own brand based in Southern Oregon. She also worked as the Director of Troon Vineyard, which earned the accolade Top 10 Hottest Small Brands by Wine Business Monthly under her leadership.

Her life-long connection and passion to fulfill the founders' dream of making world-class Pinot Noir led her back to the winery where she now leads winemaking and vineyard operations, as well as direct sales and marketing. She is training to replace the Founder/CEO upon his retirement.

Christine's effort to establish a national presence for the winery's Pinot Noir was featured in the article "America's Best Value Pinot Noirs" by Wine Enthusiast (November, 2015).

Christine was also honored with Portland Business Journal's 2017 Forty Under 40 Award.

In 2015, Christine co-founded a new company division, Oregon Estate Vineyards, with Jim Bernau, dedicated to building boutique wineries on some of Oregon's most intriguing vineyard sites to continue to create and share the Oregon wine story. The wineries include Elton in the Eola-Amity Hills focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pambrun in the Walla Walla Valley with Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-based varietals, Maison Bleue in the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater with Syrah and Rhone-based varietals and Bernau Estate in the Dundee Hills focused on producing méthode champenoise sparkling wine from biodynamically-grown grapes.

In 2018, Christine helped coordinate the Oregon Solidarity wines to help Southern Oregon winegrowers who had their contracts canceled just days before harvest. We team up with other Oregon wineries to collaboratively make and sell the wines with the net proceeds benefiting the  Rogue Valley Vintners to support vineyards in the region.

Christine is a graduate of Oregon State University and holds numerous wine certifications from the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust. 

WVV grapes.png

Christine Clair, Winery Director

My conversation with Christine was quite robust and all that was missing was a goblet of the good grape in hand. You too will certainly enjoy the conversation we had in the podcast below:

Christine Clair, Winery Director

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Contact Christine


LinkedIn: in/christine-collier-clair-5b378b15

Wonder Women in Business April 2019.png

What a Dynamic Wonder Woman in Business, Julie Stapel of Morgan Lewis in Chicago!

Stapel Headshot.jpg

Julie Stapel

Employee Benefits Attorney Extraordinaire

About Julie…

Julie helps clients negotiate investment-related agreements of virtually every type, including investment management, trust, securities lending and transition management agreements, as well as many different types of trading agreements. She represents employee benefit plan investors in all types of private fund investments, negotiating fund documentation and side letters to address ERISA and other risk management issues. She also counsels financial services and investment management clients on ERISA compliance. 

Co-leader of the firm’s Fiduciary Duty Task Force, Julie also advises on fiduciary governance, including the formation and operation of benefit plan fiduciary committees.

She works with plan fiduciaries to implement ERISA compliance best practices and manage fiduciary risks. She also helps clients remain in compliance with ERISA’s ever-changing reporting and disclosure obligations.

Julie speaks frequently on ERISA-related topics. She has spoken before the Committee on the Investment of Employee Benefit Assets (CIEBA), the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), the John Marshall School of Law, and at various events sponsored by Pension and Investments magazine. In addition to these speaking engagements, she regularly addresses client fiduciary committees and investment staff, performing fiduciary training and presenting updates on changes in the law. She is also president of the Chicago Chapter of Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (WEB).

Prior to joining Morgan Lewis, she was a partner in the employee benefits and executive compensation departments of an international law firm, resident in Chicago. Before that, she served as general counsel to a registered investment adviser, gaining experience with ERISA and its impact on investment managers and collective investment funds.

For the Fun Part…

Americans began listening to game shows on the radio and were immediately hooked on the excitement and thrill of competition. As television came of age in the 1940s and ’50s, game shows made a natural transition to the new medium. There’s something about watching contestants match wits onscreen: We love to play along, shouting answers at the television.

“We play games at home, we play games at parties, we go to clubs and play games. Americans love games,” says Bob Barker, host of the long-running “The Price Is Right.” Some game shows were edgy, such as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” or they could be educational, such as “Jeopardy.”

Having fun with celebrities became a staple for Julie Stapel. She is bright, dynamic, witty, and has a lot of grit. Just as she tells stories of her lifelong love of game shows, I can bet the celebrities tell stories of Julie Stapel.

Here is her latest great moment on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”?

Julie Stapel

Contact Julie…

Julie K. Stapel
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
77 West Wacker Drive, Sixth Floor | Chicago, IL 60601
Direct: +1.312.324.1113 | Main: +1.312.324.1000 | Fax: +1.312.324.1001 |

Connect with Julie…





A Dang Great Podcast with the Amazing Judy Dang

Judy Dang and I had the most moving conversation. I was literally moved to tears. I have never actually teared up on a podcast but I did on this one. She is an amazing example of owning your story, living through the power of vulnerability and thriving as a successful business woman, authentically.

With clients across the US, Judy is a corporate productivity trainer and coach whose mission is to help professionals work smarter, not harder. Clients who work with Judy achieve their goals faster because she helps them clarify their most meaningful goals and creates clear steps to get there. She's also their accountability partner and keeps them on track to achieve what they thought was nearly impossible.

Relevant Videos

Workshop intro:


Sample talk:


Judy Dang, Principal

Judy Dang, Principal

Contact Judy Dang



Online scheduling calendar:

Phone: 415.933.8676


Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom — A Great Time Was Had By All!

Deborah Farone of Farone Advisors presents at Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom, Dec. 13, 2018.

Deborah Farone of Farone Advisors presents at Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom, Dec. 13, 2018.

Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom Inaugural Event

What an exciting week this has been. The highlights of my week included breakfast at the beautiful Lowe’s hotel with the more beautiful, Deborah Farone. We enjoyed conversation, connection, laughter and genuine camaraderie as we talked of the Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom events, life in legal marketing, people we know, love and trust, issues women face in the industry and in life, in general — good and bad. She talked about her book, due out next month, “Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing,” which resulted from more than 60 interviews with law firm chairs, CMOs, general counsel and other leading innovators in the US and in Europe. We shared laughs and pictures of our younger selves and our handsome husbands — who actually look alike. It was among the best parts of my week, I will say.

Deborah Farone has authored numerous articles and white papers and speaks regularly on the topic of professional services management and branding. Deborah’s new book is titled,   “Best Practices: Business Development and Marketing for Law Firms”   published by PLI Books, and includes the perspectives of law firm leaders, GCs, CMOs and other area experts on topics related to increasing revenue through business development techniques.

Deborah Farone has authored numerous articles and white papers and speaks regularly on the topic of professional services management and branding. Deborah’s new book is titled, “Best Practices: Business Development and Marketing for Law Firms” published by PLI Books, and includes the perspectives of law firm leaders, GCs, CMOs and other area experts on topics related to increasing revenue through business development techniques.

Another highlight was picking up my genius women in business friends for life, Linda Hazelton, Kimberly Rice and Pamela Cone from the San Francisco International Airport. Those women certainly proved to be my sisters in this, helping me to haul equipment and furniture, set up the space, track attendees and arrange what would ultimately be a near-perfect event — in my opinion. I believe others who spoke and attended may share these sentiments, as well.

On the evening of December 13, 2028, we have successfully inaugurated, Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom and a great time was had by all. The feedback we received was wonderful and people did not want the evening to end. We featured the fabulous Deborah Farone as our speaker and had the wonderful Laraine McKinnon to introduce Deborah. Here is a look at what you missed if you could not attend:

At about 5:20 PM, people started trickling in the San Francisco Wine School (in South San Francisco), right across the street from the two most beautiful buildings in the City, City Hall and the Grand Avenue Library. Both are Carnegie buildings on the historical register and afford visitors to the city a sense of history and charm all at once.

South San Francisco City Hall as seen from the San Francisco Wine School.  Artwork by Melissa Mahoney.

South San Francisco City Hall as seen from the San Francisco Wine School.

Artwork by Melissa Mahoney.

Yours truly stood and thanked Kristin Campbell, the COO/CFO of the San Francisco Wine School for hosting us at her beautiful facility with its magnificent arched windows and high ceilings. Kristin said a few words about the wine school and how it got started. Founded in 2011, the San Francisco Wine School was a new kind of school—one that allowed students to achieve the highest level of wine certification through an accessible, modular path of study. This modular path allows each student to create a unique educational experience to meet their goals. The San Francisco Wine School opens up the world of wine to serious wine students everywhere. They help people of all levels break into the wine industry, advance their careers, or simply pursue their passions. Founded by Master Sommelier David Glancy, they are the largest wine school in the country offering the most thorough approach to wine study.

I mentioned friend and artist Melissa Mahoney of Melissa’s latest painting series is titled, “Vortices,” a few of which were on display at the wine school. She says Vortices draw all that surround them into their powerful currents. She's interested in these masses of energy and how they can contain and then transfer their energy. Melissa believes — and I do too — in Ikigai. According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai—a reason for living. And according to the residents of the Japanese village with the world’s longest-living people, finding it is the key to a happier and longer life. Having a strong sense of ikigai—the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect—means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire (in fact there’s no word in Japanese that means to retire in the sense it does in English): They remain active and work at what they enjoy, because they’ve found a real purpose in life—the happiness of always being busy. 

I then introduced the amazing Laraine McKinnon. Laraine is an advisor to Emtrain, and an unconscious bias expert. Laraine is a passionate supporter of diversity in the workplace; she focuses on blending behavioral science (managing unconscious bias, organizational behavior), big data and practical implementations to transform workplace cultures. Laraine has led high-performance customer success and sales teams at BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors, and founded strategic consulting firm LMC17.

Laraine McKinnon of Emtrain

Laraine McKinnon of Emtrain

Laraine introduced her role in The Women’s CLUB of Silicon Valley and how excited she is to welcome other CLUB members to the event. There were many — and for that I am truly grateful. These women in business drove in from Palo Alto where the CLUB meets and we host our mentoring circle monthly.

Laraine introduced Deborah Farone who has had the unique opportunity to play a role in developing the best practices in professional services marketing by working with the most respected and demanding professionals in the world.

Deborah Farone of Farone Advisors, LLC

Deborah Farone of Farone Advisors, LLC

Over the past two decades, Deborah has carved out a niche by distinguishing herself as the chief marketing officer of two of the country’s most successful law firms and the founder of both firms' business development and communications departments. But before entering into the legal marketing profession, she sharpened her communications and business development skills by working at a global management consulting firm. When she applied for her first position out of college, she didn’t take no for an answer when applying to the PR firm she had her eye set on for her first job. After receiving numerous letters stating the firm was not hiring, the third letter she submitted to the firm along with a press kit demonstrating her experience did the trick.  She was hired as a coordinator in the firm’s new business department. 

Most recently, Deborah was the CMO at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  On the business development side, she worked with colleagues to create a business and industry intelligence unit to help generate business opportunities, craft practice development plans and prepare partners for all forms of presentations.  She also spent a large part of each day working with individual lawyers on their own business development plans. On the communications side, she dealt with crisis communications, as well as strategic public relations, social media, the Firm’s website and all marketing communications.  Prior to joining Cravath, she was the chief marketing officer at Debevoise & Plimpton. Working with professionals at these extraordinary firms, with their talented lawyers and staff, and focusing on innovative practices, has allowed her rare experience into how to craft effective marketing programs geared toward growing business.

Deborah joined Debevoise & Plimpton from Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson), where she coordinated national press relations and marketing efforts. Prior to joining Towers, she worked at Ketchum Communications (now Ketchum, Inc.). While she started in the new business department at Ketchum, she was quickly promoted to work on accounts for both investor and public relations clients.  Her clients included publicly-held and private companies in the financial, professional services and consumer product sectors.

Part of marketing involves educating and coaching and Deborah has enjoyed doing this in the academic arena as well as professionally. She has served as an adjunct Assistant Professor on the faculty of New York University and has taught several courses, including “Effective Marketing and Public Relations for Professional Service Companies” and “Marketing and Public Relations for Law Firms,” the first courses of their kind offered by a major university.  

Deborah is a founder of the CMO and CIO Roundtable, an invitation-only group of the leading law firms that meets annually to discuss best practices and stay abreast of trends in the legal profession and in marketing.  She is a past President of the Legal Marketing Association’s New York Chapter and past Chair of the New York City Bar Association's inaugural marketing communications committee. She is also a charter member of the Luxury Marketing Council and a member of Ellevate.

Deborah serves as an Advisor to the Chair of the Lawyers for the Library Committee of The New York Public Library. She has also served as an appointed member of the International Trademark Association’s public relations task force, as Chair of the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s “Meet the Media” committee and an officer of PRSA’s professional service committee. Deborah also serves as an Advisor to the Chair of the Lawyers for the Library Committee of The New York Public Library.  

As a recent recipient of the Legal Marketing Association's Legacy Award, in recognition of making a distinguishable mark on the profession as a whole, Deborah feels strongly about helping others achieve their success. She has been honored at the YWCA’s Women Leader Luncheon and serves as a member of the organization’s Academy of Women Leaders. For many years, Deborah had served on the Board of Directors of The Girl Scouts Council of Greater New York.  

We were all delighted to hear Deborah speak on lessons learned in childhood that carried her through to current-day successes. She makes it clear that we write our own story. As Susan Kostal wrote, “Heard Deborah Farone last night at Susan C. Freeman's Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom. My quick takeaway: one's professional development is contingent upon one's continued personal development. Such great advice, with numerous actionable examples.”

Deborah Farone’s talk was captivating.

Deborah Farone’s talk was captivating.

While Deborah’s talks generally focus on the business issues that face professional service firms, this talk was much more personal in nature.  She began by asking us to think back to when we were children close our eyes for a moment and imagine it.  Once we opened them, Deborah continued to walk us through a wonderfully colorful and meaningful talk full of stories and life lessons, leaving us with actionable tools that, if used, would change our lives for the better. She encouraged us to think about life in terms of writing our own stories and finishing our own paths.  She described four tools to help get us there, as well as useful findings and encouragement:

Tool one:

Accept yourself, knowing you have strengths and weaknesses, and that if you want, you can master the weaknesses and accomplish great things.

Tool two:

Know in your heart of hearts, even with the limitations, you should not to settle. You can create the life you deserve.

Tool Three:

Use the art of planning to write your plans and place them into small, manageable steps.

Tool Four:

Treat yourself well and take care of the three Bs – Body, Being and Brain.

Deborah’s words were so very well received. She captivated us with advice, humility and humor. And yes, she is really funny! It was such a welcome message. She is a gifted storyteller. We, in that room — and across this country — need to hear and to heed her words of wisdom.

The Realities for Women in Business in the United States

For years, we women have kept our heads down and played by the rules. We’ve been certain that with enough hard work, our natural talents would be recognized and rewarded. We’ve made undeniable progress. In the United States, women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do. We make up half the workforce, and we are closing the gap in middle management. Half a dozen global studies have found that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability. Our competence has never been more obvious. Those who closely follow society’s shifting values see the world moving in a female direction.

And yet, as we’ve worked, ever diligent, the men around us have continued to get promoted faster and be paid more. Motherhood, especially, triggers assumptions that women are less competent and less committed to their careers. People often assume that women can’t be all-in at work -- and all-in as mothers as well. This assumption has a staggering impact on women’s careers. In one study women with children were 79 percent less likely to be hired, only half as likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards than identical women without children. Women GCs earn a staggering $125,000 less than their male counterparts.

The statistics are well known: at the top, especially, women are nearly absent, and our numbers are barely increasing. Half a century since women first forced open the boardroom doors, our career trajectories still look very different from men’s. 

Lead Daringly

In this blog, I share with you, the reader, this powerful excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt and I wonder how many of you have heard this excerpt from his speech, “Man in the Arena”? For those who haven’t, here it is and for those who have, I know you’ll love to read it again.  

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

First, I asked that the audience write down their #1 core value that they hold most sacred. There were pens and index cards at the tables. People wrote down the answers.

What are your core values?

What are your core values?

I asked them to choose a core value—a belief that is very important to them, that helps guide them, that gives them a feeling of purpose…where they might ask, “Is this who I am at my core”?Then I asked, “Do you translate this core value from an ideal to a behavior? If so, how? Think about a time when your behavior was a direct result of this core value.”

I shared the fact that for me, one of my core values is grit, which means: Courage, Moxie, Mettle, Spirit, Tenacity, and Perseverance, for a few examples.

One behavior that results from this core value is the courage to stand up and speak out on behalf of what I believe is good, fair and right. Those who follow me on social media know what I mean. When my behavior is aligned with my values, I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually connected with my Self and others. I asked that the audience discuss their core values and discover if there is another person there who shares that same value. I then asked that one volunteer from each table to offer to share their core value and what behaviors align and result from that core behavior.

I asked the audience, “What is a behavior that supports your #1 core value? What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value? Courageous women throughout the room stood to share their core values. One that struck me in particular that struck me was Judy Dang (CEO of Avid at Work) who shared about her mantra, “I am adequate to my life.” I love this. I too believe, “I am enough.”

I remarked that Loraine made an incredible contribution unknowingly when she shared about her work directly with key clients who are trying to create positive and productive environments where people can do their best work and be recognized for it. She is leading the way on tough workplace issues like sexual harassment and unconscious bias, helping resolve problems and change behaviors. Her behaviors are clearly aligned with her core values. This is quite meaningful.

If you behave in a way that is aligned with your core values, you are never silent about hard things. For example, do we have lessons to learn about gender? What about race? Absolutely. We have to think about factors like race, age, gender, class, sexual orientation.

We mustn’t talk about these issues. We must listen about them. As uncomfortable as that may be, to opt out of conversations about these issues is the epitome of privilege.

As Brene’ Brown says, “Silence is not brave leadership, and silence is not a component of brave cultures. A brave leader is not someone who is armed with all the answers. A brave leader is not someone who can facilitate a flawless discussion on hard topics. A brave leader is someone who says, ‘I see you. I hear you. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to keep listening and asking questions.’ We all have the capacity to do that. We all have the ability to foster empathy.”

As I facilitated the exercise mentioned above, Heather Morse called out about LinkedIn’s new capability allowing people nearby to connect through the mobile app by sharing with you (once enabled) who is nearby and simply connected on the spot. It was well received by all.

In an attempt to unplug and connect in a meaningful beyond what business cards and technology do for (or some might argue to) us, I would like you to consider this exercise:

If you were an attendee at the Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom kickoff event, I ask that you share your contact information with two other attendees you did not know before you arrived. I ask that the three of you meet for coffee, tea or lunch to learn more about each other, personally and professionally. 

You can ask 1) what it each trying to achieve in their business setting, 2) what is each trying to achieve in their personal lives, and 3) what referrals can they make to the two others and perhaps invite as guests to the next month’s Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom event. If you need guidance on great questions to ask, just email me at and I will help.

After your coffee, tea or lunch, I would like you to email me what you learned about the other people and whether there is any meaningful connection you have made where you would feel comfortable referring them to another person or other people unknown to them.

While there, I know that four of the women connected in such a meaningful way, business relationships have already resulted. I know that Deborah Farone has already been asked to speak again, this time in Chicago.

San Francisco Wine School, 415 Grand Avenue, South San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Wine School, 415 Grand Avenue, South San Francisco, CA

Later in the event, Master Sommelier David Glancy wowed the audience with a Champagne sabering (sabrage). Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions. The wielder slides the saber along the body of the bottle to break the top of the neck away, leaving the neck of the bottle open and ready to pour. David is one of only twelve people in the world to hold both the revered Master Sommelier diploma and a Certified Wine Educator credential. A certified French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, and Certified Specialist of Spirits, Glancy has earned the credential for every program he teaches, and more.

David Glancy educating us on the food and wine pairings.

David Glancy educating us on the food and wine pairings.

We then headed to the wine pairings and gourmet food for a little wine education. The audience truly enjoyed the wine pairings (and for those who do not drink alcohol, we had sparkling water in keeping with the “Bubbles” theme.) The menu included sparkling wines from around the world, caviar, lamb, duck, assorted cheeses and the ever-popular See’s Candies chocolates (headquartered and manufactured in South San Francisco). On the tables were remarkable floral arrangements by Flowers by Sonia.

Please join us throughout the year for this remarkable series of women who dare to lead with authenticity and vulnerability. The next event will be at the San Francisco Wine School on January 10, 2019 featuring Vivian Hood, CEO of Jaffe. 

For more information on the  Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom  2019 SPEAKER SERIES, visit:    Freeman Means Business “Events” page

For more information on the Bubbles, Bites & Bits of Wisdom 2019 SPEAKER SERIES, visit:

Freeman Means Business “Events” page

“Top Billing” for Women Lawyers

FOR MANY WOMEN, the word, “negotiation” summons up images of something formal and structured: world leaders trying to end a regional conflict, corporate boards agreeing to the details of a severance package with a departing CEO, someone in a procurement office working out the terms of a contract with a supplier, lawyers winning at all costs, in trial. They may also think of hardball tactics: such as those times when a lawyer feigns anger to intimidate the other side, snapping a briefcase shut and perhaps walking out of the meeting.

Many see negotiation as a form of combat, a competitive, often hostile interaction in which each side tries to beat the other or wear them down into submission. In TV movies, ruthless characters shake their fists and threaten their rivals. On the evening news, labor leaders and management representatives deliver ultimatums. Foreign diplomats sit silently, unmoving behind long tables. No wonder so many women avoid negotiating.

Everything about that type of win-lose bargaining seems unpleasant, and women are smart enough to know not to behave in this way with someone with whom we have an ongoing relationship. Fortunate for us, principled – rather than positional -- negotiation rarely takes place under such circumstances. It’s least effective when conducted as a battle or a contest, and in most cases zero-sum games can be avoided. Negotiation is not exclusive to lawyers, labor leaders and diplomats, and it’s not an advanced skill used only for business in the boardroom. The ability to engage in principled negotiation is not a gift we are born with or a rare talent. Put simply, negotiation is a tool that works to change the status quo when more than one decision maker is involved. Changing the status quo can mean relating to your current client that you now bill at $900/hour instead of $800/hour. Negotiating can even mean asking your managing partner for a transfer to a different office so you can follow your partner to his or her new job.

The minor negotiations involve the same steps as the major ones, and in all cases employing hardball, win-lose tactics are usually the worst way to get the results. The most successful negotiations result in both parties feeling good about the exchange. These negotiations are the ones where both parties reach agreements that benefit both sides without strong-arm tactics at play or raising their voices. Instead, both parties, start with finding common ground, ask a lot of questions, listen carefully, share information, and try to understand both points of view. They enjoy the challenge of finding ways to satisfy each other’s interests and try to weave a solution that leaves no one feeling angry or disappointed.

Taking this approach to negotiating is probably something you already do every day. You talk to your managing partner about promoting an associate to partner because she is great at asking powerful questions that reveal meaningful information then framing the narrative around it -- and the clients love that. You discuss with a client how to add value to the relationship through in-house training, sitting in on shareholder calls, offering CLEs, using technology that streamlines the legal operations processes, saving time (which translates to saving the client money in a billable hour world). Another example of negotiations you regularly do might be that you ask a colleague to help out on a challenging case. You even work out a plan with your siblings to celebrate your father’s eightieth birthday.

Asking questions, revealing new information, validating what you may already know, and working things out are all steps in negotiating, and they’re all skills that many women already possess. Every negotiation also takes place within a relationship, a relationship in which each party has something of value to offer. Negotiating well involves understanding the nature of the relationship between you and the other party and accurately estimating the value on each side—what you both “bring to the table.” It usually takes some research to obtain this information (research such as a client needs assessment or client interview, if you will) but if you learn a few basic principles, plan carefully, and practice, you can become an effective negotiator pretty quickly.

Preparing for Opening Night

There are many tools on the market, likely in your firm already, that can assist in every client negotiation, attracting new business and expanding current client relationships. You must engage in researching the client beforehand. It is quite a mistake to simply go armed with a PowerPoint all about your pedigree and your firm’s rankings. Instead, ask open-ended questions using - How, What, Why? Listen more than talk. According to the ACC Value Challenge, you should listen 85% of the time and spend 15% of the time asking questions or follow-up questions and re-phrasing the client’s responses.

Learning Your Lines

Here are some examples:

  • In talking to my clients in your industry, I'm struck by a couple of particular issues with which they are grappling. These include: [give examples]. How would these resonate with you and your management?

  • How is your organization reacting to ___________? (a recent, important development in this client's industry or function)

  • How are you handling _________? (new competition, low-cost imports, a new regulatory framework, etc.)

  • Is there is a particular competitor you admire and why?

  • Can you tell me what your biggest priorities are for this year?

  • What are your most significant opportunities for growth over the next several years?

  • What exactly do you mean when you say _______________? (“risk-averse,” “dysfunctional,” “challenging,” etc.)

The foundation for a meaningful client negotiation is built through your preparation in advance of the client meeting. Outside of a company’s website and their annual reports, using tools, such as the following, will ease any anxiety you may otherwise have:

  • Monitor Suite - An easy-to-use business development service that aggregates legal information, sophisticated functionality, real-time filtering, company data and docket coverage into one intuitive platform.

  • Lex Machina - A legal analytics platform that initially covered Intellectual Property, but has since expanded to other practice areas. It mines data about judges, lawyers, parties and patents to inform lawyers’ litigation strategy.

  • Manzama - An intelligence tool, a search engine that allows each user to create a personalized profile to stay up to date with what matters to them, simplifying the process of finding powerful insights efficiently. Manzama searches a broad range of business and legal news sources, and can integrate a firm’s proprietary subscriptions.

  • ALM Legal Intelligence - ALM Legal Intelligence offers detailed business information and competitive intelligence about the legal industry to top U.S. and international law firms and their clients. ALM Legal Intelligence survey results are featured in American Lawyer Daily, another ALM publication.

Setting the Stage

Once you know what you want, negotiate to get it. You need to do some preliminary research: How much are you worth and why? How much bargaining power do you really have? And how do things stand on the client’s side of the table? Numerous external factors may influence the course of your negotiation, such as your employer’s financial stability or strategic plans, or your firm’s system for evaluating your work. The more you can learn about the context within which you’ll be making your ask and the personalities of the players, the better off you’ll be, improving your negotiating position and arguing persuasively for your point of view. The first step is to identify any relevant relationship factors that may influence the outcome -- assessing the environment.

Show Time

You wouldn’t want to negotiate the same way with your partner as you would with a client. To gauge your situation accurately, ask yourself: The number of parties is the number of “sides” in the negotiation. The situation becomes more complex if others join the negotiation. The complexity comes not simply from the fact that each of you may bring different goals to the negotiation but also from the fact that certain parties may form coalitions or alliances in order to increase leverage at the negotiating table. The same is true in more small-scale negotiations. If you are negotiating your rates with the client and the client says their goal is to lower legal expenses, in no way must this mean discounting your rate.

What’s the Nature of Your Relationship? Think of the relationship dimension of negotiations as a continuum. Most client negotiations take place with someone whom you can expect to see again, someone with whom you have a continuing relationship. The nature of your trusted advisor relationship with that existing client will have a huge impact because it will determine the amount of information you have about the other side, the level of trust you share, and the potential for a continued partnership with the client. In addition, the outcome of that negotiation will influence your future interactions. It may enhance or damage your reputation, and can potentially set a precedent for later engagements with this client.

Take a Bow

The organizational culture that pervades today’s law firms promotes practitioner behavior. The transition from a practice of law to a business of law remains critical for the life of law firms today. Negotiating long-term trusted advisor relationships rather than pushing your legal services matter-to-matter and relying on random acts of marketing, will pay off in the long run – for you and your client. Engaging in deep and meaningful research and fair and principled negotiations rather than simply the traditional marketing mix, will ensure the client can relate to you, know, like and trust you – and agree that negotiating with you in as much in their best interests as it is in yours. Without a client-centric negotiations, relying on effective communication practices, firms will lose clients, firms will lose natural rainmakers, and firms will ultimately lose market share.

A Star is Born

Evolutionary change will and should continue, and lawyers practicing principled negotiations will have a far greater impact ensuring long-term client relationships and more business for the firm by becoming the trusted advisors. It is with the help of these negotiation practices and research tools that firms will be able to make the transition from a practice of law to a business of law. Business of law management practices will result in greater results, attracting new business and expanding client relationships.

Article originally published on California Lawyers Association website.


Susan C. Freeman

About the Author
Susan Freeman is the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Business Development for Jaffe Public Relations. Susan brings more than 20 years of marketing, business development and relationship sales experience to Jaffe. At Jaffe, Susan helps professional services firms communicate effectively to develop relationships that result in new business. She teaches a combination of hard skills and soft skills; the IQ and EQ needed to be successful. Her training programs, which include seminars, webinars, and one-on-one coaching, enable professionals to use client-centric insights to assess needs and identify solutions that meet strategic business goals. Susan’s programs apply insights from Myers-Briggs, used to determine preferred communication styles, overlaid with an understanding of innate gender-specific strengths and opportunities related to communication. Programs include Gender Bias & Gender-based Communication, Pitching v. Proposing & Procurement’s Role, Building Reputation v. Building Relationships, and Client Service as a Business Development Strategy. Her background also includes marketing, business development and client service management positions in law firms and with legal services providers. Susan earned her Master’s degree in Communications from Hawaii Pacific University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Journalism from Louisiana State University.”