Wonder Woman in Business, Khalilah Lyons

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Khalilah Lyons

ConAgra Brands

Khalilah Lyons is a results-driven career and talent strategist devoted to advocating for underrepresented and untapped talent and making substantial contributions to the global community. A fearless, tenacious, powerful leader, she is equally humble, gracious and kind.

Her HR experience ranges from Fortune 500 corporations and manufacturers to digital start-ups. She has successfully developed and executed initiatives around diversity & inclusion, strategic planning and workforce management, affording workable solutions that resonate throughout the organization. Her expertise is rooted in pinpointing and unveiling a person’s creative potential. Khalilah creates cultures of belonging, encouraging colleagues to be their best selves. Her approachable and practical workstyle facilitates meaningful connection with colleagues across levels and industries.

As the head of Diversity & Inclusion at Conagra Brands, Khalilah Lyons is building a culture that values, inspires and connects all employees.  She believes the foundation of a great corporation begins with a culture of authentic, bold, connected individuals. She empowers and inspires people to do their best work. Khalilah understands the importance of leveraging all the experience individuals bring to the table; experience based on race, disability, gender identity, ways of working, communication style, parental status and other factors impacting an individual’s unique journey. 

In addition to her corporate role, Khalilah aligns her passion to disrupt exclusive narratives and create opportunities for inclusion and diversity for future leaders across the country. She serves as a D & I expert for several nonprofits, sharing inspirational and actionable messages as a keynote speaker, mentor, advisor, thought leader, board member and volunteer. She leverages her purpose, expertise and experience to present compelling stories, to facilitate workshops, to influence youth and to create spaces for courageous -- and often provocative -- conversations.

Khalilah is a highly respected and resilient woman, known for her strength, stability and passion to change the world. She developed a personal mission through her years, working in distinct cultures with a focus on empowering others and brokering opportunities for them to engage and create change.

A tenacious, empowered leader who is concurrently humble, gracious and kind, Khalilah has a gift. Her gift is her capacity and commitment for helping others to do as well or better than she has done. When not working, she spends time with her two children being inspired by their approach to and perspective on life in their hometown of Chicago, IL. She lives life fully as a dedicated mother, sister, friend and disruptor.

“I am not different from you, I am different like you.”

-Laraine Kaminsky

Khalilah Lyons

Contact Khalilah

Khalilah Lyons







Wonder Woman in Business, Renee Branson

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Renee Branson


Combining 20 years in education, counseling and non-profit management, Renee Branson's passion and purpose is helping individuals, teams, and organizations cultivate resilience. After years of working with survivors of trauma and the caregivers who help heal them, she became enthralled with what it is that allowed people to not only survive, but thrive through their greatest crisis. The answer is resilience. The more valuable lesson is that resilience can be taught, strengthened, and cultivated.

As a Certified Resilience Coach (CReC), Renee provides clients with immediately usable tools to increase resilience, well-being, and optimism in the workplace. She works with lawyers, legal marketers, business professionals, non-profit leaders, and others to help them understand and incorporate resilience in their own professional lives and in the teams they lead."

Featured Contributor, BIZCATALYST360.COM

Administer the PR6™ resilience assessments, presentations, and workshops on the six domains of resilience for professionals and business organizations. These include law firms, practice groups, non-profits, and business teams within an organization. This allows leaders to address organizational strengths and weaknesses and to implement growth plans through coaching, consultation, and the Driven™ app-based tools.

Common Use Case Scenarios:
-On-boarding new associates
-Newly formed teams/divisions
-Management training programs
-Organizational restructuring, mergers, large-scale organizational change
-Crisis recovery
-Underperforming/dysfunctional teams

Photos in Renee’s Words…

Photo 1:

Branson Beach Photo: The entire Branson tribe. We don't all get together in one place very often, so this was pretty special. 

Photo 2:

Buckeyes: I am a born and bred Buckeye. I grew up in Ohio and graduated from Ohio State. Fall would not be complete without at least one trip to the Horseshoe to see my Buckeyes play football. This photo is of me, Tim and the boys along with my brother and his family. 

Photo 3:

With Tim Corcoran at COLPM: This is proof we can still get fancy. :) 

Photo 4:

Parent's Weekend: While my oldest didn't choose OSU for school, we love to spend Parent's Weekend with him and his fraternity. 

Photo 5:

Sydney Opera House: I have always been passionate about travel. The only place tied with Sydney as my favorite place is Barcelona. I took a week long solo trip there and the experience was life-changing. There are so many places still left on my bucket list! 

Photo 6:

Tough Mudder: I talk about grit being a domain of resilience. I've done 5 Tough Mudders, 2 marathons, and over 20 half marathons. I learned grit from the physical limits that I've pushed. 

Renee Branson

Connect with Renee:





Phone: 434.326.6620

Wonder Woman in Business, Trish Lilley

Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer

Stroock & Stroock & Laven LLP

A seasoned chief marketing and business development officer, Trish has nearly 30 years of experience in strategic client development roles at several AmLaw firms, including Dechert, Duane Morris, Crowell & Moring, and Fox Rothschild.

In both international and national roles, Trish has developed and executed data-driven business development strategies and marketing initiatives designed to boost revenue, enhance client loyalty and hone lawyers’ BD acumen. She also specialize in recruiting, aligning, developing and motivating strong, successful and collaborative teams.

As 2019 president of the Legal Marketing Association's Northeast Region - the organization's largest - Trish is an active and enthusiastic volunteer leader. A former co-executive editor of Strategies - LMA's flagship publication - Trish served two terms on its Educational Advisory Council, the entity charged with crafting professional development standards for the legal marketing industry.

A regular speaker at industry events and conferences, she writes frequently on issues related to cultivating leadership among lawyers and marketing team members, marketing best practices, and business development coaching.

A former journalist published in papers from The New York Times to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Trish has worked with, for, and around, lawyers for more than 30 years - as a reporter covering the federal courts, a legal recruiter, a bar association executive and in a variety of strategic management roles at major law firms.

Trish is also an active community member, having served in leadership positions with the Volunteers of America, Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technology, Southern New Jersey Development Council, and the Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey. She has also served as an instructor with the Irish Academy of Public Relations.

A Select Few of Trish’s Presentations, Publications & Podcasts:

“Succeeding in a Data Driven World”

June 2019  at GroPro 20/20, New York

”Business Development Coaching for Mid-Sized Firms”

April 2019 at Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference, Atlanta 

“Growing Leaders in Your Marketing Department”

February 2019 in Market Leaders Podcast - Ackert Advisory

“Crisis Management Pitch Off: Managing Client Perception During a Firm Crisis”

January 2019 in American Lawyer Media Legal Week

"The Future of Organizational Development: Insights for Building A Results-Driven Marketing & BD Structure"

June 2018 at GroPro 20/20, New York

Trish Lilley

Contact Trish:

Trish Lilley
Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer

180 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038
D: 212.806.1230 |


Wonder Women in Business, Mignon Crawford

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Mignon Crawford,

Group Vice President of Client Integrations

SunTrust Bank

Mignon Crawford is the Group Vice President of Client Integrations for SunTrust Bank’s Treasury and Payment Solutions division.  She has been with SunTrust for 28 years holding positions in Treasury and Payment Solutions, Global Trade Services, and Receivables Capital Management.  

She is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in International Trade and Finance.  

Mignon lives in Atlanta, GA with her partner Montserrat Miller and her son Nicholas Knoll attends the University of Alabama.  She is actively engaged with her community including St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Boyce L. Ansley School, and SunTrust’s onUp Movement.  

Mignon is a spectacular human being — inside and out!

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As my former college roommate at Louisiana State University, I know Mignon quite well and am thrilled to have reconnected with her on this amazing fun-filled podcast. She is quite remarkable. I enjoyed every minute of our chat and you will too!

Mignon Crawford

Connect with Mignon on LinkedIn:

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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.”