We “brand” ourselves early, so it’s essential to develop a brand you believe in and want to market. I always had a passion for connecting people to support the development and success of professionals, especially women. I’ve devoted a large part of my career to this mission and my brand. Nothing makes me happier than when I connect two women, and some advancement or support occurs for at least one of them.
At Thompson Hine, I co-founded Spotlight on Women®—an initiative that supports the advancement of women, both inside our firm and in the communities where we live. The program has grown steadily, and I have expanded this cause to a national level. I helped formalize a women’s committee at the Defense Research Institute and now serve as its vice chair. I am involved with the University of Austin’s Women’s Consortium, the National Association of Women Lawyers, and various other organizations. I created the Case Western Reserve University Law School’s Women’s Leadership Institute; our inaugural class kicks off this fall. I write and present on women’s leadership often. My passion for helping women succeed drives me, and it’s the perfect complement to my role as national environmental counsel to large companies.
I carry my brand and passion into my work, connecting clients with relevant legal support within our firm and introducing them to still others who can help. I have managed many large firm-client relationships that expand well beyond environmental support into many other areas in which Thompson Hine provides cost-effective, first-rate counsel. I try to be the ultimate connector for women and all legal professionals.
My advice to other women? Find your passion and carry it out every day in every aspect of your job. It will propel you forward!
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
To achieve a meaningful level of professional success, it is imperative to be flexible and evolve with the changing environment. The field of law is completely different from how it was more than 20 years ago when I graduated from law school.
I have learned it is critical to become a trusted adviser to your clients and a part of their business team rather than an outsider. I have worked hard to evolve my support to meet the changing needs and demands of clients. For example, most of my work as national environmental counsel is billed on alternate fee arrangements that allow clients to experience both certainty and cost-effective support. Further, I proactively apply legal project management best practices to provide clients with data tracking and reporting to support their internal business needs. This has allowed me to successfully manage some of our firm’s largest client relationships, a rarity for women in this profession.
Heidi’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
First, become a thought leader in your field. Second, do not be afraid to ask for anything. Many opportunities will not just land in your lap; you must seek them out. Third, find a sponsor and impress the heck out of him or her. A sponsor can make all the difference in your career.
Your sponsor does not need to look or act like you. Instead, you need a person with power who is willing to be your advocate, to shout from the rooftops that you are a rock star, “so give her this opportunity!” I have been lucky to have various sponsors in my life who have supported me at every level, both inside and outside my firm (don’t forget you need sponsors at your clients’ businesses and among your outside contacts, such as community organizations and professional associations). The vast majority of my sponsors have been men, and I credit each of them with a piece of my success.