EXPERT INTERVIEW: Evelyn Ashley… women leadership through the eyes of clients.

Have you ever wondered what clients, vendors, partners and others are looking for from their leaders – including their female leaders? I was really interested in learning the views of women in specific industries; legal being one of those industries.

Evelyn Ashley, Managing Partner, Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC.. shared her views through the eyes of the clients she represents.

Question 1.  What are considered the most effective and respected traits/qualities you find in yourself and other lawyers in the legal profession?

Evelyn:  I’m a business lawyer so my comments are tempered only on what I know our clients see as value from our representation:
1. A strategic mindset where law supports their business goals.
2. A true desire to protect and help them grow their businesses.
3. Making sure that professional management understands the pros and cons of their decisions.
4. Reaching out regularly to check in on a non-billable basis to see how business is going; goals, objectives – introductions that could provide them opportunities to sell their products and services, grow their businesses consciously and objectively.
5. Speaking honestly and directly.

Question 2. What are the top challenges lawyers experience in advancing in their career or building their own practice?

1. Providing consistent service and substance while growing. Owning and growing your own business while being an important steward to other businesses is a constant balancing routine!
2. Taking your own advice when building your business!
3. I think most lawyers have an overblown perception of their real value. The reality is, lawyers are a dime a dozen. Just because you can quote case law or sections out of the code of your choice do not mean you are of high value to a client. Most lawyers need to figure out how to take their skills to a higher level to be of real service.

Question 3. How do those challenges differ between female and male lawyers?

1. I have been referred to as a “piece of work” by male colleagues in the past (not my present firm, to my knowledge!). I have never heard of a male lawyer being referred to in that manner.
2. To be a really good business lawyer, you have to be willing to put yourself out there to get the best deal for your client – that can quickly turn a female into a perceived “bitch”. It’s often a Catch-22.

Question 4. What advantages and disadvantages are there leading your own practice as a female lawyer vs. working within a firm (small or large)?

Evelyn: Own firm: total freedom to develop and grow the business as you see fit, right or appropriate. Large firm: not so much.
I have had my own firm now for more years than I practiced in large firms (Morris, Manning/McKenna Long(Dentons)). I actually see no disadvantage to leading my own practice. I suppose if I had chosen to have children I would have a different perspective (and probably would have gone in-house like so many women do).

Question 5. What 1-3 tips you would give female lawyers looking to up their game, take on greater roles (even their own practice), and/or advance themselves (to partner) successfully?

1. Don’t be afraid to say the emperor has no clothes. If you work diligently to know your practice area, interact with others at a high level, observe and listen carefully – do not be afraid to speak “as you see it.” You might be afraid at first – but that is how you garner the most respect.
2. Observe the path of least resistance: what do you want more? To practice law with great clients or try to change the internal workings of an industry? I tried the latter for a while – it’s just too hard. But working with great clients, providing great service and learning from every experience is the best – and it leads to business and personal growth in so many positive ways!
3. Don’t look to see how others have developed practices in law – look to see how change agents and entrepreneurs create opportunities for themselves. Creating your own path is actually easier than replicating what others have done.


About Evelyn Ashley – Corporate Technology Lawyer to privately held businesses & family offices. WBENC certified.

Trusted Counsel (Ashley), LLC – A WBENC certified woman-owned business. Representation of private company clients on matters such as mergers and acquisitions, financing and investments, intellectual property protection, licensing, manufacturing, distribution, entity structure and related issues, corporate spin-outs and international transactions. Our lawyers have wide-ranging experience and bring a results-focused, pragmatic business approach to the practice of law.

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