I would not be where I am without the women in my life. A clichéd little nugget, but a fact nonetheless. All Places would not be the gorgeous and thriving company that it is without the guidance of our incredible advisors. Here is the advice that has helped me most.
Not Everyone Is Your Client. When you are starting a new business the main thing on your mind is making money, and you can’t make money if you don’t have clients. This leads many of us (myself included) into this scarcity mindset of not wanting to close off any avenues of potential revenue. When I was creating the vision for All Places some people told me I was making my client base too limited, that I needed to focus beyond women business owners. Fortunately I got different advice from a number of women, including my business development coach, Karen Kahn, and that advice was liberating. If not everyone is my client then I don’t need to worry about the people who think my branding is “too feminine,” or that my focus on women is unfairly exclusive. If you think that, you’re probably not reading this right now, and you’re probably not my client, and that’s okay.
Make up a Good Story. This came up in a conversation with my friend and mentor, Barbara George, as we were discussing (for the umpteenth time) the self-doubt I experience with my business. I’m not good enough. No one’s going to want to work with me. Who would pick a startup firm over an AmLaw 50 firm? We all tell ourselves so many terrible stories that are filled with lies (like the ones I just listed). So why not provide a counterbalancing story that may also not be 100% true? I’m the best lawyer in the world! Everyone is going to want to be my client! I am brilliant and have a beautiful singing voice! If you ask me, most women could use a few more delusions of grandeur.
You’ll Need that for Your Book. On August 29 of last year, I got a text from my friend, Ndidi Oriji, letting me know that, exactly one year before the two of us had been sitting on the RH rooftop and I told her I was thinking about starting my own firm. How did she know that? Because she keeps a five-year journal. Ridiculous. How can anyone commit to journaling for five years? But the idea, I think, is a great one, because it provides a daily reminder of how much you have accomplished and changed in just a year, or five. Shortly after launching All Places, I received my own monogrammed, five-year journal (thoughtfully selected in All Places’ light blue) with a note that read: "In anticipation of your eventual bestselling book for female entrepreneurs, use this to keep a record.” Hey, why not?
You Can Do It Differently. From this post alone, it’s clear All Places is not like other law firms. It has a weird name that doesn’t include anyone’s last name or LLP, our logo is not in small caps or in navy and grey, our website is pretty and filled with images of women instead of skylines and skyscrapers. When I started working with the brilliant Linda Honan on the branding for All Places, I have to admit that the direction we were going in terrified me. The website mockups looked more like Vogue than Skadden. Would anyone take All Places seriously? But Linda was steadfast in her resolve that All Places could do it differently and she was (as she always is) absolutely right.
You Can Do More than You Think. When I started sharing with some women in my community that I was thinking of starting this firm, they generously connected me to other women who had done the same thing. Without exception, those women (Leslee Cohen, Diana Iketani, Elizabeth Lippincott, Susan Crumiller, and others) were filled with words of encouragement and practical advice and reiterated one thing in particular: you can do a lot more than you think you can. In the big law firm practice, we are taught to be siloed, that we can only do one specific thing. This view is reinforced by those in that culture that are not supportive of anyone (women and people of color in particular) getting too big for their britches and invading into their territory. Lucky for me I had these women, and a couple of incredible mentors from my firm life, telling me otherwise. And they were right.
You Can Do Anything. The earliest and most important guidance came from my mom, the great Kathy McCool. She raised my sister and me to think about ourselves and our potential without limits. It wasn’t until I was deep in the corporate world that I started doubting myself. Who was right? Kathy McCool: 1 / Corporate America: 0
It feels tone deaf to send anything out right now without acknowledging the current focus on the way this country portrays and treats Asian Americans. The only thing I will add to this conversation is we all need to remember that this is not new. Just as discrimination against women did not begin with #MeToo, and the inhumane treatment of Black Americans did not start with Black Lives Matter, the dehumanization of Asian Americans did not begin with the mass murder in Atlanta or with the coronavirus. These behaviors are deeply embedded in the history of this country and will continue even after the current wave of attention passes. I celebrate and appreciate all of you who work, every day, in large and small ways, to drive this country toward equality.