PHOTOS BY: Jenny Berliner Photography
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background and what made you decide to start She Talks Law?
I am a corporate and real estate attorney locally. I also have a background in education law and represent a number of charter schools in the area. Throughout my career, I have been very involved in local women’s organizations. I am on the Board of Directors for the Greater Rochester Association of Women Attorneys (GRAWA), the Board of Trustees for the Young Women’s College Prep Charter School (YWCP) and I am active in the Rochester Women’s Network (RWN) and Women’s Council.
I am grateful to have been inspired by so many women throughout my life and my career. During COVID, I did some serious reflecting on my work and decided that I wanted to do something more… I wanted to give back to the fabulous women that I met along my journey and who cheered me on to get me where I am today. In addition, it is no surprise that COVID had some major impacts on business, particularly women in business.
For various pandemic related reasons, women were overwhelmingly forced to leave the work force (in fact, approximately 4 times the number of women left the work force in September 2020 compared to their male counterparts). Knowing that information, I thought about the sort of thing that I could offer that would help build the bridge for women to return to the workforce with success. I decided to then create a free legal roundtable to provide women with legal resources in areas of business and life. With that, She Talks Law was born.
What exactly is the mission behind She Talks Law?
She Talks Law is a free legal roundtable for women business owners, entrepreneurs and investors. Our mission is to celebrate, connect and champion new and seasoned local women entrepreneurs and professionals by providing ongoing legal education and resources in a collaborative and supportive setting and equip our members with the tools necessary to succeed.
What makes you hustle?
My family. I come from a long line of hustlers. My grandmother was a mother of 7 who also had numerous foster children all while taking care of the home and working. She hustled. My grandfather started his own men’s clothing store in Seneca Falls. He hustled. My father started his own private practice at a young age and was elected and re-elected as Judge in the City of Canandaigua for over 30 years. He hustled. My brother, knowing nobody, moved out to L.A. after film school to pursue his dreams. He hustles. My husband is first generation Macedonian and is a successful real estate broker and business owner. He and all of his family hustle. I am inspired by the hustlers around me.
I know you just recently started STL, but how do you market this concept to your audience, and which tactics have been most successful?
She Talks Law was born during COVID and a time when we were all remote. As such, my marketing was all remote. I was never very savvy with social media…until I had to be. COVID forced me in my business to learn creative strategies in order to connect with my clients and prospective clients. I could not rely on traditional networking lunches or meeting someone at the gym. Instead, I had to learn how to use one of the most powerful tools of our time—social media. I am still not a pro, but I certainly know more than I did 1 year ago. In addition to my own social network, I set my insecurities and fears aside and reached out to women and leaders who I admire and “picked their brain.” I asked them to teach me how they got to where they are, I explained She Talks Law, and asked them for advice. Then I followed that advice. To a T! My biggest piece of advice is to put your insecurities aside and don’t be afraid to take risks. You may surprise yourself with how much you are capable of.
What was your key driving force to become a female entrepreneur, especially with being an attorney and working with small business owners?
My drive to achieve was instilled in me at a young age by my incredibly supportive parents. My parents allowed me the flexibility to be whatever I wanted to be, so long as I did something that I loved and that makes me happy. To be honest, I still sometimes wonder what I want to be when I grow up haha! We all have pipe dreams, but for now, my happiness lies with supporting women in their ventures.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, would you do anything differently and why?
I would listen to my gut more.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in your business and as a female business owner in general?
1. Courage—having the courage to take risks and sometimes do what is unpopular.
2. Communication—not only communicating with colleagues, but communicating to the world what you do and how you can benefit others.
3. Balance—there IS such a thing as work/life balance if you learn to work smarter, not harder.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
How do you define success?
Success, for me, is a lot of things. It is the one definition that continuously evolves depending on the year/month/day and changes as my goals progress. Right now, success means the any act done in furtherance of your greater purpose. My personal goal is to celebrate each day’s success, no matter how small. A success does not have to be the moment you make it to the C-suite with a 7 figure salary. Today, my success was making it to work on time after chasing my defiant 3 year old around and convincing him that he has to wear pants to school…every day. Tomorrow, my success may be career related. Each day is different and that is ok.
Is word of mouth working to your advantage, or is social media where it is at now?
Word of mouth is powerful but people are using word of mouth on social media now so I see those as one in the same. LinkedIn has been my greatest asset lately.
What is the most common question your clients ask you?
“I have a friend who got arrested for _________, how long is he going to jail for?” I do not know! I am not a criminal attorney, but I know a few great ones.
I know the monthly roundtables are viirtual, but do you ever plan on having them in person?
Yes! In fact, that model is meant for in-person events so hopefully we will be transitioning to in-person later this summer. Let me know whether you would prefer a morning brunch event, or evening happy hours.
Where do you see your business a year from now?
What about 5 and 10 years? I always hate this question because it is hard to tell. I envision I will be continuing to represent more women business owners in their general corporate and real estate needs. I also will continue to support the charter school sector as that is an integral part of my career and who I am.
Do you walk your talk?
What is one thing you have done that not many people know about you?
In my spare time, I am an avid road cyclist. Each year, I strive to ride at least 1 century ride (100 miles).
What is your ‘why? ‘ Why did you become a lawyer? Why did you start the She Talks Law roundtable?
Honestly, my “why” is to be great. There really is no other reason than I was blessed with the unique opportunity of a college education. There is not a single soul in this world that can take that away from me and it is my most impactful tool in my toolkit. As such, I feel an obligation to use that tool in the most effective way possible and in a way that is going to make my kids look at me and be proud to call me their mom.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
I am very organized and put everything in my calendar. I also am fortunate to have an extremely supportive family and extended family to assist us with the kids.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked the question, “are you the paralegal or the attorney” simply because I am a female. At first, I would get discouraged and assume that the person asking me thought I wasn’t smart enough to be an attorney (even though some paralegals know more than most attorneys do). However, as time went on, I began to see a trend and noticed that it was usually men over the age of 65 asking me that question. I now politely let them know that I am the attorney handling the matter, then proceed to blow their socks off with my kick ass negotiation skills .
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Be fearless. And never question your ability to have it all. If you work hard enough and ask questions, then you can and will be able to “have it all.”
Who has been someone who has inspired you and why?
Growing up, I was always inspired by my father. When he was a judge in the City of Canandaigua, he saw so many people going through a vicious cycle of crime – jail – streets – crime -jail – etc… He decided to do something about it. He started upstate NY’s first drug court in an effort to improve his community. Many thought he was crazy and today drug treatment courts are peppered all across the state of New York and the country and have saved millions of lives. Another person that inspired me is my husband. He is first generation Macedonian and worked incredibly hard to get to where he is now. He is an incredible entrepreneur and my biggest cheerleader, even if I am not the biggest cheerleader of myself.
What do you love most about yourself?
My sons. They are an extension of me and I cannot imagine life without them. They make my world better.
What gets you truly excited about life?
My 2 amazing sons, Jax (age 3.5) and Jagger (age 1).
What is some of the advice you share with young women entering a male-dominated profession?
Do not be afraid to speak up. Your voice is just as, or if not more than, powerful as the men in the room. You have a unique perspective and can offer something to the conversation that men cannot. Use it to your advantage. But also know when to be quiet. Your voice can be your best tool and your greatest weapon.
What is the best piece of free legal advice you would give to the women owned businesses in our audience?
This isn’t really “legal” advice, per se, but my best piece of advice as a lawyer is to tell you that the cheapest legal advice is not always the best. Shop around for an attorney that fits your needs and is aligned with your business goals and your mission. I like to sit down with my clients and create a “legal plan” to discuss their foreseeable goals. This allows us to work together as a team to accomplish the client’s goals one step at a time and allows me to foresee legal problems before they arise. I much prefer to be your teammate, rather than the person you call when shit hits the fan.