Frank Kimball

100 Reasons I Support Ms. JD

On a cold night last December I attended a law firm holiday reception. The crowd included partners, associates, spouses, guests, vendors, etc. - the usual - and it was as raucous as lawyers can get on a weeknight.  I didn’t know many of the lawyers but that didn’t stop me from wading in. We are, after all, working here.  About an hour in I’m taking a breather with a glass of Pinot noir and meet a partner about my age (57), corporate type.

We exchange the obligatory guy greetings — bad  joke, Bears playoff prospects, the mayoral election, and he asks “So Frank, what do you do outside family and the office.” And I say “this year I spent about 250 hours working with Ms. JD.”  Dead stop.  “What’s Ms JD?”  I explain. Dead Stop 2.  But this isn’t my first rodeo.  His final question, “Tell me one reason why you would spend time doing that. “Well, I have at least a 100.”  “Name ‘em.” I said “well take a seat this is going to take a while.” We made a friendly wager which was enough to motivate all concerned and ordered another round. I decided to just name 100 women whose I have met and gotten to know during my career who have set superlative standards for excellence in everything that I’ve seen them do.  It really wasn’t a fair fight because I’m in the final stages of writing a book on the subject and the roster of 100 is part of my DNA.  So I rolled out the list - told a tale or two about each - and declared victory.  We parted amicably but his younger partner said something about losing a bet to Rain Man. Maybe he’d like to go double or nothing?  That wouldn’t be fair either (volume 2 is in the works).

I’ve decided to profile these 100 women in the next year in 20 blog posts. The order is random. You will recognize some - but not most.  But know this - Ms. JD is all about your network and I bet more than ninety of these women would gladly take your call.  Some may be a bit too busy to reach. The rules for the 100 are simple - they are people I’ve gotten to know in my life who are just plain remarkable.  It’s quite a roster - broadcasters, judges, entrepreneurs, partners, associates, farmers, artists, chefs, musicians, dancers, investment bankers, high technology gurus, shining stars from the Not For Profit world and others.  This list reflects my journey on life’s highway.  You have the makings of your list now and you’ll add names with each passing year.  Remember: greatness and inspiration don’t necessarily equate with fame.

While it’s easy to be intimidated by spectacular people from all walks of life remember that, like you, they started out with a degree and a dream.  They achieved their dream and have more dreams before them today. In your own life you will encounter excellence unexpectedly - of extraordinary people doing incredible things in their every day lives. Not for accolades. Not for fortune. Not for fame. But because it is the right thing to do and the only way they know how to live.  And for that all of us should be eternally grateful. Most of the posts will have four or five featured profiles. But to kick start the process, let’s start with ten.

Megyn Kelly - Megyn spent eight years with the Jones Day firm in three of its offices before entering the world of television news.  After a short stint at the ABC in Washington DC she was snared by Fox Network. Within a year she had taken the network by storm, was handling weekend shows and other special assignments.  In another year she became the co-Anchor of their morning news show.   Today she has her own 2 hour show in mid day- and her ratings are remarkable.  She is the rising star of broadcast journalism - and she is someone who had a dream and seized it.

I’d known Megyn since her early associate days at Jones Day. In mid 2003 she called me and said “Frank I’m moving to D.C. and I am going to work two days a week for ABC and three days a week for Jones Day.” So I subpoenaed her to lunch at Kiki’s Bistro. Now Megyn’s Irish, and a talker and once she’s on a roll you should alert the media. But now she is the media.  

So three days before lunch I thought what do you get her to celebrate the event. Then it hit me ❏ woman ❏ lawyer ❏ broadcasting ❏ movies.  I ordered every DVD I could find about women in broadcasting - The China Syndrome, Broadcast News, Up Close & Personal, Network, etc. For you guys reading along pay careful attention: Creativity trumps everything but jewelry.  We had a great lunch and I learned everything I could about this career.  And she grabbed the check (and yes, Megyn, I checked Quickbooks – either we absconded from Kiki’s or you grabbed it). I knew a star had been taken from the Jones Day galaxy and it would be given to a grateful nation (on screen).

Megyn is an exceptional lawyer - it would be very hard for me to identify someone more marked for greatness. She has all the qualities - brilliant, quick, hard working, optimistic, clients loved her - and she had friends all over the Jones Day nation.  I doubt if there was ever anyone more likely to become a partner.  But she’s taken all of this to Fox - where it’s been incredible to watch her immerse herself in the rather complex and demanding world of network news.   She’s done it quickly, with grace, and charm.  I am truly honored to be a friend.

Yes she works for Fox. I’m a Republican - always have been and always will be but the older I get the more I focus on issues which are not inherently full of political conflict.  I voted for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and see no inconsistency in doing so because they share a faith in this nation and optimism about what is possible.  Megyn is Megyn. She is not Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck.  She’s a serious journalist with a wit faster than most people can handle.  Watch an episode and appreciate the fact that she had a dream, focused on it, and exceeded even her own expectations. Have you done the same with yours?

Kristina Juntunen is a 2003 Michigan graduate. A few days before she graduated she received a letter from her about-to-be firm Altheimer & Gray notifying she and her classmates that they had been terminated in advance of their arrival. No $50,000 farewell bonus.  No internship. No deferral.  Just good-bye.  The firm folded shortly thereafter having flamed out like the mythical legend Icarus reaching for the stars. For Tina and her classmates this was a debacle.  The market was terrible - the economy was beginning a slow crawl out of the two pronged tech wreck /9-11 recession but firms were basically full. 

This did not stop one my favorite Wolverines.  Sure she was scared. But Tina, because of her Spartan and Wolverine roots is tenacious and practical. She developed a Chicago plan and a New York plan. Skipping the details (which we will save for the movie - where I assume she will played by Hillary Swank), the Chicago strategy was not successful.  On to New York. Two months later, without a headhunter or a special connection, she joined New York’s White & Case. 

She spent 2.5 very successful years with one of the best and toughest law firms in the world.  But she took the city by storm.  If there is someone more involved in the pulse of the Big Apple I’d like to meet her. Organizations, galleries, friends galore, restaurants, events, causes,  neighborhoods - she does it all.   She’s my go to source on things New York. The teacher has been taken to school.                 

She moved from White & Case to Kasowitz  Benson, akin from moving from the Green Berets to the Delta Force and in short order established herself in that firm. She’s been seconded to a foreign client, worked on major cases, returned to Ann Arbor last year to talk with second year students taking the same journey, and again has made the leaps and bounds that might have surprised some. Next month she’s receiving the John K. Geiger Award at New York’s inMotion Commitment to Justice Awards recognizing her extensive accomplishments in the pro bono arena.  None of this surprises me in the least.             

Elena Kagan  - Everyone knows the bio of the most recent lawyer to ascend to the United States Supreme Court. I saw another angle in 2003 I was sitting outside the old Harkness Commons at Harvard Law School having a Diet Coke waiting to start my program on the Chicago market. I’d seen then Dean Kagan speak the year before at Linda’s 25th reunion and was just plain dazzled by her virtuoso performance on the plan to relocate HLS across the river.  She is the walking talking incarnation of the word dynamo - genius, quick, funny, and a laser like focus on the subject at hand.

So sitting in the afternoon sun, I saw Dean Kagan walk towards my table and wondered why she’d want to talk to this Wolverine.  She asked if she could borrow a chair.  I smiled and said “well I have a note from my mother. Do you have one from the Dean?” She smiled, laughed, and said  “I am the Dean.”  Then she asked what I was doing at Harvard and we chatted for a few minutes about career opportunities for Harvard grads.

Four years later I was at Linda’s 30th reunion dinner at Harvard and Dean Kagan visited all the tables chatting with each guest.  She didn’t have a cheat sheet or a staff member whispering in her ear.  But she stopped at our table and said“Frank – how’s the headhunting biz in Chicago?”  That is more than genius. My good friend Mark Weber, Harvard’s Assistant Dean for Career Services confirms my impression that Justice Kagan has the most photographic memory he has ever encountered.  I thought I was good.  Justice Kagan plays at whole different level. She should run for President. She’d get this Republican’s vote.  In the moment she was not all about herself.  She was all about the person she was talking to.  It’s not a parlor trick.  It’s an authentic sincere interest in others.  My hat’s off to Justice Kagan.  And mine is a size 8.25 Stetson.

Anne Pramaggiore - A 1989 DePaul College of Law graduate, Anne is the President and COO of ComEd, one of the nation’s largest utility companies.  Her professional accomplishments rank among the most impressive in the nation.  She was Editor in Chief of the DePaul Law Review, clerked in the Northern District for Judge Kocoras, and joined McDermott, Will & Emery and was named a partner four short years later.  In 1998 she joined ComEd’s legal team, was promoted into the Regulatory group, and took a lead role on a $1 billion rate relief project and other major matters.  Before becoming President and COO she was Executive Vice President of Customer Operations.  Your basic breath-taking career path. 

I was the partner in charge of her summer program in 1988 (my first year doing hiring for MWE) and as a colleague in MWE”s trial department. Anne had  career in business before law school and has  some of the best people skills I’ve ever seen and has always been the consummate team player.

Many who climb the ladder do so with politics and machinations steering their every move.  Others use a knife as often as they use their ropes. Not Anne.  She is in pursuit of excellence. She also has a remarkable self-deprecating sense of humor.  But as a COO and corporate President when she has to make a decision and defend it, I’ll smile because I remember seeing those already well-developed skills when she was a summer associate.

What do we share in common? A love for kids and horses though I’m confident that she’s far more accomplished on her steeds than I am on Don Diego wandering the mountains of Wyoming each summer.  Out of the 11,500+ students and lawyers I have worked with, I cannot think of anyone more impressive than Anne.  I’ll trust that what she remembers about my first year as a hiring partner is a closely guarded state secret.  Whatever you say Anne, don’t talk about that lavish lunch we had at a BK in Mishawaka.  Please.

Carol Kanarek - Carol Kanarek is a Michigan graduate - we overlapped for two years in the late 1970's. After a terrific start in private practice she became one of the nation’s leading career counselors for lawyers.  She is my go-to resource on many issues - and particularly indispensable during these challenging times.  She can see subtleties in lawyers that others would miss, she can give practical or inspiration advice as the situation warrants, and can juggle literally dozens of clients each of whom is at a cross roads in their career.  I don’t know anyone who knows more about New York law firms, how they operate, and the incredibly delicate dance between career objectives and law firm priorities. Like many of the best of the best she is selfless with her time - advising hundreds of lawyers and law students annually - and has a way to make each one feel as if they are her #1 client.

When times are great or terrible she keeps her finger on the pulse of the market and has a remarkably accurate ability to predict where the market is heading and when it will get there. For a law student considering Wall Street practice she’s an indispensable resource.  The only flaw - but it’s not fatal - she’s not obsessed with Michigan football as I am. I think some intensive counseling may be in order.  I think we will have to fly her out for our annual indoor tailgate at our home and maybe get her a custom Wolverine jersey.

Denise Antolini - Denise is a Professor at the Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  I met Denise  in 1975 when I was teaching at a Debate Institute at the University of Redlands.  From the first time she stood before the class as a high school sophomore it was clear to me that she was ❏ a future national champion ❏ incredibly bright and ❏ as determined as anyone I’d seen at that age about her future career.   Funny but absolutely no nonsense.  I thought she should be doing the teaching -and now she is. 

She, of course, won a national championship, left competitive speaking behind, and went to Princeton where she graduated magna cum laude, and earned her law degree and a Masters in Public Policy from Berkeley and in the spare time was Editor in Chief of the Ecology Law Quarterly.  After a federal clerkship in Washington she practiced with a leading firm in San Francisco before landing a dream job - with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in Seattle and then in Honolulu. She’s earned almost every award one can imagine for her teaching and her practice and not surprisingly her moot court teams collect awards annually.

Denise is one of those rare people who pursues a dream and does so without compromise. And she’s someone with a strong sense of self whose ego does not require valet parking.  She has an extraordinary sense of humor and a calmness that is contagious.  She is one of the leading experts in numerous areas of environmental law and policy and has a resume that’s a show-stopper.                    

She also has great taste in Italian cuisine.  One of my favorite memories of 1982, when she clerked down the hall from me at Shearman & Sterling was dinner at the legendary Tre Scalini where young Ms. Antolini picked the restaurant, the vino, and grabbed the check like a Republican at a fund-raiser.  The word on the street is that she is revered by her students - again, are we surprised by any of this? 

Meredith Manni Meserow - She is one of Chicago’s leading real estate brokers.  After graduating from Wellesley she moved to New York and had a terrific career as a headhunter in the financial services arena.  She moved to Chicago in the late 1980's, raised a wonderful family a launched a second career as a real estate broker quickly establishing herself as one of the go-to leaders in the Near North Side of Chicago.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen someone as focused on serving her clients and working to identify new customers.  She tells me she sleeps with her I-Phone and she very well may.  But she gets back to her friends and her customers quickly and responsively and has a unique gift and keeping both sides in transactions focused on the deal.  She does this in a great and in a lousy market - where the nerves and expectations of buyers and sellers are on edge.

There are many similarities between headhunting and being a real estate broker and Meredith has always been a tremendous pillar, resource, and calming device when the stress of business is high.  We try to have lunch every month and declare a no-business zone - which can make a good day even better.  Her son was a star player on my youth football team. Even the Bears MVP Gary Fencik who was coaching against us was baffled by Henry rumbling down the field but that’s a story for another day. What more could you ask for in a friend?

Dr. Julia GeorgesenIt’s no secret that our family loves golden retrievers. The larger the better. For sixteen years ours have been cared for at Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago, www.BlumVet.com.Located in the Lakeview / Wrigley field area it’s always rated the best vet hospital in Chicago and one of the best in the nation. We met Dr. Georgesen, a 2000 graduate of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine when Honey and Sandy were rambunctious puppies. At the time their nicknames were Thumper and Dumper.

Dr. Georgesen is now a senior partner at Blum - I suspect vet practice groups run a bit like law firms - but it’s her firm now - and she has to supervise dozens of employees, work with her other vets, deal with human clients and canine patients, and all the while make the operation hum. When you step into a treatment room with Dr. Georgesen  she makes you and your pet feel like the most important patient Blum has ever had. That’s a gift.  I only hold her Boilermaker background against her 1 Saturday a year and then for only 3 hours.

She was eternally patient with them as they would jump up on the counter, spill the treats and try to maul the staff.  It was like Rambo comes to Romper Room - but somehow she and her team calmed down the pups and help get the job done.  We really valued the insights she had when Honey was stricken with seizures and needed brain surgery. It gave Honey another 18 months of life when the situation seemed in doubt. I suspect one of the most challenging part of a veterinarian’s practice is speaking with clients about the end of the life of a pet.  At the end of their lives, her advice was direct, supportive, and very helpful.  Sixty years of practicing law among the adults in the household really didn’t equip us to make that decision. Linda and I appreciated her sensitivity.

Kelly Hoey It’s almost impossible to describe Kelly Hoey in four or five words and in the next year I promise to find a better capsule.  She’s done pretty much everything someone can do in a career, but when you meet her you realize she’s just warming up.  She’s more well connected than the national electrical grid. She’s brilliant and can almost instantly relate to any person.  Utterly without pretense (an unusual trait on the island of Manhattan that she calls home) - she commands the respect of an audience almost instantly with a clear extremely confident voice.  She has a remarkable sense of humor - it’s sharp, balanced, and accessible.  For many humor is a dull tool designed to poke fun and establish social supremacy.  Not for Kelly - for her it’s a way to communicate, to humanize, to establish a bond, and create an open door for communication. That’s the essence of productive humor in a business relationship. 

Kelly has practiced law, worked in the corporate world, and most recently was Global Director of Alumni Relations for White & Case. Raised in British Columbia she went to the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria and as someone with a daughter who attends McGill University in Montreal, I can hear that unique Canadian accent- subtle yet memorable.           

She was the President of 85 Broads, a global network for professional women whose name is a play on the address of the Global Headquarters of Goldman Sachs.  Their members include senior women professionals around the world from every profession imaginable.  They could not possibly have a better leader but I have a feeling that Kelly would tell you that she is the President but that all of their members are leaders. She is now a consultant for 85 Broads and is now Vice President of Shift Worldwide, a revolutionary high tech company whose new video conferencing technology is going to change the way that law firms communicate.

For many students - male and female - networking is tough and a bit daunting. For Kelly it is intuitive and fun.  She gets a charge out of connecting people - not in a Hollywood who do you know on the A-List type - but because she knows that connecting people - old school or new school - is what drives relationships, business, families and friends.

She types faster on a Blackberry than I can on a keyboard (140 WPM). It’s like watching Jennifer Garner play the Pinball Wizard. She can multi task better than Bill Gates.  She has a photographic memory about people, places, and their connections.  And she just never stops - the creative wizardry is always running in the background.  Example, as I finish this piece she and her husband are on vacation in Paris.  I talked to her a few days before they left and sent her a list of our favorite off the beaten path places to dine.  She’s already sent back on Facebook four places she has found that have to be on our list.  She doesn’t have an agenda. She’s as authentic as they come.  She connects people because it completes her world.  She’ll be speaking at the Ms. JD 4th Annual Conference in Los Angeles. Don’t miss it. I’ll save you a seat in the front row.

Beth Eccles - A Fabulous Farmer - along with her husband Brent, own Green Acres Farm in North Judson Indiana, an organic 160 acre farm that grows some of the most remarkable produce in America. Hey I’m more of a steakatarian but her stand at the Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park could make a rib eye weep. As the summer rolls on you’ll see heirloom tomatoes, 10 varieties of potatoes, greens that almost jump into your car.  But what makes Green Acres special  is the people - her good-natured crew who truck thousands of pounds in every Wednesday and Saturday morning well before dawn and wait on a demanding public from dawn until the last tomato is sold.    Beth has enough energy to light most of Indiana is always seems unruffled amidst the chaos and will always take time to tell a customer (like me) why her Japanese sweet potatoes are the best.  She grows, she cultivates, she sells, she markets, and she manages her employees.  Sounds like the chairman of law firm to me.

Linda and I had the privilege of attending her end of season festival at   her farm the past two years and it was remarkable to chat with so many of the people who do business with Green Acres.  A very happy crowd indeed.  Did I mention that the party started at 2 pm and lasted until noon the next day? People bring pets and tents.  It’s like Field of Dreams - If you Grill it they will come. Everyone there had more stories to tell than me about Beth and Green Acres and what they mean to their lives. Next time you’re in Chicago in the summer stop at the Green City Market at the South West end of Lincoln Park. Once you’ve seen Beth, stop by the legendary Mick Klug’s fruit stand, then hit Hoosier Pie Mama and you are ready for a week of seriously good Chicago eating. Only three women in my life have inspired me to eat my vegetables - Linda, Shannon, and Beth Eccles.

Susan Goss - owns West Town Tavern with her husband Drew. For nearly twenty years they have been luminaries on the fine dining scene in Chicago - first with Zinfandel on West Grand in River North and now with West Town.  Susan is the chef and Drew runs the front of the house as they say in the business.  It’s classic comfort cooking in rapidly changing neighborhood just west of downtown.

Susan’s energy is infectious.  When you watch her at work in the kitchen you see her humor, precision, and energy. You also see someone who leads a team gently but effectively.  She seems to have about 2% staff turnover which might suggest that they enjoy working with Drew and Susan.  There are a lot of great restaurants in the Windy City (feel free to write me for my personal dining guide) so what is it that makes West Town so special.  First, it feels like your place by the second time you are there.  Second the cuisine is creative, memorable, and just plain spectacular. Third, it’s the bargain of the 21st century.  The wine list hovers around $25-40 a bottle and is quite deep and interesting.  Finally there will be something, probably several things on the dessert menu that will make you grow weak in the knees and cancel your next three pilates classes.

To bring West Town home, order Susan’s new cookbook - West Town Tavern - Contemporary Comfort Food (2010) - it’s a beautiful book that has 90% of her classics - a bit simplified for home use.

To be sure, there are limitations. Being from Indianapolis they are fans of the dreaded Colts and occasionally offer support to the Boilermakers.  But they’re willing to give a good table to Michigan, Harvard, UCLA, and McGill loyalists.  What inspires me about Drew and Susan is that they haven’t lost the magic that started them on this journey.  I’ve always admired restaurant owners because they have to deliver their product hundreds of times every day to a very unforgiving audience.  I think lawyers could learn a lot from Team Goss.  I certainly have.

Ten down, ninety to go.  Who is next up to bat in my Hall of Fame?  You’ll have to come back in a few weeks, give me a call, or stop by my world headquarters in Chicago. But starting April 10, understand that we will be fully protected by Dakota, the world’s fiercest golden retriever puppy.  The Argentine Beverage society opens every evening at 6. My question for you is - who is on your list?  Let me know.  I hear at least one of my loyal readers asking - where are the references to Linda and Shannon?  Patience.  Patience. 

3 Comments

jlwallace

Frank, you are the real deal.

kstanford

Frank - your post has inspired me to start making my own list of 100.  Thanks for reminding me of the amazing women who inspire us all to work hard and strive for greatness.

sintecho

Thank you for reminding me what wonderful allies and mentors (both male and female) we newly minted women lawyers have in the profession!

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