10X10: 100 Mentor and Allies, Part 1

Below you will find the first ten women on our list of 100 Mentors and Allies--women who we have met and gotten to know, women who have set superlative standards for excellence in everything they do. In Franks's words: "You will recognize some, but not most.  But know this - Ms. JD is all about your network and I bet more than ninety percent of these women would gladly take your call.  You have the makings of your list now and you’ll add names with each passing year." 


I'm thrilled to launch this list with one of the best mentors and allies I've ever had the pleasure of knowing: Professor Lisa R. Pruitt. Take one look at her Curriculum Vitae and list of publications and you'll get a sliver of what makes her remarkable. She is an ardent feminist, mentor and sponsor of women, and brilliant academic. Certainly, a whole post could be dedicated to Lisa's many remarkable accomplishments, but I'll mention just one here: in 1996, while serving as a gender consultant to the U.N. International Tribunal for Rwanda, Lisa wrote a memo that played a key role in the first successful prosecution of rape as a war crime. A recent film, The Uncondemend, tells the story of a group of young international lawyers and activists--including Lisa--who fought to make rape a crime of war. 

So, clearly, she's busy with super important things. But here's the thing: despite her immensely busy and important schedule, she always makes time for others, finds ways to include and support others, reaches out just to say hello. To wit: she co-authored a law review article with me, brought me along to Colorado to speak at a conference with her, always finds time to meet up when we are passing through, sends a holiday greeting each year without fail, and sends emails just to say hi.  She's the real deal. 


This list will comprise 100 Mentors and Allies, but Jessie Kornberg easily makes my top five. She currently serves as the first female CEO of legal services nonprofit Bet Tzedek, following her work as a trial attorney at Los Angeles-based litigation boutique Bird Marella and, before that, as Ms. JD's executive director.

Here are three things that set her apart: 1) She does everything with a seeming effortlessness, a masterful grace. She could be an IRL princess or a ballerina, but it's better yet that she's an attorney, because....2) She is whip-smart and a true visionary. And she uses her powers for good (read her interview with Megan Boyd for more on that). 3) She is wise. And through her wisdom, she inspires. She has spent countless hours talking to me and others of our friends (and I'm sure others still) about how to react in a tough situation, how to promote, how to interview, how to communicate well. Top five, hands down.  


Linda Somers Smith is a law firm partner at Adamksi Moroski Madden Cumberland & Green LLP and the former managing partner of a majority woman-owned law firm.  Her work is impeccable, but she’s equally known for something else--running. And not just running, but running fast.  She competed as a world-class marathon runner, representing the United States in numerous events, including the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She currently holds the record for being the fastest 50 year old in the country. 

In my first year practicing law, I tagged along with Linda to a particularly difficult mediation in a town several hours away. On the way home, well into the night (it was a long mediation), we stopped at In-N-Out Burger (as Californians do). I gave my order and then Linda gave hers which included two milkshakes. Granted, the milkshakes at In-N-Out are pretty small, but two milkshakes? Really?  Linda turned to me and said, “some days in the law are just two milkshake kind of days.” 

I’ve learned a lot from Linda over the years. I’ve learned that some days are sprinting days, some days are marathon days, and some days? Well, some days are two milkshake kinds of days. You can totally run it off tomorrow. 


Sharon Runner is not a lawyer, but she's a lawmaker (Frank included non-lawyers on his list, and we will, too). I started working for Sharon when I was 19 years old and she showed me how to work #likeaboss before the hashtag even existed. She took care of business like nobody's business. She was remarkable to watch. 

Importantly, she expected me to be boss, too. On one occassion, she sent me down to speak on her behalf to the Women of the California Highway Patrol. There I stood in front of 1500 people in the conference center at the Disneyland hotel, shaking in my heels. I did not think I was up to the task--my nerves were  definitely getting the better of me. But she knew I could handle it before I knew I could handle it. I handled it. We all need women in our lives who will throw us in the deep end because they know we can swim. Sharon didn't just teach me to tread water--she taught me the butterfly. 


Paula Edgar is Principal of PGE, LLC – a boutique speaking, coaching and consulting firm, where she provides innovative and strategic solutions on career management, executive/leadership development, diversity efforts, higher educational outreach and retention programs, intercultural competence initiatives, networking and social media strategy. Her work, both past and present, is remarkable and impressive.

One of my favorite articles by Frank was "You're Not Networking, You're Connecting." I don't know if Frank and Paula ever met, but I guarantee she would be top of his connectors list. She easily ranks in the top ten on my list of fabulous, fun, and fearless connectors. She was also top of my list to speak at our New York conference--when I brought up her name as a potential speaker, another board member was quick to respond, "there's no way we would have a conference in New York without Paula." (I'm glad we all agree.)

Plus, she's one of my style icons and has her own hashtag #paulantics. Legit.


I'm throwing it way back with Sayoko Lynn Cox, an amazing woman who I met back when we were just kids. You could tell back then that she was going places because she worked like a boss at everything she did, which was always about 17 different things at once.  I could tell a dozen stories about Sayoko, but here's one throwback. When we were teenagers, we belonged to a charitable youth organization. At one point, I received a beautiful handmade quilt as a gift for my work with the organization. Each of my friends embroidered a square--a heart or a rainbow or a little message. Sayoko perfectly hand embroidered Snow White and all seven dwarfs on an 6 inch by 6 inch square. I can confirm that is a lot of tiny stiches, a lot of threading and re-threading, a lot of time. The story is 20 years old, a minor event in the grand scheme of things, but every time I look at that quilt I am reminded that Sayoko was the type of person who would put in the time and the energy to make something perfect. She could throw a perfect pitch, bowl a perfect game, earn a perfect grade, take a perfect photo, embroider a perfect quilt square. All because she has the drive to work hard.

Here's what I learned from Sayoko: Be a doer. Be a maker of things. Be a person who practices to make perfect. A doer and a maker and a practicer goes places.  Case in point: Sayoko is now the Director of Operations at will.i.am (The Future!) and owns an amazing photography business in Southern California.  Put her on your radar, I have a feeling she's not stopping any time soon.


I've never met Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon, but I feel like they are among my best friends and mentors. Why? I listen to their podcast, Being Boss, every week during my commute. Being Boss is technically a podcast for creative entreprenuers, but I find their ‘you got this’ confidence, boosts and ‘let’s get real’ advice super relevant and inspiring.  Let me give you two examples. Emily says, "If you want to be boss, you have to do the work." And Kathleen says, “You can build a business by being who you are.” I dig it. They talk about scheduling and handling email and organizing and collaborating and finding confidence and taking charge. 


I also asked the Ms. JD Board of Directors for their mentors and allies. 

Here's Immediate Past President Katie Larkin Wong's addition:

Eileen Larkin is a public appellate defender in Montana and my Mom.  She went back to law school and became a lawyer when she had two daughters in high school.  I was 15, my sister was 13 and we both had all of the hormones, emotions, and roller coaster needs that you expect two teenage girls to have.  My Mom was in November of her first semester of law school and had all of the stress that you remember and expect in the month before your first set of finals in your 1L year.  

We had had a bad morning - everyone woke up late, the sisters had changed clothes three times, books were being thrown into backpacks - nothing was going right.  Then, my sister took the apple juice from the fridge and shook it -- hard -- intending to mix it all up.  Instead, the cap, which was not on tight, flew off splattering apple juice all over the kitchen including me and our mother/budding law student.  One or both of us started crying.  At that point, Mom called the whole day off saying that we all needed a mental health day.  She sent us back upstairs to change out of our now apple juice-soaked clothes and into pajamas.  To this day, when we're having a disastrous morning, we all joke that it was an "apple juice kinda morning."  Three years later, when my Mom graduated from law school, her classmates gave her their Inspirational Student Award saying that they were inspired by the mother, as much as the law student, that she was.  


And here is Jessie Kornberg's addition:

In thinking about Frank Kimball's series, 100 Reason's I support Ms. JD and in remembering Frank, I'm reminded how important passion about one's work and community is for women lawyers. With that in mind, I'd like to highlight Neda Mansoorian. I met Neda Mansoorian at California Women Lawyers. Her enthusiasm for CWL and for the cause of advancing women lawyers generally is unmatched. And that's translated into incredible achievement advancing CWL's agenda and incredible satisfaction for Neda. In particular I'd like to highlight Neda's role with the In-House Counsel Network. She launched and led the network this year. AND funded the network's first event, by herself, without recognition, to ensure its success.


That's 10. I've got ninety to go.

I'll pick up a few bottles of Malbec on my next wine run because this roundup would not truly celebrate Frank unless I invited you all over for a glass (or two) of wine to discuss your list. In the interest of carrying on tradition, the Argentine Beverage Society (San Luis Obispo affiliate) opens Friday at 6 at my place. 



You ladies are so very lucky. My mentor was Prof Peter Juviler and I would love to discuss his work sometime!

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