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Branding Room Only Interview with Laurie Robinson Haden: Shining Brightly – Part 1

Interview with Laurie Robinson Haden part 1
Interview with Laurie Robinson Haden part 1
Branding Room Only Interview with Laurie Robinson Haden: Shining Brightly - Part 1
Laurie Robinson Haden is an accomplished corporate attorney and leader with extensive experience advocating for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. She is the Founder and CEO of Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) and the author of It’s Time To Shine: A Guide For Professionals of Color on How to Advance Their Career. Recognized by Savoy magazine as one of the country’s “Most Influential Black Lawyers,” Laurie has fostered a community of over 5000 members (and growing)!  Join us for part one of this two part episode to hear more about Laurie’s path and her vision for the future, continuing to support professionals of color to overcome challenges and achieve career success.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The importance of mentorship, sponsorship, and coaching in building your personal brand
  • How the Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) community lifts its members and reflections on 20 years of the annual conference
  • Laurie’s vision and goals for CCWC heading into 2024
  • Investing in oneself as a strategy for success
  • Why Laurie wrote her new book It’s Time To Shine: A Guide For Professionals of Color on How to Advance Their Career and some of the book’s key takeaways

In this episode:

Finding a supportive community is crucial for long-term professional and personal success. A personal brand can be magnified and enhanced by helping others and being open to receiving help. One challenge is finding the community and having the vehicle to develop strong relationships and building a reliable network to grow and allocate your resources.  Leadership is having the vision to create these spaces.  Laurie Robinson Haden created her non-profit organization, Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) to fill that niche for women of color attorneys. The community that she has developed through the CCWC conferences have fostered support, collaboration, and continued professional successes for its participants.  Now, in addition to continuing to expand CCWC, Laurie has taken lessons learned and observations from her career and put them into her advice filled and actionable new book, It’s Time To Shine: A Guide For Professionals of Color on How to Advance Their Career In part one of this two part episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, Paula Edgar interviews Laurie Robinson Haden, the President and CEO of Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC), to discuss how she developed her personal brand, CCWC’s ongoing initiatives, and It’s Time To Shine: A Guide For Professionals of Color on How to Advance Their Career . They go through Laurie’s background, what she learned from her community, and her experience building CCWC from an idea to a movement.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Episode Highlights

00:00:00 Introduction and Welcome

00:01:20 Defining Personal Brand

00:03:10 Laurie Robinson Haden’s Personal Brand and Inspirations

00:05:03 The Power of Networking and Connection

00:08:36 The Journey of Corporate Counsel Women of Color

00:14:24 The Impact of CCWC and Future Goals

00:24:45 The Importance of Vulnerability and Connection

00:27:45 Conclusion

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.

PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.

To learn more about Paula and her services, go to or contact her at [email protected], and follow Paula Edgar and the PGE Consulting Group LLC on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: Hi everyone, it’s Paula Edgar, your host of Branding Room Only. I am so excited because we’re going to be talking today with Laurie Robinson Haden, who is the founder and CEO of Corporate Counsel Women of Color and the author of a new book called It’s Time To Shine: A Guide For Professionals of Color on How to Advance Their Career and She’s also an award winning lawyer.

She’s also a co founder of Parents Supporting Educational Excellence. She is all the things and I’m happy to have her here with me today. Welcome, Laurie.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Paula, thank you so much for having me on your show today. I’m so honored to be with you and I look forward to our robust discussion.

Paula Edgar: It certainly will be robust because we have so much to talk about because the podcast is about personal branding.

It is something that drives me every single day. And I think it is the differentiating factor that everyone, you may have a similar background, but it’s how you bring what you bring to the table. It’s really how you shine.

And so, so that being said, tell me, Laurie, how do you define personal brand?

Laurie Robinson Haden: Well, you know what?

I like to use the example of McDonald’s. I was driving by actually McDonald’s today and I was thinking about branding and I said, it doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter what country you are in, whose house you’re visiting. When somebody brings in that McDonald’s bag, you know, somebody has McDonald’s french fries.

Somebody has a McDonald’s cheeseburger. And when I think about the brand, a successful brand like McDonald’s, which is also applicable to individuals, it’s all about consistency. You know, I lived in New York City for 20 years and one of my pet peeves when I would go to these new restaurants in Harlem is that the macaroni and cheese on Monday didn’t taste like the same macaroni and cheese two weeks later.

So there was no consistency in the brand. So when you talk about a brand, it’s about consistency. It’s about dependability. It’s about excellence. And when you’re talking about building your brand, those are the things that you have to be able to do. You have to be able to execute consistently, with excellence.

And when I think about a brand, that’s what I think about.

Paula Edgar: I think that’s a perfect description. You know, of course now I’m hungry cause we was talking about McDonald’s and shout out to Desiree speaking of McDonald’s. So it, it does, you know what to expect when somebody has, has a consistent strong brand, you know what to expect because they have been, they have been consistent.

So let me ask you this. If you were to describe yourself in three words or short phrases, what would you use? What would you say?

Laurie Robinson Haden: Motivational, inspirational, and empowerment.

Paula Edgar: Yes.

Laurie Robinson Haden: You know, when I think about the things that I offer as a brand, that’s one of the things that I know, when I think about just inspiring people, that is a brand that’s also a leadership style.

But that is one of one of the go to things that I think that I am able to do consistently is inspire people. In addition to the empowerment and, you know, there are a hundred things that I think that I can do as a brand, but those are like my go to toolkits of what I offer to people.

Paula Edgar: So I will say that that is true as someone who has been inspired by you.

I think that is absolutely true. And I’ve seen how you have convened people in spaces, because of who you are and what your brand is that people will show up and that, and that’s powerful. Okay, keep going. What’s your favorite quote or, or mantra?

Laurie Robinson Haden: My favorite quote is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

And I’ve always relied on that quote because no matter where I am – my seasons be it a summer, winter, fall, you know, you can, you can always tap into no matter what you’re going through, whether you feel inadequate, whether you don’t have the skill set and you need it, you know that if you’re doing it in Christ, you can do all things.

So that empowers me to keep going to know that no matter what is going on, he’s got my back, and that he’s put inside of me every single tool that I need to be all that I need to be in that season.

Paula Edgar: I love that. And, so for those of you who are not familiar with Laurie, I don’t know who you are, but whoever is not familiar with Laurie who’s listening to this, Laurie, puts together a conference every year called Corporate Counsel Women of Color, and now Men of Color, and now Entrepreneurs of Color.

All of us, we’re going to get into that in a minute, but this year, for the first time, and I’ve had the opportunity to go several times, I went to the inspiration breakfast. And I have, I’m still thinking about that experience of that. And you use that same quote then, you said the same thing that I said, I was like, I wonder if she’s going to be consistent and you were consistent in that, and, and, and also inspiring.

And that was such a fantastic event. Tasha Cobbs Leonard was, I mean, I am. I had never been before. All of the ones I’ve been to, it’s always been, I’ve just been so tired, but I got up…

Laurie Robinson Haden: I pushed it back an hour because even the artists were like seven o’clock, that’s too early so I pushed it back to nine o’clock. So everyone could get up and go.

Paula Edgar: And it was, it was… I would say transformational. I will, I will tell you that. And in speaking to people afterwards and since, definitely so. So thank you for doing that. And I can’t wait for it to be in Las Vegas and see who it’s going to be. We’ll talk about that later. Okay.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Paula, I’ll give you a scoop. You’re the first one to hear this. I haven’t even posted on social media. Donnie McClurkin will be our morning inspirational artist.

Paula Edgar: My goodness. So, this is…

Laurie Robinson Haden: You have to get your ticket tonight. This thing will be sold out soon. So, get your ticket. Don’t procrastinate.

Paula Edgar: I got my ticket the first day it goes on. It’s already done. And all of you who have not, it’s what, 65 percent sold out already? 70. 70%. So, yes, I I’m your person without you knowing it. I am literally the one being like, have you already signed up?

You see, you need to be there. Yeah, so, oh, yeah, don’t worry. I already got my, I have my hotel. Everything is ready to go. I will be in Las Vegas. Lord willing. Okay. All right. So now that I’ve gotten that scoop, I’m so excited about that. Tell me if you have a favorite song that you use, a hype song.

So hype song for me is when you’re walking into a room and people are going to get full a hundred percent authentic Laurie, what’s playing in your head? Or if you’re having a terrible day and you want to be in a better mood, what song do you play? And it could be the same song or, both or different ones.

Laurie Robinson Haden: It’s different songs. It depends on the day of the week. It’s depending on how I’m feeling. But even today I took my son to school. I dropped him off. And when I came home, the song I was listening to, I think all the way up on 30, you know, where the car’s shaking, I was listening to this great song. It’s called Big.

And, and the core lyrics, the song Big is just like, you know what? It’s going to be big. Your promotion is going to be big. Your job is going to be big. Everything that you are doing, it’s going to be big. God is going to blow your mind. So I was just playing it. I was enjoying it. I was believing that in a new season, God was going to do a new thing in me and in our members, and I just embraced and I celebrated it big.

Paula Edgar: Wow, I love it. We have to make sure that we link that so I put together a playlist at the end of all of this so that everybody has each song from each episode is going to be in this. I’m going to have to go ahead.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Thank you.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. Yes. All right. Awesome. So we talked a little bit about CCWC, but I want you to kind of tell the audience your, your story.

So where you started, a little bit about your career and then what led you to building CCWC. And then we’re going to then talk about what led you to write this book after that. So tell me a little bit about yourself.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Well, I’ll give you the Cliff Note version because I could spend an hour talking about myself, but, you know, I am a product of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

And if you’re not familiar with Prince George’s County, Maryland, it’s outside of DC in Northern Virginia. I was raised in Fort Washington, Maryland. And, you know, my experience was one that, and I talk about it in the book, I was raised in a predominantly African American community. And the motto there was “It takes a village”.

And we had doctors, lawyers, generals. I mean, you saw everyone and it wasn’t a big deal to see successful African Americans, in our lives. And they, they mentored us and they helped us. And they encouraged us that you can do any and everything that you put your mind to. And then when it was time to go to college, I went to North Carolina Central University, a historical Black college and university where my mother went, father went, aunts.

It was a family school. And again, it was, I was not a minority. It was predominantly African American. I went on to IU at Bloomington. And the dean then, Dean Frank Motley. He was big on diversity recruiting. So even when I got to law school in Indiana, we had a pretty strong BLSA community. I think we had over about 150 African American students.

So again, you had a community. It was supportive. And really, it wasn’t until I got to New York City as a lawyer. Fresh out of law school and I went to my very first firm, Epstein Becker & Green and you know, they’re still very supportive of me today. But that was really the first time that I was, like I said, I like to say a minority and I just felt isolated.

I didn’t feel like I had mentors. And you know, the good thing about that experience was, and, and I say in the book, this was before LinkedIn and Facebook and TikTok and Meetup, you know, now you can just click and go. But back in that day, you had to like physically go to the location. You remember our days with PALS, you had to meet people, you had to pass out business cards.

You had to follow up and what it ended up doing was it ended up pushing me out of my comfort zone. As a new associate, you know, I would sit in my office waiting for the work to come to me. And then, you know, at the end of the month, if I didn’t have my billable hours. You know, I’m like, what’s going on? Why isn’t this happening?

And when I connected with the mentors, they said, you have to leave your office, you have to go down the hallway, you have to knock on the door, you have to ask, you have to go to the firm social hour, which, you know, many of us like, I don’t want to go to firm social hour. I’m with them all day. I want to go home when I’m done, but that’s where the deals get done at those informal networking sessions. So it pushed me, I went out, I met people and it really resulted in transforming my career. I ended up getting a stronger relationship with the name partner, Ron Green of Epstein Becker & Green. He ended up mentoring me and then connecting me with his wife, Fran Green, who is still a mentor for me today. And then I went on to CBS, and there was a small group of us meeting at that time for dinner, and at one of the dinners, I said, I’m going to put together a directory, and I said, I’m going to email you all this template with your name, your practice area, your address, your email address. I’m going to go to Office Depot. I’m going to compile this directory and I’m going to mail it all to you. So those 10 people took that directory. They each emailed it to five people. By the end of that week, we had identified 50 women of color who are in house. And that was big because then again, like I said, there was no LinkedIn and you only know who you saw.

So you, you would really never see more than like 10 people out at a time. And then I printed that up, I sent it off. And then those 50 people, they’re like, well, you forgot Paula, you forgot Rhonda. And literally by the end of that month, we were at a hundred people. And then it just, it just took off. It was like a portal, a portal had been built and people just felt isolated all across the country in their practice areas and what was great is CCWC was able to bring everyone together so that they knew that they were not alone. Many of the lawyers were first generation lawyers who, you know what? They may not have had a mother or father who could say, okay, go in now. Make sure you negotiate for this and make sure in your performance evaluation, you respond to this and make sure you ask for the promotion after you’ve quantified all your deliverables.

They didn’t have that support, but they got that support at CCWC. And to your point, it transformed many people’s lives and careers.

Paula Edgar: Yes. I mean, I’m sitting here like, yes, exactly. Everything you just said. It, first of all, my parents used to always say that, that there’s, there’s a spark in leaders that you can’t really put your finger on.

You just know them when you see them. Like they just have this thing. And I believe that because I believe that some people come to it naturally. And I also believe that you can grow into a great leader as well, if it doesn’t come to you naturally. That being said, initiative is something that I’ve seen in leadership that I know that that’s that spark and you have that like saying I’m going to go to Home Depot or Office Depot and copy these things.

I’m sure many people thought about the idea of having a great directory, but it’s the people who do who transform the world. It’s the ones who take the idea and make it into action who transform the world. And so talk to me a bit about – so CCWC is coming on to its 20th year.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Yeah.

Paula Edgar: And, and at the conference this year, Sharon Bowen was talking about what it was when it first started and she had the T shirt and, and, you know, everybody’s like in tears in the audience because we were like, this is, that is just magical that you were able to make this happen.

But from your perspective. Give me like two or three things, experiences that stand out for you over that time frame that really resonate for you in terms of CCWC, anything that comes to mind.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Well, that’s a good question. Now, you know, 20 years, I can’t believe that it’s been 20 years because the time has gone by so fast.

But you know, I was actually just thinking about CCWC today, because sometimes, you know, when you’re in the juggle and the struggle and the day to day and just all of the work that comes with birthing something and maintaining something, you can kind of lose, you know, focus of everything that’s going on.

But one of the things I was thinking about today is, it stands out to me as like, we really have some die hard members. And I remember when the pandemic happened, we were supposed to have our big event in Dallas in 2020, and because of COVID, it was just bad. It was really bad in Texas, and we had to cancel that conference.

And not only did we have to cancel the conference, we had to pivot and bring the conference online. And and the worry was, Oh, my God, what if all of these people ask for a refund? Oh, my God, what if all of these sponsors say, they want a refund because, you know, they want to carry over, but I’m like, it’s, you’re, you’re, we have diehard members.

I think only two people fussed about getting a refund. Everybody else, they were okay with our going online and having a conference because they were so diehard. And, you know, there were a lot of organizations that did not make it out of COVID and we were on the bubble. If our members had said no,

we have to be live. We don’t want to go online. We want a re- … I don’t know if the organization would have emerged from that. But I’m like, when people are so committed to the work and the mission, and they’re okay to connect online, you know, that’s like that pivotal moment for me, that stands out to me the most that they were okay to do that.

Paula Edgar: Yes, I mean, It shows the strength, the strength of the brand and also the desire, the deep desire for connection. And I think that that was highlighted when we couldn’t be together, period, right? It wasn’t just we couldn’t be at CCWC, we couldn’t be, we couldn’t be together at all. And so, that’s a great highlight.

Tell me about something else, something else that stands out for you, from the conferences over the years.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Well, you know, all the conferences, they’re great, but, but one of the things I remember in my early days, and I talk about it in the book too, is I was trying to get, a trademark for Corporate Counsel Women of Color, and I had gone to this big muckety muck law firm to try to get them to help me get this mark.

And, you know, the people who were working with me, they kept telling me, Oh, no, Corporate Counsel Women of Color is too descriptive. You will never get this mark, but they just kept saying, never, never, never, never, no, no, no. And I’m like, no, we’re going to get a mark for Corporate Counsel Women of Color. And there was a young lady who was a lawyer in our group. She was with the record studios, but then she branched out on her own Susan Cornick And Susan Cornick was an IP lawyer and she said don’t worry, Laurie, I am going to get this mark. And she got the mark and I remember I went back to the big firm and I said now look I got the mark.

I got the registered mark not only for Corporate Counsel Women of Color. I got the registered mark for CCWC and Susan Cornick did it and their mouths just dropped. And I said, yeah, this lawyer who did it from the kitchen of her house, got it. And you all from the biggest firm in America, you couldn’t do it.

But you know what? That just shows me, you know, that just stayed with me. Don’t take no for an answer. You’ve got to get people who are on board with your vision and if they’re not, you have to move on. You may have gone to 20 other people, but that 19th person may be the one who’s going to help carry that ball over the field goal line.

So, you know, Susan Cornick, she was that person who did it. It wasn’t muckity muck law firm on Park Avenue that did it. And that was just such a great lesson to me. It stays with me today. When I’m dealing with vendors, when I’m dealing with people, this is the vision. And if it’s no, no, no, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I gotta cut them to the curb.

And I’ve gotta move on and find the people who can help me do it. And they’re out there. That was a good lesson learned.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I love that because of resilience. I love that because of the ability to pivot and say my yes is different from your no, we’re going to go this way.

And I think that’s a strong lesson for people to remember is that sometimes we get so caught up in the one direct path that we have focused on and there’s other ways to get to the same goal. And so that’s a great, great lesson and shout out to Susan.

Laurie Robinson Haden: Thank you, Susan, for your perseverance.

Paula Edgar: I love that. Okay. One more, one more thing. Tell me something that brought you extreme joy at one of these conferences.

Laurie Robinson Haden: You know, not even at the conferences, but I will tell you what I get great joy and great pleasure from. You know, we started in 2004 and many of the lawyers, the women of color lawyers, they were just young lawyers.

Trying to figure it out, trying to find their way. They didn’t know anything. I didn’t know anything. No one knew anything, but we could rely on each other to learn the strategies. How do I build my toolkit? How do I negotiate? How do I position myself? How do I brand myself? And the joy that I get from our members who are now entering the C suite.

Not only are they rising to the level of chief legal officer of these Fortune 500 companies, but they’re also getting on corporate boards. So I get the pleasure in saying, you know, I remember back in the day when you were here trying to connect with people and you were here trying to get a mentor and you got all of that and now you are on the road to becoming the generation of the next leaders.

So, I mean, my joy is I see the fruit of the labor. I see the fruit of the labor by seeing that they are advancing, they’re getting in the role, and I don’t want us to stop there because and I mentioned this at the last conference, as people of color start getting in those positions, they have to make sure they’re not window dressing positions. You have to get in that role, you have to have power, you have to have influence, you have to have a voice.

So when I, when I call you, I don’t want to hear you can’t hire a summer intern because you don’t have a budget. You should have negotiated that coming in. No, I don’t want to hear you cannot hire diverse outside counsel because you don’t have the authority within the job. If you’re in that job with no authority, no headcount, no budget, why are you there? That’s not what our mission was ever about. Window dressing. It’s not. It’s about having leaders of impact in those roles to make a difference and pay it forward.

Paula Edgar: All of that and I think, and I mean, not, I think, I know that that is the sort of underlying current of the whole conference.

So for those of you who are listening who have not been at CCWC, Laurie does this thing that makes everybody really uncomfortable, but we do it because we, we want to please her and then we end up pleasing all of ourselves, which is, she says, turn, turn around at this next break and give somebody your number and tell them what you need.

And I was like my phone number, but I can tell you that just in those two or three interactions, you did one twice in the conference and then once at the breakfast and each of those times, the person who I connected with – we needed the connection. And you just don’t realize how magic happens when you are a little bit brave and open to what the steps are ordered for you and will do like you just never know.

And I’m telling you, I was like, this is like magic. What’s going on? so you, you reminded me to be brave in some of those spaces. So –

Laurie Robinson Haden: And it’s not just brave. It’s really being vulnerable. I think when we, when we go out into the marketplace and you talk about your brand, you’re putting on this brand of: I’m brave. I’m smart. I’m strong. I have it going on. So that’s why I did the exercise. Tell someone what you need and maybe they can help you because we’re going through different things. Some people may just say, look, people on my job are acting crazy. I need a new job. I need to be airlifted out of there.

Can you help me? Oh, well, you know, now that you mentioned it, we have a position that’s open. Hey, you know what? I just need some encouragement. Okay, I’ll send you a song to encourage you. Hey, I’m at a law firm. I need a new client. I need a book of business. Well, I’m glad you mentioned that because we’re hiring diverse – … Like we really just need to be specific and tell people exactly what we need and not all of this beating around the bush. And we are there to meet the need. We have the power collectively to meet every need in the room. So I’m glad that you were able to connect with the individuals and the key is staying connected.

Paula Edgar: Yes. Yes. It is. It was fantastically magical in its execution and just in the, in what it created, there was like a momentum in the room that you could just feel being like, whoo, we did get vulnerable and it was okay. We were fine. And it probably made us better for it as opposed to – right? We were good. So, I appreciate that.

Laurie Robinson Haden: I’m curious now, what did you say that you needed at the conference to those people?

Paula Edgar: I, Oh, I can tell you. So my goal for 2024 and going forward is to do more with women’s groups. So I speak at law firms and I do things with the corporate legal in house departments and presentations and professional development.

But I haven’t tailored what I want to do for specifically women. I do it for anyone, but, so this year I got onto the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, and I was like, I want to use this access, this status, and the things that I know to really focus on the people who I know are the changes.

And I know that women are the change agents. And so that’s what I said. So anybody who I spoke to, I was like, here’s what I want to do. And there are two or three things that came from that, just those interactions. But what really resonates for me is that somebody who I connected with, she said, I need somebody who I can call when I’m feeling down.

And I’m almost in tears like thinking about it because I, I was like, Oh my God, you found me. All I do is cheerlead for people and literally right after that, I was like, what’s your number and to be able to say, Hey, this is what you need, but for her to say that to someone who was a stranger, was very vulnerable.

And I was glad that I was the one to be able to receive that blessing from her and then give her back what she needed. So it really resonated.

Hi y’all. Wasn’t that a fantastic conversation with Laurie Robinson Haden? I am so excited. So we’re going to make that a part one and move on to part two. So we’re splitting this up. So if you just heard part one, stay tuned for next week, when there’ll be a part two, and you can hear the rest of our dynamic conversation with Laurie Robinson Haden talking about her new book, It’s Time to Shine, as well as the impact that she has had as the CEO and Founder of Corporate Counsel Women of Color, otherwise known as CCWC.

See you next time for part two in the Branding Room. Bye.