Moving the Needle as Women Lawyers with Corinne Heggie

Being a woman in the legal field is no walk in the park. Unlike men, whose default is to advocate for themselves, working environments often force women lawyers into the backseat. However, you must remember that only you guide the trajectory of your career. You must foster your unique skills and advocate for yourself to build opportunities. Only in this way can you move the needle toward achieving your vision for your career, clients, and your legal community.

In this episode, Corinne Heggie joins us to shed light on the challenges and struggles women lawyers face in their profession. She highlights the value of building a profile outside the office and building your own book of business. Corinne also shares the best practices in seeking opportunities and the three things you must do daily to get business. Finally, she talks about her experience becoming a part of a bar association and how it helped her career.

If you want to know how to start advocating for yourself as a woman lawyer, then this episode is for you.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode

  1. Learn the biggest challenges women lawyers face in building their careers.
  2. Discover the three things you need to do every day to stay on top of mind of your network.
  3. Learn why becoming part of a bar association is helpful in your career.

Resources

Episode Highlights

Corrine’s Children

  • Corrine's oldest son is going to be a freshman in high school.
  • Meanwhile, her second and youngest will be in 8th and 6th grade, respectively.
  • Tune in to the full episode to hear about Moshe’s parenting values and experience!

Corrine’s Legal Journey

  • Corrine has been a lawyer for two decades. She has worked at a large national law firm, where she received as much mentorship from women as men.
  • She eventually moved up as an associate and partner in the firm. There, she learned the value of creating relationships and building your book of business.
  • Later, she joined the largest majority women-owned firm in Chicago and became a principal of her current firm.
  • Coming from a big family has helped Corrine in her practice, serving her clients, and managing her firm.

Corrine: “I think it's really important for lawyers to get involved with things outside of the four walls of their practice, whatever that practice may be—bar association, work civic, politics, or a combination of all of them. Because you just don't know wherever you're going to find connections and who can help you with your next move for your clients or your family. I really believe in the power of having a profile outside of your office.”

  • Listen to the full podcast to hear Moshe’s examples of how women lawyers can foster community involvement!

The Biggest Challenge for Women Lawyers

  • The struggle for women lawyers has always been advocating for themselves.
Corinne: “We do a great job of advocating for our clients and for maybe our teams within the firms, or legal departments, or government agencies that we serve. But you have to be able to advocate for yourself because if it's meant to be, it's up to me. No one is going to ever care as much about your career as you are.”
  • The first step is being able to ask and then being brave enough to hear "no" and understand its meaning critically.
  • Corrine's experience working at the largest majority women-owned firm taught her how to market more authentically and get clients.
  • Women lawyers don’t have to do it the way men do; they can bring their own spin to an ask, pitch, or connection. It’s about becoming better advocates.

The Gender Divide in Self-Advocacy

  • Men’s default is to advocate for themselves.
  • Women lawyer's plates get filled very quickly regardless of what their family looks like because of many competing interests.
  • Caretaking for everyone forces women to put themselves in the backseat.
  • Corinne's advice for young men and women lawyers is to build a profile outside their office and advocate for themselves.

Corinne: “Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. And you want to be able if you need to get out of a situation or you want a client, you've got to be able and you don't have a connection to that client, but you know you've got the skill set—you have to have a network to lean into. So, building a profile beyond the four walls of your office, number one. And number two, advocating for yourself.”

Building a Profile Outside Your Office

  • The profile you build for yourself is your hallmark; it carries you wherever you go.
  • Another important thing is first impressions and authorities.
  • First impressions and how you carry yourself under stress in the courtroom speak volumes.
  • You don’t have to be perfect all the time. But if you are trustworthy, professional, and respectful, people will understand situations where your emotions get the better of you.

Building Your Own Book of Business

  • You need to tailor it to the environment in which you’re working and who your clients are. 
  • Then, depending on your position, you need to get comfortable asking to be part of the action. Being part of the team in a meaningful way establishes your value to the client.
  • Having a profile in and out of work is helpful. People want to work with people who are engaged in the office and their life outside the law industry.
  • In generating the business, you need to be comfortable with making the ask of the clients to get the pitch and even the business itself.
  • To get the business, you need to be a resource to a potential client or be their contact in other areas.
Corinne: "People want to work with people they know, they like, and they trust. Yes, you've got to be smart, and yes, you've got to know your craft. But that's almost a given if you're working and you've been doing the work and learning your craft and learning how to do deals, or learning how to work up a case for trial, or learning how to prepare a client to sell his or her business.”

Why Communication is Critical for Women Lawyers

Moshe: "You could be the best attorney out there, but if you don't know how to communicate with your clients, if you don't know how to set the expectations and have clear lines of communication throughout the engagement with them, ultimately, it's not going to paint you in the light that you want to be painted in."
  • Communication is critical across all disciplines and professions.
  • Knowing how to address the situation when communication breaks down with a client is crucial. It's a waste of time trying to affix the blame.

How to Seek Opportunities

  • You must find opportunities wherever you can authentically be.
  • Put yourself in the client's shoes, and try to see what they need and want.
  • Anticipating clients’ needs and becoming a resource, even just by referring someone else for the job, is value-adding.
  • Being a good listener allows you to hear what clients are not saying is a pain point for them.

Handling Career and Parenting as a Woman in the Legal Field

  • Women must be more vigilant with keeping their profession and career goals while growing a family.
  • Corrine was fortunate enough to be eligible for elevation to partner in the year she had her first son. She made a point to stay in front of the decision-makers.
  • There's no one size fits all. If you don't reach a specific position you're aiming for immediately, you can get it on the second or third try.
  • She feels lucky to have a great partner in her spouse and a wonderful sitter to take care of her children.
  • Building a book of business and creating relationships take time.

Three Things to Do Every Day to Get Business

  • Ask someone or send an email to get breakfast.
  • Send an email containing an article to someone.
  • Share an article about someone’s success with them.
  • You can do just a little bit every day. You don’t have to do all three in a day.
  • Opportunities exist, but it’s building the foundation that will pay off down the road.
Corinne: “For things to be sustained and come with you and be part of your fabric, it's the work you've done or you and your team have done to cultivate the relationship and get deep roots with that person and their organization.”

Who You Should Be Reaching Out To

  • The key team can change as your business goals and needs change.
  • There are 8 to 10 people Corinne makes sure to get in touch with once or twice a quarter.
  • Reach out to people you’ve met, want to meet, have been introduced to, and have helped you with something.
  • The ripple effect is powerful. You don’t know where, when, and how you will get potential clients, so make sure to be a positive experience for people.

How Becoming Part of a Bar Association Impacts Your Career

  • Corinne had the privilege of stewarding the Women's Bar Association as its president from 2019 to 2020.
  • Being part of the Women's Bar Association became great support in terms of Corinne's work and family life.
  • Being part of a bar association hones a unique kind of leadership skill. People are there to give back to the field and also because they believe in the bar association's mission.
  • Working at a bar association is volunteer work. It demonstrates your profile outside the office, leadership skills, and authenticity in what you do and talk about.
  • Bar associations aim to provide continuing legal education (CLE) to their members. It can be a way for lawyers to market themselves and build their referral network.

Corinne’s Parting Words and Piece of Advice

  • She is an evangelist for people figuring out their properties, how they own them, and how to protect them.
  • Know your property and how you own it so you can protect it with an estate or business plan.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask; getting a “no” is not getting a “no” forever.
Corinne: "Don't be afraid to ask—for the business, for the promotion, for the piece of business, for the seat at the table—because the worst they can say is ‘no.’ And ‘no’ is just no for right now, not no forever."

About Corinne

Corinne Heggie is a principal of Heggie Wochner Law Firm. She helps individuals, families, and business owners avoid asset losses, taxes, and court battles with estate and business plans. Prior to joining Heggie Wochner Law Firm, Corinne was a partner at a national law firm and counsel at the largest majority women-owned law firm in Illinois. From 2019 to 2020, she served as president of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois.

Corrine was part of the inaugural class of 50 Salute! Women Law by Chicago Lawyer and Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. In 2017, she was named a "Woman of Influence" nationally in the legal profession by Best Lawyers. Since 2019, she has been deemed Illinois Super Lawyer based on professional achievement and peer recognition in her legal practice.

If you wish to get in touch with Corinne, you may connect with her on Wochner Law Firm’s website, her LinkedIn profile, and contact number at (847) 272-7360.

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