Chicago Lawyer on a Mission to Help Women GCs
Deborah Solmor wants to make it easier for women general counsels to succeed.
As a big firm litigator and then an in-house head of litigation turned general counsel five years ago, Solmor found that her new role came with many expectations that neither law school nor law firm experience had prepared her for.
The job of a GC, she notes, is only part lawyer; it’s also a business role in which you aim to be a trusted advisor to the entire C-suite, as well as a part-time company psychologist, diplomat and accountant. “I’m never just a lawyer,” she said.
Ready Set GC: Mentoring, Networking & Education for Women GCs
Solmor was determined to figure it out. At the same time, she decided to make room for one more role in her career. In 2019, Solmor founded “Ready Set GC,” an organization that provides early-career women legal chiefs with educational programming and networking opportunities. It was a case of Solmor building the support organization she wanted for herself. In the process, she’s created something that women GCs across the country describe with gratitude – and variations on the theme of “about time.”
“I had so many women tell me, ‘I had nothing like this when I was coming up in the ranks,’” Solmor said.
The goal is not just education, but also mentoring and network building that women GCs can rely on throughout their careers. “I’m really trying to create something that lasts,” she said.
It’s not just that women GCs benefit from having peers to turn to, but also that the definition of the GC role itself has changed. The opportunity to hear from other women who have navigated the role is an invaluable part of the effort.
The list of veteran GCs who have participated in Ready Set GC events includes Michele Coleman Mayes, General Counsel and Secretary of the New York Public Library, former Revlon EVP and General Counsel Cari Robinson, former Heineken USA Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Julie Kinch and Vicki Donati, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Crate & Barrel, among others. Sponsorship and support for the program has been provided – since day one – by Alston & Bird and partner Cara Peterman.
Navigating the Changing Role of the General Counsel
Over the past decade, Solmor says, the GC role has evolved from “managing a team of lawyers and making sure the legal business gets done” to a more strategic business role that still includes managing the lawyers and making sure the legal business gets done.
Success, she says, “depends on your ability to transform yourself from practicing law to thinking strategically and creatively as a businessperson.”
Among many other responsibilities, building a management team and balancing risk mitigation with moving the company forward are key to succeeding as a general counsel, Solmor said.
“That’s where a lot of GCs struggle,” she said. “You are being asked to make a lot of decisions very quickly.” That’s a distinct shift from simply providing legal advice and means knowing the business – and being able to anticipate the needs of the business – as well as knowing the law.
It’s a job with few easy wins. Which is why Filejet reached out to Solmor – identified as one of the “next generation of influencers and thinkers” among in-house counsel – to learn more about how entity management automation fits in with the day-to-day working life of a new general counsel.
A New GC’s Quick Win: Automated Entity Management
And while the role of GC has evolved considerably over the past 10 years, in many cases, entity management processes have not kept up.
Filejet new customer findings that show 44% have entities they don’t even know about and 66% are out of compliance, did not leave Solmor gasping in disbelief.
“Sadly, I’m going to tell you that I’m not surprised,” she said. Solmor said it is not unusual to find businesses where entities are still managed on spreadsheets and where individual entities are managed separately with no central oversight. That creates risks that goes beyond mistakes in entity management, she said.
“If you are managing this in a decentralized way and people leave, you lose institutional knowledge. One of the best things an entity management platform does is give real-time access to the to the people who need the information – all in one place and at their fingertips.”
Switching to automated entity management is a cost-effective fix that a new GC can use for a quick win, she said. “It’s minutiae, time consuming, and people tend to let it go until a problem happens.” Instead, she said, GCs need to think about a centralized entity management platform as an at-a-glance repository of how your business gets things done.
Join Deborah Solmor & Other GCs for New Webinar Series
For other ways you can get things done as a legal chief, be sure to add our new webinar series to your to-do list, beginning with Ready Set GC’s overview of how to succeed in your first 90 days.
Join Filejet and Ready Set GC for a free webinar, The First 90 Days, from 11 a.m. to noon PST on Tuesday, May 23, to learn how you can achieve some early wins, and get started with tips for learning the business, organizing your legal department, setting goals and policies, reducing costs and risks, and of course, organizing your entity management processes – along with other topics.
Entity Management Automation
For more information about Filejet entity management software to streamline and automate your entity management processes, contact us and let us know if you’re interested in a free compliance audit or a demo.