SNR Denton Partner Kara Baysinger and Allstate Insurance General Counsel Michele Coleman Mayes Author Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500

Courageous Counsel uses first-person accounts from past, present and future women GCs to demonstrate the evolution of the GC's role and responsibilities

Sep 13, 2011, 15:43 ET from SNR Denton

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- SNR Denton partner Kara Baysinger is co-author of a just-released book Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500, the first full account of the rise and growing clout of women general counsel at Fortune 500 companies. Through in-depth interviews, Courageous Counsel weaves together up-close-and-personal interviews with more than 50 women who have served as GCs at America's largest corporations or have played executive management roles in their legal departments.

Written with Michele Coleman Mayes, general counsel at Allstate Insurance Co., the book, published by Leverage Media, recounts the risks, opportunities and lessons learned that characterize the career paths of remarkable women who have made it to the top legal post at Fortune 500 companies in recent years. In 1979, one woman stood alone as general counsel of a Fortune 500 business—Mary Ann Hynes of tax and business IT firm CCH. Today there are more than 100, serving all major industry sectors.

"The book evolved from an idea that was pitched to Michele and me for a chronicle of women who are GCs," says Baysinger, a San Francisco partner who heads SNR Denton's global Insurance sector team. "We are both passionate about inspiring other women, and thought it would be more valuable to those who aspire to the GC position to produce a book with first-person histories of women GCs and the wisdom they acquired along the way. Hearing women discuss their paths could help serve a mentoring function to those lawyers."

Among the GCs featured in Courageous Counsel are:

  • Michelle Banks – Gap Inc.
  • Pamela Carter – Cummins Engine
  • Dorian Daley – Oracle
  • Janet Kelly – ConocoPhillips
  • Rebecca Kendall – formerly at Eli Lilly
  • Sandra Leung – Bristol Myers-Squibb
  • Linda Madrid – Korn/Ferry
  • Sara Moss – Estee Lauder Companies
  • Vickie O'Meara – Pitney Bowes
  • Louise Parent – American Express
  • Carol Petren – formerly at CIGNA
  • Teri Plummer McClure – UPS
  • Gloria Santona – McDonald's
  • Amy Schulman – Pfizer
  • Lauren Seeger – McKesson
  • Pamela Strobel – Unicom (Commonwealth Edison)
  • Jennifer Vogel – Continental Airlines

Some of the up-and-coming in-house counsel profiled by Baysinger and Mayes include:

  • Deborah Bello – Prudential Insurance Co.
  • Brigida Benitez – Inter-American Development Bank
  • Louise Firestone – LVMH Moet Hennessy/Louis Vuitton
  • Laurie Robinson – CBS
  • Hilary Ware – Google
  • Sherry Williams – Halliburton

Additionally, Baysinger and Mayes interviewed a handful of leading women legal recruiters who regularly work with large companies seeking in-house counsel. Their perspective fills out the portrait of women who serve as chief legal officer, many of whom are increasingly viewed as viable candidates for CEO jobs.

Since 1999 the number of women reaching general counsel status at Fortune 500 companies has doubled, the authors note, and women and men now enter law school and the legal profession in roughly equal numbers. Yet despite their evident parity, the proportion of women GCs only recently reached 20 percent, about the same percentage of women partners at law firms. "Clearly, we'd like to see more women attain GC stature, and we hope our book gives some candidates the confidence and tools to pursue that goal," Baysinger says.

"SNR Denton is honored to have played a role in supporting Kara and Michele's groundbreaking work in profiling some of the strongest women we in the legal profession are privileged to call our colleagues," said Elliott I. Portnoy, SNR Denton Global CEO. "The messages in this book will resonate with all lawyers. They are a testament to the challenges these inspiring General Counsel have faced and should be a beacon for other professionals in this industry."

Courageous Counsel divides female GCs into three eras—the pioneers who opened the earliest doors, from 1979 to about 1996; the momentum-gaining wave that saw the turn of the 21st century; and the post-Sarbanes-Oxley epoch, still occurring, which has seen the role of general counsel at public companies become infinitely more complex. Baysinger and Mayes, assisted in interviews by five SNR Denton women partners, sought GCs from a variety of industries and geographical areas.

"What comes vividly through from the interviews is that there is no road map, no single path or to-do list that leads to the general counsel's office," says Baysinger, mother of 4-year-old twins. "Each of these women made her own way, even if she followed the example of someone before her. A dominant lesson in their stories is the need for an honest awareness of one's own assets and liabilities, in order to best take advantage of opportunities that come along."

Mayes says, "One common thread among the stories was the element of risk-taking, of taking a leap of faith into uncharted waters—whether it was accepting new projects and responsibilities or following opportunity by moving to a new company. This was my own story, I felt, but not until I started interviewing other women general counsel did I appreciate how my personal example had been lived in some form by each of them. It gave me a renewed sense of how brave they were, how much courage and initiative their careers have demanded."

Baysinger and Mayes, along with selected GCs from Courageous Counsel, will appear at a series of roll-out events, beginning in New York on Oct. 27 and continuing in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities. Additionally, they will give keynotes at both the California Minority Counsel Program Annual Meeting on October 6 and the 2011 Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting on October 25. Courageous Counsel is available through and other online retailers, and select bookshops, as well as through SNR Denton at

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