Because Honigman’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is a fundamental part of our culture and our continued success, we are proud to share stories as part of our LinkedIn Women's History Month series from some of our talented female attorneys.

Barbara Kaye

Partner Barbara Kaye handles all aspects of financings, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures in our Ann Arbor office. 

“My sister graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1975-- 10 years before I did. She began her career at GM, with her last position serving as Corporate Secretary, planning for and attending the board meetings. She enjoyed her work very much, and it sounded challenging. She was a role model and I looked up to her as a woman in a male-dominated environment.

My practice and clients are diverse, and I enjoy that variety. I learn from my clients, who are in different industries, along with opposing counsel and my colleagues at Honigman with whom I consult, many who are experts in their field. One of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of corporate work is to design creative solutions to address the party’s varying perspectives and goals. I also have the opportunity to work with and mentor our up-and-coming attorneys.
I tell new female associates to find someone to look up to and decide how they want to live their lives, given the demands of the law firm. Everyone has a different amount of drive and support. From a professional perspective, a sponsor (someone who will invest their own political capital) is even more important than a mentor. Most importantly, women need to take ownership of their careers-- as evidenced by the continued relatively poor percentages of women equity partners in law firms. Women in law need strong peer groups. They need friends who are living the same crazy life. I also tell female associates to take advantage of every learning opportunity available. If they see something interesting, take advantage of it. It will enrich their life. Do something outside of work to take care of yourself, whether that’s working out, or alternatively going to a spa, or pursuing a hobby. 

My most significant time investment outside of my “day job” is as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School beginning in 2014. I teach principally to stretch myself. My approach brings the most practical aspects of law into law school which has been appreciated by the students. I advise all of my students to take accounting and ideally tax classes, as some financial acumen will be required to understand clients’ businesses. They should take a break from studying to spend time with friends who, in addition to providing fun and distraction, may provide support after graduation and may even be a referral source. My best friend from law school and I talk frequently. We, throughout the many years, have understood each other with the pressures of billing, firm culture, networking and raising families. I also serve on the board of the University Musical Society and on its budget and finance committee. The experience allows me to use my skills of inquiry and factual analysis in a very different scenario."

Anessa Kramer

IP partner, Anessa Kramer, has significant experience managing large international trademark portfolios and is based in our Detroit office.

"As a female lawyer, you end up having a lot of hats to wear. On this Women's History Month, take a moment to ask yourself: What is sacred to you? And are you prioritizing it?

It's really important to choose what's sacred to you. For me, I was always going to be the one taking my kids to doctor’s appointments. And I was always going to be at my kids' sporting events. So, you isolate those things from the things you don't have to do — you can't do it all.

I gave up things that were less important to me, tasks that I felt comfortable delegating. It's paramount to make priorities, handle what is important to you and delegate what is not. Too many people put too much pressure on themselves to do everything. It's impossible.  The times when I have failed to prioritize and delegate are the times when I feel that I’ve struggled the most in my career.

Prioritizing extends to business development, as well. The reason I've had success in my career is because I really prioritized business development at a young stage of my career. I'm sure there's some of this for men, too, but women I think focus on it less. Women are focused on getting the work done and doing it well, but it's important to think about the long-term, too and exposing yourself to opportunities for developing business—making important relationships. You don't have to do this in the second year of entering law — that's when you're still learning the ropes — but don't wait too long.

Outside of my practice as an intellectual property attorney, I am fortunate to work with women who offer examples of leadership and striking the right balance. I am on the finance committee for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and am also the co-chair of the finance committee for U.S. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Women have a fine line to walk in leadership roles — sometimes they risk coming off either as too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

Governor Whitmer and Congresswoman Slotkin do a terrific job of striking that balance. They show that, yes, you can be strong and assertive women without rubbing people the wrong way. It's absolutely doable. Being true to yourself and confident is paramount. Women are quick to apologize for small things, in ways that are unnecessary and end up backfiring.

You can be you who you are and still strike the right balance."

Melissa Grim

Partner, Melissa Grim, leads Honigman’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice.

“In professional life, we talk a lot about the importance of junior and associate-level mentoring. But what also is important and unfortunately often overlooked is that mentoring is critical at higher levels, too, and not necessarily from people more senior than you.

I lead Honigman's Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice Group. Most attorneys I've met over the years knew from an early age that they wanted to be lawyers. I did not. The thought didn't occur to me until I'd already begun my career, when I was designing employee wellness programs for a university's HR department.

While many attorneys have visions of fighting dramatic courtroom battles, I was enticed by what some might consider decidedly less exciting: forging a path through complex laws and regulations to find potential solutions for my clients' needs. I still love solving the puzzles of this type of work.

This drew me into law, but as an outsider, I was entering decidedly new territory, and not just as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. I'd come from a small Iowa town, having no one in my family (and possibly the entire town) with legal careers.

What helped me navigate this throughout my career has been mentoring and building relationships along the way, including being a group here in Chicago, WOMN LLC, which is just for female lawyers. Most of us were on the cusp of making equity partner or wanting to move to a General Counsel role. WOMN LLC gave us the opportunity to experience how valuable bringing together women to share experiences and knowledge can be, particularly at that juncture in our careers.

It's well-known there aren't as many female equity partners, particularly in big law, as males. When women have the opportunity to help each other get to that next rung on the ladder, it is valuable to all of us. Seek out these relationships; they are powerful at all stages of our careers.”

Julie Robertson

Partner Julie Robertson is Vice Chair of Honigman and Chair of the Insurance Department.

“I have an unusual path where when I finished my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, I wasn’t ready to immediately go onto graduate school. So, I took a quick paralegal class and got a job at Honigman as a paralegal. I did that to see if this was an environment where I would thrive. By dipping my toe into the water, I knew it was something I was truly interested in and that is when I went to Wayne State University Law School while still working at Honigman.

When I started at Honigman as an attorney, I worked in corporate healthcare, and that is where I met two partners who were working in captive insurance. It became clear to me that there was a demand for that area. It was very specialized, and I found that I enjoyed it. That is because of the long-term professional relationships you can form with clients; some of Honigman’s relationships go back as far as the 1970s. You can be a client’s trusted advisor and build that trust over time. I found that to be truly satisfying. We formed our own department within the firm, and we’re known across the country for this area of law.

There was an element of luck to my career in that way, but I was willing to jump in, learn and make mistakes. It was the best thing that ever happened to be in some ways. I was in the right place at the right time, but I also was ready to take advantage of it. I tell young associates that there are a lot of paths you can go down in the legal profession. Those first five to seven years, you’re honing your legal skills. You’re learning the law. You’re gaining that intellectual knowledge in whatever your field is. But when new challenges arise, you can do that work because you are a master. That’s what makes this career interesting--you can always try something new. I never thought I’d be a business generator, but it turns out I enjoyed that aspect of practice. You never have to stop learning and developing as a professional.

Always go down that next path. Ask yourself: What’s the possible next step? Maybe that next step won’t work out for you, but you can always learn from it. Try it. See if it works or if it doesn’t work for you. You’re always going to gain some insight or experience from it if you roll up your sleeves and give it a try.”

Renee Naylor

Renee Naylor, Partner in Honigman's Real Estate Department believes women should create balance between work and career, focusing intensely on the people and practice you love.

“What drew me to Honigman is the encouragement I felt when I joined. I was born and raised in California, and I am half Chinese on my mother’s side. I attended Cornell University, where I got a degree in economics and Asia Pacific Studies. I worked for a short time as a project assistant, and that is where I got a sense of how hard attorneys work. I got my JD from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and began practicing in Chicago.

My husband’s family was from the Metro Detroit area and we were looking to come home. Honigman really was THE firm in town, and it was somewhere I thought I could practice at the same level as I had in Chicago. What sold me was one of the partners, Adam Rothstein (Co-chair, Real Estate Department), who was big on growing our hospitality business. To me, that was so unique and so fun. I saw the entrepreneurial side of me coming out because I wanted to become part of something bigger as well.

My other mentor was Karen Pifer (Leader, Hospitality and Lodging Practice Group), who was inspiring in a couple of ways. She is fantastic at what she does; she practices at the highest level. Her perspective is awesome at giving younger associates experience but also giving us room to do our own things. Karen is also inspiring because she’s the mother of three, and she understands how it can be tough to balance the demands of family and work. She’s had a lot of great advice in that arena and when times are tough, always is the first one to help me recenter and realign my priorities.

What I have learned is to treat every project as your top priority, and I think that goes a long way in client service. But that isn’t just applicable to work--it’s applicable to your home life as well. When I get a project across my desk, I make sure it is my top priority when I am at work. Then, when I close my laptop, my kids become my top priority until they go to bed. There’s a time and a place for everything in your life if you invest in what you’re doing in the moment.

Balance is challenging to achieve. But everyone needs a reminder that at the end of the day, you’re doing your best and you are going to feel proud of what you accomplished.”

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