Ellevate Network: Meet Claire Cochran
Claire recently sat down and answered some questions about her professional mission, success in her line of work and her career path with the team over at Ellevate Network, a global community and the leading network for professional women to lean on and learn from together.
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I am a Plaintiff's Labor and Employment Attorney who specializes in women's rights issues and works for the Me Too Movement. It is very important to me to make change through my advocacy.
Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I was referred to Ellevate by my Marketing Director AND by a friend at Merrill Lynch who used to work closely with the woman who started Ellevate, I am excited to see where my membership will take me.
How would you define your professional mission?
My mission is to force change on the patriarchal structure of the workplace through aggressive advocacy for women's rights, whether its demanding a review of pay for male employees in the workplace (under the Equal Pay Act) or helping a client who has been terminated during maternity leave, every case I take my goal is that the Company learn to never treat women this way again.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Some might describe me as a bulldog. It takes being very strong and taking the facts (and law) to the mat. I always tell my clients that you cannot bluff your way through litigation, you have to put in the work, constantly, to show that you mean business. This is the only way to get a successful outcome for your client and make the bad actor employer wary of doing what they have done again.
What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
Honestly, the empowerment my clients feel through our advocacy work together. I have witnessed the termination of bad actors who thought they could never be touched, men who had systematically abused women during their careers who were finally given their due. It is a dramatic, but fitting result, given what I have seen people do to my female clients.
What are some career challenges on your radar?
I run my own law firm and we are all women, our attorneys, our paralegals and our assistants. Many of us have children and work part time. There is a perception by large law firms, hired at exorbitant hourly rates for their aggression, that they can paper us to death and make us give up during litigation. This is not the case, obviously, but I do have to manage this tactic regularly, and my staff is often very overworked doing silly litigation because of this strategy on the other side. I'm building a reputation and hopefully most defense firms in the Bay Area know I mean business now.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
We had a case through Me Too last year with a very young client who had fallen victim to a predatory boss. He had made her try on clothes for him and eventually installed a "nanny cam" in her office to peep on her. We took him down and made him produce all of his finances, revealed him to be a creep to his Wife and got her a decent payout. She is now going to school to be a court reporter because she was so inspired by the litigation work, we did together. I consider that case a strong win.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
My Dad is/was a lawyer (he is now retired) and he always told me I had the personality for it. I tried to resist following college, but eventually took the LSAT and found my way to law school. My first quarter I won the oral advocacy tournament out of all of the first-year students! I knew I was on the right path at that moment. I am just a good talker. ;)
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The clients. I am a very hands on attorney. Most of my clients have my personal cell phone and call me when they are challenged, upset or lacking confidence. I love blending my job into being a Mom. I help people both with their litigation and feeling empowered. It is very hard to struggle with your job, whether you are losing it, have lost it, or are being discriminated against. I give women the backbone to speak up and demand recompense for these wrongs.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?
I hope that I can influence employers to right their wrongs and treat women (and other underprivileged members of society, we also work for the Transgender Law Center), with the respect (and monetary pay) that we deserve.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love a good fight and that's basically my job description as a litigator.
Who are your role models?
My Mom is a pretty huge role model. She went from stay at home Mom to VP of our local hospital growing up, Rotary President, the whole thing. She always encouraged me to dream big. Being a woman didn't seem to factor into her success, she was successful and a peer to all of the men she worked with...even though we lived in a small town in the San Joaquin Valley.
What is your morning ritual?
I run right out of bed! I have two small children, so my husband and I get up and get them out the door. I am usually working by 8 am, and then head into my office a bit later. I work pretty much 24/7, with my phone attached to my hip. My clients have to be flexible about a return call with children yelling in the background, I am trying to do it all.
What is your favorite social media site? Why?
Instagram, hands down. I don't care that it’s all an illusion, I love seeing photos of my friends and my inspirations (I love fashion Instagram accounts like Clare Waight Keller the Artistic Director of Givenchy) out in the world on a daily basis. Most of the accounts I follow are working Moms.
What would you say your personal superpower is?
The comeback you always think of later, I think of it in the moment. I have always had a quick wit and sharp tongue.
What does success look like to you?
Getting my life to the sweet spot where I can enjoy my kids, vacations and long lunches, without having my business or my clients suffer.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Yes of course it is, I have two small children, a husband and two cats. I hire well and when I need it, whether it's a nanny or a personal assistant, I hire people that are genuine, committed and love my kids and my business too. When you have the right people around you, you can reach a level of homeostasis. However, please note, I have two small children so I am mostly out of balance, no one can control a cold or fever.
What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?
Find a great lawyer or law firm with partners that you respect, listen, learn, do the hard work. Take the depositions, prepare the partner for trial, do the hard work. I broke my teeth working for an insurance defense firm that had me taking depositions in the first year, without that experience there is no way I'd be prepared to run my own firm today.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
Never blame anyone else. Take responsibility for your mistakes and those of your staff. Even if you didn't actually commit the crime, take the punishment. Your shoulders will get stronger and your backbone will become steel.
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