Cheryl Heisler | President & Founder of Lawternatives

Your JD is a Door Opener | The 4 Steps | BigLaw to Kraft | Ben & Jerry’s | Litigator to Golf Passion | Don’t Ignore your Heart & Career Advice | Mixologist & Cocktail Recipe | Family & Food

 


 


I interviewed Cheryl Heisler | President and Founder of Lawternatives on Friday, May 1st, 2020.

We began the episode with Cheryl sharing the effects of coronavirus on family life, how busy some law practices are, and the emotional toll it can cause. We discussed the four steps to considering a career change. Cheryl shared how she chose the law and how she left Biglaw to work for Kraft. We discussed trends in the age of lawyers looking to get out. She shared traits of her ideal lawyer-client and success stories of clients she’s worked with. We discussed how mixology dropped into her lap and her current favorite cocktail. We wrapped up the conversation with the importance of hobbies, family life, and reading advice.


Here are some highlights of my interview with Cheryl Heisler:

How great is it for somebody with a law background to also be in operations, HR, or financial? You have all the abilities plus that legal training, the legal strategy, the legal thinking, and the understanding of fiduciary duty.

We’ve got to roll with the punches from COVID-19, but not lose sight of the fact that there are opportunities and future career plans for all of us. Don’t stop looking or thinking because right now, today, things are looking uncertain.

When doing the self-assessment step, you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Who am I? What do I want? What do I want now? Why do I want it? Why is it fulfilling? What will I want to leave as my legacy?”

I did have an undergraduate degree in advertising, smarts verified by having a JD, the gift of gab, and this marketing plan, which showed a passion for it. I knew how to spin my legal and business undergraduate backgrounds.

What makes a good client is somebody who’s open and curious. They don’t come in telling me all the reasons they can’t do something. They’re open to hearing why they can. They’re open to hearing a different way to look at things.

Law attracts people from so many different backgrounds. That’s part of the reason you get there when you maybe shouldn’t have. But you can use that background if you really enjoy it to then redirect how you use your legal skills and your special talents.

One of the trends I’ve noticed is that this desire for alternatives is starting earlier and earlier. It shocks me, but I’ll have days that are fully scheduled with people who say, “I know I’m in law school, but I don’t want to do this.”

Alternative careers shouldn’t be seen as a stepchild to practicing law. They’re another very valuable, smart way to use your legal skills and tie it to your own personal interests. 

You could be the top person on bio or bitcoin, but it’s also nice to be the guy that somebody would want to go out and have lunch, a coffee or a cocktail with. That usually means talking about the other things that make you a more interesting person.

During your downtime, to the extent you have it, if you want to move into the business world, pick up whatever your city’s business magazine is.


Links referred to in this episode:

Cheryl Heisler | LinkedIn Profile

Lawternatives | Email: CHeisler@Lawternatives.com

Mixed metaPours

American Bar Associations Career Center Board

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

Kraft Foods

My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search For His Family’s Past by Ariel Sabar

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Audio Transcription 

***To Download the PDF Transcript, click here*** 

Greetings friends, this is Chris Batz, your host of The Law Firm Leadership Podcast. In today’s episode, I spoke with an alternative career coach for attorneys. Her story started in big law, but fate had her land in the marketing department of a big consumer brand. We discussed how attorneys can do the same and transition with their careers and much more.   

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this podcast and leave a review on iTunes.      

We interview corporate defense, law firm leaders, partners, general counsel, and legal consultants. You are listening to episode forty-four of The Law Firm Leadership Podcast.

Chris:  Welcome to The Law Firm Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Chris Batz with The Lion Group. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl Heisler, President, and Founder of Lawternatives. 

Since 1988, Cheryl has assisted attorneys at all stages of their career with individualized career consulting exploring alternative career paths. Her journey began with a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law and three years as a corporate lawyer for Katten Muchin in Chicago. But fate had her leave the practice of law to pursue a career in brand management with Kraft. There she contributed to the marketing efforts of brands, such as Parkay margarine and Kraft Real Mayonnaise.

I should also add that Cheryl sits on the American Bar Association’s Career Committee and moonlights as a creator of signature cocktails for private events and venues under her business name Mixed metaPours. 

Welcome, Cheryl to The Law Firm Leadership Podcast. It’s great to have you on the show.

Cheryl: Hey, Chris, thank you for having me. Last time we spoke we had a program coming up that has since been canceled due to the spread of this rotten coronavirus. I’m happy to be reconnecting with you.

The Effect of Coronavirus on Life & Work

Chris: It’s great to connect with you again. The event was the ACC Annual Summit in Chicago and they postponed until April 2021. That seems to be the trend in business and personal life due to COVID-19. Cheryl, how is coronavirus affecting you and those around you right now?

Cheryl: Instead of being empty nesters, my husband and I now have four adult children living back here in the house so that’s one thing that’s changed. We’re getting along and we’ve got some great cooks in this house. The kitchen is getting a workout. But I’m happy everybody is well.

The first time we met, Chris, was actually in Kansas City when I was visiting my grown son, his wife, and my grandson out there. I can’t see them except over Facetime, but they’re doing well too, so I’m very lucky. 

Chris: How is it affecting the ways that you’re relating to attorneys and professionals right now?

Cheryl: We cannot deny that this has impacted all of us – the way we live, the way we work. With regard to my clients, who are exploring a career change, I find a couple of major differences. One is there are people who want to move careers, but they’re just happy to have a career to go to. Some of those folks have put their career exploration on hold. I have heard from other people who didn’t think they were going to be looking for a change, but then they’ve either been furloughed or laid off, so they’re forced to think about what else they can do with their law degree.

Like so many other things affected right now, people find themselves in different places. One of the things I tell everybody is, “Hey, wherever you are right now emotionally/mentally, it’s okay. We’ve got to deal with you where you’re at. If you’re feeling super depressed, let’s get you back to a neutral place, to a plateau. If you’re feeling excited about change, wonderful. We can run with that. If you’re feeling tentative, that’s okay too.” We’ve got to roll with the punches here, but not lose sight of the fact that there are opportunities and future career plans for all of us. Don’t stop looking or thinking just because right now today, things are looking a little bit uncertain.

Chris: Have they noticed a dramatic drop off in hiring?

Cheryl: I heard from one client just before this who said “Hey, I want to stop our work together. I am so busy with what’s going on remotely and some new clients that our firm has picked up that I have to put my career search on hold.” That’s surprising, but if you’re working in certain areas, you’re swamped. If you work in real estate or retail and the tenants have stopped paying their bills because they’re not doing any business, you’re busy. It may not be great business. It may be the collection business, but you’re busy. There are other areas where not much is going on at all. This is a tough time.

We don’t know the ripples yet, Chris. That’s one of the parts of the uncertainty. Sometimes you can predict, this is happening, therefore that is happening. Right now for instance in the logistics business, there’s a lot going on with distribution, but there’s also a lot of stuff that can’t be distributed. You hear the stories about farmers who can’t move their product because they can’t get it from the farm to the processing plant or the processing plants are closed and they’re not taking deliveries. We’re not quite sure what’s changing here, but we know things are in flux.

Start Exploring Your Alternatives Now

Chris: Today is May 1st, and a number of governors,  cities, and states are going to start lifting bans. What’s going on in Chicago related to reopening?

Cheryl: Chicago is still locked down. If Governor Pritzker has his way, it will be at least until the end of May, possibly beyond. There have been some legal challenges to that. People here are still pretty scared. If you look at the national numbers, it seems to be more people want to stay locked down then go out and risk it.

Without even looking at the general public, I like to focus on what individuals should be thinking about now. When it comes to a career change, the same steps that you would take in exploring your alternatives in good times are the same steps you want to work through now, even under this stress. But, right now, you want to take things a little bit more slowly. Under normal circumstances, you would begin by jumping in some career direction and move more quickly to a networking or resourcing stage. Currently, with social distancing and the difficulty in reaching out to people, you need to spend time thinking and doing secondary research from home on your computer which we’ll talk about later. I would work through the tried and true steps. Don’t abandon the process that works just because the times have changed.

The 4 Steps to a Career Change

Chris: Let’s talk about the steps you recommend if people are looking right now and want to use their downtime productively.

Cheryl: We have to be careful because some people are crazier than ever with work and children and baking and trying to stay sane. Since I’ve been doing this for quite a while, I’ve believed there are four steps to the career transition process. There’s the self-assessment step that is maybe the hardest of all. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Who am I? What do I want? What do I want now? Why do I want it? Why is it fulfilling? What will I want to leave as my legacy?”

Those kinds of introspective questions can certainly be done now while you’re thinking about what you want to do. Ask yourself those questions. If you don’t have a friend to have a beer with, have a virtual drink while you talk through these things or take a paper and a pencil and write down the pros and cons. What do I like about what I’m doing? What don’t I like? That’s where you’ve got to start because otherwise, you’re just running away from something and not moving towards another career or position. That’s step one. The self-assessment can be done anytime, anywhere. You don’t need anybody else to be within six feet of you to do that.

The second step is a market assessment. What kinds of markets and industries will value the core pieces that you identified for yourself, the things that you want to do, and the things that you want to leave behind after you’re done working? What markets will value the day-to-day and long-term goals you set for yourself? That piece can also be done from home, from behind the computer, through reading and finding interesting, inspiration in articles online.

The last two steps of networking and then, ultimately the sales and marketing of you, get a little bit harder in this current environment. Even so, if you’ve done what you needed to do with the self-assessment and market assessments, you’re going to be well on your way to the resourcing, the networking, and the selling once things start to open up.

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A Legal Career by Default

Chris: Was becoming a lawyer something you thought you were going to do before you went to college or something you discovered in college?

Cheryl: Like a lot of my clients, I never really thought about it. I wanted to be in public relations and communications because I had an aunt who did that and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I majored in communications at the University of Illinois and did well. Then my dad said, “You’re smart. Why don’t you do something and get a professional degree?” Then, we ruled out medicine because I didn’t like the sight of blood and we ruled out accounting because I add up a list of numbers and get three different answers. So, it was the law by default.

I did not love school, but I liked my experience at Northwestern. I liked the things that I got involved in. I loved my summer associate positions, which is how I ultimately ended up working in big law. But I knew early on that it wasn’t a great fit. The best way I knew that it wasn’t right for me was that I got tongue-tied and since I was a little kid I could talk to anybody about anything. I would go into a partner’s office with this work I had just researched and knew backward and forward, and I couldn’t put it together in a phrase. I couldn’t sound coherent. I thought, “What’s wrong with me? I got so dumb.” It wasn’t so much a lack of smarts as it was a lack of comfort with what I was working with and talking about. When I left the firm it was on great terms, but it wasn’t for another law practice. I knew I needed something different.

Meet Ben & Jerry from Vermont 

Chris: When you made that transition from Katten, how did that door open up to land a role at Kraft?

Cheryl: My husband was in New York on business. He tripped across a little ice cream gift shop called Dmitry’s Café. The next time we were in New York we went there and the ice cream was so good, I said to Dmitry, “Who’s ice cream is this?” This was a long time ago. He said, “A couple of guys from Vermont. Ben somebody and Jerry somebody.”

I said, “I love this ice cream. I have to have it in Chicago.” I’ll be darned if I wasn’t back in Chicago trying to get ahold of Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s. I was in my office at Katten and I was on a phone call with a partner and he was talking about how he woke up that morning while he was shaving and thinking about how to save a client $20,000 in taxes. I remember thinking, “I woke up this morning thinking about ice cream.” As soon as that thought popped into my mind, my secretary buzzed through. She said, “I have a Ben Cohen on line two.”

I remember saying to the partner, “I’ll call you back.” Then we had a chance to actually meet with Ben and Jerry and talk about the possibility to open up a flagship store in the Midwest and then sub-franchise from that flagship store and use it as a distribution point. We had a couple of great meetings with them. Ultimately, as much as they were hippies, they were really smart business guys and they said, “You guys are really nice people. You don’t know enough about ice cream distribution and it’s not going to happen, but thanks so much, and here’s a lot of free coupons.”

I had a window open up for me that food marketing could be really fun. I like food. I didn’t feel tongue-tied even though I wasn’t talking about something I had any knowledge of except the eating of it. That’s what led me to look into marketing jobs and that was the first step toward getting a job in brand management with Kraft foods.

Chris: Did you ever stay in touch with Ben and Jerry?

Cheryl: After they sold to Haagen-Dazs, I was a little intimidated, but for years we did. Whenever they would come to do events, we’d go visit with them and taste the newest flavors. When they were still a little company, we were able to get some of Ben & Jerry’s stock. They say invest in things you know, so it was probably the best stock buy my husband and I ever did. It was a small amount, but the return was fabulous. I think I also helped the stock price go up because we ate a lot of ice cream in those days.

Chris: I have to ask, what’s your favorite flavor?

Cheryl: As a family, we go through more New York Super Fudge Chunk than anything else, but I’d be hard-pressed to turn down any of theirs. How about you? Are you a Ben & Jerry’s fan?

Chris: We’re kind of almost a no-sugar home. I’d have to say though, I think it’s their cheesecake one that is probably one of my all-time favorites.

Cheryl: It’s pretty great.

Biglaw to Kraft’s Marketing Department 

Chris: After that, how did the door open at Kraft, and were you still at Katten before this happened?

Cheryl: I vividly remember after announcing that I was going to be leaving from marketing, one by one the other associates would knock on my door and come in and say, “You got out. Can you help me?” Really, that was when the idea for Lawternatives was born even though I then spent several years at Kraft in marketing.

But I had put together a marketing plan for Ben & Jerry’s. I had some help from a friend of mine who was in marketing but it was exciting and fun. I had that marketing plan available to show to friends of mine in the business world with whom I was networking, but also to business recruiters. There was one business recruiter who said, “I don’t know why I’m going to do this, but I’ll take a gamble on you. I have connections at Kraft, Nabisco, and some packaged goods companies in Chicago. I’m going to shop your resume around.”

Now, I know recruiters don’t usually do that. I was very lucky, but I did have an undergraduate degree in advertising, smarts verified by having a JD, the gift of gab, and this marketing plan, which showed a passion for it, if not a technical education in marketing. I got a chance to interview at Kraft having done the important step of networking with people in the consumer-packaged-goods marketing world. I knew what they were looking for and what to say. I knew how to spin my legal and business undergraduate backgrounds. I had somebody say, “Hey, you must be smart enough to be a lawyer, I think you’re probably smart enough to learn this stuff. We’ll take a flier,” and they hired me.

Law is a Door Opener 

Chris: What did it feel like accepting the offer from Kraft?

Cheryl: I was thrilled. I was scared. There comes a point when a lawyer is changing their career, where you ask what you’re giving up? Will you miss this? For all of its frustrations, the law is a profession respected by most people in the world. It’s a door opener. For the first few months after taking the job, when asked, “What do you do?” I said, “I used to be a practicing attorney, but now I’m working in marketing for Kraft.” I needed that confidence that I hadn’t lost whatever it was that being a lawyer meant.

After a few months, I was having a whole lot more fun at Kraft and doing things that people had heard about with products people knew and I didn’t need the lawyer part anymore.

Chris: How long were you at Kraft?

Cheryl: A little over two years.

You Got Out. Can You Help Me? 

Chris: Tell me, why leave?

Cheryl: I had my first kid. I was looking for something with more flexibility, coupled with the fact that I was promoted to work on Kraft Real Mayonnaise. While I was out on maternity leave, they were going to move me to Kraft Miracle Whip. That was the crown jewel of Kraft. That’s what they sold the most of. That’s where they made the most profit. I thought, “Wow, I like working with small brands. I like being able to come up with new ideas. If they move me to Miracle Whip, I’m going to have to do the same thing the same way because nobody will take a chance with it.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways.

I thought now would be a good time for me to find something new instead of returning to something that felt less fun and creative. Right before I went on maternity leave an article came out in the American Bar Association Journal called “The Best and the Brightest, Bored and Burned Out.” I was profiled along with another handful of lawyers, who at that time were the first generation of people talking openly about leaving the law.

While I was still at Kraft, some folks had started to call me and said, “Can you help me? Can you advise me?” It was similar to other associates knocking on my door at Katten Muchin. So, it dawned on me, what if I give this a try? I’ll set up a consulting business where I have more flexibility with a new child and I can help other lawyers move on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. My husband came up with this great name for the company, Lawternatives. Right after I was done with maternity leave, I said, “Thanks guys, I’m not coming back.” That was how Kraft turned into Lawternatives and I haven’t looked back since. I have loved, loved, loved this career.

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The Ideal Lawyer Client  

Chris: Can you share about your ideal clients and what you do in Lawternatives? 

Cheryl: My clients are extremely varied. I’ve started with people who are just starting law school all the way to senior partners and judges. There’s no one demographic of people who come interested in a career change. But what makes a good client is somebody who’s open and curious. They don’t come in telling me all the reasons they can’t do something. They’re open to hearing why they can. They’re open to hearing a different way to look at things. Even if they’re not self-aware when we begin, they’re open and want to learn with the self-assessment component. They want to understand more of what makes them tick professionally and personally too. That’s a big part of it.

My best clients are super industrious. They’re going to run down every idea to the nth degree to see if there’s something there because every idea that we pursue, even if it’s not really right, you learn something from it. Those kinds of clients who say, “Tell me – let me explore with you. Help me understand and help me focus.” That’s great, great fun.

Where they go, that’s as diverse and varied as the clients themselves. I’ve had lawyers go into other kinds of law practice. Maybe they’ve gone from litigation to corporate work or from private practice to in-house. But that’s like running the gamut from A to C. I’ve had lawyers go into business, into the arts, into education, into the hospitality industry, into the airplane industry, and into the equine industry. You name it and I’ve probably had somebody who’s tried to do that. It’s wild and yet it’s not surprising. Law attracts people from so many different backgrounds. That’s part of the reason you get there when you maybe shouldn’t have. But you can use that background if you really enjoy it to then redirect how you use your legal skills and your special talents.

Story: From Litigator to Passion for Golf

Chris: Cheryl, could you give us a specific example of someone that went into a different industry? 

Cheryl: One of my favorite stories is with a guy that I’m still connected to through LinkedIn and speak with once or twice a year. I don’t want to use his name, but I’ll call him A. A always had a passion for sports, in particular, golf. While he was working as a litigator and very frustrated with it, he started to try to let off steam by going golfing. Then, he realized that while he was at the golf course he was meeting interesting people and he started spending more time there. He realized that one of the skills he picked up as a litigator was the ability to write, so he started writing some side articles for small golf publications and he was good. His writing abilities caught the attention of other more well-known golf publications. He started writing for those.

Then he realized he didn’t have to practice law but could write. He took a part-time job doing some legal publishing just to pay the bills but was also writing about golf. That led to a full-time editor position at a golf publication. That then combined with his background in theatre and his gregarious nature and led to a position in golf TV coverage. That then led to a position in PR for golf companies. He does all kinds of different media, PR, voiceover, and things now. His whole career has rotated and now he is a communicator. Lawyers are communicators too, but now he’s communicating on things he really loves to talk about.

His story is a very satisfying one to go back to and tell. But success can be defined in a lot of ways. I also had a client who was a partner in a law firm and was miserable, but it turned out as we got deeper into that self-assessment component, she was miserable because she felt guilty. She was a single mom. Her daughter was a junior in high school. She just couldn’t stand the idea that her daughter was going to go off to school and she’d spent so much time practicing. The solution wasn’t to get out of the law but to take a sabbatical and spend that last year at home with her daughter. When her daughter went off to college, she went back to work happy as a clam because the law wasn’t a bad fit. That particular moment in her life she needed to be someplace else.

Chris: It’s excellent to have someone like you to give them that permission.

Cheryl: I give them permission, but I also help them think through risks and rewards. Sometimes, people will look to me to say, “Hey, I’ve got another job just like my other job and it pays $15,000 more. Should I take it?” I’ll say, “Let’s go back to what you’re looking for.” It’s not a fit. Yes, it may be more money and yes, that may give you certain opportunities or freedoms you didn’t have before, but if we’re really evaluating career satisfaction, it’s not going to get you any further. It’s permission to move and sometimes permission not to move.

What to Expect Working with Cheryl

Chris: Cheryl, let’s talk about what a client should expect when working with you.

Cheryl: I tell my clients that we’re going to work through the four steps that I outlined earlier. It will probably take us someplace between 4-6 sessions to get through the work. That’s with them doing homework in between the sessions. The actual search will depend on how far afield they’re going from the law, how much effort they’re putting in, and what’s happening in the market. A pandemic will probably slow things down a little bit.

But what they can expect is that we’re going to work together as a team going through those four steps, reviewing what their findings are, tweaking their findings, tweaking their networking abilities, and tweaking their marketing materials. I’m in their corner. I get such a thrill when I hear of the successes that my clients have. I feel like I’m right in there with them.

Chris: Are you with them all the way until they find what they’re looking for?

Cheryl: I can be. Sometimes it’s beyond that. I’ve had clients who made one move and then a couple of years later, they’ll call me back and say, “Hey, this was great. Now I have the confidence to try to move from here.” Sometimes it continues on into second and third career jumps. Sometimes clients say, “Okay, I was just stuck at the beginning, Cheryl. Now I’ve got it and I’m going to take it on my own,” and that’s okay too. If I can empower you to get out of that stuck place and you don’t need me anymore, my feelings aren’t hurt. I’m here for you. I’m in your corner if you need to call me up again.

Exiting a Legal Career Trends 

Chris: Cheryl, are you noticing any trends that are happening among lawyers wanting to get a career outside of the law?

Cheryl: One of the trends I’ve noticed is that this desire for alternatives is starting earlier and earlier. I consult with law schools and I go out there and do some kind of a keynote speech about all the different things you can do and how to make those moves. Then, I’ll have one-on-ones with students who want to see me while I’m on campus. It shocks me, but I’ll have days that are fully scheduled with people who say, “I know I’m in law school, but I don’t want to do this.”

I don’t like the feel of alternative careers as being a stepchild to practicing law. It’s another very valuable, smart way to use your legal skills and tie it to your own personal interests. Instead of thinking of this as something to be done only after you can no longer practice law or are disbarred or fired, think of it as a fully-fledged option you can do with your career. Chris, you and I have talked about that. There are other paths to the C-suite besides just going up the legal chain. How great is it for somebody with a law background to also be in operations, HR, or financial? You have all the abilities plus that legal training, the legal strategy, the legal thinking, and the understanding of fiduciary duty. To me, it just makes sense and is not a hard sell.

Don’t Ignore Your Heart 

Chris: Cheryl, what advice would you give to somebody who got the degree, is working long hours, and they’re hearing this now, and it’s confirming what they’ve been wondering for years? 

Cheryl: Don’t shove your feelings under the rug. Whatever you feel is okay. It’s what you do with it. If you’re listening to yourself, if you’re self-aware, if you’re doing this self-assessment and you realize you’re really unhappy, try to understand the elements that are working and the elements that aren’t. You can change those things. You can continue to do well, to put food on your table, to get up and go to work, but you can be happy and fulfilled. If you’re feeling very beaten down where you’re practicing, you’ve got the skills and the smarts to identify and make a career change happen.

Chris: Cheryl, if someone wants to get ahold of you, what’s the best way to do that?

Cheryl: Reach out. I’ve got a website www.Lawternatives.com or you can email me at CHeisler@Lawternatives.com and I’d love to hear from you. I’m also on LinkedIn. Just reach out and say, “Hey, I was listening to this podcast and I’ve got some questions for you,” and let’s talk.

Being a Mixologist  

Chris: For my listeners, a reminder that for everything we talk about today, we will have links to the things she references. 

Cheryl, let’s pivot. It was brought up earlier that you have another passion and a focus in the world of mixed cocktails. Can you just share with my audience your journey with your business Mixed metaPours?

Cheryl: First of all, I have to say once you start changing careers, it gets a little bit addicting. From law to marketing, from marketing to career coaching and consulting. Even under the umbrella of career consulting, I’ve done things like outplacement, speaking, article writing and occasionally, I’ve even dabbled in the recruiting space. You begin to realize that skills are transferable.

When my oldest son graduated from college and was looking for a job, he decided that he wanted a mixology or bartending license to fall back on, so we signed up for a class together. Then, he got a job in DC, but I still wanted to have a drink once in a while. I thought it would be fun to go and learn about it. I had no idea I was going to do anything with it because I have a family, a husband, and I like to be in bed by eleven-thirty. But it was so much fun. 

I love mixing. I love talking to clients. It’s not so different from career consulting. You’re listening to people and you’re coming up with a recommendation. Either it’s a pass for going forward or in the case of a cocktail it’s coming up with the right drink to match the theme, the venue, the colors. I’ve had corporations hire me to make a drink in their corporate colors and I’ve done wedding showers where we’ve done his, hers, and theirs. 

It’s creating in liquid space. It’s fun and it’s a break. I like to know and learn about different spirits and I love it when they come together. There’s a theatre in my town that’s actually been written up by the Wall Street Journal because they’re one of the best local theatre troops around. They’re cocktail consultants. We do creative cocktails and mocktails for each new show. I get to read the play, think about the play, think about the characters, and put an intellectual spin on what drink we’re going to be selling at the bar. It’s great fun. It’s an outlet. I can be a guinea pig for my own creations.

The Bitter Lemon Recipe

Chris: So, what’re your favorite cocktails and preferred liquor?

Cheryl: Okay, so I’ve got an answer for that, which is very honest. I say that my drinks are like my children – I love them all, but favor them at different times. What we’ve been drinking a lot of during the pandemic is variations on gin and tonics until I run out. It’s different gins coupled with different fancy tonics.

But my new favorite spin is I make Campari ice cubes. You take Campari and you cut it with water because straight Campari won’t freeze. It’s about one-third Campari, two-thirds water and you get these giant shaped ice cubes, so you’ve got this gorgeous pink hue as it melts. So, you can make a Negroni or just drop one in and pour juice,  iced tea, or white wine over it if you don’t want something too boozy. That’s my current favorite child. But in wintertime it’s dark spirits and autumn is a lot of things with ciders. Chris, you’re no novice when it comes to these things too.

Chris: I’m a whiskey guy through and through so I’m always looking for the next bourbon or I’m a big fan of Kansas City’s Rieger whiskey. My cocktail of choice is old-fashioned.

Hobbies Make You More Interesting

Cheryl: Having hobbies, having something else to stimulate your brain, having something else to read and know about, and having something else to talk about are all good things. One of the things that people forget, even in an interview setting, is that it’s nice to be interesting in more than one area. You could be the top person on bio or bitcoin, but it’s also nice to be the guy that somebody would want to go out and have lunch, a coffee or a cocktail with. That usually means talking about the other things that make you a more interesting person. I’m a big fan of hobbies generally, whether that’s knitting, golfing, music or cocktailing, it just makes for a more interesting person and interaction. 

In this pandemic, people are missing that connection, which is why most Friday afternoons I’m doing Zoom happy hours for many of my clients who are no longer having people in the house. We’re all more fulfilled when we’re in a good place. If I can help anybody do that, I think I’m on my right track.

Family & Food

Chris: Tell us about your family. 

Cheryl: I have three kids, but now they each have a significant other, so we could be talking about six kids and a grandbaby. They’re not all living with us. I still have a little bit of sanity left.

Chris: What fun things are you guys finding to do in the house during Corona?

Cheryl: Everybody likes to cook. I will add the caveat that not everybody likes to clean, which is a bone of contention. But we have had some of the best meals around here. We do different ethnic foods, bread, baked goods, halva,  homemade pretzels, focaccia, shakshuka, rolled zucchini lasagna, and stir-fries. Tonight, my daughter who spent a semester in Argentina is making empanadas. Like I say, we cannot complain about eating.

But we also like to sit down together and the one thing we try really hard to do is have dinner together. Everybody goes off to their own corner and hooks up their own Wi-Fi during the day, but then we get together and talk. That’s a throwback and really, without the pandemic, they wouldn’t be living here. They all had their own apartments. But we’re reconnecting that way, playing scrabble, watching old movies, and trying to make lemonade here out of lemons.

Read Trade Magazines

Chris: What books do you recommend for my listeners?

Cheryl: Under the heading of being compassionate with yourself, a lot of people – even good readers – are having a hard time concentrating now. Whatever you do, pick up to read, make sure it’s something that you’re interested in. Don’t force yourself to read War and Peace right now.

But the current book that’s on my desk is called My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq. It’s a memoir and there are different levels to it. There’s the search for the father’s past and the lost past that was back in Iraq, but the son is also reconnecting with his dad. They were very estranged. His son wanted to be cool, hip, and a Californian and his dad had one foot in a very almost ancient kind of lifestyle. As they go back together and search out the father’s past, the son and the dad begin to find a way to bond. I like this book right now because it’s about connecting. On some level, that’s what people do. 

Even if you don’t have the patience for a book right now, if you are thinking about a career change, find your way into the trade magazines that the industries that you like read. – During your downtime, to the extent you have it, if you want to move into the business world, pick up whatever your city’s business magazine is. If you want to do something in the food and beverage industry, get an online subscription to a hospitality magazine. Flip through those and test your interest in a particular area by seeing if you like to read what those folks read for their profession.

It’s a free bite of the apple. You may very well come up with names of jobs or potential titles for yourself, but you may also decide that it’s really fascinating and you should do some more digging.

Chris: What are your superpowers, Cheryl?

Cheryl: If I had a superpower, it would be that I am super curious. I want to know everything about everything, not in-depth to make that clear, but I want to know a little about a lot. We’re the same people we always were. As a little kid, I used to sit in the back of my parent’s car and chatter and ask so many questions. My father would look over, partly bemused and partly annoyed and he’d ask, “What, are you writing a book?” Even as a kid my superpower was to always want to know more. I want to learn and I want to share. 

Chris: Cheryl, it’s been an honor and a pleasure. Thank you for your time today.

Cheryl: It’s been great. Chris, thanks for having me on and if I can answer anybody else’s questions, as you know I like to chat, so feel free to reach out.  

Thank you to everyone who listened to this episode of The Law Firm Leadership Podcast.

***To Download the PDF Transcript, click here*** 

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