Verona Dorch | Chief Legal Officer of Providence Health

Gaining Mission & Purpose | Joining the War against COVID | Streamlining Outside Counsel | Joining a For-Profit Board | Reach Back & Pull People Up | Diverse Attorney Advice | Immigration Story


I interviewed Verona Dorch | Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and Secretary at Providence Health on Monday, August 17th, 2020.

We began this episode with Verona sharing how she gained mission and purpose in her new CLO role at Providence and how it felt moving to Seattle from St Louis during the pandemic. We discussed how Verona lands roles where her leadership is needed to navigate a crisis such as her time at Peabody Energy’s business and political challenges. Verona shared how Peabody went from 100+ outside law firms to only 12 and how she used her influence to support diversity efforts. She shared key takeaways for senior legal executives as they lead changes within their legal team and outside counsel. She shared the steps she took to join a for-profit board and gave advice for those wanting to do the same. We discussed leadership and examples of those who have been key in her journey. We discussed the importance of continuing on for diverse attorneys in a year that has been hard. We wrapped up the discussion with her family’s immigration story and the impact on her life.

Here are some highlights of my interview with Verona Dorch:

Providence was the first time a job came along that offered a way to marry up purpose with my job. I didn’t lose size and scope but did gain mission and purpose.

I have children, you have children, and at the end of the day, I want to have a world that my children and grandchildren can enjoy.

Sometimes you have to go through unrest to come out on the other end, and to be the country that you’re meant to be.

My parents brought me here because of the greatness of this country and because of the opportunities that it provides.

Out of turmoil can come good and can come progress. Sometimes though, when you’re in the storm, you can’t see that progress easily.

When you’re spending millions on outside counsel, you have a say in how you spend those millions and who you spend them with.

A key part of joining a board is to shift your network. So, I began to start socializing with the people who know about board positions, which are people that are on boards and CEOs, including my own CEO and our board members.

To me, leadership is about having the courage to lay out a vision, and at the time you lay it out, not many others may understand it, agree with it, or get it, but then your job is to take them with you.

My first examples of leadership are my parents who took a leap of faith. They decided that the opportunities that they wanted for their children were not in England, and they made this decision to move to America.

I’ve been incredibly lucky with people I’ve been introduced to. But I’m also not shy, and I’ve reached out to people I’ve read about that I think have incredible journeys.

We should never get to a point where we’re embarrassed to reach out, embarrassed to seek help, or embarrassed to ask questions in whatever part we are in our careers.

Diverse attorneys, find your tribe, find that group of people that you trust that you can talk to. Find that group of people that can be support for you and that you can also support.

When you get to a particular point in your career, you have to pay it forward, you have to reach back and pull folks up. You have to act as a mentor and everything else yourself. 

I’ve always instilled in my kids that you’re children of the world and it’s your job to get out there and understand other people and listen and learn from their experiences.

Links referred to in this episode:

Verona Dorch | LinkedIn Profile

National Diversity Council | 2020’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil and Gas

Financial Times | The FT Global GC 20 List

Black Enterprise Magazine | 2019 List of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate America

American Bar Foundation

AdvanceLaw Website Article | Big Company GCs Sign On as Mentors to Foster Big Law Diversity

Firoz Dattu | Chairman at AdvanceLaw

Director’s Academy Website

Marsha Simms | Partner at Weil Gotshal & Manges

Lloyd Johnson | Minority Corporate Counsel Association Founder

Michele Coleman Mayes | General Counsel & Secretary at New York Public Library

Tom Sabatino | Previous General Counsel of Aetna & Hertz

James D. White | Co-Founder & Board Chairman of Director’s Academy

Alfreda Bradley-Coar | CEO and Founder of The Bradley-Coar Group

Nancy Jessen | Executive Vice President, Enterprise Legal Transformation at UnitedLex Corporation

Michael Watkins | The First 90 Days

Phil Jackson | Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

Michelle Obama | Becoming

Chinua Achebe | Things Fall Apart

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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 the new Chief Legal Officer of one of the largest healthcare providers in the United States. We discussed her career and how she’s been called upon during times of crisis, 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’re listening to Episode 49 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 Verona Dorch, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer of Providence Health in Seattle. Verona joins Providence from Peabody Energy in St. Louis, Missouri, where she served as Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, Head of Government Affairs, and Corporate Secretary since 2015. Prior to Peabody, she was at Harsco for nine years as the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and Corporate Secretary. Among the honors and recognition Verona has received she was named one of the 2020 Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil and Gas by the National Diversity Council, appeared in the 2019 Financial Times Global GC 20 list, and was also named to Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2019 list of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate America. In 2014, Verona was named a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a JD degree from Harvard Law School. 

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

Verona: Thank you, Chris. It is great to be here and to be talking with you today.

Chris: Thank you, Verona, for including us as you’re starting your journey at Providence in Seattle now. Are you still getting settled?

Verona: I physically moved to Seattle about two weeks ago, and have been self-quarantining and unpacking but it is a beautiful city with lots of outdoor activities. I’m looking forward to getting to know it over the next couple of years.

Gaining Mission & Purpose in a New Role

Chris: Verona, I can’t help but notice your in-house career with Peabody, which was a Fortune 500, and Harsco was an extremely large company in over 40 countries. Talk to me about this transition to healthcare. Why Providence?

Verona: It’s my very first question with each of my moves. I was asked why when I went to Peabody and when I went to Harsco. In this case, there are a number of reasons that drew me to Providence. At different points in our lives, we all go through this, but I really started thinking about the ways to marry up the job that I love. I absolutely love being a Chief Legal Officer. I love working with leadership on team strategy, and everything else. I wanted to grow in some type of purpose because a lot of what I love to do, whether it’s focusing on diversity and inclusion, charitable activities, or otherwise, was always separate from what I did with work. Providence was the first time that the potential of a job came along, that offered a way to marry up purpose with my job. I’ve come into an organization that was founded in the 1800s by nuns, the Sisters of Providence, and the very purpose from the beginning, and it’s continued purpose today, was to found these hospitals and schools across the Northwest that could provide services to the most vulnerable. Our mission is healthcare for all and across seven states, we truly provide healthcare to all. I’m coming in, and I’m still doing my job, but I’m doing it with a very solid purpose at Providence. And Providence is not small. It’s a $25 billion healthcare system that’s across seven states with 51 hospitals. We treated the first known COVID patients in the US, we put over $1B back into the community every year, and we have 120,000 employees. I didn’t lose size and scope but did gain mission and purpose.

Joining the War against COVID

Chris: Verona, as you step into the epicenter where COVID broke out in the US and into your role with Providence, share your perspective with my listeners as it relates to COVID.

Verona: If I could have timed it a little bit differently, Chris, I would have, but everything happens for a reason. On the one hand, I took two and a half months off between Peabody and Providence. So, in the heart of the pandemic, I was in St. Louis, and pretty much confined to my cul-de-sac with my kids doing online schooling. At the same time, it was just amazing to walk in here and see what Providence was doing. A lot of it was getting reported in the press, through interviews and it was just incredibly heartwarming to come into an organization like this that is out there literally saving lives. Heroes do work here in terms of the doctors, the nurses, the clinicians, and others that are doing this incredible job. We’re also seeing a hospital system that is part of the solution and partnering with other companies to figure out the vaccine side of things to use data that understands through the autoimmune response what COVID does to the body. We’re also helping to establish housing in Seattle for our most vulnerable populations. With walking right into the eye of the storm and with so many things that are going on with this system, including with the legal team to address during this pandemic, it was a bit hectic. My job during my time off was to casually understand what was going on and think through how I can tap in and be of use in that regard, but also to get myself and my son, who was heading into high school, to Seattle safely. Traveling through an airport in the middle of a pandemic is scary. So, thinking through how to come into this community that has dealt with Coronavirus, and how to do it safely was a priority. I don’t get into the office until tomorrow, which will be my first time going in because I thought it was very important for me to step back, given my travel and having movers to make sure that I quarantined for a period of time before beginning. It’s daunting to join at this time, but also exciting to join a system that is doing so much with telehealth and everything else.

Leading Peabody through Crisis

Chris: You have a history of leadership under pressure. Verona, would you share about your experience at Peabody Energy and how you navigated the bankruptcy and political headwinds against the coal industry? 

Verona: As you can see, I have a pattern in terms of my timing for joining organizations. I joined Peabody in 2015, when Peabody was under attack on all sides. The Clean Power Plan was part of that. From an environmental standpoint, I completely understand why the Clean Power Plan was put in place. But on the other hand, part of my role in leading in legal and government relations was to try to find a way to work with the Obama administration and the Trump administration. We had thousands of miners where it wasn’t about politics for them. They were just doing their jobs. At the end of the day, if the key issue is greenhouse gases, then let’s focus on greenhouse gases. There are things that we’re doing from a technology standpoint to try to address that there can be public and private partnerships or other things in that regard. But let’s focus on the issue of climate change without prematurely crushing an industry. So there was a lot that we did to push back against the Clean Power Plan utilizing the court systems by partnering with a number of other companies. And not only coal companies, but also other industries like railroads and other people that would be impacted by the Clean Power Plan. We fought that fight all the way up through the Supreme Court in its seeds. Our goal was to work with the Obama Administration and then the Trump administration and to focus on the technology side and other areas that would address climate change. Now, that doesn’t mean that in the time that we were doing that, that the percentage of the energy mix in the US didn’t reduce down in terms of the utilization of fossil fuels. It absolutely did. But then from a business standpoint, it was Peabody’s job to also find other markets. It was also a time to remind people that coal isn’t only used for energy purposes. Coal is also used in the steelmaking process. So, we have to keep in mind that metallurgical coal, which is used for steelmaking, is still needed in the US if we want to remain independent with our infrastructure.

Work Together to Find a Solution

Chris: Verona, with all that going on with the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and the efforts of Peabody, are we moving in the right direction?

Verona: That’s a really good question. It depends on what you mean by the right direction. It was really interesting being head of government relations and having to deal with government relations for a fossil fuel company. In some ways, we’re moving in the right direction, in the sense that these key issues like climate change are definitely understood by everyone, right? I have children, you have children, and at the end of the day, I want to have a world that my grandchildren can enjoy. So, that discussion was pushed to the forefront no matter what I may think of the Clean Power Plan, and I think that’s the right thing. We’re getting closer to heading in the right direction with that and a solution could be if we can get back to the Paris Agreement, and bring countries back to working together to find solutions. Under Obama, there really was that push to bring the world together to find a solution to those issues. You can’t just fix that issue from a US standpoint. In some ways, we’re a very different country today than we were four years ago or eight years ago. Today is a snapshot in time. Sometimes you have to go through unrest to come out on the other end, and to be the country that you’re meant to be. So I don’t have any notes about what I find any worse today than eight years ago. In a sense, this is something that we as a country need to go through. I’m an immigrant. My parents bought me here because of the greatness of this country and because of the opportunities that it provides. I was able to move from being a kid in the inner city and through education have been able to thrive. What we need is a way for this country to figure out the key things that we need to focus on. Some of that we’re already doing, Chris, like focusing on diversity and inclusion and that Black Lives Matter, unfortunately, coming out of something so horrendous with the killing of George Floyd, but it’s forcing a conversation that we’ve not had in the many years that I’ve been in the US. Out of turmoil can come good and can come progress. Sometimes though, when you’re in the storm, you can’t see that progress. But I think this country is great, has been great, and will continue to be great. We’ve got to force ourselves to have the right conversations and make the right changes and we can never just look at it as any four-year snapshot of any president.

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Influencing Diversity Efforts with Outside Counsel

Chris: When you were at Peabody and assessing outside counsel, can you describe the process you were taking them through regarding diversity & inclusion, the RFP process, etc.?

Verona: When I went into Peabody, there were probably 100+ law firms that we were utilizing, so it was very hard to have any influence over those law firms from a billing perspective or alternative fee arrangements standpoint. We also wanted the best lawyers, and we absolutely wanted diversity with those lawyers. So, we stepped back. We worked with a group called AdvanceLaw with a former law school classmate of mine to put together an RFP that was focused on the areas that were key to us. Step one was to have a manageable number of law firms. So we went down to ultimately 12 law firms, and some were going to be our day to day law firms. We really wanted regional St. Louis-based or Chicago-based law firms in that mix. They were more cost-effective and could come in and get to know our business better. We wanted law firms that would commit to alternative fee arrangements, whether that was buckets of work for certain dollars, whether it was success fees, or otherwise. We were finding that straight billing for everything was not necessarily working. We also wanted law firms that were going to commit to diversity and inclusion. Not only in the sense of putting up diverse lawyers for matters but also in the relationship partners that we were dealing with. With those 12 law firms, we ended up with about half of those relationship partners that were diverse in race, diversity, gender, or otherwise. We also wanted to have an impact on those law firms. So once we picked those 12 law firms, I and my Head of Legal Operations, went out to at least one law firm per month. We went to meet with them, to sit down and talk about not only the financial side of things but also diversity and inclusion. We asked them to give us opportunities to speak to their associates, to give opportunities to mentor those associates, have them partner with us, and have interns from various law firms. We were reaching beyond the top 10 firms to find those diverse individuals that would spend eight weeks at their firms and two weeks with us, so they also got the in-house experience. We really wanted to partner with them to figure out diversity in the sense of how you build diverse classes and how diverse partners are made. We would send in letters to the committees that were making people partners that talked about the work that they were doing and why it was important to us that they make it to the partnership ranks. We would ask, “What is it about your model that might not be working to help with diverse attorneys becoming partners?” It’s not my job to come in and tell a law firm how to run but we acknowledged some of those things that weren’t working. And the law firm can think through how to fix that. We use data. At the end of the day, if you don’t measure it, it’s not going to change. So we used the actual data that we would pull from the law firms on a monthly basis of who was working on their matters, what the spend was looking like and have conversations with them on a monthly basis to talk that through and used that data to push for change where change was needed. We got to a point where a lot of those firms were doing things beyond what we were asking for. We talked with the firms about the transformation of who was working on our matters, but also about the financial side which helped us bring down our costs 10-20% per year and we demonstrated that internally to our finance and business teams. When you’re spending millions, you have a say in how you spend those millions and who you spend them with. It was a great project that is being continued on by the team now and it’s something that I’m looking at now with Providence and the law firms that we work with. Not necessarily to put in place the exact same program but certainly to start to think it through. And I want to be clear, when we talked about diversity it was racial diversity, gender diversity, but also differently-abled veterans, LGBTQ, etc. We wanted all diversity on our matters and in working with us.

3 Takeaways for Influencing Real Change 

Chris: Verona, can you share a couple of takeaways as you did this that would be helpful for a roomful of senior legal executives?

Verona: One takeaway is to spend a lot of time thinking about change management. That includes taking your legal team along the journey, taking the business team along the journey, and taking your law firm along the journey. Everyone is not going to buy-in from day one. You may get the headcount, but that doesn’t mean that you have true buy-in. So you have to be persistent, you have to have a common message, and you have to push forward. The second takeaway that I would have is to use data. If you don’t measure it, if you’re not able to see it or to show the month-to-month and year-to-year things, it’s very hard to take law firms along that journey. Also, it’s very hard to take your company along the journey of why these changes are happening. The third thing is to not only do it because it’s right, but you have to develop your own level of passion for it. Because if you as the GC aren’t driving it and aren’t partnering with other GCs that are making these changes, and don’t care about it, the law firms, your lawyers, or others are going to pick up on that. So, think through why it’s important to you and why this is the right thing to do. Be able to articulate that and make sure that you develop the vision for why this is going to happen.

For-Profit Board Experience

Chris: Verona, let’s talk about your board experience. You just transitioned off the board of the Enterprise Bank and Trust after serving for nearly two years. What was it like to be on a for-profit board? How did that door open for you and how could it open for others?

Verona: So first of all, the experience of being on a for-profit board was incredible. Having gone through the bankruptcy was Peabody, I felt like there were a lot of skills that I picked up that were business skills. I was able to stand back and start talking to people about my experiences in the last couple of years and how it could translate to skills a board would value. I put myself through a program with another search firm that added an arm that was focusing on training and preparing minority executives to be on boards. They also had senior business people that would be in those meetings that were listening to you and learning about your background but also coaching you in putting together a board CV, preparing for that first board interview, and they were also the beginnings of a network shift for me. A key part of it is to shift your network. My network was primarily other GCs and other lawyers. The first advice I got was to start socializing with the people who know about board positions, which are people that are on boards and CEOs, including your own CEO and your own board members. Then, you have to ensure that they know about your interest and that they start promoting you. There were three or four CEOs that were in that room that I connected with right away. They introduced me to other people in St. Louis who recommended me to the Enterprise Bank board as soon as they heard about the open position, and that’s how I got the board call. Boards still work through that more informal process versus the board search process that some search firms do. I found I had to go out and advocate for myself differently, put together a very different CV, and then talk about and think about my skills differently. This doesn’t mean that I de-emphasized the legal skills, but I certainly did focus more on dealing with crisis skills, risk mitigation, the financial skills, and credit skills that I’ve picked up that make a lot of sense to a bank. So, I was able to join that board and serve on the risk committee and the credit committee and continued to build my credentials on the financial side versus focusing on the governance committee, where I would have been more naturally comfortable. I really felt I needed to stretch myself. If you play tennis and you have that one strong arm, you need to focus on the other arm to make sure both sides are strong. 

Chris: Verona that was a lot of really great advice. Thank you. I’m assuming that was a paid board role, correct?

Verona: It was a paid board role but the course that I went through also had to be paid for. It was an interesting situation because the company was not necessarily interested in putting me through the course, so I actually paid for it myself. I wanted to invest in my own future and thought it was important to figure out that side of things, and it obviously paid off. But yes, it was a paid board position. And as you know, I stepped down but certainly will be looking to go back onto other boards. It was called the Directors Academy and was just a great program. It was over the course of two and a half days in Chicago, and they did an incredible job.

Taking People on the Journey 

Chris: Verona, how do you define leadership?

Verona: Leadership is different for different people, and it depends on the circumstances you’re in. To me, leadership is about having the courage to lay out a vision, and at the time you lay it out, not many others may understand it, agree with it, or get it, but then your job is to take them with you. I had a CEO who would always say you have to take people on the journey. You see the endpoint, but you have to take people from the beginning to the end, and you have to find a way to get their buy-in. If you’re not leading people somewhere, they’re going to think you’re not really leading. 

There’s always this nature versus nurture debate with leadership. Leadership and leadership skills are learned, in my opinion, and they’re different in different situations. Me as a leader in crisis is very different than me as a leader in general times. And me as a leader of the legal function is different from me in the room, as an executive vice president and the leader of the company, or being external facing, or otherwise. You have to be comfortable with different styles of leadership and you have to be comfortable with different types of decision making, but you have to be smart enough to know when to apply which style of leadership and what it is you’re trying to accomplish. It’s all about how you take people on that journey with you.

Leaders & Sponsors who Inspire 

Chris: Verona, who have been examples of leadership for you?

Verona: My first examples of leadership are my parents who took a leap of faith. My father was from Jamaica, and my mother’s from Guyana in South America, and they moved to England and started to raise this young family. They decided that the opportunities that they wanted for their children were not there, and they made this decision to move to America. My father moved first, and then it took us another seven years to get green cards to be able to join him. To me, that’s what I just talked about. They had this vision, and they had to take people, in this case, their family, along this journey believing it would all work out for the better. So seeing the sacrifices, and also their strong belief that America was the place for us kids was just incredible to me. The way that it motivated me and invited the siblings to want to succeed here was just incredible. So those are the first leaders and the first individuals that laid out how you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. 

Beyond that, I’ve had incredible influences, leaders, and sponsors throughout my career starting with my teachers in high school who helped me dream bigger than I could dream in terms of the colleges and law schools I could go to and invested an incredible amount of time outside of school in helping guide me in that regard. The first mentor that I had as I came into my legal career was Marsha Simms from Weil Gotshal who headed up the summer associate program and was one of the first African American women to graduate from an incredible college to become a lawyer and partner. I saw her as a role model for what I wanted to accomplish and the amount of time she put into young lawyers was incredible. Even today, I still keep in touch with her. As I became a general counsel, people like Lloyd Johnson, who is completely invested in diversifying the Fortune 500 and increasing the number of diverse GCs within the Fortune 500 was someone that I was lucky to get to know just before I became a GC. Michele Coleman Mayes has an incredible story and journey. Tom Sabatino who has held roles at so many incredible companies. And as I mentioned, going through the board membership program and meeting people like James White and others who are incredible CEOs who are very focused on giving back. I’ve been incredibly lucky with people I’ve been introduced to. But I’m also not shy, and I’ve reached out to people I’ve read about that I think have incredible journeys. I’ve reached out to them to get connected and as I’ve headed to healthcare, which is a brand-new industry for me, there are people that I’m meeting who have been incredible. Alfreda Bradley-Coar, for example, was someone I spoke to last week who reached out and said, “I want to be a resource for you as you go along this journey.” Nancy Jessen with UnitedLex Corporation was known for decades. People have reached out and said, “This is a new industry for you, and we’re here to help you along that path.” I don’t think we should ever get to a point where we’re embarrassed to reach out, embarrassed to seek help, or embarrassed to ask questions in whatever part you are in your career, and I’m deep into my career. I’m incredibly thankful for the people who are providing support and available to listen.

Words of Encouragement to Women & Diverse Attorneys 

Chris: Verona, if you had a roomful of women and diverse attorneys, what advice would you give them right now?

Verona: The first piece of advice I would give them is just to hold on and continue on. This has been an incredibly difficult year, whether because of COVID, or because of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. This has been hard, and I’ve not cried as much as I have cried this year. And we have to hold on because they are the future, the future of law, whatever industries, and they’re the future of raising their kids to be good people. So, just hold on, this too will pass, I promise you. I would also encourage them to reach out. There are people that reach out to me all the time, and I take those calls and take the reach out on LinkedIn. And people like me are here to act as mentors or to act as sounding boards, whatever it is that you need in a trusted way to help support you on that journey, but also support each other. When I was coming up, there weren’t as many women and I wasn’t seeing what I’m seeing today with people supporting each other. When I moved to St. Louis, one of the first things that someone said to me was, “You just have to find your tribe, and then you’ll be fine.” So I was trying to piece together my tribe, my personal board of directors with people that I’m meeting on a day to day basis. I would say find your tribe, find that group of people that you trust that you can talk to, and not only diverse boards. The people that I described are white males, women, white women, African American women, and immigrants. Find that group of people that can be support for you and that you can also support. But then, when you get to a particular point in your career, you have to pay it forward, you have to reach back and pull folks up. You have to act as a mentor and everything else yourself. You have to reach out to vulnerable individuals, not the perfect associates that everyone loves. It’s also the struggling associates, the struggling individuals, those diamonds in the rough because I was a diamond in the rough. And there were people that reached out and mentored me to nurture that out. You have to reach out to those folks and attempt to help them too. But going back to what I first said, just hold on, things are changing for the better, and what we’re going through is what I would consider bumps in the road. You get past those bumps in the road with the support of others.

Chris: Would you share with my listeners a little bit more about your parents, and how your kids are doing the virtual classroom? 

Verona: My father, as I noted, was an immigrant from Jamaica who worked in construction. He was very much blue-collar and didn’t even complete middle school. He worked for the family and used grit and determination to get to his dream for his kids. He passed away this year in his 80s but lived a full, full life. My mother is an immigrant from Guyana, which is in South America, and similarly a true believer in education and in working hard in the dream of America. They raised three kids to take advantage of everything that this country has to offer, and I’ve continued to pass that immigrant approach to life onto my kids. I raised them as though they’re immigrants. I’m not sure that they’re always thrilled by that. But education is king held true and I encouraged them to completely take advantage of the educational system that is in this country. I also raised them to believe that they are children of the world. My daughter has traveled to countless countries to study, to work, to get to know other people and other cultures, and has friends from all over the world. I’ve always instilled in my kids that you’re children of the world and it’s your job to get out there and understand other people and listen and learn from their experiences. And they absolutely have both taken that in, including my son who will be heading into high school in the fall. I look at the diverse individuals that he’s friends with and how much he’s taken that to heart. I feel very, very blessed, and very lucky to have had the journey that I’ve lived. It was hard in the beginning and definitely did develop grit and determination and things that still drive me today. I’m excited with my son, and with my daughter when she comes home, to start this new journey with a new city in Seattle. I don’t know a lot about Seattle, but I’m looking forward to learning about it and learning and working with the Providence team as I head out on this next journey.

Book Recommendations

Chris: What books are you reading right now and what’s your go-to method for reading?

Verona: I’m old fashioned with reading. I grew up loving to read. So I like the cuts of a book. I still buy books, often off Amazon. As I head into a new job, I step back, and like rereading a couple of books. Currently, I’m rereading The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. As I come into Providence, it’s one of the few jobs I have had that I’ll be able to come in and really go through that first 90-day process. It’ll be that listening tour, that learning the industry, but also the business and the people. So, I wanted that book as a backdrop. Another book that I’m flipping through again because I’ve read it so many times I don’t want to read it again from back to front is Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson. It is one of my favorite, favorite leadership books. Going back to your question about leadership, it really forces you to step back and think about different styles of leadership and their impact on others. From a fun standpoint, no matter the Clean Power Plan, I had a lot of respect for the Obamas and started reading Becoming by Michelle Obama in hardcover. I hope to also eventually watch the next documentary. Packing up my old home and moving into a new home, I picked up and read and saw books that I hadn’t really looked at in years. Some of the books from when I was in college and came out of college that I absolutely loved were books by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian writer that is incredible. So I am rereading Things Fall Apart quite a bit. As I’m rereading it, and given a lot of the turmoil that is happening in America right now, it takes a look at the clashes between cultures and that resonates with what’s going on today. Chinua Achebe is absolutely one of my favorite authors that I was introduced to in college.


Chris: What are your superpowers?

Verona: My greatest superpower is to be able to see into the future, in a sense. It’s that setting vision concept that I talked about earlier. Then, it’s being able to come back and take others into the future with me along that journey. Perhaps, my greatest superpowers are also the ability to heal when I do fail.  And I could have taken a lot of psychology classes, or I have a particular sensitivity, but I do feel like I have a connection to how people are feeling it. It’s not just about someone doing good work, but that ability to make sure that people ultimately end up doing what they love and helping them sort through what they’re doing today, where they want to go and how to get there.

Chris: Thank you for sharing Verona. It’s been an honor and a pleasure. 

Verona: Thank you. I really, really enjoyed the opportunity. I love that you do this and you give folks the opportunity to share some wisdom and share some thoughts that resonate with your viewers.

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

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