Lori Lorenzo | Managing Director at Deloitte
Connecting People & Ideas | Moving the DE&I Needle | Career Advice & Being Curious | Deloitte’s CLO Program | Growing Up Hispanic | Blended Family | Enjoying Life
I interviewed Lori Lorenzo | Managing Director at Deloitte on Friday, April 9th, 2021.
We started the episode with Lori’s journey to Biglaw and how Dewey & LeBoeuf’s demise led to launching a business. Then, she shared how a table of prosecutors, while she was waitressing, opened the door back into the legal field. She shared about her roles in career services and working with young, passionate attorneys. We discussed her work in DE&I, her various roles, and her passion to move the needle for greater impact. We discussed having a tribe and building relationships. She shared about her roles with Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and her transition into work with Deloitte. We learned about Deloitte’s Programs for legal executives and how well-positioned they are to serve the legal industry. She shared about her Hispanic family and her own blended family. We wrapped up discussing summer plans, her favorite reads, and her approach to enjoying life.
Here are some highlights of my interview with Lori Lorenzo:
I didn’t understand the relationship-building component at the start of my career. There is an unspoken, nonwork piece of being a lawyer that is more than just going in and working hard.
Career services was an opportunity to invest in young lawyers when they’re hopeful and excited and when they’ve got a blank slate ahead of them.
Keep an open mind. Talk to everyone about anything all the time and follow up on every lead.
If you put it out there that you’re going to get back into a career, then you talk about that, you engage around that, and you have enthusiasm around that. People can’t help but naturally respond positively to a positive outlook.
Wherever you land, be fully invested, and take whatever skills you can and build them.
Asking questions is a really useful skill because people love to talk about themselves. If you get people talking, you learn so much about what people do and what drives them.
I see it this way, one person who practices law can have a really great career and impact a ton of people through their practice. But one person that launches excited, enthusiastic attorneys gets to multiply the potential for impact.
It’s important to talk to anyone that has an opportunity. It’s not being untrue or disrespectful of the role you have, but it’s important to understand your value in the market. It’s important to see through someone else’s eyes the impact you have.
With the introduction of technology and efficiency, we can pull out some of the things that are not as valuable but are still necessary, and empower in-house lawyers to work on the big, difficult, hard problem.
The theme for me is that I just enjoy life. There are so many choices, so many things you can do, so many things to learn and so many people to meet.
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Greetings, friends. This is Chris Batz, your host of The Law Firm Leadership Podcast. In today’s episode, I spoke with a Managing Director of a Big Four accounting firm, where she runs the Chief Legal Officer program. We discussed her unconventional journey after Big Law, her love to connect people and share ideas, her insights into the future of the legal industry, her love for sports, and so 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 55 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 Lori Lorenzo, Research and Insights Director of Deloitte in Northern Virginia. Lori is a Managing Director with Deloitte transactions in business analytics and leads research and insights for the chief legal officer program. In this role, she hosts training events for new, current, and future chief legal officers as a free service. Prior to Deloitte, Lori was the Deputy Director for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity in DC, and also the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Career Development Office at the University of Miami School of Law. Lori received her law degree from Duke.
Welcome, Lori, to The Law Firm Leadership Podcast. It’s great to have you on the show.
Lori: Thanks, Chris. I’m really excited to get to talk to you today.
Lawyer or Doctor
Chris: What led you to want to be an attorney in the first place?
Lori: I was one of those kids that argued all the time. For as long as I can remember, my mom told me that I needed to be a lawyer. She did give me the alternative of becoming a doctor, but those were the only two choices. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m a little bit squeamish, so lawyer was the only real path. When I got a little older and decided I liked writing and public speaking it became a more clear vision. It was as simple as my mom telling me I had to do it.
Chris: And where did you attend school, then?
Lori: I went to the University of Florida for my undergrad and played Water Polo there. For law school, I attended Duke.
Meager Beginnings to BigLaw
Chris: What law firms did you land at after law school?
Lori: I started at Cadwalader doing structured finance work. About a year into practicing, Dewey Ballantine was coming into the Charlotte market and aggressively recruiting. I took the opportunity to jump right over. On my first day at Dewey Ballantine, they announced that they were merging with LeBoeuf Lamb & Greene, and there I was at Dewey and LeBoeuf as a very junior lawyer.
Chris: Did you build relationships with some of the people that led to the end result of Dewey and LeBoeuf?
Lori: In a very casual way, yes. The people that were making the decisions about how the firm would manage its finances, and its partner relationships were several security clearance levels above me. But the chair of the firm from time to time visited our office and we all went out to dinner. Since I was in the Charlotte office, not the New York office, a lot of those decisions were happening way above my head. Even if I had been in those rooms, I may not have even grasped what was going on.
Chris: What was your impression of being at those two firms as an associate?
Lori: I come from really meager beginnings. We’re a very blue-collar family. So, I entered the practice of law, much like many other diverse young lawyers, just thinking I had to work hard. Somebody would give me some work to do, I would work hard, do a good job, and my path would progress. In hindsight, I didn’t understand the nature of the relationship-building component. It’s an unspoken, nonwork piece of it. I went in and I worked hard. They were challenging environments to be in, and I’ve always been the person that likes a challenge. Learning the ins and outs of structured finance and the language of the business was all new, but I liked it. I liked the thrill of the deal. I remember the first time I closed a deal in New York at the financial printer. It was such an interesting world to me because you’re doing this really fascinating work, but you’re also locked in this room for 12-15 hours. Partly, it was amazing because there was a concierge and you could request Starbucks or sushi and they would bring it in. I had never had that kind of professional experience before. I remember enjoying it very, very much.
Dewey & LeBoeuf
Chris: Later, we’ll talk more about the unspoken value of relationships in the legal profession. Before then, what led you to leave Big Law?
Lori: Well, I was given a non-negotiable invitation to exit when Dewey and LeBoeuf imploded. I remember that day very clearly. At the Charlotte office, there were only about 8-10 lawyers. They put us all in a conference room after that summer of discontent when the markets were crashing. The chair of the firm walked in with a couple of transition specialists and announced to the group that we were closing. The transition specialists were there to try to help us find something else, but really it was too late. The other firms in structured finance had already done mass layoffs all across the country and no jobs remained for structured finance lawyers. That was a really tumultuous time for me and my colleagues, but it was a forced move.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have made the move had I been given the choice. I would have stayed on the path to partnership because I very much enjoyed my practice. But in looking back, and at the path I’ve taken since then, it was a great turning point. It caused me to look at things differently and explore things I would have never imagined. Leaving was not what I thought I wanted and not where I thought I would be, but it turned out all right.
Importance of Building Trust
Chris: Was this the point you ventured into starting your own business?
Lori: We started a business just after that. At the point that Dewey announced it was closing down, my first husband and I were expecting our fourth child. Side note, it’s an interesting experience trying to interview fully pregnant. He had been in the army and at the time was on stop-loss, which means even if you’re on an enlisted contract, you can’t leave until the army says you can leave. His stop-loss ended roughly within a week of Dewey’s announcement. So there we were, expecting the fourth baby and both unemployed. We took stock of our savings and our assets, moved to a beach town in Florida, and opened a martial arts studio. That was a great experience. It was a Jiu-Jitsu studio, so we did some fitness classes and ran kids camps. We were doing that in the context of the economic recession in a small town where the average income was modest compared to Charlotte, Miami, or especially New York. I learned some valuable tools (I could choke a person out if I needed to) on the business side. We were asking people to write a check for membership when they were struggling to otherwise make ends meet. There was an element of marketing there. I started to discover this element of relationship and trust in the context of business. People had to trust that we were providing a valuable resource to their kids and to them through this martial art studio. I had to focus on building a loyal set of customers that trust us with their money, with their business, and with their fitness. Those are lessons I’ve been able to take with me through each subsequent step of the journey.
Chris: How long did you own the studio?
Lori: We owned the studio for three or four years. A couple of years into it, I stepped back from active leadership and I stopped teaching because I transitioned back into my legal career. We ran the business end of it three or four years, and then we were able to sell the business. We disassembled it, sold our client lists, and sold our gear in bits and pieces.
A Table of Prosecutors
Chris: What opened that door back into a legal career?
Lori: A couple of years into the fitness life, which I absolutely loved, my law student loans came off of financial hardship deferment. There were some people knocking on my door for that but more than that, I went to law school with a passion and I loved to practice. I really missed it. I missed the intellectual challenges, the stimulation, and the thrill of the deal. I wanted to get back into it.
I took an unconventional turn. I said to myself, “I need to figure out how to meet a lot of people really quickly.” I started waiting tables at a sports bar because I figured roughly half of lawyers are men and some men like sports. I figured I had a decent chance of getting a lawyer at one of my tables one night, and that’s exactly what happened. I had a table of prosecutors from the local office come in one afternoon for lunch, and I started chatting. Half of my friends said you shouldn’t tell anyone at the restaurant that you’re a lawyer because they’ll think you’re a terrible lawyer if you’re waiting tables. I went against that advice. I told them I was a lawyer and a little bit about my background, and they made an introduction to a friend of theirs that worked at the local law school. That turned into my entry back into the legal profession.
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Investing in Young Attorneys
Chris: Did you think you’d go into career development at a law school?
Lori: If you had asked me in law school if that would be my path, I would have said no. But when the opportunity came up, my intention was to take the role to meet the local legal employers and then leverage that into a practice job. I did get a couple of interviews that way. In one interview, as I sat down with a hiring partner, he said, “I don’t think I’m going to hire you because I don’t think that your big law experience actually gave you any real skills.” I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I just smiled. He continued, “But I don’t get a Duke law grad application very often. So, I thought I would just meet you.” We had a nice conversation, and then he proceeded to not hire me. That story kept repeating. In the small beach town I was in, nobody thought that my big law experience had any practical applicability to family law or to person-against-person litigation that they were representing. So I stayed in career services, and it turned out, I really liked it. That opportunity was an opportunity to invest in young lawyers when they’re hopeful and excited and when they’ve got a blank slate ahead of them. Being part of that enthusiasm for their practice was really aligned to the experience I had when I did practice.
Job Hunting Advice
Chris: What advice would you give to an attorney who’s looking to get back into the profession, whether their firm folded or due to economic reasons?
Lori: Keep an open mind. Talk to everyone about anything all the time and follow up on every lead. One thing I’ve seen over the years is that two people will meet. One person will tell the other to reach out to let them know how they can help. The other person doesn’t have a specific way the first person can help them, which is okay at that moment. But, letting that opportunity slide by and never getting back in touch is a mistake. Maintain those relationships. Keep people updated. Be open to anything, anywhere. Nobody would have guessed, myself included, that waiting tables at a sports bar in a beach town would have led to the path I’m on but really that was the turning point. Keep at it.
Wherever You Land, Be Fully Invested
Chris: It sounds like you were incredibly optimistic because the plan you had in mind actually happened. Those premeditated thoughts really served you.
Lori: I’m a big believer that what we set our sights on is the path that we take. You put this energy into the world around you and you attract something that’s aligned to that energy. If you put it out there that you’re going to get back into a career, then you talk about that, you engage around that, and you have enthusiasm around that. People can’t help but naturally respond positively to a positive outlook. The other thing is, I could not have shown up at the restaurant in a bad mood. I had a manager at the restaurant who didn’t care that I was a lawyer that went to Duke. He cared if I was late. He cared if I brought cold food to the table. He cared if I was rude to the customer. I really had to show up and take ownership of the waitress job and do a really good job at it. Wherever you land, be fully invested, and take whatever skills you can and build them.
Career Services Affirmed What She Loved
Chris: Lori, what about being in career services at a law school was catalytic and helped advance the journey for you?
Lori: The first law school I worked at was the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and it was a very large law school. There is some controversy about that group of law schools because they were for profit. There were law students there who really wanted to be lawyers and were so passionate. Some hadn’t done well on LSATs or as undergrads, but there was a passion in that group of students. I keep in touch with a few of them now, and they have this drive to have a successful legal career. I couldn’t help but take some of that on. I was so inspired and I bent over backward to get these people connected to their future. That was an experience that I’m so glad I had to be connected to that passion and that optimism.
From there, at a networking event, I met the woman, Marcy Cox, that runs career services for the University of Miami, and we became instant friends. We were at this event, and someone was talking her head off. You could see by the look on her face that she just wanted to escape. I walked up to introduce myself, and she acted like we had been friends forever saying, “I’m so glad to see you. Are you ready to go sit down and have dinner?” And so I ended up at dinner with this woman, and to this day, we’re best friends. She invited me to come work at the University of Miami, which was an offer I couldn’t turn down. Miami is home for me and moving back with my four kids sounded pretty good. Marcy’s the Dean of Career Services at UM. She saw something that I didn’t even know I had, and she brought me in to run the Diversity and Inclusion program for the University of Miami. She gave me one rule to not let work fall on her lap and I was free to do anything I wanted. That was such a welcome invitation to me, so I started writing articles and being involved in the Career Services Professional Associations, and working in partnership with law firms with their Diversity and Inclusion efforts. I was like a kid in the candy store because there was so much I could do. It was an intense period of growth for me.
Chris: While in that role, what did you discover about yourself?
Lori: I learned a lot of things during that time. I’ve always been a very curious person who has asked a lot of questions. My mom probably hated that when I was little, but I’ve always asked a million questions. That trait really has served me in the legal profession, and in the work I’ve done in career services and here at Deloitte. Asking questions is a really useful skill because people love to talk about themselves. If you get people talking, you learn so much about what people do, what drives them, and learning those things makes it really easy to connect with people. For example, I had the privilege of meeting the General Counsel for the Minnesota Vikings at one point. He was a really nice guy and we got to talking. I had a student, at that time, who had this passion for football. He probably could have recited stats backward and forward in his sleep. So, in getting to know those two people at separate times, I was then able to connect them on a level that was really personal. In doing that, I learned that I love connecting people and ideas.
The Starting Line is Not Always the Same
I also learned a bit more challenging lesson. When I was young, I really thought that all people had the same starting line in life. I thought all people had the same opportunity in life, but as I worked on DE&I things, I came to understand the mechanisms at work in success in the legal profession. I came to realize that all people starting in the same spot just wasn’t true. It’s a great injustice. So, I was really motivated by my role in trying to make a difference. One person certainly isn’t going to fix all of the inequities in the profession, but I could help some people take a bigger step than they could have done on their own. So, my part was making those connections between people that were passionate about the same things and launching careers. I see it this way, one person who practices law can have a really great career and impact a ton of people through their practice. But one person that launches excited, enthusiastic attorneys gets to multiply the potential for impact. That’s how I saw it, and every minute of it was pretty thrilling.
Opportunity Abounds from Relationships
Chris: Talk to me about how you were approached for the role with Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Lori: That’s a mixed personal/professional story. While I was at the University of Miami, my first husband and I decided that we needed to go our separate ways. I was a bit more surprised by that decision than he was. I found myself with four very young children (2 were not even school age yet) in a job I absolutely loved, but that wasn’t enough to financially sustain the single mom life. I started calling all my connections to find another job. I told them I was happy to go back to practice and even to start as a first-year associate. I needed something that had a more concrete career path. In the law school environment, deans don’t retire. You get your incremental annual raise, but there’s not a lot of forward trajectories, which was previously fine. At this moment in time, I really needed more of a path to some financial security. I called my girlfriend, Valerie Jackson, who at the time was DE&I and recruiting for K&L Gates. I said, “Valerie, I don’t care if you put me in your office in the middle of like North Dakota, just get me in the game.” I don’t have anything against North Dakota, but for me, anywhere that’s really cold is the worst possible place to be. She said, “Lori, I think you’d be a great lawyer, but I don’t think that’s where your truest, best, and highest value is. The chair of my firm is on the board for this new nonprofit, based in DC, and they are looking for someone that will help build out their DE&I programs. I think you’d be really good at that, so let me make some calls.” She did, and I interviewed and that’s how I ended up transitioning into the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
I’m grateful to her to this day. She is this woman with an intense passion for everything she does, and when she walks into a room everyone looks because she has this presence about her. I first saw her at a Lavender Law LGBT Conference. She was on a panel and I was sitting way in the back early in my career services experience. I remember seeing her and saying I need to get to know this person. She has such energy for this work. I decided to figure out how to meet her and I found out she was on a bunch of committees through NOW, which is the industry group for Recruiting DE&I and I joined the same committees. Little by little, we started to get to know each other and now we’re best friends and we vacation together. She’s been a friend to me time and time again. So, she connected me to LCLD and I packed up the four kids and the dog, and away we went.
You Can’t Do Life Alone
Chris: I continue to hear this evolving thing for you about relationships. Would you share more?
Lori: That’s definitely a theme. You can’t do it alone. You can’t do life alone. You can’t do work alone. You can’t do parenting alone. There are just not many things you can do at the highest levels alone. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone needs some alone time in their life. Particularly if you have a lot of kids, but you just can’t get through everything all by yourself. You need a tribe, a team, a board of directors, whatever you call it, you have to have it.
Learned Relationship Building by Example
Chris: Lori, was this innate in you to develop relationships and to build trust or how did you learn it?
Lori: No, it wasn’t innate, Chris. I was a little fat kid on the playground. I was definitely not the cool kid. I didn’t grow up with much. In Miami, sneakers are a really big deal, but I never had the cool ones. I didn’t have cool clothes. I was a little fat kid. I always felt like I was on the outskirts. I was painfully shy. I kept to myself for the most part. I’m lucky that in Miami I had a big family. My cousins pushed me into whatever they were doing. All of them are much more social than me. Even in college, I only had one or two good friends. In law school, I already had my first baby before we started. So, my life consisted of going to school and taking care of my baby. I did not establish those bonds in law school that many people do, and I didn’t understand how important that would be. The turning point for me was that experience at the University of Miami. Marcy mentored me. At the time, I didn’t know what she was doing. She really pushed me into these things. She made the introductions. She showed me by example that these things were so important. Then, the passion for the work created the relationships. Building relationships was about having this shared passion. We created the bonds of shared experience, and the process came naturally once I found the things I was really excited about.
Moving the Needle for DE&I
Chris: Talk to us about Deloitte. And how did that door open?
Lori: I was with Leadership Council on Legal Diversity for a little bit over five years. I did not have any plans to leave because I loved the work. That organization is so impactful for so many people. Similar to the University of Miami, I came in the door relatively early in the lifecycle of that organization. My boss, Robert Grey, had a similar conversation where he told me what he really wanted to accomplish, and then he let me do it. So again, it was this opportunity to create, invent, and build, which I love. I’ll never forget the first board meeting of LCLD with various legal giants. The board included people like the Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, the Chief Legal Officer of Walmart, the CLO of Starbucks, and the Chairs of Skadden. Here I am, at 34 or 35, walking into this room with these people that were making these intense decisions and were on the cutting edge of all things legal. At the first meeting, I thought I should probably not say anything. That experience and exposure were priceless, even just listening to the way this group of people thought about problems and challenges was such a formative experience. They didn’t just allow me to be part of that, but with time, I was able to partner with them to create solutions and to share ideas. I’m so grateful for their patience, and for their help to develop me in those ways. They invested a lot in me. In that role, I had the opportunity to build out these diversity and inclusion programs for lawyers at some of the biggest law firms and the biggest corporations. I was focused on the impact, and by this time I had a slight frustration about DE&I work. It didn’t always feel like it was being held accountable. We were going to do the work, but we were not going to measure what impact it had or how much growth it caused. So, I focused on measuring the results of our efforts at LCLD. We were doing these great things and it felt good to do it. That is good, but let’s also make sure we’re moving the needle and we’re actually having an impact we can measure. If we’re not seeing the results wanted, let’s do something different. Let’s tweak. Let’s change. Let’s ideate. So, I built out programs there and built out a data, metrics, and analytics system in partnership with the American Bar Foundation and a company, at the time, called Blair Metrics. I loved every single minute of that, and I would have never left.
Bringing A Collection of Skills
About three years into that, someone told me that Deloitte had a whole training campus in Texas that I was unaware of. Kenji Yoshino was doing some research in collaboration with Deloitte, and they were doing a big reveal of the research. I secured an invitation to that and I remember thinking Deloitte was pretty cool. I started a relationship with the folks who work in legal for Deloitte, and they ultimately invited LCLD and its board to come out to do some strategic planning for LCLD’s future. By that point, we had grown exponentially. While our staff was still really small, we had this large influential board. We wanted to stop and think about being thoughtful in our steps forward. We wanted to stay true to our mission to have a positive impact without overextending. Deloitte had experience with helping companies figure that out and invited us to come so they could help us. We spent two or three days out there doing strategic planning or what Deloitte calls lab. We came out of it with a really strong strategic plan, and I remember leaving campus after that experience and saying, I love LCLD, and I’ll stay for as long as they’ll have me, but if I ever leave, this is the kind of place I want to go to. Then, I happily went about my life with LCLD. A couple of years after that, I had forgotten that statement, but I received an email on LinkedIn from a Deloitte recruiter that they were looking for someone to help build out the CLO program. It requires a collection of skills and experiences that are not super common, including having exposure to law firm and in-house leadership, an academic background that includes research and writing, some programming, experience building out training, and relationship-building experiences. They wanted to speak with me and I did and here I am.
Explore All Your Opportunities
Chris: While you were at LCLD, I imagine you received other overtures of opportunities. Why Deloitte?
Lori: Let me sidebar with a piece of advice before jumping into that. I have always felt it’s important to talk to anyone that has an opportunity. It’s not being untrue or disrespectful of the role you have, but it’s important to understand your value in the market. It’s important to see through someone else’s eyes the impact you have, what others would value, and what your collective experiences mean to the profession. I encourage anyone listening to have the conversation every time you get that email on LinkedIn. You don’t have to progress it but have the conversation so you can see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
Focused on Broad Impact
The invitations I received were to join firms in a DE&I role or talent role. Those were interesting, and they had potential. I always stayed at LCLD because the potential impact there was so broad with so many people. We had 200-300 law firms and corporations being impacted by our programs every single year. That multiplier effect was energizing to me in a way that working in a single firm may not have been. Then, when Deloitte approached me, the two things that really sold me on the transition were the platform and what I’ll call the waterfront. At LCLD, I was impacting lawyer careers in one element of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. At Deloitte, my focus became the entire experience of law practice for in-house lawyers. It covered many aspects like technology, strategy, transformation, talent, and DE&I. I think through all of that alongside some of the smartest people I’ve ever known who specialized. I’m that inch deep and a mile wide person, but I work side by side with people who have spent their whole careers focused on legal technology, for example, or transformation or change management. The other thing about Deloitte that was really attractive is it’s a global platform. My goal is always broad impact and that global platform was something I couldn’t turn down. The third reason is that I love the opportunity to create and grow. Except for my law practice years, early on in my career, every job I’ve had didn’t exist before I took it. No one had been in the roles I had with Florida Coastal or UM, and the same is true at Deloitte. Similar jobs exist for the finance function or the HR function, but this job for the legal function didn’t exist. It created the opportunity for me to think of how to make the most of it.
Deloitte’s CLO Program
Chris: Can you explain the CLO program for my listeners?
Lori: Deloitte has a series of what we call role-based programs focused on executive functions. The mission of each of these programs is to come side by side with these executives and to partner with them along the course of their careers. It’s not a sales program. It’s a relationship program. The firm never charges for my time. I spend time with CLOs and their legal teams. That’s all a relationship-building investment in our clients. The CLO program offers a few resources to our clients. One is our NextGen Training Academy. GCs or CLOs choose someone in their line of succession to come out and do some training. We do that at our Deloitte University where we do transition labs. Someone that’s new in a CLO role will sit down with them for two days. This is similar to the lab experience I had with LCLD. We’ll sit down with them for two days and help them build out the strategy for success in their role. We do forums where we bring groups of GCs together to talk about hot topics and trends. My role here is research and insights, so, I design research initiatives. Most recently, for example, we did a survey on COVID responses. We wanted to understand the pressure that’s on the legal function as a result of COVID, and how they’re thinking about progressing out of it. We wanted to know their outlook for the future so that we could develop the resources that support that journey. We also have a training function called our Learning Center. We design programs that are created to share our collective wisdom (almost like CLE programs). We’ve got these great experts, who are just doing these amazing things around strategy, technology change, operational style, function centers of excellence, etc. We turn all of these new ways of running the business into training modules, and we deliver those to clients. It’s a suite of opportunities to build and grow relationships. The sole goal is so our clients know that we’re invested in their success. We want them to be successful in their jobs.
Chris: Is that all free?
Lori: It is all free. There are a couple of the training programs that have a small price tag just because there are some materials involved, but it’s largely free for our clients.
Serving a Valuable Purpose
Chris: What is it like to work for one of the Big Four?
Lori: I’ll be really honest. I’ve shared this with my boss, so this isn’t going to surprise anyone if they listen in, but I was really challenged the first eight or nine months of being here. I left the tiny organization of LCLD that has this mighty team but is also a really small team. I knew everyone by name, and I knew their kids. I knew what they were working on. Then, I came to this giant organization, and it was very overwhelming to understand who’s who, what role they have, and what relationship I have with them. But more than that, it was the mission that was a challenge. The mission of LCLD is very clear and it was one I could easily be aligned to. When I came to Deloitte, I wondered if I had made a mistake in aligning myself to a money-making enterprise and I struggled to feel connected to the mission. I talked to some people about it. I’ll never forget, one partner said, “We may be a for-profit entity, but we serve a valuable purpose in the market to help people feel assured that companies are operating in an ethical fashion and that the finances of an enterprise are true, reliable, and trustworthy.” That really was a turning point for me in understanding what Deloitte does for our communities, our country, the globe, and the clients we serve. It’s not just ensuring through the audit process, but ensuring that the financial information is trustworthy. It’s also in this commitment to helping our clients be successful. I was able to place my role in the big picture and understand that this is a real thing that the firm is committed to. When COVID hit, I was scared because I don’t charge for my time and no one knew what the finances of any company were going to do as a result of the pandemic. Time and time again, the firm reaffirmed its commitment to the success of its clients. All of our role-based programs are still completely intact, still giving to our clients, and still supporting our clients through these really challenging times. I have a lot of admiration for this firm and the way they have navigated the difficulties of COVID. Not just for our clients, but also how our people have been treated by this. We remain invested in all of the things we say are important to us. I haven’t seen any waiver in terms of our commitment to those things.
Well-Positioned to Impact the Legal Industry
Chris: Lori, what is your perspective on the influence of the Big Four in the legal industry?
Lori: First off, I’m so excited by the change, and I know that enthusiasm is not universally shared by everyone in the profession. Some people are quite comfortable with the way we’ve always done things and like that it’s predictable and reliable. I see so much potential in transformation. If you study the trajectory of in-house counsel and the rise and fall of the prominence of the general counsel or the legal function, you’ll see that there was a period of time where that function was not highly esteemed. We’ve come from that and we’ve been successful in reestablishing the function as a value add. Perhaps, though, we have taken on some responsibilities that aren’t aligned to our highest and best purpose for in-house lawyers. With the introduction of technology and efficiency, we can pull out some of the things that are not as valuable but are still necessary, and empower lawyers to work on the big, difficult, hard problem. That is how they can really contribute value and insight and help for an enterprise as they navigate risk and opportunity in ways you can’t when you have to review law firm bills line by line, for example. I’m hugely excited for the future of our profession.
In terms of the entry of the Big Four, I’m always surprised that anybody’s surprised that that’s happened. We’re well-positioned to help the legal function. We help the finance function, the HR function and we work with the CEOs. We have insight across the enterprise and that is helpful. If you’re leading a legal function, it’s good to know how the finance function runs things or what the CEO’s perspective is on future growth. Right now, we’re focused on the operations of the legal function. A lawyer within Deloitte is not authorized to practice law in the United States, so we don’t do that. But we have a lot of insight in terms of transformation, modernization, and the operation of the function. That is how we can make an impact.
Growing Up in a Hispanic Family
Chris: You were raised in Miami, but was it your parents that immigrated to the US?
Lori: I was born in Orlando, Florida. My mom was born in New York, but my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, came to New York from Puerto Rico when she was 18 years old. She was a seamstress in a factory. One by one, she brought about 95% of that side of the family over from Puerto Rico. Everybody came through her house into New York. On my father’s side, he came from Cuba when he was about 13 years old. Castro gave permission for them to leave, so he and his mother came over at that point.
Chris: Could you share the differences between the two cultures of Puerto Rico and Cuba?
Lori: The biggest difference is that Cubans prefer black beans and Puerto Ricans eat red beans. Both share a passion for pork, plantains, great music, big parties and share a deep commitment and investment in family. In a Hispanic environment, everyone that you loved and trusted was family. I had aunts and uncles with no blood relation, but they’re my aunts and uncles. I’ve got cousins who are no blood relation, but they’re my cousins. The shirt comes off your back if someone else needs it. There’s no such thing as a small family gathering. There’s no select group that gets together. It’s all the people, all the time, and the front door is always open. It’s a wonderful way to grow up.
Chris: You have a blended family now. What are your summer plans with the kids?
Lori: I joke that I acquired two additional children by mergers and acquisitions. I remarried last year, and my husband has two daughters. At this point, we’ve got six kids that are 19, 16, 13, 12, 11, and 10. We’re a full house. The kids are heavily involved in pretty much every sport. They always pick sports that require a huge investment in equipment, so our garage is like a sporting goods store.
In some ways, summer is busier. In other ways, it’s easier because there’s no school and homework, which is the bane of all parents’ existence. In the last few years, we took a trip to Vermont where my husband was born and raised. I like it because there’s no cell phone service in 95% of the state. We get a little house on a lake and let the kids swim and make s’mores. We will try to get a trip down to Florida to see my side of the family at some point. And then it’s summer camps. We’ve got a couple of basketball enthusiast kids. So we’ll get some basketball training in there. Nothing too complicated, just some disconnect time and some family time.
With that much weight…
Chris: Lori, would you tell us about your passion for sports?
Lori: I was a swimmer and a water polo player in high school. In college, I played water polo, and I actually decided not to graduate a year early from college so I could play the final season of water polo. When we had the martial arts studio, I got involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which I did for a few years. That was the time I really got involved in general fitness by understanding what the body is capable of and how to train. I’ve been involved in CrossFit for seven or eight years now, so that’s also a passion of mine. Through that, there’s a group of girls at my CrossFit gym that compete in bodybuilding. I was watching them train, and thinking it was a fascinating process to watch the evolution of the human body through the bodybuilding cycle. I decided to do that and did a bodybuilding show in 2017. I’m hoping to get back into a training cycle in the coming year. I just got my Olympic level one coaching certificate a couple of weekends ago. The thing I love about lifting, Olympic lifting, in particular, is you really can’t think about anything else. When you’re taking that much weight from the floor to an overhead position, any distraction will cause you to miss the lift and potentially get hurt. For me, it’s such a great way to disconnect while I engage my body and my physical fitness. In this, I am able to reset, recharge, and just clear my mind.
Chris: What recommended reading would you have for my listeners?
Lori: On my side table right now, I have the book Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. It’s beautifully written. It’s challenging to read in some ways because it unveils some truth that, even as a diversity inclusion professional, is really difficult to get through. I’ll read pretty much anything by Malcolm Gladwell. I love him so much because he frames things in ways that you’ve never thought about it before. He looks at such a variety of topics and I love anything he writes. Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte is so good. She talks about how we’ve got so much on our plate, and how we can focus in the midst of all that busy. Quiet by Susan Cain and Drive by Daniel Pink are also must-reads. Those are some of my favorites. One of my guilty pleasures is Dean Koontz. He’s got a science fiction, Stephen King vibe.
Chris: What makes your heart come alive?
Lori: There are so many things, Chris. My family does that. Watching the kids grow up, my husband, and my sister all make my heart come alive. My husband is this deep empath. He’s the most emotionally attuned human I’ve ever met. I can get into these all business phases. He brings me back from that. That dynamic really makes me excited. The work I do every single day makes my heart come alive. Anybody that goes to work has some percentage of stuff they hate doing, but I’m really fortunate that my percentage is a single-digit of things I don’t enjoy. I also love to travel. Just getting to the airport, I’m like a kid in a candy store. But seeing the movement, the destinations, and the opportunity, of experiencing different cultures excites me. I like to garden, though I’m not good at it. I am mean to some of my plants, which I hate to admit. I just haven’t developed a green thumb yet.
The theme for me is that I just enjoy life. There are so many choices, so many things you can do, so many things to learn and so many people to meet.
Chris: Lori, it’s been an honor and pleasure. Thank you for your time today,
Lori: Chris, thank you for having me. This has been a great conversation.
Thank you to everyone who listened to this episode of The Law Firm Leadership Podcast.