The legal industry has been often criticized as a “throwback”—stuck in its ways, slow to change and adapt to technological advances. To compound things, for too long it was a male-dominated “boys’ club.” One firm is trying to change that by adopting a new leadership model that promotes gender diversity and fresh, innovative ideas.
Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano realized early in its nine-year existence that female leaders were necessary, particularly because such a large percentage of its client base are women. The firm has made great strides embracing gender diversity— more than two-thirds of its staff, 58 percent of its managers and 43 percent of its attorneys are women.
Where the firm has particularly excelled is including women’s voices in the boardroom. Three-fifths of Pond Lehocky’s executive team are women. Chief Operations Officer Jackie Donovan, Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Heinz and Chief Marketing Officer have shattered the glass ceiling to bring innovative solutions and fresh perspectives to firm’s executive team.
Each member of the trio has taken a distinct career path, bringing unique skills and experience to her current leadership role, However, all three have similarly made bringing the firms’ staff together as a functioning team their key focus.
Stressing the human element
Jennifer Heinz has been Pond Lehocky’s Chief Human Resources Officer since it opened its doors in 2010. She came over to the new firm with the founding partners from their previous firm, where she started as a legal secretary.
She played a significant role in launching the firm and helping it flourish. In doing so, she has taken on duties that include recruiting and training, marketing, accounting, IT, operations and facilities.
Under her watch, Pond Lehocky has grown from 22 employees in a single Philadelphia office to more than 250 in offices nationwide. Over that time, Heinz has been responsible for scaling the firm’s culture, creating a positive and rewarding workplace dedicated to Pond Lehocky’s mission of providing clients with the highest level of legal service.
Having worked in so many different roles at a law firm, Heinz feels she can better understand the needs of staffers and identify solutions to keep them engaged.
“It was always important for me to build a career in a company that I felt valued, respected and appreciated,” Heinz said. “As chief human resources officer it is my mission to ensure that each and every employee feels the same. ”
Employee satisfaction has been so strong that the firm has been named to Philadelphia Business Journal‘s Best Places to Work list six times and selected a Top Workplace by the Philadelphia Inquirer five times.
Heinz believes that focusing on the human element of human resources is what has made Pond Lehocky so successful. After all, the firm is, at its core, people helping people.
“Our people are our most important asset,” Heinz said. “Systems and technology will change, the way we do things will change, our policies may even change but our core goals are the same and through it all, one thing remains, HR is not an algorithm, it’s human.”
Bringing people together
Jackie Donovan started working with Pond Lehocky’s founding partners at their old firm right out of college. Thinking of attending law school, she thought some experience at a law firm would be valuable. She started doing file room and legal assistant work but quickly worked her way up to become managing partner Samuel Pond’s paralegal.
When Pond Lehocky formed in 2010, the founding partners named her office manager/administrator, tasking her with establishing and running the operations from the fledgling firm. In 2012, she was promoted to her current role as Chief Operations Officer. Meanwhile, she eventually earned her Masters’ of Business Administration.
She believes the hands-on experience has been invaluable to her development as a leader. Having walked in the staff’s shoes gave her a level of credibility, particularly since she rose to a leadership role at such a young age.
“I never let anything be beneath me, from when I started out at the old firm to this day. I don’t ever want any of the work here to ever be beneath me,” Donovan said.
“I think it does matter that you did the work that everyone else does, that you get it, you’ve spoken to clients, you’ve been yelled at by clients, you get the struggle. You get why people get into work so early like they do here,” she said.
She cites her knack for bringing people together to achieve a solution as her biggest asset. Her colleagues refer to her as the “glue” that holds everything together.
“For me, the foundation of my leadership philosophy is people—I think I can connect to people. I have an ability to assure people that they’re being heard. And being heard isn’t just a matter of ‘I’m listening,’ it’s a matter of they know I’m listening they can trust me to either keep it in confidence or do something with that information, to take action for them in some kind of positive way to make their life easier.”
Donovan has overseen the firm’s meteoric rise and nationwide expansion. It has become Pennsylvania’s largest workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania, with the most certified workers’ compensation attorneys in the state. It also boasts a national Social Security disability practice that has helped more than 35,000 clients across the country.
Recently, Pond Lehocky has added an employment law department and a national long-term disability practice. It has also built out its nationwide referral network, which has referred 86,000 cases—with more than 59,000 of those referrals coming in the last two years.
Jackie also oversaw Pond Lehocky’s transition from its old case management system to a new, to a new cloud-based platform—Litify. The platform’s integrated and automated technology drives efficiency across all aspects of the firm’s operation and delivers analytics that track the firm’s performance.
Donovan acknowledges how unique Pond Lehocky has been by offering leadership opportunities for women.
“The firm has established a culture where I have always felt equal. My voice has been heard, I have been given opportunities and a seat at the table,” Donovan said. “This was based on hard work and dedication. Not because of my gender or any other extraneous reason.”
“It always been important to me for females within the walls of PLSG to feel that the sky is the limit in terms of their growth potential.”
Innovation through collaboration
While Heinz and Donovan grew up with Pond Lehocky, Corinne Bolanos is the newcomer. She joined the firm as vice president of marketing last November and was promoted to chief marketing officer after just six months.
Bolanos brings big-time marketing credentials with her to the Pond Lehocky’s executive team. She previously served as a creative strategist at Pinterest and associate creative director at VaynerMedia, a global social media-focused advertising agency.
Bolanos has functioned as a director of cross-functional teams of designers, copywriters, developers, set designers, fine artists, photographers, video producers and community managers. Over her career, she has helped more than 100 brands with their marketing and advertising.
Over her career, Bolanos has concepted and created print, digital and social media campaigns for a diverse list of clients including PepsiCo, Target, P&G, Diageo, Levi’s, Burberry, MasterCard, Stolichnaya, Coach, Spotify, L’Occitane, Home Depot, Mondelez and Zola. From concepting and executing on live events, commercial shoots, print advertising and new technology, Bolanos brings significant professional experience to Pond Lehocky.
“I think all of the jobs I had in the past turned me into this well-rounded, not only marketer but designer and creative thinker, advertiser, and someone who does the best for the brand,” Bolanos said. “So, Pond Lehocky has a brand.”
“When I interviewed for this job, I was sitting with Sam Pond and he asked, ‘What would be your vision?’ I said well right now Pond Lehocky is kind of a ball of clay and I think you have something really good but here it just needs to figure out what it wants to be molded into. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re turning it into what it needs to be turned into.”
Since coming to Pond Lehocky, has sought to modernize the firm’s marketing strategy. To start, Bolanos has built the marketing team using an agency model unique to law firms. She has organized the team into “a cross-platform craft collaboration” of the three marketing units—direct marketing, content marketing and events—supported by a studio team that executes all the art, design, copy and production.
“My vision was that it was going to make work a lot more streamlined. It was going to make communication much more collaborative and open because in some cases it hadn’t even existed. It had been too siloed,” Bolanos said. “We’re all working for the same mission and reason, so it was silly that we were kind of working on these different paths.”
With the new organization, the team’s productivity has increased, and the better quality of work getting produced has led to increased requests. The new collaboration has improved time management and organization, as well.
In June, Bolanos became third woman on the executive team, tipping the team to majority female.
“I love that I’m the third female on the exec team of five. The other two women on the team—Jenn and Jackie—are true vets of Pond Lehocky. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve seen it grow, they’ve seen it move, expand and change. And I respect them. To be joining a team that have been here for quite some time and thought that I could be a good fit is quite rewarding.”