Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel, said she wrote her book because she had something to say.
“It was a long time coming, and that is because these lessons that I’ve learned and I’ve spoken about over the past two decades are things that I get stopped and asked,” Richardson said in a recent interview.
Richardson’s book is “Take Six: Essential Habits To Own Your Destiny, Overcome Challenges, And Unlock Opportunities.” In it, she lays out six steps to develop a plan to achieve a goal: take stock, take risk, take credit, take a hand, take a stand and take command.
She presented the book at a corporate counsel event in Manhattan Beach Tuesday in a discussion moderated by CalPortland senior counsel Renee Benjamin. Richardson said she developed the six steps in part through her personal experience as a woman of color.
“‘Take credit’ came from discussions that I’ve had with people who manage people, and asking, ‘What is it specifically that women could do better to land in the corner office or make that move up?’” Richardson said. She said in her conversations, women would divert attention and credit from themselves to a team, whereas, “Men claim credit when it may not really have been deserved to be theirs.”
“I recognize it in myself, sometimes deflecting credit,” Richardson said. “What I recommend is that you live in the moment, and when the spotlight shines on you, accept it and then add others. It doesn’t have to be just totally deflected.”
Richardson said her greatest asset is her identity as a woman of color because she experiences the law profession differently as a “double minority.”
“I’m not suggesting that someone who is in a majority can’t be that way because I’ve certainly met amazing mentors and people who have invested in me, but when you move through a society, always noticing in professional circles there aren’t many of you, it leaves an impact,” Richardson said. “There’s always a level of discomfort to try to figure it out and find your way, and I believe that process has made me better at helping other people find their way because I’ve encountered it and experienced it so much myself.”
In the process of writing the book, Richardson said she wasn’t afraid to take her own advice in taking a hand. She worked with ghostwriter Debra Hilton, who Richardson said added insight and helped “breathe life” into the book.
“Don’t be so proud to admit that you need help,” Richardson said. “Be vocal and ask and reach out and take somebody’s hand who can help you, and Debra was the hand that was extended to me.”
Richardson said lawyers specifically can take lessons from the book about finding a voice, asking for and taking help and venturing outside of their comfort zone.
“I think lawyers like a formula or rules,” Richardson said. “This book is all about a series of steps that, if you take, I believe and have observed through others that I’ve given this advice, will take you further and faster towards your goals.”