At Vitiello Communications Group, we believe everyone’s story is worth telling. Wonder Women is a blog series that lets me introduce you to amazing businesswomen doing remarkable work. In this series, we amplify the success stories of women who live and work in New Jersey. Their contributions to the Garden State include professional, civic and personal endeavors that enrich our community. Meet Lori Waldron, Co-Chair, Life Sciences Practice Group, and a Member of the firm of Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. Be sure to catch our new lightning round at the end of the Q&A.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson that’s helped shape your career?
A: When I mentor the attorneys who work with me, I’m helping them, but I have learned that I am also helping myself. I am fortunate to be part of a terrific team of multi-disciplinary attorneys focused on the life sciences industry. As a leader, I have learned that I need to invest my time and energy to help develop each member of the team. I tailor my mentoring style so that it helps bring out the best in each person. This ultimately results in better service to our clients.
Q: Given all your accomplishments, what advice would you give to a woman who aspires to achieve the level of success you’ve achieved?
A: The first piece of advice is to stay true to yourself and go with your gut. Do not ignore your intuition; it speaks loudly and is usually correct. The second is to not be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes people do not ask questions because they are afraid to appear as if they don’t have knowledge. I love when people ask me questions. It shows that they are interested, engaged and trying to learn more. The third and fourth pieces of advice go hand-in-hand: if you have an opportunity to come to the defense of another woman, you should do it. And if you have something nice to say, you should say it. As lawyers, we sometimes are critical of others just by nature; so a little kindness can go a long way. I feel that it is important for women to support each other (and support men as well); we have a special bond as women. And my final piece of advice is to find hobbies that you enjoy. All work and no play leads to burnout and a very boring life to boot.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I’m a voracious reader. I particularly love historical fiction because I feel like I am learning while enjoying myself at the same time. Professionally, I am constantly reading journals and legal publications. I also love to travel. I’ll go anywhere, anytime. Hawaii is my favorite, but I am game for any trip — I enjoy learning new cultures and having new experiences.
Q: What are the three traits that you think are vital to be a Wonder Woman in your industry?
A: It is expected, of course, that I am extremely knowledgeable about the particular areas of the law that I focus on. I will mention other traits that I think are critical. The most important one is to know my clients’ businesses and their industries. This way I become not only their lawyer, but also their trusted advisor. The second is to understand what is important to my clients and their business objectives. What may be important to me may not be important to my client, so I have to really know my clients’ needs and tolerance for risk. And the third is what I said earlier – read, read, read! I start every day by reading industry and legal business news to stay up-to-date on what is going on in the world.
Q: How do you use communication to lead and to grow your career and business?
A: The business world moves fast. It is easy to communicate by email or text, and everyone expects immediate responses. I use those modes of communication, of course, but I have most success with a telephone call or in-person meeting. When you are face-to-face or hear the spoken words, it is less likely to be misinterpreted. You can’t text a handshake.
Q: How do you balance the styles of business leader communication and lawyer-style communication?
A: Legal writing can be cumbersome and somewhat boring to clients. It is important that I focus on explaining legal terms and provisions in plain English and then discuss negatives and positives with my client so that she can then make an informed decision with my guidance.
Q: Are you dealing more with the research and scientific side of life sciences or the commercial side?
A: Both! The commercial side is the one you would think that I would be involved in most, but I also like to take a deep dive into my clients’ businesses and learn the science. For example, I recently attended a two-day course in Boston covering the science of developing pharmaceutical products. I was the only lawyer in the room; it was fascinating to be surrounded by 25 scientists talking about cells for a few days. I want to make sure that I understand the science so that I am able to fully engage with my clients.
Q: Tell me about a time you used communication to turn a challenging situation into a success.
A: Last year, one of my clients was selling her business. There were about approximately 10 people in the room working on closing the deal. When you are in a large forum, everyone wants to be heard and be recognized. Everyone was talking over each other and the deal was in jeopardy. I realized that we had to limit the voices or we wouldn’t accomplish our goal. I recommended to the other lawyer that she and I and our respective clients step out into a separate room to negotiate; just the four of us. This approach worked perfectly and we were able to close the deal that day.
Q: What personal quality fuels your most significant accomplishment?
A: I attribute my curiosity to my career success. This goes back to when I was little. I read a lot and was always curious. This led to a natural cycle of learning. This quality (my curiosity) and being a lifelong learner is what has really fueled my passion for my career.
Q: What woman inspires you and why?
A: There are so many women personally, professionally and in the public forum who inspire me. If I have to pick just one, it is a no-brainer to go with my sister Louise Potenza. Louise is a fierce advocate and loyal friend; two great characteristics of a Wonder Woman. She is sweet as a warm apple pie – she will do anything for her family and friends. However, if anyone tries to harm or threaten a loved one, she quickly becomes a tiger. She is a true Wonder Woman. I suggest that you interview her next!
New Jersey Lightning Round
From one Jersey girl to another, answer these questions:
Q: Taylor Ham or Pork Roll?
A: Taylor Ham.
Q: Wildwood or Seaside Heights?
Q: Yankees or Mets?
A: Yankees, for sure!
Q: Giants or Jets?
A: Pittsburgh Steelers. Was that not a choice?
Q: Does Central Jersey really exist?
A: That’s such a good question! I would say it does, but who really knows? If a tree falls in Central Jersey, does anyone hear it?