THE ADVANCELAW GC LEADERSHIP AWARD is given to GCs who provide exceptional leadership to their companies, the legal profession and society. These GCs have led beyond expectations and touched lives beyond the legal department.
Verona Dorch was an extraordinary person who embodied the qualities of a true leader throughout her incredible career. We were able to honor her with the GC Leadership Award in December 2020 before she sadly passed away unexpectedly in February of this year.
At AdvanceLaw, we worked with Verona to set up her law firm panels at Peabody, and in 2020 we began that process at Providence. We saw how she led through change with vision and a destination in mind.
Verona Dorch in Her Own Words
We can’t improve upon Verona in her own words. Below, we reproduce a few quotes that jumped out at us from several online interviews and articles, with links at the bottom.
In December, 2020, Verona recorded a wide-ranging podcast with Chris Batz of The Lion Group. She talked about leading with vision in a remarkable segment that shed light on her life experiences and the source of her commitment to others. We highly recommend listening to the entire podcast – but here is a key passage on leadership as she saw it.
I think leadership is about having the courage to lay out a vision in a way that at the time you lay it out, not many others may necessarily understand it, agree with it, or get it – and then your job is to take them on this journey. So you see it, 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.
I’d say my first examples of leadership were probably my parents – my father is from Jamaica and my mother is from Guyana in South America. They moved to England and started to raise this young family, and decided that the opportunities they wanted for their children were not there. And kind of on a leap of faith 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 move.
So to me that’s [leadership] – you’ve got this vision, and you have to take people – in this case your family – along this journey of, ‘It’s all going to work out and it’s all for the better.’ So just seeing the sacrifices but also just that strong belief in, ‘America is the right place for our kids.’ The way it motivated me and my siblings to succeed here was just incredible. So those were the first leaders who laid out to me how you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
– Verona Dorch, The Law Firm Leadership Podcast
Episode 49, Dec. 29th, 2020
There are a lot of people coming at diversity with the best of intentions – including me – and I think that we’re now stepping back and focusing more on data, and looking at what works for other companies and other industries. There’s a lot more partnering going on to make sure that we’re sharing strategies and efforts that work – and maybe discarding, a little faster, things that really aren’t moving the needle. For a long time, there was a lot of talk about mentoring and now we’re realizing it’s really about sponsorship.
When we put out the RFPs for our convergence panel, to get our 100+ firms down to 13, diversity was very much one of the criteria we used to measure the firms. And it wasn’t just a soft criteria, we made it clear that we were going to reach out every month and ask for data, and have a monthly call with the relationship partner to talk through what’s working and what isn’t working – including diversity and inclusion.
– Legal 500 Verona Dorch profile
On Owning Change
You not only have to do it because it’s right; you have to also develop your own level of passion for it. Because if you as the GC aren’t driving it, and aren’t similarly partnering with other GCs that are making these changes, and if you don’t care about it, I think others are going to pick up on that. It’s thinking through why it’s important to you and why this is the right thing to do, and then being able to articulate that, and make sure you’ve developed the vision for why this is going to happen, because it’s going to happen over years.
– The Law Firm Leadership Podcast
Episode 49, Dec. 29th, 2020 – at 21:00
On Women in Leadership
I have seen a much greater acknowledgment in recent years of the unique leadership traits that many women bring to the practice of law (e.g., greater empathy and flexibility; more inclusive, open leadership styles), and greater acceptance of the fact that there are many successful ways to lead and to develop leaders. As a result, I foresee a future where the development of talent pipelines within law firms and major corporations embraces these varied leadership traits and begins to pass them on to all types of leaders, male or female – i.e., a greater acknowledgement that these leadership traits do not have to be unique to women and should be traits that are shared by all types of successful leaders.
On Continuous Learning
I don’t think we should ever get to the point where we are embarrassed to reach out, embarrassed to seek help or ask questions, no matter what point we’re at in our career. I’m deep into my career, and I’m still incredibly thankful for the people who are still there and providing support and some air when I want them to listen.
– The Law Firm Leadership Podcast
Episode 49, Dec. 29th, 2020 – at 32:00
Verona Dorch Award Recognitions
2020 – Episode 49, Verona Dorch, The Law Firm Leadership Podcast
2017 – The Golden Path Award – Verona Dorch, Women’s In-House Counsel Leadership Institute
2017 – Black Enterprise’s Most Powerful Women in Business Award
2016 – Savoy Magazine’s Top Influential Women in Corporate America
2015 – Women in Influence, Power and Law Profile – Verona Dorch
2014 – The CFO of the Future: the General Counsel, Forefront Magazine
2014 – DLA Piper Global Women’s Leadership Summit, interview with Verona Dorch
Verona Dorch Memorial Fund
The Verona Dorch Memorial Fund for Girls at the Cleveland Foundation is a way to honor Verona’s legacy as a board member of Girls Inc. St. Louis. The memorial fund supports Girls Inc. St. Louis, a mentorship and career/personal development program for girls age 6-18, by funding their programs for girls in the urban core in and around St. Louis. Visit the link here to make a contribution.
This is a public space to share and collect stories – short or long – about how Verona was a part of your life. We invite those who worked with her to share below a recollection or experience.