Since her teens, Donna Cohen has been an advocate for women, especially women who are breaking gender barriers or in transition. Armed with a BA in Communication Studies from the UMass, Amherst and her Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School, she started her career specializing in civil-, business- and real estate-related litigation and became the first woman partner at her law firm. After 35 years, Donna now focuses on providing strategic advice to high-visibility individuals in their personal, business and philanthropic matters as their personal legal counsel, confidential advisor and gatekeeper.
Donna serves individuals in sports and entertainment. In fact, she is an advisor to several women and non-profit organizations among them: the players of The All American Girls Professional Baseball League (made popular in the movie A League of Their Own starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis). She is a special advisor to the Boston Red Sox in their all women's baseball fantasy camp and was the personal advisor to Inocente Izucar during the filming of the Academy Award-winning film Inocente.
Donna is a total pistol and pioneer. She and I talk very candidly about everything above, what it was like to become the first female partner at her law firm, career choices she made as a mom, and so much more. If you’ve ever wished for a do-over dealing with haters, for do-able skills to practice around negotiating for yourself, and what to do when you don’t know what you’re doing, this is the podcast for you.
Learn more about Donna and her work at Donna Cohen Strategies.
Listen to the complete episode in any of these fine places:
Selected link love + resources from the episode
- Connect with Donna on social media: Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn
- UMass - Amherst
- Office of the Child Advocate
- Perry Mason (tv show)
- "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Inocente (docu about the Mexican artist Inocente Izucar)
- Red Sox Rhymes: Curses and Verses by ??? Dick Flavin
- Perfection (game)
- All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association (a.k.a. The All Americans)
- A League of Their Own (movie)
- Maybelle "All the Way May” Blair (All-AmericanGirls Professional Baseball League Player)
- The All-American Girls After the AAGPBL: How Playing Pro Ball Shaped Their Lives by Kat D. Williams book
- Rockford Peaches (AAGPBL baseball team)
- International Women's Baseball Center
- Justine Siegal (1st woman to coach in MLB
- Major League Baseball
- Legally Blonde (movie)
- Metallica (band)
- Minda Harts of The Memo on Le vital corps Salon
- Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (Book)
- Kickass Theme Music: “Things Are Getting Better” Written by Rishi Dhir. Performed by The High Dials.
- Stay in the loop about future Le vital corps Salon episodes: Twitter | Facebook | The List (sent monthly-ish including helpful health + lifestyle information)
Quotes + selected highlights from the episode
All of this wisdom is from Donna herself (with some minor edits for readability).
[00:08:48] I fell in love with the law. I fell in love with being able to see what the universe had in store through the eyes of the law and how it could help protect people and advocate for people. And it wasn’t until now where I have this new boutique type of business that I can see the road was meant for me to travel on. But, as you know, we all go one step at a time and hope it leads in the right direction.
[00:16:57]: I find I don’t know what I don’t know in the process of figuring out the things I know I don’t know. What I mean by that is when someone comes in and they give me a project, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. Some pieces of it, I say to myself, “Oh, my God. This is amazing,” and other times I say, “Holy shit. I’m not—I have no idea what I’m doing.”
[00:22:46] And do you know what? I didn’t really fit in. I wasn’t one of the guys. I didn’t try and be one of the guys. I don’t know if that’s good or bad because I think, in many cases, circumstances evolve where women can be one of the guys and it works great, and people can accept them for who they are as one of the guys, and some don’t.
[00:24:36]: For me, it was very hard to go from 24/7 as a lawyer to 24/7 as a mom. It’s very—it’s challenging to be alone all the time. Most of the people that I got to know, I had to make new friends. Most of them were friends who had other children, so ultimately we had a lot in common.
[00:32:56]: I admire the women who are committed enough to take time out of their day to meditate, to do yoga, to exercise, even just to spend time alone. I’m someone who, if I’ve got too much going on or I’ve been traveling too much, I’ll take a few days, come to my house, and just enjoy my own company for a few days. But I don’t do it on a regular enough basis, and I admire the women that do.
[00:40:26] (On the tenacity and grit of the All-American women baseball players) They had so much determination and commitment and love of this game that nothing bothered them. If you talk to them about comparing how they played to the way men play today—no offense to our players in the major leagues today—but they never once complained. They got bruised and banged up, and you didn’t see them missing a game. Because if they missed a game, there was always someone else standing in line ready to take their place. They weren’t going to give it up.
[00:45:56]: Oh, gosh. I think one of the biggest gifts is to acknowledge that it’s scary, and that’s okay. Because for our whole life, we’re so busy taking care of things and people and managing, that it’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to take a deep breath, and it’s okay to just sit with it for a while until it works its way into a manageable situation.
[00:50:33]: Sometimes good, loud music that you love in the car helps.
[00:55:30]: Sometimes I think the hardest negotiation we have, at least for me, is the negotiation with myself. We create a conversation in our head, and we need to really focus the conversation so that we can then be the best that we can be.
[00:59:51]: I’m a great believer that the most powerful skill in negotiation is to know yourself. Because there’s always a trigger in a negotiation that may have nothing to do with the negotiation, and it just triggers you for one reason or another, and it could set you off your course.
[01:19:26]: It’s hard to find the people that we can feel comfortable around, who we can feel comfortable sharing the challenges that we have because we always have to be so successful, and right, and smarter, and more creative, and more strategic. And we always have to keep one eye open for that person who’s going to take it to the next level and try and destroy it. One of the most challenging things about being successful is people who want to see you fail once you get successful.
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