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Sheila Murphy

Sheila Murphy

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

For over 20 years, as a one-time award-winning senior legal officer for a Fortune 50 company, I successfully developed, coached, and transformed talent in corporate America and law firms. Today, as a certified coach and career and business development consultant, I partner with lawyers, leaders, and legal organizations to design careers, build skills and develop business. My passion is helping women lawyers gain greater control of their careers, compensation, and courage. I am focusing on increasing my impact to empower more women to be leaders in the legal industry.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I was a member in Ellevate (when it was 85 Broads) many years ago when I was in the corporate sector. At that time, I was exposed to fabulous ideas and made so many excellent relationships that I continue to this day. For some reason, I can't figure out why I drifted away from the group. What a mistake!!! Recently, after meeting a few fabulous women in the organization, I realized I was missing having a group of remarkable women in various industries, and so I re-joined. I went to my first coffee, and there was a prior acquaintance there, and I felt like I was home.

How would you define your professional mission?

My personal mission is to increase equity in the legal profession by expanding the number of women and people of color in the law who are leaders and rainmakers.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

When I started as a young lawyer, I was an introvert, and my dream was to be a “mole” lawyer- someone who just sat at their desk and did their work. I never wanted to speak in public (which I now get paid to do). Later, when I was in corporate America, I discovered that that was not possible — and that I had to speak up more. What hit me there was one gentleman at my office, who, to be honest, did not know what he was talking about — and he had no problems speaking up — all of the time, and to a certain extent, it made him successful. I thought it would be like I spoke up when I knew what I was talking about, so I did. By the time the gentleman left the company, he was reporting to me. This was a great career accomplishment for me- because I knew then I was serving both myself and my employer better by giving them the benefit of my expertise. I now coach people with their career journeys — so they can have the career they deserve.

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

While at MetLife, I was one of the executive sponsors of the Women's Network as we were doing a re-build of the affinity network. We had such a terrific group of women who collaborated together to create such meaningful and impactful programs, such as a career re-launch internships, peer mentoring program, and professional development education.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

During the 2008 economic crisis, I was in senior management in corporate America, and I witnessed many women losing their jobs and titles and taking hits to their compensation. While much of this may have related to unconscious bias, it was also clear that many of these individuals had not invested actively in cultivating their careers and networks and so it took them time to bounce back. I was infuriated — so while still working on my corporate job, I began also focusing more on developing people and their careers. I found helping people with their careers very fulfilling that I realized that this was a passion that I wanted to pursue as a career.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

My favorite moments are when one of my clients has an aha moment in their careers. Whether it is a big moment such as their first General Counsel role or bringing in their first client or a smaller accomplishment, such as asking for an opportunity or becoming more comfortable networking. I love to celebrate those successes.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

Interestingly, breaking into coaching in many ways is similar to rising in the legal industry. You need to understand your market and competition, know your value, build a robust professional profile, create a strong network that you are willing to leverage, and be able to convert contacts into clients.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Listen. You learn so much more by listening than you ever do by talking. It also allows you to influence people more effectively. Finally, by not speaking, you empower and engage people to bring their best selves to the project. And you get the benefit of a diversity of thought which leads to better outcomes.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

It will be okay and trust your gut. I raised two wonderful (not somewhat adult) children while working full time and building a career. Neither turned out to be ax-murders, and they both have told me how grateful they are that I worked. You will find the right balance that works for you. Not everyone is the same and don't try to make someone else's idea of balance yours.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.