Thank you Women Owned Law for choosing our co-founder Kelly Rittenberry Culhane as your December Member Spotlight. Culhane Meadows PLLC is proud to be a member of WOL, and as the largest national women-owned law firm we are dedicated to disrupting the traditional law firm model. See link below to learn more about how Kelly left BigLaw and formed a law firm that is truly free of the glass ceiling.
Here is Kelly’s WOL December Member Spotlight:
Kelly is the Co-Founder and General Counsel of Culhane Meadows. Her journey to law firm leadership was not typical. In 2001, she started her family (three kiddos in four years) and decided to “retire” from BigLaw vs. getting moved to the ‘mommy-track.’. She maintained a solo practice, and accepted a firm management position when her children started school. As COO of a national firm, she still had no authority to provide opportunities to women and minorities. So, she helped build a firm that is innovative, glass-ceiling free, and offers attorneys the opportunity to maintain a sophisticated practice while not compromising work/life balance.
Tell us about your firm or business including history, specialization, and years in business.
In 2013, I started Culhane Meadows with three like-minded friends (they were also current colleagues). We realized that technology had provided an opportunity to create a better law firm
business model, which eliminated the subjective promotion and compensation of attorneys. We basically put the traditional law firm in a clean room. From the beginning, we offered a fully
remote workplace and a blind, objective (formulaic) based compensation system that permits partners to maintain a sophisticated law practice while balancing their work and family life
(without firm interference). Leadership at Culhane Meadows experienced first-hand the struggle parents face when advancement and compensation are determined by the amount of ‘face time’ you spend in the office – along with the behind-closed-doors compensation/review process. The statistics speak for themselves – women and minorities are left behind. Despite best efforts, the traditional law firm model is broken and until the compensation and review structure is changed, it will not be repaired. We knew that there were many talented attorneys who wanted to maintain their sophisticated law practice, without sacrificing other parts of their lives. So, we built a firm that was transparent, efficient, and collaborative — and trusted that our partners would make the best decisions for themselves and their clients. Culhane Meadows is halfway through our eighth year, and we are humbled that over 70 partners call us home and continue to help build our culture, one they have said is second to none.
We are a full-service business law firm, and provide an array of legal services for a broad range of clients, including over 30 Fortune® ranked public companies and international organizations across a variety of geographic markets and industries, including: banking, automotive, telecommunications, energy, food & beverage, hospitality, travel, manufacturing, logistics, real estate, retail, and fashion. We also serve numerous other clients ranging from high-tech startups to family-owned franchise systems, and everything in between. Our key practice groups are: Technology, Corporate, Privacy/Data Security, Real Estate, Bankruptcy/Creditor’s Rights, Litigation, and Intellectual Property law – our partners also handle general transactional matters.
Culhane Meadows is the largest WBNEC certified, women-owned national full-service law firm in the U.S., and we are proud to be an industry leader in promoting true equality and merit based opportunity within the legal marketplace, regardless of background, gender, race, sexual orientation or family circumstances.
What’s an interesting fact about you or your firm that most people don’t know?
I’m not sure how interesting this fact is, but I enjoy competing in all types of physical activities, yet I’m not a big fan of training. Early on, my elite athlete friends thought I was crazy (some still do), but as I enter the second half-century of my life there may be a method to my madness. Though I don’t generally place, I also don’t suffer from repetitive-use injuries. My interests range from triathlons and competitive co-ed soccer, to Ragnar Relays, Spartans and Tough Mudders (once a Legionnaire you can bypass the electric shock at the end – you should try it at least twice!).
What’s a favorite moment of your career so far?
Helping achieve a positive outcome in connection with a highly publicized investigation by a licensing-body (where the professionals being investigated did nothing wrong yet were subject
to career-ending sanctions). It felt good to not only help these individuals, but to know that you have made a difference in the lives of their families.
What challenge are you most proud of overcoming?
My divorce – after two decades of marriage it’s also one of the hardest things for me to admit. I do so with the hope that it relieves others from the guilt and sadness that often accompanies a
break-up (especially when you didn’t see it coming). I turned the whole thing over to God and prayed that life would once again be happy. I credit my family, firm co-founders, and a handful
of other friends who really stuck by my side and helped me take a bushel of lemons and make some pretty good lemonade!
Tell us about a recent professional accomplishment of yours?
U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® magazine, for the 8th consecutive year, have named Culhane Meadows to their annual “Best Law Firms” rankings. We are also a proud
member of NAMWOLF and have been named by Working Mother’s “Best Law Firms for Women” every year that we have been eligible. In our first decade, Culhane Meadows has surpassed my hopes and dreams – I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Tell us about a recent personal accomplishment of yours?
This is an easy one! Without a doubt, I am most proud of the wonderful people my kids have become. Though the love for them comes easy, this year my youngest entered high school and
my oldest left for college (in the midst of a pandemic). I realized that the REAL work is helping them grow into young adults. I am still a work in progress (they will attest), but I am beyond
blessed to serve as 9th grade football mom and having the time to get involved with the mom’s group for my daughter’s sorority (go Pi Beta Phi), while continuing to build this great firm and
service my clients. As all parents know, the Struggle is Real!
What advice would you offer new business owners?
Build personal relationships with your clients. Doing so not only adds a business value that goes well beyond providing great customer service, but I have also met some really awesome people who I’m proud to call friends. When clients know that you’ve taken the time to understand their business, goals, and their culture, they know that the solutions you offer have been tailored specifically for them. I have found that by really getting to know my clients as people (which includes your contacts in the legal departments of large corporations), the result is an immense amount of trust on both sides, which is incredibly important.
How can you help other Women Owned Law members improve their businesses?
I have found that starting and running a successful business means first and foremost, having the courage to be yourself and have a clear vision for doing what you set out to do! You may feel
insecure or have those moments where you think “was this a major mistake.” Hang in there, we all have these moments – whether you are a women-owned business or not. I am always
available to help brainstorm, support (financially through my spending decisions) and mentor women who have the courage to leave their comfort zone and start a business!
How has Women Owned Law been of value to you and your career?
WOL has been a wonderful resource for me and my partners. I especially enjoyed speaking at the first WOL Symposium and meeting other female attorneys who are a great source of
support and encouragement – most importantly, I’ve made some true friends!
About Women Owned Law
Women Owned Law is a ground-breaking group created to connect and advance women legal entrepreneurs. WOL supports its members and other women entrepreneurs in the law in their
business endeavors at every point in the business lifecycle. We advocate on behalf of women legal entrepreneurs and have been instrumental in raising the profile of women entrepreneurs
in the law.
For a downloadable PDF version, click HERE.
About Culhane Meadows – Big Law for the New Economy®
The largest woman-owned national full-service business law firm in the U.S., Culhane Meadows fields over 70 partners in ten major markets across the country. Uniquely structured, the firm’s Disruptive Law® business model gives attorneys greater work-life flexibility while delivering outstanding, partner-level legal services to major corporations and emerging companies across industry sectors more efficiently and cost-effectively than conventional law firms. Clients enjoy exceptional and highly-efficient legal services provided exclusively by partner-level attorneys with significant experience and training from large law firms or in-house legal departments of respected corporations. U.S. News & World Report has named Culhane Meadows among the country’s “Best Law Firms” in its 2014 through 2020 rankings and many of the firm’s partners are regularly recognized in Chambers, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers and Martindale-Hubbell Peer Reviews.
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