Business name and description: Christine A. Yared, PLC
I work as an “attorney and counselor” at law. I like this phrase because it highlights the fact that in addition to litigating cases, my role is also to provide advice. Each person is unique and comes to me with a unique legal concern or issue. It is important for me to determine my client’s needs, values and priorities, and provide advice which serves my client’s best interest.
In a few sentences, tell us a bit about your upbringing.
I was raised in Grand Rapids and attended public schools. My maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated to this country from Lebanon and Syria. My family’s ethnicity was the most central part of my upbringing. We had regular gatherings with my aunts, uncles, cousins and close family friends that was centered on family, great conversation and delicious Lebanese/Syrian food.
In the beginning, what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
My father was an attorney and worked as a sole practitioner, before he became a judge. My interest in the law dates back to my elementary school days and I am sure that my father’s life work influenced my interests. After law school I decided that my goal was to start my own law practice. I wanted to be my own boss and be free to pursue the type of cases and clients that resonated with my interests, values, and sense of justice.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I highly value the individual liberties and rights contained in our Constitution, especially the freedoms of speech, press, religion and protest, due process and equal protection. I thoroughly enjoy working to secure these rights for my clients. I get joy from being and working for an underdog, to call out abuses of power. I have always been a social justice activist and I am fortunate to be able to also engage in this work through my employment.
What’s an example of work that you do?
One of my areas of specialization is employment law, which includes discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment. An employer who engages in or ignores sexual harassment, often also engages in discrimination and/or retaliation. I start by gathering the facts and advising my client about the specific laws that apply to her case and develop a plan if she is still working for the employer and wants to keep her job. One possible next step is to communicate with the employer in an attempt to resolve the issue without the need for a lawsuit. If a lawsuit is needed, after filing I continue to develop the evidence. Most cases are resolved through a settlement process, but some cases will continue to a jury trial, and possible appeals.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I have represented many women in discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment cases, including female police officers. In one case my client was first represented by an attorney in a state court. The case went to a jury trial and the jury concluded that the city and police departments did not violate the law. After losing the officer interviewed numerous other employment law attorneys seeking representation in a federal lawsuit litigating the same facts. All the attorneys told her she did not have a case or refused to take her case. I concluded that she did have a strong case and agreed to represent her. I worked the case, litigated it by jury trial and obtained one of the largest verdicts for that type of case in Michigan that year. The verdict was appealed to the federal appeals court in Cincinnati and I also won the appeal.
What does a day-in-the-life of “YOU” consist of?
Each day is different depending on the stages and type of my cases at that time. My work includes meeting with clients, attorneys, and judges, researching the law, writing letters, briefs and other legal documents, conducting depositions, court hearings, mediations, settlement conferences and trials. I am also writing a nonfiction book, and devoting regular time to the research and writing process.
What entrepreneurial hacks have you developed to stay focused and productive in your day-to-day?
While I start organizing documents and notes for my cases in file folders, once the case expands I organize my materials in three-ring binders using numerical or alphabetical tabs and a table of contents. One binder will be for court filings, another might be for medical evidence, and so forth.
I am energized by colors yet work in a profession which has traditionally emphasized drap and dreary colors. One step I take is to purchase colored binders, instead of standard black or white. I always feel great walking into the courtroom, a meeting or deposition with my bright colored binders. It reflects my authentic self, sends the message that I am not one to merely follow the status quo and energizes my work.
In order to keep track of and better understand the facts in a case I create detailed timelines, which I add to as the case develops. In addition to the organizational benefits, this process also helps me to more effectively analyze the facts, by identifying cause and effect, and other patterns.
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?
I don’t believe that it has affected those relationships in a unique manner. Many of my family and friends are
entrepreneurs or value it. There can be, however a lack of appreciation from some, not many, about the pressure involved in having your weekly income depend directly on your own time and work. I have had both lean and prosperous times and some people make inaccurate assumptions.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I value that balance and do take time for myself. I learned this lesson in my twenties. This was however difficult during my childrearing years. My children are now all in their twenties. During those years I let go of many things that were just for me. My day-to-day challenges during those years were significant, yet my memories of those years are more rose-colored, and focus on the good times. Also, I was willing to make less money in order to have more family time. It is what eventually led me to having a home office. I do not regret those choices.
What’s the single most important reason for your success?
I am confident and know that I provide value for my clients.
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur?
I have never enjoyed, and have struggled with the financial aspects of running a business.
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
I take on many cases using a standard contingency fee. This means that my legal fees are a percent of the amount of money I obtain for my client on a case. No attorneys win all of their cases. If there is not a win, there is no fee. Most of these cases last 1-2 years, and some last for up to 4 years. During this time I devote significant time to these cases without generating income from them. The timing of the wins are not predictable. My biggest failure was not planning appropriately for my estimated taxes. This happened more than once. I finally realized that I needed to hire professionals to help with this process. This has been critical.
Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood about entrepreneurship before you ever got started?
I wish I understood the lesson above. I should have always had an accountant, or similar professional assist with my taxes, and financial planning for those taxes.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?
The best advice was from my father, that the most important aspect of working a case is to work hard to obtain, understand and communicate the facts of the case. This is much more difficult than one would imagine. I have excelled at this and it has set me apart from other attorneys in many cases. There certainly are many attorneys who also excel at this, but there are also attorneys who fail to effectively gather and use the facts. My dad would say, “the facts are more important than the law.” By this he meant that attorneys know the law, and research unique questions and changes in the law. Yet the law, and research will be ineffective without a clear and complete understanding of the facts.
I cannot recall receiving bad advice. I must have received bad advice along the way but I was fortunate to have good mentors, and knew who to ask and trust. I am in midlife and my mentors have passed away. Yet they left me with what I needed at the time and to move forward. I have an extremely strong foundation.
One reason I joined Unstoppable Women however, is that I recognize my need to learn from younger professionals. I do not use social media, my website and other online resources effectively. I can also benefit from learning how others are conducting business in this current era. In addition, I want to keep up with current self-improvement practices and ideas. Finally, I am energized by being around younger people. This is not to say that I am the oldest, or the only older person in the group, nor is it to say that I do not continue to learn from and get energized from my contemporaries, rather it is to acknowledge that I needed to reach out to connect with younger professionals. I teach as an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University. That endeavor, along with this group, keep me around and energized by people younger than me.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done as an entrepreneur?
When investigating the facts of the case I often inspect, take photographs and measurements of places that are key to the case. For one case, I went into the men’s restroom at a public rest stop on the highway. Of course, I did not have the authority or means to close the restroom during this time and instead had to briefly explain to various men why I was in there taking photographs and measurements of their restroom stalls and urinals.
Women IN Connection!