Michelle De Blasi is an environmental and energy attorney based in Scottsdale, Arizona who has decades of experience and relationships assisting clients obtain successful results with their environmental, natural resource and energy projects. She has both government and “Big Law” experience to her private practice. Learn more about her in this Women Who Wows profile.

Why did you decide to start your own practice?

It has been a long-time dream of mine to be at the helm of my own business.  When giving advice to my daughters to follow their dreams, I realized I was not yet following mine.  Having my own business allows me to provide more efficient and focused legal services and strategic partnerships for my clients as an extension of their business team. I’m very grateful to represent my incredible clients on the significant projects they are pursuing.

I have always championed women in business, particularly working mothers, for their unique abilities to successfully handle many matters at the same time. It’s critical for women founders to continue to break barriers for themselves, and for the women who will be following them in the future.  I will continue to find ways to break barriers and inspire others to do the same.

Any advice to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

About 6 or 7 years ago, young women students started reaching out to me to seek advice about how to become a lawyer in my field. It was disconcerting that they had a preconceived notion that there was only a limited path they could follow. That was the inspiration when I helped create the mentorship program at ASU to provide students with real-world guidance from practicing lawyers. There are many paths to take, but all of them require hard work to achieve success.

My advice to young women is to follow their own path and understand their true passion for their profession. If you stay true to yourself, then the rest will fall into place as long as you put in the work. Women have particularly excellent skills at problem solving and consensus building, and yet I find women who will downplay those skills to “fit in” with lower expectations. I always advise women to never give up their femininity which makes them so special, or to let anyone else define who they are or make them feel inferior. No one can make someone feel inferior without their permission. We definitely have to believe in ourselves first before others will.

What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?

Success is measured in many ways. To be successful as an expert in my fields of law takes many hours of learning about issues for which you may not be paid by a client. It takes an innate curiosity to learn more than the particular legal question being asked to be able to provide a broader context. Much of my work involves policy and strategic thinking in addition to a deep understanding of the law. This may be different from what most lawyers expect in the more technical practice of law.

My clients measure success by my ability to provide them with practical answers that help them understand and lower their business risk. To be successful, it’s important to stop “thinking like a lawyer” and start thinking like a strategic business owner. It’s also critical to develop active listening skills, which means listening to understand, not listening to answer.  I find the best lawyers as advisors are the ones who truly care about their clients’ businesses, and take the time to learn about what makes the client successful to ensure they are helping them achieve that success.