Get to know Kelly Harbour, the Director of Client Relations & Innovation at Goulston & Storrs. She spends her time at the intersection of client service, revenue generation and innovation, leveraging process improvement, project management and technology solutions to move the firm’s client relations and practice group management efforts forward.
Kelly has 20 years of experience in professional services firms in roles including account management, operations, business development and technology. She is passionate about the future of the industry and holds roles outside the firm as the Director of Member Engagement for the SALI Alliance and a founding board member of the Changing Legal Think Tank.
Tell us about your career path.
I’ve been in professional services for 20 years, but my path has not been linear. I moved from South Florida to the Boston area about 15 years ago and started working at a marketing services company. I had just started putting out feelers for a new job when a recruiter contacted me about an open position at what was Bingham McCutchen.
I had never considered the massive and talented group of people behind successful law firms. I was immediately interested in the business of law and how much opportunity there is for people like me to have an impact, drawing upon the best practices of the organization and other industries, to move the firm forward. I started in a technology role, working with the marketing team on modernizing their technology stack to enable data-driven decision-making.
After I received my Masters in Law Firm Management, I realized that I wanted to stay at the intersection of data, revenue generation and strategy, but I wanted to use the data to drive revenue generation and strategy, as opposed to handing the tools to someone else to have all the fun. It was shortly thereafter that I met Beth Cuzzone and found my home at Goulston & Storrs, now serving as Director of Client Relations & Innovation, overseeing practice group management and client service and growth.
Do you have a mentor?
Tracy Elmblad is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer at Hinshaw & Culbertson and was my supervisor at Bingham McCutchen. She quickly took me under her wing and became a real advocate for me at the firm. In addition to offering me a path for advancement at Bingham, Tracy taught me so much about being an effective leader and a manager.
She is brilliant, kind, fair and forward-thinking, genuinely cares for the people on her team, and is a strong proponent of women in technology. She has also found time to volunteer in significant roles in the industry, especially within ILTA and has raised a family, and yet she is always generous with her time.
Over the years, we have laughed and cried together, and tackled all kinds of issues, including being a new mom working full time. Even when it has been months since we last talked, I know at any moment that I could pick up the phone, and she would be there.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
There are so many things I would like to tell my younger self, but mostly: You’re strong, and you’re smart and you’re worthy – and you don’t need to wait for someone else to tell you that.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It’s true – and so is the other side of that coin. No one can make you feel the good stuff about yourself, either. I would tell myself not to be afraid to trust myself and embrace my innate value. And, that it is human to make mistakes, and that the really good stuff happens when you take a leap.
What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
Three keys come to mind when you’re in a role that is designed to ask busy people to do new and different things: Empathy, curiosity and resilience.
First, empathy. You have to be willing to put yourself in your (internal and external) clients’ shoes and see from their perspective. How might you respond if you were in their shoes? What are the risks if something goes wrong?
Second, curiosity. I am genuinely interested in the work our professionals and clients do, and in finding ways to add more value. If people feel that authentic curiosity and care from you, they’re more likely to open up and collaborate.
Finally, resilience. I’m constantly asking people to do things they haven’t done before or that might make them uncomfortable. If I gave up or was discouraged when I hear an objection, or an idea that seemed great fizzled out, I wouldn’t be able to succeed. Asking and trying can be markers of success, too.
What advice would you give to women in your field?
So many women I know (myself absolutely included here) are so much harder on themselves than anyone else. To short-circuit that double standard, I imagine that I am advising someone else instead of myself.
For example, when I’m not feeling well, I feel guilty about an unexpected absence and lack of productivity, so I try to log in and keep an eye on emails. At the same time, I would counsel my team members to put on their out of office and take care of themselves. If I ask myself, “What would I tell someone else in this situation?” I can recalibrate and stop pushing myself so hard, unnecessarily.
I also think about the impact of my staying connected when I’m sick and the message that sends. Actions speak louder than words. Am I telling my team that I tell them to rest but actually expect them to engage? This mind-shift has saved me from myself many times, especially over the last year.
How has the pandemic changed you?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the pandemic is to assert what I need for self-care. In my struggle to be the best employee, leader, mom and wife, I found myself thinking I would scrape together self-care time in the “leftovers” after everything else was finished. Surprise! There is no “leftover” time.
I have learned how to ask for what I need to be the best version of myself, and that I don’t have to settle for a 5-minute mask with the bathroom door locked to keep everyone out or the 15 minutes I manage to spend reading a book before falling asleep.
What do you do in your free time?
I adore my four-year-old daughter and spend as much time as possible with her. Our current favorite activities are playing with her new Barbie Dreamhouse (which I never had but always wanted!), snuggling, eating popsicles and watching Sofia the First.
I’m also trying to learn golf (I took my first lessons during the pandemic, much to my husband’s delight!) and am gearing up for a big beach season with the family. I have also always loved to read and am in two book clubs. Glennon Doyle’s Untamed was a real game-changer for me, and Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People was just a joy to read.
Learn more about Women Who Wow and read the profiles of all of the women featured in the series.