Don’t Act Like a Lawyer

Cardinal Health’s Kailee Goold wants lawyers to rethink how they interact with their colleagues

“I’d like to start by saying that this is all fundamental human behavior, but for some reason, lawyers see themselves as unique professionals that don’t need to follow normal human rules.”

It’s very possible that this is how Kailee Goold introduces her own best practices to outside counsel, the “Scared Straight” of better communication. As the senior litigation counsel for Cardinal Health, Goold stands apart, literally. Her mass of curly hair and personable approach catch some off guard. “My attitude and approach have genuinely surprised lawyers working with me for the first time,” Goold laughs. But it’s the senior counsel’s willingness to speak out on issues ranging from email subject line etiquette, to improving your PowerPoint skills, to taking vacation that has earned Goold the reputation as a disruptor, urging lawyers to recognize that while they’re in a privileged position, it’s first and foremost, a position of service.

The Team Dynamic

Growing up in Cleveland, Goold is quick to nullify the idea that law was in her DNA. “Being a lawyer isn’t something I’ve been dreaming about since I was five,” she says. “There are probably one hundred other people who have the technical skills to do my or anyone else’s job, but it’s why others choose to work with you that matters.” At least initially, her early collaborators were on the volleyball court.

Goold played Division 1 volleyball at West Virginia University, an experience she says prepped her for her future career far more than any classroom could. “As a captain, you learn to lead while being part of a team that you did not choose, to execute goals that you may not have set,” Goold says. “You learn to be self-motivated and realize that sometimes, you try your absolute best and still come up short.” The more her career has progressed, the more she says she’s realized what a valuable growth experience life on the court provided.

Kailee Goold
Kailee Goold, Cardinal Health

Making a Name

After school, Goold was urged by former coaches to take up coaching at the highest levels, but she opted for law school instead. Working at a firm fresh out of law school, Goold says recognizing an absence of what she calls “the simple and straightforward” paired with a desire to set herself apart, the young lawyer began writing and speaking about frankness, transparency, and clarity from lawyers. As a young associate, Goold’s unique approach to providing advice in relevant, easy-to-digest ways caught the attention of many on social media. “None of this was rocket science,” Goold says. “This should not have been disruptive or innovative, but in the legal profession, it is.”

Outside Transparency

Since coming to Cardinal Health, Goold has developed an outside counsel onboarding process that she says, at least initially, caught the firm’s lawyers off guard. It sets a tone for inclusion, trust, and demands clarity that Goold believes is essential in building relationships. “I don’t want the smoke and mirrors of dealing with the most senior partner if someone else is doing the work or knows more about the topic,” she says. “I have a checklist I run through of what information I need and when and how I want it; why wouldn’t you do this?” Goold says.

She has also instituted a 360-degree feedback process. “When the firms first get it, they are uncomfortable,” Goold says. “They don’t ever want to say that I—the client—might be doing something that’s driving them nuts, but, what use is that?”

Goold says it’s helped build relationships where problems can be addressed immediately, instead of waiting for the formal feedback meetings, or worse, never getting the feedback at all. The lawyer stresses that an open dialog builds stronger partnerships.

D&I at the Individual Level

While stressing diversity and inclusion in her outside counsel onboarding process, Goold also takes a more personal approach to working for progress on this front. “There are all sorts of unacceptable stats about how law is one of the least diverse professions there is,” Goold says. “And although there are a lot of great organizations trying to move the ball forward, I try to think about what I can do at my desk on an individual level to make a difference.” Goold also asks outside counsel to identify and talk about their own D&I pain points.

The success of her social media presence has provided her the opportunity to speak publicly, and Goold says it’s the reoccurring feedback that means the most to her. “People say I don’t act like a lawyer,” Goold says. “That’s when I know I’m doing a good job, or at least trying something new.” In her mind, there are a lot of bad habits lawyers could curb. “Law is a service industry; we don’t invent things or create widgets,” Goold says. “We exist solely to help other people do amazing things, and that’s a hard hurdle for some lawyers to get over.”

The bright spot, Goold says, is that the solution is so easy. “Think about your audience and stress common sense and simplicity, not yourself,” Goold says. “And have some fun once in a while.”