The seeds of a trail-blazing legal career were planted at an early age. “My father was a labor and employment lawyer,” said Laurie Robinson Haden. “He went to UNC Chapel Hill Law School in the 1960′s and was the only black in his graduating class. I would carry his briefcase to the door when he was leaving for work and would help type documents for him.” She knew her father was helping people and she was intent on doing the same some day. And though he passed away before she would finish law school, his words have long guided her. ”He told me that I had a sharp legal mind and that I would be a successful lawyer,” she recalled. “I keep those words tucked deep in my heart to this very day.”
It was that encouragement that has driven her as she’s risen up the ranks at CBS. As a Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Robinson Haden reports directly to the Chief Legal Officer of CBS Corporation. In this top spot, she oversees the legal department administration and operations, guides legal strategy for litigation cases and alternative dispute resolution, negotiates settlements, and specializes in labor, employment, and immigration issues. She also takes a lead role in the company’s outreach programs, like providing aid to Hurricane Sandy victims.
Though that is not the only way she’s making her mark. Eleven years ago, Robinson Haden realized female lawyers like her lacked one important tool – a way to network with and learn from each other. Armed with just a stack of business cards she had collected over the years, she launched Corporate Counsel Woman of Color. “This was all before LinkedIn,” she noted. “In 2004, my only goal was to connect women of color and provide them with a telephone directory resource where they could pick up the phone or email each other and stay connected.” However, it quickly grew to so much more. “Excitement. Pure excitement was the instant reaction,” said Robinson Haden. “So many women felt this is something that was long overdue. From the success of the directory, we started having networking receptions across the country. The need was so great that we then started doing the annual career strategies conference.”
She also began fielding phone calls from eager law students looking for guidance. “We now have the My Life as a Lawyer Program for aspiring lawyers in high school and college and the My Life As a Lawyer scholarship program where we have awarded over $150,000.00,” she added. Over a decade later, CCWC has grown to 3,200 members around the globe and reaches over 8,000 diverse lawyers through a weekly jobs listserv and through the CCWC website. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment. “I am proud of all the women of color attorneys I have met over the years who share their knowledge and insight at the CCWC conferences,” says Robinson Haden. “I am also proud to see so many of our members advance in their careers to prominent roles within business and the legal professions. The annual conference provides such hope and inspiration to us all.”
Robinson Haden is also a firm believer in constantly improving ones skill set. In 2011, she began taking classes at NYU and was awarded a certificate in Entertainment Media Management. Those skills have been key in furthering her role at CBS and building CCWC. Yet she admits the road to an impressive and influential career like her own won’t always be smooth. When she hits a hurdle, her spirituality is key. “My faith in God has kept me moving when I face adversity,” Robinson Haden revealed. “Romans 8:37 states that we are more than conquerors. I meditate on this verse and am reminded that no matter what trial, tribulation, hill, valley, or desert experience, God will give me the strength to be victorious!”