From Courtroom to Boardroom—Kate Duchene’s Path to CEO
For Kate Duchene, the path from a legal career at a major Los Angeles law firm in the 1990s to RGP’s chief executive officer in 2016 has been one marked by many accomplishments, and now—according to a recent article in the Orange County Business Journal—some great advice for lawyers aspiring to business leadership.
After serving as RGP’s CEO for the last four years, Kate credits her legal training and experience in preparing for the top job at RGP, especially the lawyer’s art of persuasion.
But she sees differences between the professions as well: “‘In the CEO role, you are going to have a lot of plates spinning at one time and you have to prioritize and adapt to change,’ she said. ‘Lawyers have to get better at having a mindset to address change. The pace of change is increasing every single day.’”
By way of example, she cited the broad number of topics she addressed during a recent earnings call with investors and analysts, requiring detailed knowledge of the company’s pandemic-era financial performance and progress on new enterprise-wide digital initiatives, as well as details about restructurings in multiple markets around the globe.
“If an attorney wants to become a CEO,” the article continues, “she advises they get exposure to operational roles and if not, attend business meetings or work on task forces or initiatives. They must learn the tools of business and how to talk the same language as an executive. Help a CEO understand risks, the shades of gray. There is so much gray in the world.”
And navigating that gray comes with new responsibilities. “You’re not advising a decision maker,” she says. “The buck stops with you.” It also means taking responsibility for the future. As Kate puts it: “You also have to change your mentality from a doer into an influencer, strategist and learner. I spend a lot of time reading about what’s around the corner.”