Contracts, Courtrooms and Confidence: Meet Goldberg Segalla Partner Kelly S. Johnson
“I really loved taking on any argument and figuring out how to win,” said Kelly S. Johnson, who’s been participating in what she calls “ordered arguments” since her youth. Of course, in practice, winning is achieving the best results possible for her clients.
Kelly joined the debate team in fifth grade and found she enjoyed not just the debate itself, but the research that went into each argument.
She was a French and History double major in college and then went onto law school after a couple of years working in logistics. Initially — and as Kelly puts it, “naively” — she planned to pursue criminal law before ultimately finding her passion, instead, in contractual law. A natural extension of her interest in contracts and aptitude in debates led her to civil litigation.
A self-proclaimed “contract nerd,” Kelly’s practice centers around commercial litigation, handling matters in relation to insurance coverage and working with insurers. This has made her a perfect fit as a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Global Insurance Services group, for which she works out of the firm’s Manhattan and Greensboro offices.
“I enjoy the work,” said Kelly. “I love picking apart a contract. Insurance coverage is the greatest. You tackle it like a puzzle, and I find it to be very academic.”
While no two workdays are alike for Kelly, she always finds time to focus on business development and encourages her fellow attorneys to do the same. She advises that it is important for attorneys to figure out their contacts, stay in touch, participate in conferences, and take a strategic approach to building a network of clients and fellow legal professionals.
Prior to joining Team GS, Kelly worked as an in-house counsel, which provided her with a deep understanding of the ‘client perspective.’ This is also how she became aware of Goldberg Segalla, having worked with the firm in prior matters and learning of its culture and approach to work.
“I saw Goldberg Segalla as a great place to work,” she said. “There are people I know and respect that have built a practice here, the type of practice I want to grow and have as well.”
Looking at the broader legal field, as a woman and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Kelly has recognized changes throughout her career and values a workplace where she feels supported. Still, while she has seen acceptance for both women and LGBTQIA+ attorneys, she believes there is room for progress in the legal field.
“The legal industry has always been governed by men, and men tend to mentor men,” she said. “I think that has made it harder for women in the field.”
Because of this, Kelly takes being a mentor seriously and encourages her mentees to be upfront about their concerns and needs, to seek challenges, and to be confident in themselves wholly. Additionally, as a mentor, she finds it important to train others in best practices, encourage career growth, and give feedback every step of the way.
Kelly — who said she has “worked with friends who never felt comfortable coming out until the past couple of years,” as they previously worried for their career — has seen an upward trend in inclusivity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I think it’s different for us now,” Kelly stated. “It’s such a better way to live and work when I can openly talk about myself, my family, and my loved ones.”
On a professional level, that freedom to be open also allows her to feel more confident and present herself fully for who she is, which she finds to be a significant benefit in the legal industry.
Outside of contracts and the courtroom, Kelly raises two children, a 15-year-old and a 5-year-old, with her wife.
“We’re just a regular family with two parents, who both happen to be moms. We live in the suburbs of Atlanta and participate in our church, little league, swim team, marching band, and our sons’ educations,” Kelly said.
She also participates in several hobbies and holds many interests, including music, fashion, and adding to her collection of handbags and shoes.
“I’ve learned to be an extroverted introvert,” Kelly said. “I can be quite shy, but professionally and personally, it’s so much easier when you embrace yourself and have that confidence to step in front of someone and say that I want to get to know you and do business with you.”