Lisa Only Makes Her Mark at Goldberg Segalla
While progress has been made, navigating a career in the legal profession for those from underrepresented communities often involves obstacles and challenges others will never have to confront.
Lisa Only knows this all too well.
“I was so used to being underestimated in this industry,” said Lisa, a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Transportation practice group who is based out of Princeton, N.J. “As a woman and as a minority, they don’t always take us seriously. Even though I have three degrees and three bar licenses, it didn’t matter.”
Along the way, she was offered some advice: ‘Don’t let it get to you.’ Easier said than done, perhaps. Nonetheless, Lisa persisted.
After time spent working as a legal secretary, she went to law school. Upon finishing, she clerked for a judge and then went on and practiced civil litigation: car accidents, ‘slip-and-fall’ cases, and product liabilities.
Then, in Feb. 2022, Lisa joined Goldberg Segalla, where she was brought in as a special counsel.
“What drew me to the firm is that it’s a larger firm with areas where you can move around, and there’s room for growth and development. There are people here that can mentor you and guide you. And there’s actually structure. I worked at a few smaller firms where that did not exist,” she said. “I want to grow and develop and constantly learn. I don’t ever want to be complacent.”
Lisa, who was elevated to partner in January, also found something else at Goldberg Segalla: She is never underestimated.
“Here it’s not like that. I’ve definitely been given a lot of opportunities,” said Lisa, who credits Robert M. Hanlon and Thomas M. Crino, co-chair and partner in the firm’s Transportation practice group, respectively.
“They let me do my own thing. They trust that I’ll get the work done and that I’ll do it right,” she said. “What motivates me is that I have ideas and I tell Bobby and Tom and most of the time they implement the ideas. Being heard and having a voice really gives me that motivation to go above and beyond, and go the extra mile.”
Lifting the voices of those from underrepresented communities and ensuring they are part of decision-making at the highest levels is a cornerstone in the mission of Goldberg Segalla’s Diversity Task Force, which drives the firm’s commitment to expanding diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
“People come from all kinds of backgrounds,” said Lisa. “If everybody is the same, they will have the same ideas. Nothing new is going to happen and nothing is going to change. Diversity creates change and growth.”
Lisa graduated with her J.D. in 2009 from Stetson University College of Law. Looking back on the start of her career, she acknowledges she was “like a deer in the headlights.”
“I didn’t know what I was doing. It was like: you go to law school, you take the bar exam and now you practice law, but there’s no handbook on how to interact with clients – just little nuances that aren’t in writing that you just learn by making mistakes. And as you go along and just watch how other people operate, then you come up with your own style. And it took me a really long time to come up with my own style because I just wasn’t sure of myself.”
What helped, she said, was having experienced people to whom she could turn. That’s why she’s now committed to mentoring younger attorneys at Goldberg Segalla as they traverse the intricacies and challenges of the profession.
“I was grateful to have some people that were able to show me and guide me in the right direction,” Lisa said. “Now, I’m just trying to give back.”
As for diversity and inclusion, Lisa said, as a whole, “this industry still has a way to go.” But, she said, Goldberg Segalla is making a significant impact on that front.
“Here in this office in Princeton there are female equity partners. That makes me happy,” she said. “The firm is giving people opportunities that deserve to have opportunities, and they’re not just hiring everybody that looks the same. The more diverse you are, the more creative and innovative the firm will be, and from that, the client can only benefit.”