The very first time I met Candice, we were introduced by the founder of Her Agenda, Nesha, at a brunch where they were both being honored. I was instantly won over by her contagious personality, which is full of excitement, knowledge and natural willingness to share all of it.
Candice S. Cook is the Managing Member of Ca-Co Global Inc. and The Cook Law Group, both different entities that work together to offer traditional law and business services to the corporate, tech, start-up and entertainment world while providing new, innovative, and currently nontraditional business strategy. Candice also practices law in the courtroom. Ca-Co and Cook Law Group operate together as a 360 degree business service, particularly with a focus on elevating law to a place where it can serve the digital space.
For some reason, I am constantly meeting and running into people who tout themselves as degree-holding lawyers, but for whatever reason, are not practicing law. Candice is not one of those lawyers. She graduated from Vanderbilt Law School and spent time taking classes at University of Oxford in England. Since then, she’s won multiple awards and recognition for her work in the law field. Not to mention, she’s an avid traveler.
Now, Candice is carving a new path in the law field. Something you need consistent fervor and determination to do. Not to mention a clear vision. I know this because, well, I know Candice. Her passion and plan to bring new, innovative practices to the field of law is ambitious. So I understand why she is the right person for what is more like a mission than a job.
Candice’s ventures are rapidly growing, so Her Agenda and Candice decided to join forces to do something Her Agenda has never truly done before–present a Power Agenda in conjunction with amazing opportunities to work with the woman we are profiling. You can find these opportunities to work with Candice here.
I was a fly on the wall during one of Candice’s meetings, and it’s so visibly apparent how eager she is to learn from others, even her clients and potential clients. She knows when to listen intently, when to ask questions, when to give her candid advice, and still manages to do all of this while never shielding who Candice is–never boring and always sharing her knowledge (she’s an incredibly natural conversationalist). I wanted to know more about the nuts and bolts of what she does, what her everyday works looks like and take a deeper look into her vision. Cream always rises to the top.
Her Agenda: What does your day look like today? Knowing that will help us to get an idea of the different projects you are constantly working on.
Candice S. Cook: The day normally starts with a review of emails. Today was no different. Because the firm really does the split between business strategy and traditional legal work in a very non-traditional way with a non-traditional format, it allows people to come and pitch ideas, whether it’s in entertainment or technology, or the traditional legal stratosphere. So the contacts today surrounded clients. We had a new client, who had a project based out of Atlanta, and so, I had individuals go down and actually see him in action. I wanted to see how it played out in front of audiences who were very diverse. And then, we got one client, who just sold a phone, and we wanted to look to see what the feedback was on social media surrounding that.
Her Agenda: How many emails do you get a day, and how do attack your emails?
CSC: I look to see one, what is coming from a current client? They get attention first. Then two, I look to see what is coming from someone who is affiliated with a client matter. They get sort of a secondary attention. And then three, all additional new business.
I actually don’t complain about “too many emails.” I don’t spend time on things that I think will be a distraction, but it can be a quick way of communicating. And sometimes it does serve better than picking up the phone. Sometimes it doesn’t. I think it’s just how you handle it. I handle it like triage, and I don’t always send things back immediately. I prefer to draft them, and then put them in the draft folder.
Her Agenda: And why so?
CSC: Because I’ve found that once I’ve gotten a core amount of work done, you can end up very distracted by doing too much email communication instead of doing whatever you needed to do. If you address whatever the issues are in the email, you know that you have responded, and you put it in the draft folder. [Then] when you look at it the next time, you are looking at it with fresh eyes, because you haven’t done the quick re-read. You are looking at it new, you are able to pick up things, or nuances that you may have just taken for granted before. So, I like to respond on my time, but in a way that is respectful.
Her Agenda: How is your firm is filling a void? You spoke about the untraditional infrastructure that your team tends to. So how specifically would you describe that infrastructure or untraditional platform to someone who isn’t too familiar with law?
CSC: The way our firm is different and serves a new need is one of our billing structures. The first thing clients want to know is, “How will you be charging me?” What we found is that the service and the billing go hand in hand. People can say they want to be your business partners, but from a client’s perspective, it’s very difficult to get into the nuts and bolts when you are paying for the hour. We’ve created a flat fee structure. We are in a new world; there are ways to do things efficiently and effectively, and when you are aiding them in both the business and legal structure, you want to have the best picture.
Her Agenda: What was the turning point for you? Just remembering that time when you said, “This is something that I want to start and to grow.” What did the beginning stages of that look like for you?
CSC: I think it starts by looking at which professional life you want to adapt into your own and make your own. When I started looking, I realized the legal market, as it stood, did not appreciate the mentality that you adapt towards innovation. We are, as an industry, attached to the old way of doing things; it started to remind me of the music industry. The legal industry was mimicking the music industry to a tee, and I did not think that was beneficial to anyone. It wasn’t good for the lawyer, it wasn’t good for the students in law school who were hoping to become lawyers, and it was horrific for the clients. That’s a recipe for disaster.
And so, when I went to Palo Alto to do a program, I looked at how entrepreneurs were doing things and how innovative thinkers were adapting or dying. I looked to see how they learned, how they shifted, and whether those were applicable in law and my passion. So we took that model and applied it to legal industry and the business industry. I’m an attorney, but I’m also a business woman, and I wanted to be able to marry the two. If firms were not willing to adapt on the time schedule that I needed them to, I was going to have to do it myself. That is sort of when I stepped in and decided to create my own organization, to serve the need that so many people were asking for but was not available at the time.
Her Agenda: Knowing when to pivot is important, even with entrepreneurship and tech. A lot of it is trying lots of different ideas, and I think that is great and amazing. But sometimes I don’t think people of color have that exact same freedom and are able to bounce back as easily. What are some low points that you’ve faced? And when did you pivot?
CSC: So the first part. I believe in the model [of failing fast], but I think sometimes what tends to happen is people feel like there has to be monetary set backs. So it’s not just that idea of putting all your money into it and then you losing it so quickly. I absolutely don’t believe in that model, I think that’s a model based on privileges and so many people have do not have the privilege of making that error.
The beauty of product design is that it teaches you not to become attached to your prototype. Whether that is the prototype of your industry or the prototype of your business plan, don’t become attached to the prototype until you’ve been able to semi-test it in the market.
For me, the original plan was to have a 50/50 split of the legal side and consultant business side, and let that have its own organic balance. But the reality is that when people come to a lawyer, they want a really good lawyer. And when they go to a business strategist, they want a really good business strategist. We did originally want to set ourselves apart by saying we have this as one side, and then we have this as another. But, no, they are coming to us for great legal advice, and it just so happens that we are also brilliant business strategists. When they come see us, they get the best of all worlds.
And so that was a pivot, just because your ego wants to say, ‘No no no, we don’t want to do that, we want it to be very distinct and very different.’ Their lawyer just happens to do it all, and they can get it all from our firm instead of having to shop around and get it from a variety of places. So, I think that was an adjustment for me, because that really turned out to be the bread and butter.
Her Agenda: You’re managing a diverse group of business people who are well-versed in their own “industries,” but you are all working together. As a leader, what have you learned?
CSC: One of the most important aspects of leadership and team leadership is not necessarily, “Can you delegate and dictate to individuals?” You are not a leader if they don’t want to follow you. And so, I’ve learned to have individuals working with you who feel that you value them. That starts at the hiring level. You want to work with people who appreciate how you work and who feel motivated and respected while they are doing it. That doesn’t mean that every assignment is super fun. I also believe that people deserve to know that their work is respected, that they are part of a team, that they are not a nameless entity. The leadership style that I appreciate, that I respond to, and I hope to adapt within our organization is that of team effort.
Her Agenda: What are some of your business goals and also some of your personal goals are right now?
CSC: Well, we’ve got some cases that are currently active, so, we want to win, there’s nothing else to that. We’ve also got a lot of expansion for clients happening, and so I like for expansion to be as painless for them as possible. My interest right now is on design thinking. I’m really looking to work with organizations, in both the philanthropic and corporate phase, who are passionate about exposing design thinking when applicable. I’d like to figure out how we can get that into summer programs, from the smallest child to the oldest adult in the professional circuit. I think we can all benefit from design thinking and the theories behind product design and true innovation.
Her Agenda: I have always loved the fact that you are married for a couple reasons. Marriage is beautiful, and yet, you are still a business woman who is doing her own thing. Even today, people ask the question, “Can women have it all?” It seems like that is what you are doing. What is your perspective on marriage, love, and having a successful career?
CSC: I 100 percent disagree with the idea that men are intimidated by smart women. It’s not true. The wrong men may be. What we may believe is a layer of intimidation may not have anything to do with the career; it may just have to do with social queues and social interaction. Do I believe that women can have balance? Absolutely. I know so many women who are balancing their marriages with children and are doing it abundantly well. The key really is to having the right partner. It’s not about checkboxes or finishing something by a certain deadline. It’s about creating the path and the life that promotes who you are and your spirit, and then, finding someone that accepts, respects and loves who that spirit is.
Her Agenda: Looking back at your twenties when you were growing up and learning, what is some advice that you would give to millennial women?
CSC: My goodness. This is the time to allow yourself the bandwidth and the opportunity to figure out what you really want. We get so pigeonholed, looking for everyone’s acceptance. We get caught up in the narcissism of just being excited over what we’re doing. I think the twenties are the time to figure out what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. It’s the time to let go of feeling the need to please everyone.
In your twenties, I do think it’s about the experience. Spend as much time with your friends as you can. But also get used to crafting the life you want on your own. You want relationships that aren’t based on being co-dependent, but rather, are based on a mutual respect of independence. And travel alone as much as you can. Oh and save money. Save! Save! Save! Now! You would be amazed–a respect for your financial future, regardless of what your earning potential is, is critical.
Her Agenda: What is your personal motto?
CSC: The mantra I would have to share is the Wayne Gretzky quote, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. And a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” I think that is true in business and in law and in navigating entrepreneurial life. A good businessperson plays where the good business is, and a great businessperson plays where the business is going to be. And that is where I like to draw my vicinity of a line of how we run our organization. Not just what is hot now, but what will be hot twenty years from now.