Lawrence-Hardy has what she calls a
“board of directors”—mentors she contacts
regularly for advice—and it’s a who’s who of
Georgia law: former state Supreme Court
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears; general
counsel for The Home Depot Teresa Wynn
Roseborough; King & Spalding partner
John A. Chandler; Sutherland partner Peter
Anderson; Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante
Littlefield’s Richard Robbins; and Cathy
Hampton, city attorney for Atlanta.
But she encountered one of her first
mentors after law school, when she clerked
for Judge Susan Black on the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
“I’m very close to my judge,” she says.
Whenever Black is in Atlanta, Lawrence-
Hardy’s staff knows she’ll be out of pocket
for the day.
It was Black who helped her when she
began at Sutherland. She was the only
associate who was a woman of color, and
it worried her. “I was coming out of Yale,
where everybody was so sensitive about race
issues. It’s not the real world—it’s a bubble,”
That spotlight, of course, was often
skewed by whomever was shining it.
Going to court in Mississippi one day,
attired in her best pinstripes, she found
herself answering questions like: “Are
you the court reporter?” “When will the
“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Well,
your pinstripes aren’t fooling anybody,’” she
says. “So I decided I might as well be me.”
Which brings us to the resilience her
niece spoke about.
“I could have left the courtroom that day
feeling kind of weighed down,” she says.
“Instead I decided, ‘No, I’ll be back tomorrow.’
“I’ve sort of lived my life as ‘the only
one,’” she adds. “Right now I’m the only
woman of color equity partner. For a while,
I was the only woman of color associate.
… Yes, there are times when people say
something offensive to me, or someone will
ask me to make copies, or all the guys go
to a meeting and I’m not included. There
are things that, when you’re the only one,
you get used to. And if you let any one of
those things get you down, you won’t keep
going. You’ve got to continue going.”
Her husband helps. A former college
football player who now coaches their
daughter’s soccer team, he would listen
to his wife talk about her day, about the
difficulties of being “the only one,” and say,
“All right, bleed a little and go back in.” At
first she was shocked: “I was like, ‘Your wife
is bleeding!’” But she says it was important
to hear. “That’s what I try to do,” she says.
“Dust myself off and get up.”
It’s advice she’s passing on to mentee
Melissa Fox, an associate at the firm.
“I’m one of the few openly gay associates
at the firm,” says Fox. “When I started,
knowing law is a conservative field in
general, I was kind of worried about how
that would go over. She encourages me
every day to be my authentic self. That
has been a huge deal for me, and lifted a
burden I thought I might have to live with.”
At first, Lawrence-Hardy mentored
informally, helping her mother’s Spelman
students when they called her, for
example. Soon she found herself in such
demand that she was booking mentoring
appointments at breakfast, lunch and
dinner. “I used to walk my dog on the Silver
Both Lawrence-Hardy’s mentor, Judge Black, and her husband, Timothy, a former college football
player, have given her advice about what to do when you’re “the only one.” It’s advice she’s passed on.